Sunday, October 1, 2017

Wandering with Henry and Alice + New Brunch Digs and Frank Theatre

Can privileged people have problems?

Photo by Petronella

Or perhaps it should be phrased differently: do we, or should we, care about privileged people's problems when there are so many more pressing issues facing the world today?

It sounds like a ridiculous question - I mean at some point, all of us face difficulties, right? - but in our current political climate, it is not one that is often given deep attention.

It's something I couldn't help thinking about while watching Henry & Alice: Into the Wild, now showing at Park Square Theatre. The show tackles this question with a lighthearted sincerity that often lifts what could otherwise feel like ridiculous subject matter into a plane of being almost relatable, and has some moments of genuine poignancy that unearth real questions worth considering.

Photo by Petronella

Before we dive in, here's the premise: Henry & Alice first came to Park Square Theatre a few years ago in Sexy Laundry, when they discussed their marriage and love for each other at a romantic retreat. This time around Henry has lost his job, and it's weighing heavily on them both as they clumsily find their way to a more pared down lifestyle. Because of their financial constraints, Henry and Alice's romantic getaway is now a campground complete with noisy neighbors, an actively used tire swing, and Alice's wild sister Diana. All of them come to grips with their aging lives, feats and failures, and rediscover the spark of life throughout the show and several tense arguments in which passive aggressive missives are lobbed through the air like so much whipped cream in a food fight. It is a comedy, but some of the things said are really painful to watch. It's a good example of the cliche that you never know what happens behind closed doors (but really, you don't), and it's worth approaching everyone you meet with a listening ear.

Photo by Petronella

The results of the cast's efforts through the wandering script are generally positive. Some of this show can feel trite as it tries to be silly - such as Alice bringing a cashmere throw and elegant clothing to a dirty campsite. Some of it, however, really is relatable and even poignant: the loss of a job shortly before retirement age is a real thing that a lot of people have struggled with in and since the Great Recession; the yawning gap between the Millennial generation and that of their parents continues to careen into opposite sides of the universe; what happens to a stay at home mother once her children are grown and out of the house?

Photo by Petronella

The actors here keep the show very lighthearted, which helps gloss over some of the more uncomfortable parts of the narrative. John Middleton is the comedic standout as Henry. His wry delivery helps the audience share many laughs, and there are several moments when Middleton's angst over the loss of his job is really touching. Carolyn Pool is much softer as Alice, with several nice moments of elucidation over the amount of work she has invested in the family as a stay at home mother. Alice's struggle is one that isn't often given a clear spotlight, and it's clear that playwright Michele Riml's perspective has given extra dimension to this aspect of the story. As Alice's sister Diana, Melanie Wehrmacher is a great foil for the prim and proper couple and provides a necessary edgy ballast that anchors their conversations with some more realistic perspective.

Photo by Petronella

Henry & Alice left me with some conflicting feelings. It can be a little hard to feel truly sorrowful for these characters who are so steeped in privilege they have a hard time acknowledging their complicity in some of their problems. However, this doesn't mean that there aren't some important points raised in the script, particularly about the role of women in society as they age past their childbearing years. What do we do with women who don't quite fit our collective expectations? Or conversely, what is owed to our stay at home mothers? How do we acknowledge the mountains of unpaid work they do? It's an important question even if it is niche, and it has ripple affects that touch the role of women in other areas of society.

Photo by Petronella

If you're someone who doesn't have very politicized view of the world and is looking for something benign to seek your teeth into, Henry & Alice: Into the Wild is for you. If you're someone who is very invested into resistance movements right now, it may not be the best fit. For myself: Henry & Alice was a break from the usual heavier fare I see, and I enjoyed having a different change of pace. I understand what the show was trying to do, and while I think it glosses over some real issues with white privilege, I still had fun. It was really nice to see a show written and directed by women, as well as a mostly female production crew. Either way I got a few laughs on my Friday night, and it was good to leave the theater feeling lighthearted.

Henry & Alice: Into the Wild runs at Park Square Theatre through October 22. For more information and to buy tickets, click on this link.

And as an extra aside: I'm sure you often hear of dinner and a show, but for something different, how about hitting brunch and a matinee? The older I get, the more I appreciate being home early enough to get set for the next workday. What are my suggestions for both?

For a matinee, make sure to head to the Gremlin Theater to see Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. by the fiery women of Frank Theatre. This robust feminist play is on stage there through October 15, and the quick 70 minute pacing is a perfect opportunity to get yourself thinking deeply and home before dinner. For more information and to buy tickets, click on this link.

Biscuits and Gravy, I raise you a Southern Sunrise

And for brunch, consider hitting Dalton & Wade, a cozy new Southern food and whisky bar establishment tucked into the gorgeous new T3 development in the North Loop in Minneapolis. Featuring a wide range of food from crackling fried chicken and cornbread to savory handmade biscuits and gravy to a smoked brisket benedict, Dalton & Wade has something for every country lover's heart. Their brunch just kicked off and is excellent, especially when paired with savory cocktails like the Southern Sunrise and or one of the number of intriguingly herbal whiskey hi balls. I can see this spot becoming a go-to for downtowners throughout the winter, and it's worth going to check it out before the crowds discover it. For more information, click on this link.

How do you lose with a trout benedict?