‘Gertrude Stein and a Companion’: a wonderful play, perfectly staged

Photo by Michal Daniel
Claudia Wilkens, left, and Barbara Kingsley as Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas in "Gertrude Stein and a Companion."

What a love story it is, and it is a love story. On now at the Jungle, Win Wells’ “Gertrude Stein and a Companion” is a play that bolsters one’s faith in all sorts of things: the power of language; the importance of kindness, affection and commitment; the value of art in our lives, especially if one has a good eye. Maybe even the possibility of an afterlife, since it begins with Stein’s death, then moves back and forth in time. “Dead is dead,” Stein says matter-of-factly, but is it? We want to believe that love lasts forever, and here we safely can.

Claudia Wilkens is towering and magnificent as Gertrude, Barbara Kingsley sharp-tongued and birdlike as Alice B. Toklas, her “companion” of many years in their Paris apartment at 27 Rue de Fleurus, where paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Renoir, Manet, Gauguin, Cézanne and Toulouse-Lautrec crowded and climbed the walls, and artists, poets, intellectuals and writers including Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald dropped by. In the play, we never see the paintings – they’re on the invisible fourth wall that divides us from the stage – but watch for a quick and delightful scene where Gertrude and Alice are choosing one to sell, their heads bobbing up and down as if looking them over one by one.

Wells dipped often into Stein’s oblique and idiosyncratic use of language, and Wilkens makes Stein’s repetition and mirror-like sentences sound almost normal. We hear of the women’s lives, their famous friends, the challenge of getting Gertrude’s writings published, World War I; two Jews, they stayed put in Paris, with Germans billeted in their apartment. This is the eighth time in Jungle history that Wilkens and Kingsley have played the pair, and they might as well be married, they’re so easy in their roles and with each other. It’s a wonderful play, not too long, thoroughly enjoyable, perfectly staged and lit, and here long enough there’s no excuse not to go. FMI and tickets ($25-$43). Through March 8.

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Both the Star Tribune and the Business Journal have given us glimpses into what might happen with the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden’s $10 million facelift: Still formal at the south end, wilder at the north. Better access all around and improved stormwater management. “Spoonbridge and Cherry” stays as is, but the Cowles Conservatory may undergo major changes. You can view six renderings at the Business Journal’s site.

The Sculpture Garden opened in 1988 and was expanded to 11 acres in the early 1990s, making it the largest garden of its type in the country. While checking facts, we stumbled on this fascinating document, available online: “Parks, Lakes, Trails and So Much More: An Overview of the Histories of MPRB Properties.” Do you have questions about the city’s park system? Like, for example, why Beard’s Plaisance is called Beard’s Plaisance and what Plaisance means? Want to know more about your neighborhood park? Find answers here.

TPT has been recognized for effective use of Legacy Amendment funding for “MN Original,” its award-winning weekly art series about Minnesota’s artists and creative community, now in its sixth season. We have often praised the series here for documenting our arts scene so thoroughly and so engagingly, and we couldn’t be happier that Conservation Minnesota and Minnesota Citizens for the Arts have applauded how it’s spending our money. If you missed Sunday’s episode, or any episode, you can visit the website.

Have you ever wanted to spend Friday night at a museum? Starting Feb. 20, you can. The MIA will stay open until 9 p.m. on Fridays as well as Thursdays, making it the first museum in the Twin Cities to offer regular Friday-night hours. (As far as we know; please correct us if we’re wrong.) The new extended hours start the same week as “The Habsburgs” exhibit waltzes into town. Correction: the Science Museum tells us they have long been open on Thursday and Friday nights until 9 p.m. Any more out there? Yes: the American Swedish Institute was open until 9 p.m. Fridays last summer and might repeat that this summer. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, they’ll be open until 9 p.m. on Wednesdays. 

