Some of the most dazzling performances in town are in Open Eye Theatre's "The Red Shoes" and all of them are given by Kimberly Richardson.
The play is like what might have happened if Hans Christian Andersen had written the titular fairy tale after bingeing on "The Maltese Falcon" and "This Gun for Hire" on TCM. It features the archetypal female characters of film noir, the good "girl" and the femme fatale, both of whom are played by Richardson, who also becomes a spy, a detective, a paperboy, a crabby landlady and others. To give you an idea of the degree of difficulty involved: She has dance numbers as three of those characters and each has a movement style nothing like the others, ranging from the landlady's klutzy galumphing to the fatale's languid hauteur.
Long story short: You have to see it to believe what the inventive dancer/actor/clown does in "Red Shoes," a revised take on a show first produced in 2017 and four hours away from reopening when the pandemic shut everything down on March 13, 2020.
Maybe that did "Red Shoes" a favor? It resonates even more now, with its story of Mouse, whose landlord is constantly hollering at her and who fears the dangers of the outside world so much that she's afraid to leave her apartment. Instead, she seeks solace in a puppet theater, with a tiny set that looks exactly like her apartment, where she tries to solve the disappearance of a slinky chanteuse known as the Songbird.
Joel Sass conceived, directed and co-wrote (with Richardson) "Red Shoes" with a keen sense of audience delight. His shabby set is full of corners for us to explore, including a pull-down "investigation board" on which Mouse scrawls clues. And a huge part of the fun of "Red Shoes" is in between our ears, as we try to figure out how Richardson changes so quickly from one costume into the next or how she and Sass make it look like there are two of her on stage at once (a trio of unseen performers has something to do with that).
Your mileage may vary but I found it fun pondering the play's dream logic, even as Mouse tries to assemble the pieces of the mystery. Are the characters, many of whom wear red shoes, meant to be real? Or are they fractured elements of Mouse's personality? Do the shoes represent her desires — to sing, to solve crimes, to get the heck out of her dank dump of a home? Maybe? To pile on another movie reference, there's a David Lynch-like reserve in the storytelling of "The Red Shoes" and some may wish it went a little further toward explaining what's going on.
I suspect the best approach to the mysteries of "Red Shoes" is to let your imagination go, to let it remind you of one of the most beautiful invitations live theater offers us: Let's get lost, together.
"The Red Shoes"
Who: Written by Joel Sass and Kimberly Richardson. Directed by Sass.
Where: 506 E. 24th St., Mpls.
When: 7:30 p.m. Thu.-Sat., 4 p.m. Sun. Ends Oct. 31.
Tickets: $26, 612-874-6338 or openeyetheatre.org.