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After a near-death experience, a Twin Cities actor returns home

The family and friends of Ross Young are calling his recovery a marvel.

A comedic Twin Cities director, actor and writer best known for both staging “Tony ‘n Tina’s Wedding” and playing the male lead, Young collapsed at home on Aug. 6. He was in a coma for a day and a half. After that, he underwent open-heart surgery and had a defibrillator put in.

On Monday, Aug. 24, Young left North Memorial Hospital for a six-month recovery regimen at home.

“There’s no other word but miracle, no matter your belief system, to describe the fact that he’s alive and is still himself,” said Deborah Will, his wife. “He was basically dead for an hour. They did the defibrillator on him nine times. After the chaplain walked me back, I was five feet from saying goodbye to him when the nurse said, ‘we have a pulse!’”

On Wednesday, Young was lucid and poignantly reflective. He had been to outpatient therapy earlier in the morning and was, by the afternoon, anticipating the arrival of his physical therapist at his Crystal, Minn., home.

“I also have occupational therapy, and I take 20 pills a day,” he said. “I’m learning to do things that I used to know how to do well, like walk, and count the number of legs I have. But other than that…” His voice trailed off.

“Don’t get me wrong,” he continued, “I’m the luckiest man in the world, to be alive, to be walking, talking and thinking like I used to. Of course, I don’t remember much about the episode. They say I was dead, for chrissakes. So I’m starting catch up on myself by reading the comments on CaringBridge.”

The overwhelming majority of patients on that site do not survive. They get to share their last bit of breath, through the web, with friends and family scattered far and wide. The site also is an organizing tool, and it was used to help Young’s family take care of things at home.

On Wednesday, Young marveled at the volume of support that had been shown to his family during this episode. Scores of supporters thronged the hospital daily during his stay, including repeat visits by close friends such as Jim Cunningham and actor-photographer Bonni Allen, both regular presences on the Twin Cities theater scene.

Young also got a visit from Warren Bowles, the actor who went into cardiac arrest onstage in 2011 during opening night of “Neighbors” at Mixed Blood Theatre.

“I said to him, ‘You’re famous as an actor but most famous for having that incident onstage,’” said Young. “And he said, ‘yes.’ But I wasn’t sure why he was visiting me. It took me a while to figure out that I was in dire shape. He gave me, and Deb, good advice, about what to expect over the next six months.”

Young makes a living entertaining people. He said that he’s trying to find the light side of this frightening health scare.

“I’m good humored most of the time, but it’s hard to find the humor in spending an evening trying to be able to have urine flow,” he said. “Suddenly it’s the most important thing in the world.”

He hopes that his “convalescence will not affect the adolescence” of his sons, one a high schooler and the other a student at the University of Minnesota. “When I thought that, I said to myself, write that down,” he said.

His recent near-death experience has given him an appreciation also for health-care works. “When Dave Letterman had his heart trouble, he brought the whole staff of the hospital team that saved him, over 100 people, onstage. I can’t thank the staff of North Memorial enough.”

The experience has helped him tweak the formula for comedy.

“Comedy is tragedy plus a catheter,” he said. And he hopes to do something onstage with it. “I’m not sure yet,” he said. “But laughing is a way to celebrate life. I have a lot to celebrate.”

The Church, Psychedelic Furs still in shape for the State

Brothers Tim and Richard Butler led the Psychedelic Furs at the State Theatre on Tuesday.

Brothers Tim and Richard Butler led the Psychedelic Furs at the State Theatre on Tuesday.

While the 45-year-old club they were supposed to play is on the mend, the Psychedelic Furs and the Church proved they, too, have withstood many decades and several makeovers Tuesday night as their twofer tour rolled into a rather regal choice of a backup venue, the historic State Theatre.

The Furs especially came off as sturdy as ever. Their current lineup is split between three heyday-era members and three younger replacements, but the new kids – including former Joanna Newsom bandmate Rich Good -- have been with the London gloom-pop pioneers for most of this decade and sounded well-greased during Tuesday’s 90-minute set.

Singer Richard Butler, 59, turned extra active and animated given the larger stage and theatrical setting offered at the State. He strutted and sashayed like David Bowie’s kid brother in the opening tune “Heartbeat” and sidled up to his real brother, bassist Tim Butler, for some playful rock-starry gestures in a nailed-tight rendering of the second song “Mr. Jones.” Richard’s voice didn’t quite hold up to the rigors of “Highwire Days” and a few other upper-range songs but was otherwise strong, with the dramatic ‘80s deep cut “Wrong Train” especially showing he’s still adept at mustering some wonderfully woeful melodies.

Richard sounded a bit bummed about having to change venues, too. “We were happy to be booked at First Avenue again,” he said. “We love that place. But this is good, too.”

The State did indeed work out as well as a backup site again, following the well-received Miguel concert two weekends ago. Its ornate features suited both bands’ elegant ambience. A little more dancing might’ve occurred at First Ave during the Furs’ big-haired hits “Heartbreak Beat” and “Pretty in Pink,” but the not-so-spring-chicken-y crowd seemed just as happy having the option to sit down during “Until She Comes” and a couple other dullards played.

There was a lot more sitting going on during the Church’s opening set, not so much a sign of the band’s worth but a reflection of the songs selected for what turned to be only a 50-minute set.

Unlike the Furs – whose last new record came out long enough ago this writer owns it on cassette – the Church has a new album to tout. Thus, precious time was spent unfolding lengthy, lofty, headphones-ready new tunes such as “Toy Head” and “Miami.” Only the most requisite fan faves were peppered in, including “Reptile” and “Metropolis” early on and “Under the Milky Way” toward the end.

The Sydney-reared atmospheric rockers are touring without guitarist Marty Wilson-Piper this time out -- a big absence – but frontman Steve Kilbey and fellow co-founding guitarist Steve Koppes propped up their trademark sound well without him. They’ve maintained their sense of humor, too. Roadies came out and started tearing down the band’s gear while Kilbey and Co. were still playing the crescendoing finish of the final song “Miami.”

The joke was on them being an opening act again, 35 years into their career. But like First Ave itself (set to return Friday), it’s nice just to have both these bands still open for business.

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