If you love the small and fascinating edges of Twin Cities theater, two shows opening this weekend could fit the bill. The Moving Company opens a new show that pretends to put the Lab Theater on sale, and Open Eye Figure Theatre’s Michael Sommers explores the mind of Hans Christian Andersen.
‘Trying to have a wild time’
Nathan Keepers usually keeps us entertained with his flexible voice, limber body and clowning instincts. He’ll put those talents to use in the Moving Company’s “For Sale,” which opens Friday at the Lab. However, Keepers’ greater involvement in this original work is as director — the first time in his career.
“There are days that I have no idea what I’m doing, but that’s normal,” said Keepers. “It feels comfortable, and with Luverne and Sarah, I’m in a safe place.”
Luverne Seifert and Sarah Agnew are longtime confrères of Keepers, Steven Epp and Dominique Serrand, the troupe’s artistic leaders. In “For Sale,” Seifert plays real estate agent Dick Richards, and Agnew is his frazzled assistant Margie. The conceit is that Dick and Margie are trying to sell the building in which the show is being performed. They meet the audience in the lobby, take them on a tour — as you would for prospective buyers — and then seat them for a full presentation.
The idea came from Epp, who saw a show in France in which two actors went to small towns that were in financial distress, and tried to sell the town to the audiences. He, Serrand and Keepers worked on putting together a script.
“We completely yanked that idea and put it in the context of a building,” Keepers said.
The text is loose, in order to give Seifert and Agnew room to move, develop the characters and “make the show their own,” Keepers said.
“It will change every night, but the bones of the language are there for Luverne and Sarah to play with,” he added.
Seifert and Agnew have a long history on stage together. In 2010, they lit up the Guthrie Proscenium, playing multiple characters in “The 39 Steps.” That same season, Keepers showed off his dexterity in “Fully Committed” at the Jungle Theater. Recently, he has become fully invested in the Moving Company. He performed in “Out of the Pan, Into the Fire” last May and “The War Within/All’s Fair” in 2012.
“We wanted to do a show that was just fun,” Keepers said of “For Sale.” “It’s just silly and stupid — in the best sense of the word.”
7:30 p.m. Fri.-Sun., Thu., ends Nov. 24, Lab Theater, 700 N. 1st St., Mpls., $15-$30, 612-333-7977 or www.thelabtheater.org,
‘Why am I such a misfit?’
Michael Sommers, the creative spur at Open Eye, has put his inquisitive mind to work on the psyche of Hans Christian Andersen, the awkward genius and celebrated writer. “The Clumsy Man” opens at the small theater in south Minneapolis on Friday.
Andersen is best known for his richly textured fairy tales. “The Little Match Girl,” “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “The Little Mermaid” and “The Nightingale” all brought him great fame.
In his everyday life, though, Andersen was definitely an odd (and ugly) duck. Sommers, less interested in the stories and more in the person, traveled to Denmark and Europe to dig into Andersen’s persona — as revealed in letters and diaries.
“What a complicated and dissatisfied and confused man he was,” said Sommers.
Andersen was something of a gadfly in literary and social circles. Vain and insecure (Sommers calls him “the Andy Warhol of his time”), Andersen could be clueless and awkward in social settings. In 1857, for example, he visited Charles Dickens for what was to be a short visit — and stayed for five weeks. Dickens never responded to any of Andersen’s subsequent letters, and the Danish writer had no idea why.
Sommers is not doing a biography. He instead is working with actor and dancer Kimberly Richardson (and choreographer Kristin van Loon) to build a movement-based piece that reflects Andersen’s clumsiness and sadness. Sommers calls it a “series of gestures.”
“There is a tone of this awkward clumsiness that we all have in our lives — we’re all clumsy in our own ways,” Sommers said. “You’re not going to be watching a play about H.C. Andersen, but it’s informed by his life.”
That doesn’t mean Andersen isn’t present in the spirit of the performance. Sommers said he has drawn on the writer’s letters and diaries for the language of the piece. Richardson puts those words into movement to explore the psyche of a man who always felt himself a misfit, but worthy of praise for his literary work.
Richardson was last at Open Eye as Ed Norton in “The Honeymooners.” She’s a human rubber band with great comic sensibilities.
Open Eye is recommending the show for audiences age 16 and older. It’s not a sweet fairy tale.
7:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat., Mon.-Thu., 4 p.m. Sun., ends Nov. 17, Open Eye, 506 E. 24th St., Mpls., $22, 612-874-6338 or www.openeyetheatre.org.