Sometimes Every Night Is Filled with an Event

by Sam Black

This has been one of those very active weeks in my own life. I enjoy performing on a regular basis, and I certainly enjoy attending all sorts of performances as often as possible. Sometimes my own performance schedule impinges on my ability to attend special events. Heigh-ho the glamorous life!

Ruthie Breuer (Elvira in the after life) and Charles (Kendall Linn) in Blithe Spirit in Cloquet
Ruthie Breuer (Elvira in the after life) and Charles (Kendall Linn) in Blithe Spirit in Cloquet

A Blithe Spirit returns to Carlton County

I hope you keep the County Seat Theater in your attendance rounds. Located just across Highway 33 in the Cloquet community, it’s an easy 20 minute drive from the center of Duluth, for very creative theater, now celebrating 30 years on stage. I went to their performance of the Noel Coward play, Blithe Spirit, last week, to revisit the hilarious language of Coward, and the return of Ruthie Breuer in the ghostly role of Elvira, the deceased first wife of Charles(Kendall Linn this year). Ruthie played the part back in 2001, and she has as much spirit in 2017 as she had sixteen years ago. Elvira is a woman, alive or dead, to be reckoned with. 

        The pace of the show is nearly exhausting. Both Charles and Elvira are sparring with each other for most of the play. Madame Arcati(played by Mary Smith) is the seance leader who precipitates the crossing back and forth between life and death. Her strength and her trances kept the energy level very high throughout this production. Andy Roemhildt pumped a lot of energy into his directing debut, and the entire cast was swept downstream with all of Coward’s linguistic energy.

Fake news, doublespeak from 1949 to 2017
        
Thursday night I went to the opening of 1984 at The Underground stage of The Duluth Playhouse. What a contrast to the night before with Noel Coward!  All was dark and without humor, as Robert Lee directed this stage adaptation by Robert Owens, Wilton Hall, and William Miles, Jr.  For eighty minutes we had incredible intensity from Winston Smith (Jonathan Manchester), Julia (Kitara Peterson), and O’Brien (John Pokrzywinski). Ultimately, O’Brien makes Winston and Julia bow to authority and agree that truth is only a matter of what the person in control (Big Brother) says it is. This was certainly a realistic portrayal of the year 2017 in the United States.

Marcus McConico sings Core ‘Ngrato at the Twin Ports Wind concert
Marcus McConico sings Core ‘Ngrato at the Twin Ports Wind concert

Sharing the musical stories of our lives

I will offer two sentences about the sheer beauty of Norma, an opera by Vincenzo Bellini at the Metropolitan Opera on Saturday afternoon. Absolutely inspiring, this was the first of ten operas the Met will share this season on HD closed circuit live broadcasts, shown locally through Marcus Theatres.

On Sunday afternoon the Twin Ports Wind Orchestra, conducted by Mark Whitlock, offered the first in a cycle called The Stories of Our Lives. This concert featured four songs, two sung by Marcus McConico and two by Rachel Inselman, telling obvious stories about their lives. The Symphonic Dances from West Side Story gave Leonard Bernstein a chance to share the intensity of that powerful gang-driven drama, with its emotional story of love and death on the street. 

Guest composer/conductor Giancarlo Castro D’Addona - from Venezuela - led two of his compositions, rich in story line. The Arrival of a Noble Maestro celebrated the Venezuelan respect for renowned conductor Claudio Abbado, using brass and percussion to magnify the sense of honor. Rhapsody for Talents was a breath-taking piece of rhythm and melody that listeners went out the door humming. 

Our local opportunities are rich and varied. Go for it!

These are some of my activities this past week. I can’t tell you about the events I missed, but I can tell you that next week I’ll write about a new musical, based on a Will Weaver short story about a gravestone made of wheat. I’ll also share my thoughts about the performance of Bach’s St. John Passion, taking place Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon in the Lincoln Middle School auditorium. Loon Opera Company and Twin Ports Choral Project are combining to celebrate 500 years of the Christian Reformation/Revolution. Support local art whenever you get the chance.