Looking for a night out on the town? You’re in luck as there are several theater productions playing in the Twin Cities and the greater metro area that are sure to entertain. Below are a few of the editors’ picks. Remember to check the theaters’ COVID-19 public safety policies before purchasing your tickets.
“A Raisin in the Sun”
Guthrie Theater | 818 South 2nd St., Minneapolis
Runs until June 5
Lorraine Hansberry’s classic play about the trials of the Younger family never gets old. Centered on the dreams of a multi-generational Black family living in a cramped apartment on Chicago’s South Side, this production, directed by Austen Van, is as fresh and poignant as ever.
Having lost the patriarch of the family, we learn about the strained family dynamics and the dreams of each family member as they await the arrival of a $10,000 life insurance policy.
Though some dialogue is naturally dated, much of it feels relevant with family strife centered on such hot button topics as religion, abortion, gentrification, gender roles, racial inequity, and self-determination.
Through humor and heartbreak, the family learns the importance of bearing each other’s burdens and leaning into one another to combat the ills of a society rife with systemic racism.
Stand out: Jamecia Bennett as the meddlesome neighbor Mrs. Johnson
Chanhassen Dinner Theatres | 501 West 78th St., Chanhassen
Runs until Sept. 24
This musical based on the 1984 movie starring Kevin Bacon, which was based on a real story of social repression in a small town in Elmore City, Oklahoma, is a true crowd-pleaser. Unflattering ’80s hairstyles and jeans still abound, but unlike the movie, this production of “Footloose” features a diverse cast.
All the main couples in this production are interracial, starting with Ariel Moore (Maya Richardson), the rebellious preacher’s daughter who catches the eye of newcomer Ren McCormack (Alan Bach).
As the story goes, McCormack helps loosen the restrictive grip of Ariel’s father, Pastor Shaw Moore, whose past trauma causes him to wield his power with a heavy hand.
With the current wave of book banning and the denying of American history in classrooms, the dangers of allowing fear to drive societal repression still resonates.
Add in a likable cast, high-energy dancing, and hit pop songs like “Holding Out for a Hero,” “Let’s Hear It for the Boy,” and “Almost Paradise,” and you have an enjoyable evening of entertainment.
Standout: Matthew Hall as the lovable Black cowboy William Hewitt
More info: chanhassendt.com/footloose
“Jelly’s Last Jam”
Theater Latte Da | 345 13th Ave. N.E., Minneapolis
Runs until May 14
This week offers the last chance to take in the scorching “Jelly’s Last Jam” at Theater Latte Da. Jazz great Jelly Roll Morton’s tragic life is recounted through a colorful, smokey jazz backdrop complete with energetic dance breaks.
The play plumbs the troubled depths of the classically trained pianist’s fractured psyche brought on in no small part by his turbulent childhood. Early in his life, he is shunned by his grandmother for “disrespecting” his “Creole” heritage—and his deceased mother’s memory—by soaking up the soulful sounds of Black musicians in his New Orleans neighborhood.
This Tony- and Drama Desk Award-winning play sets harsh, painful racial realities to a smoldering jazz soundtrack helmed by Sanford Moore. Catch “Jelly” before it takes its final bow on May 14.
More info: www.latteda.org/jellys-last-jam
“The Labyrinth and The Minotaur: The Incarceration Play Project“
Mixed Blood Theatre | 1501 S. 4th St., Minneapolis
Runs May 13 – May 22
Billed as a “one-of-a-kind” play that “shows the world of incarceration in a new light,” this world premiere production is performed by a mix of people with experience in the incarceration system and professional artists.
Wonderlust Productions gathered more than 230 diverse stakeholders in the Minnesota Corrections system from inmates and their families to corrections officers, prosecutors, public defenders, probation officers, policymakers, and many others.
The production reimagines the ancient myth of Theseus and his quest to kill the Minotaur—
a half-man, half-beast trapped in a maze—by layering true stories from people who have spent their lives working and living inside a modern-day labyrinth—the Minnesota incarceration system.
More info: wlproductions.org
Pillsbury House + Theatre | 3501 Chicago Ave. S., Minneapolis
Runs May 28 – June 12
Longtime Pillsbury House + Theatre collaborator Mikell Sapp will kick off the theater’s 30th Anniversary season with a comedic solo performance. The play chronicles his trials and successes in becoming a theater artist and navigating the challenges of race as a young Black man from Alabama encountering the culture shock of Minnesota.
Billed as “raw” and entertaining, this comic-strip-style telling weaves stories, memories and reflections on today’s complicated racial landscape to take audiences on a wild ride that illuminates struggles, faces hard truths, celebrates triumphs, and explores what it means to be a Black artist in an ever “awakening” world.
Paige Elliott is the digital editor at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.