See moon rocks, moon dust and moon dirt with your very own eyes. Starting Feb. 5, the Bell Museum will have lunar samples on display. On loan from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, encased in a Lucite disk, they were collected by Apollo astronauts more than 40 years ago. (Has it really been that long since humans walked on the moon? Sadly, yes.) Hours: 5:30-8:30 p.m. Feb. 5; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 7 and 14; 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 8 and 15; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 16. On Feb. 14, the Bell’s Saturday with a Scientist program will feature Calvin Alexander, a professor from the U’s Department of Earth Sciences, curator of meteorites at the U, and part of the original Apollo Lunar Sample team. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Free with museum admission.

The weekend and a bit beyond

Opens tonight (Friday, Jan. 30) at Mixed Blood in Minneapolis: Mu Theatre Arts’ production of David Henry Hwang’s “FOB.” This Obie winner from the early days of the Asian American theater movement explores the relationships and conflicts between established American-born Chinese (ABC) and fresh off the boat (FOB) newcomers in the 1980s. It toured Chinese restaurants in Minnesota last year and moves into Mixed Blood for 11 performances. Randy Reyes directs and stars. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($22/$10). Through Feb. 15.

Tonight at the Illusion in Minneapolis: Transatlantic Love Affair’s “These Old Shoes.” Surrounded by moving boxes and a grandfather clock, an old man learns to say goodbye as the time approaches to leave his lifelong home for a retirement community. Conceived and directed by Diogo Lopes, created by the ensemble, inspired by stories from their own families, this 2013 Fringe Festival hit has been revised and expanded. 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($17/$22, weekends $18/$25). Through Feb. 14. Tonight’s show is preceded by a Bulleit Frontier whiskey tasting in the lobby.

Saturday and Sunday at MCAD in Minneapolis: “Beyond the Buzz: New Forms, Realities, and Environments in Digital Fabrication.” Work by 26 local, national, and international artists who are using 3D printing, 3D mapping, 3D modeling and other digital fabrication techniques. 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday, noon – 5 p.m. Sunday. Monday-Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Through March 1. Free.

Monday and Tuesday at the Trylon in Minneapolis: “The Manchurian Candidate.” Are you going to the new opera in March? Whet your appetite with this 1962 thriller directed by John Frankenheimer. Laurence Harvey, Frank Sinatra, and Angela Lansbury star. 7 and 9:30 p.m. both nights. FMI and tickets ($8).

Tuesday at Macalester’s Mairs Concert Hall in St. Paul: Patrice Michaels: presents “Intersection: Jazz Meets Classical Song.” A U of M grad, Michaels is considered one of the finest American sopranos of her generation, a virtuoso who moves fluidly from opera to the recital stage, performs around the world and has made dozens of recordings. Her latest, “Intersection,” is a two-disc meeting of blues, ragtime ballads and art songs by Tibor Harsanyi, Laurie Altman, George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, and more, plus a new suite (“Neighborhood Music”) written for her by Minnesota composer Randy Bauer. Listen to samples here. This is a big-deal concert, part of Macalester’s under-the-radar New Music Series (past guests have included Bill Frisell, Maria Schneider, the string quartet ETHEL and Theo Bleckmann), and it’s free. In the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center, 130 Macalester St. 7:30 p.m. No tickets, no reservations; first-come, first-served.

Save the date

Tuesdays in March at the Walker in Minneapolis: Insights 2015 Design Lecture Series. Co-presented by the Walker and AIGA Minnesota, this annual series brings leading designers from around the world to share the thinking, methods, and processes behind their work, with examples. We’re especially interested in opening night, “Minnesota Design: A Celebration.” Our many achievements include the world’s quietest room, the Honeycrisp apple and the sticky note. March 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31. FMI and tickets (individual and series available; $24-$100).

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 01/31/2015 - 09:30 am.

    Murphy Square…it’s been a blessing for so many years…

    The history of neighborhood parks is most fascinating.

    Thank the gods Murphy Square has not been sold to Augsburg or any other development group. May Murphy (and so many other neighborhood parks) remain protected,…that is not exploited for condos, commercial, franchised development

    The city of lakes, the city of parks…what a grand history and may Minneapolis retain that hallmark.

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