On my first visit to Minneapolis as a real adult, on a weekend trip to visit my friend Allison and decide if I really wanted to come here, she took me to a show at a theatre company she was working for at the time. I’d heard of them before this trip because they’d received some national attention, but I’d never seen any of their work. The company was Theatre de la Jeune Lune and the show was Some People’s Kids performed at The Southern Theater.
Suddenly I couldn’t wait to be a part of theatre in Minneapolis. I loved it. There are images from that production which still float in my head over 20 years later. It was one of the most inventive, imaginative shows I’d seen and I was fascinated with these amazing performers.
Jump to 2011, and let’s skip the other amazing shows of theirs, my very brief stint working with them, their Tony award and their financial demise. The company has disbanded and moved on to other projects, or back to France. But now, suddenly, we have The MovingCompany, a new production company with two of the Luners, Dominique Serrand and Steve Epp, in a new piece back at the Southern Theater.
Their catch phrase: We Do Theater.
And damn, do they ever in Come Hell and High Water
With sadly serendipitous timing they’ve taken the real story of a 1927 Mississippi River flood, which displaced thousands and flooded farmlands and small towns when levees were released all to save the millions more in New Orleans (sound familiar) and turned it…..in to a beautifully staged tale.
Steve Epp has to be one of the most talented actors I’ve ever had the fortune to watch on stage. His work is finely detailed and deeply built. I felt I knew this man from him simply walking out on stage and looking at the audience. It was that fine tuned. And then as he began his story he transformed his character to himself at age 100 in a graceful move. In this he’s paired with Nathan Keepers who seems as if he were cut from the same cloth. Of course, they play the same character, and the way they do it is fascinating.
This show has some wonderful techniques. I truly love when typical object X magically, and most importantly simply, becomes something else entirely. There’s a moment where two people are traveling down the flooded river, lost for days. How do you put a flooded river and a boat on stage? A small pile of sandbags, a long board and actors balancing like a see-saw, gently swaying with the flow. Beautiful.
The whole ensemble of the piece, the staging and the techniques were immediately recognized by me as old school Jeune Lune, aka Dominique Serrand, the director. His power of imagination and ability to put that fascinating world out on stage is of a level only few people can obtain.
It made me long for the days of Some People’s Kids and Ballroom and Robinson Crusoe and Children of Paradise and….
This was brilliant story telling, inventive staging, deeply rooted characters and fine fine acting which reaffirmed for me the power of live theatre. Minneapolis is fortunate to still have these talented people making their home base in our city.