BY TAMAR NEUMANN: As the sun begins to set on summer in Minneapolis, there is one last outdoor show you should make time for—Mixed Precipitation’s Escape From Alcina’s Island: A Picnic Operetta. In its 7th year, Mixed Precipitation has started a wonderful tradition of bringing good, local food and opera together.
The play this year is the story of a truck driver who gets trapped at a rest area controlled by a sorceress and her sister. The other men who have stopped there have ended up becoming rocks, trees and fountains. This particular truck driver has a brave girlfriend who races off to save him and all the other trapped men. The story is taken from Handel’s opera, Alcina, and skillfully updated and adapted by Scotty Reynolds and Marya Hart. In addition to classial Italian opera, there are modern country songs, lots of fun tongue-in-cheek references, and farcical dialogue.
One of the best parts of going to an outdoor show is observing how the company chooses to use their space. Mixed Precipitation does a nice job of using their space wisely and they include some fun and creative ways of incorporating pieces of the Dodge Nature Center into the show. While the show will be performed in other spaces, I imagine much of the same tactics will be worked into those performances. Being in a different space (and a new outdoor space for all the different shows) can also prove to be quite a challenge for a theatre company. In this case, it was a pleasure to see how the director, Scotty Reynolds, and the set designer, Erica Zaffarano, created a set without much more than the actors themselves. Because of that choice, this show necessitated a lot of physicality and movement, which was deftly coached by Laurie Witzkowski.
But of course, the show is only as good as its performers and this cast was having a blast. While I am no expert on opera, I would hazard to say this is probably not the opera most people are used to. And while it may not be the most technically performed or sung opera, the actors were impressive with their ability to switch between modern country music and classical Italian opera. While there were a few rough patches and one or two slightly stilted performances, it didn’t affect the overall quality of the show. In the end you will find yourself so wrapped up in the fun of everything it’s hard to give notice to much else. Both Carolyn Cavadini (Alcina) and Lizz Windnagel (Morgana) were a pleasure to watch as the witchy sisters. Windnagel, especially, seemed to be having a good time as she pranced around the stage helping her sister and woefully falling in love with all the wrong people.
I find the best way to wrap up this review is to state that this show was fun (and delicious!). And while that may not sound like high praise, if you knew me and understood my general dislike of opera and musicals you would know that this is high praise coming from me. So bring a blanket, lawn chair or just yourself and come out to one of their shows. It’s a perfect way to enjoy the bountiful harvest of Minnesota and the last few glorious days of summer.
Escape From Alcina’s Island: A Picnic Operetta. August 16-September 20, 2015. Mixed Precipitation Theatre, Community gardens around the state; check their website for locations. Tickets: Suggested donation of $20 per person; purchase tickets at mixedprecipitation.org.