December Arts and Entertainment Picks

A Midwinter Night’s Revel12/4-30

Those of us who were fortunate enough to catch William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead at the 2008 Minnesota Fringe Festival know that playwright John Heimbuch can take the classics into unexpected territory. This time he adapts A Midsummer Night’s Dream not with bloodthirsty zombies, but set in the shadow of World War I. Heimbuch immersed himself in the study of traditional English holiday customs for this creation, emerging with a work that draws on folklore and seasonal house-to-house performing troupes to find the textures of time, death, and family in addition to our usual understanding of what has often been one of Shakespeare’s “brighter” plays—usually given short shrift to the weird supernatural darkness underpinning the mistaken identities and weird loves.
(Right: Image by Jenna Abts)

Messiah: Hallelujah!

Orchestra Hall continues its welcome resurgence with this year’s busy December schedule, including A Big, Brassy Christmas with an ensemble led by trumpeter Charles Lazarus and a slate of holiday tunes rendered groove-and-gospel style. For the full Minnesota Orchestra experience, though, it’s the great oratorio Messiah by the 18th-century master Handel, who can’t exactly be called underrated, but the timeless, sublime nature of his orchestral and ensemble works always reaffirms my opinion that he should be mentioned with a handful of the first-tier greats. The MN Orchestra performed it in its 1903-04 inaugural season, which also lends a sense of centuries-spanning tradition to the proceedings.


Liberty Falls, 54321
Through 12/20

There ought to be a moratorium on mentioning Theatre de la Jeune Lune and the Moving Company in the same breath—it’s been seven years now since TJL’s bastion of brilliance in the North Loop turned off the lights. But it’s worth noting that TJL unspooled weird and wacky comedies that delighted as much as the classics and the operas—and successors in the Moving Company are no slouches in carrying on the tradition. This one is about a woman in small-town Wisconsin turning 105, and what ensues when the locals throw her a party with songs, speeches, and Dairyland delights—of course things go askew, and surreal send-up ensues. The cast is an embarrassment of riches, and sly humorist Dominique Serrand directs.
(Right: Photo by Dominique Serrand)

The Bad Plus

There aren’t an abundance of bands that could inspire the national press to combine the words “badass” and “highbrow” in the same sentence, but the Bad Plus have achieved this feat for good reason. The Minneapolis-formed drummer-bass-piano combo are great enough jazz players to slay audiences with traditional chops, but their creative restlessness has continually pushed them into territory including cut-and-paste genre mash-ups and covers of everyone from Nirvana to Stravisnky to Blondie. They settle into a Dakota residency following the release of their new Inevitable Western, and promise to continue to basically detonate the borderlands between musical genres, stylistic pyromaniacs with impeccable chemistry.


A Hunting Shack ChristmasThrough 12/27

Osseo’s Yellow Tree Theatre had one of the biggest successes in its history with last year’s homegrown Minnesota comedy, which returns this year with an ambience of the wintertime cabin: deer heads, scurrying mice, glacial ice, and the pleasures of using an unheated outhouse. The cast includes Church Basement Ladies creator Greta Grosch as well as other locals from theaters large and small, and the story depicts a couple marking the slight freeze in their 10-year relationship by going for a real freeze in the holiday countryside. I suppose the need for body warmth to survive would indeed spark…something promising.
(Right: Photo by Keri Pickett)