Theater: “Poetry of Pizza” a slice of fun, “Blue Door” beckons

I like pizza. I like some poetry. But I never expected I would like a play about both of them nearly so much. Like a well-appointed pie, The Poetry of Pizza, now playing at Mixed Blood Theater through February 10, strikes a balance between lightness, heaviness, and simple good vibes–if sometimes uneasily.

Mostly, I was impressed how well Ron Wenzel, who’s featured here with his co-star Stacia Rice from the Guthrie’s Jane Eyre, nailed his part of a Kurdish pizzamaker in love with an American, from the accent to the moment he asks her to…well, there are more than a few quirky turns in the script that are best digested quickly. He’s finessed a richness out of some unlikely, even farcial ingredients–much running around and romantic misunderstandings. You could argue the script’s originality, but that’s like dissecting the pepperoni at a corner pizza joint–the point here is the same as devouring that bad-for-you, too-cheesy slice of greasy goodness: you smile, you feel warm inside, you feel a little better walking back into the cold world outside.

For a sharper slice of racial politics, check out Blue Door by Emigrant Theater now playing at the Guthrie’s Dowling Studio. It’s about a successful black math prof who’s long tried to ignore racism’s personal implications–he was even left by his wife for refusing to join the Million Man March. But when he’s visited by ancestors in his sleep, he can’t help confronting the historical realities that have shaped his identity.

When Emigrant Theater announced itself a few years back, I admit I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Its name made it sound like the History Theatre, with an even narrower focus; its mission–to tell the various perspectives of American identity–sounded like a college class. But it’s proven itself with some very striking, smart plays and top-notch acting that manage to hit us where it counts.