Monday, March 27, 2017

Realish Housewives of Edina 2 Packs a Punch

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who love reality television, and those who hate it. 

© 2017 George Byron Griffiths http://www.gbgphotography.com

And I can see arguments on both sides of the aisle on this issue. Reality TV certainly isn't the next Shakespeare. It doesn't have the panache of an opera or some other form of "high art." It's hardly the sort of thing you can see future generations re-watching hundreds of years from today. 

But that doesn't mean that it's easy to make or doesn't have a place in our entertainment pantheon. It takes a certain kind of person to excel at reality television, particularly to be able to hold society's attention for more than a fleeting season or two, and the tawdriness of most reality television provides an uncomfortable magnifying glass of our society's obsessions. Love or hate Kim Kardashian (the master of the genre), but you can't deny: something about her keeps people wanting more. Kimmy mastered the concept of entertainment capitalism, and it's fascinating to watch. 

© 2017 George Byron Griffiths http://www.gbgphotography.com

So it's no wonder that localities are starting to pick up on the reality trend in live shows. This was wonderfully seen at the New Century Theater in 2015's The Realish Housewives of Edina, a deliciously Minnesotan spoof on the reality television show Real Housewives of [Insert Metropolis Here]. Realish Houswives did so well (the New Century's best-selling show to-date, in fact) that it is now back for round two, and it couldn't be better timed. 

© 2017 George Byron Griffiths http://www.gbgphotography.com

For this sequel, four of the five ladies have returned after Desiree perished on the Spoon and Cherry after her FroYo addiction was discovered; Desiree's twin sister Delilah, a brain surgeon and wannabe neck model, joins the cast as their new fifth member. Gwen has been released from prison and is making her way through the rich old bachelor rolodex of Edina (as well as embezzling funds from local city government); Brooke is going stir crazy as a new super-mommy taking a break from her kitschy, high powered entrepreneurial ideas; Claudia-Louise is listless and randy as a stay-at-home scorned homemaker; and Ravonka is unrecognizable after a severe set of plastic surgery in an attempt to jump start her life. Each of these ladies' personal plot threads wends through the show, crashing into each other as they sensationalize their problems (and their shame) for public consumption. There are plenty of jokes and droll insights provided by Randy (an Andy Cohen postulant) and the silent but sarcastic stagehand as they lead us through the absurdities of housewives with too much money and time on their hands. 

© 2017 George Byron Griffiths http://www.gbgphotography.com

The cast is much more familiar with each other this time around and provide a clique-y chemistry that really works for this show. Katherine Kupiecki brings a disarming sincerity to her role as white collar thief Gwen, and despite her nefarious actions she is really charming. Ditto for Anna Hickey as Brooke, the only character who doesn't lose much between both shows. Brooke's complete destruction of her friends' lives should be despicable, but something about Hickey's cocky portrayal can't help but make you admire Brooke's plucky determination. 

Quinn Shadko is fervent as Claudia-Louise and addresses the audience with a wide eyed interest; she comes off as an ingénue despite having two children and a set of personal baggage the size of Lake Calhoun. Karissa Lade is deceptively Barbie-esque as Deliliah and flips the bimbo script. Delilah's occupation as a brain surgeon is an inspired choice and makes the absurdity of the housewives' arbitrary wealth that much more obvious. Sierra Schermerhorn is thoroughly Orange County as the only cast member not reprising her role (she plays Ravonka). Schermerhorn fits right in with the crowd and brings a coastal vibe to her character; she seems straight out of the television show and her faux everything is hilarious. 

Adan Varela alternates between exhaustion and exuberance as host Randy, and it's not hard to see why - wouldn't you be wiped out chasing after so many divas all day? Varela's best parts, however, are playing assorted male characters encountered by the housewives, particularly a bewildered brain surgery patient. His presence really balances the cast. 

© 2017 George Byron Griffiths http://www.gbgphotography.com

Staging design is kept relatively simple  by set designer Theresa Akers, props designer Sarah Salisbury and costume designer Suzanna Schneider; the main set features several simple vignettes of couches, high top tables and various gifts and alcohols, and each lady prances around in well tailored sheaths and high heeled accessories. It is great to note that most of the production team (which also includes sound designer Nate Hessburg, stage manager Shannon Hessburg and lighting designer Monica DeRee) is female; I always love to see diverse teams working backstage, particularly on shows with lots of women front of house. 

And that focus on women is once again my favorite thing about the Realish Housewives. Is it silly? Yes. Is it a hard-elbow-jab to suburban life? For sure. But the best part of the show was being able to sit back after a long work week and enjoy a simple, entertaining piece made by, for and about women. Even if trite at times it was a nice escape from real-world problems, and isn't that what reality shows are all about anyway? Women aren't always Disney princesses who are perfect and kind; sometimes they are flawed, messy and just plain annoying. The Realish Housewives of Edina series allows an all-female cast to plumb the depths of backstabbing bitchery, and I can only imagine that it's a rocking good time for them. 

It may not be the Kardashians, but the Realish Housewives of Edina 2 provides a just-relatable-enough fantasy that will keep you chucking through your cosmopolitans. This show is definitely best for a ladies night out and some escape from the kids - bring a group to check it out. Realish Housewives of Edina 2 runs at the New Century Theater through April 15. For more information and to buy tickets, click on this link