Art Hounds: 'Uncle Vanya,' but make it hilarious

A stage that says life sucks
"Life Sucks" at Open Eye Theatre.
Courtesy Girl Friday Productions and Open Eye

Twin Cities arts enthusiast Florence Brammer loves Girl Friday Productions and Open Eye Theatre’s production of “Life Sucks,” a play she called “smart and funny and poignant.” 

The play was loosely adapted by playwright Aaron Posner from Anton Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya.”

“First of all, when I walked into the theater, I was blown away by how gorgeous the set design is,” Brammer says. “And the performances are so good.”

Brammer was struck by the broadness of the performances — but says it became obvious that this was a decision on the part of the playwright, as well as director Joel Sass. “Because as the play continues, the characters become more and more layered and complex. It's sort of like us, isn't it?“ 

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Brammer says that the play made her laugh and cry, “which is my very favorite theatergoing combination.” 

“Life Sucks” runs through Nov. 5 at Open Eye Theatre in Minneapolis.

Eric Heukeshoven is the director of worship music and arts at Central Lutheran Church in Winona, Minn. He's looking forward to this Saturday’s Winona Symphony Orchestra performance, which features work by three contemporary Minnesota composers — and one Mozart symphony for good luck.

Included is the premier of a new piece by Minnesota composer Libby Larsen. Titled “Haying,” the composition will feature local baritone soloist Alan Dunbar. “On the surface, it's about the toils and rigors of bringing in the harvest,” Heukeshoven explains. “But it gets into some other interesting areas of about war and distress and it's incredibly visceral — very vivid.”

Additionally, the orchestra will perform “Minnesota Suite” by Reinaldo Moya and “Superior” by Katherine Bergman, along with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Symphony No. 41.” The first two are Minnesota composers; Mozart hailed from Austria.

The performance takes place Oct. 21 at 7:30 p.m. at DuFresne Performing Arts Center, Main Stage, Winona State University.

Bassoonist Tracy Carr is looking forward to hearing the bassoon shine in the Bakken Ensemble’s upcoming performance this Saturday. 

Carr is particularly looking forward to hearing them play Wynton Marsalis' composition “Meeelaan” for bassoon and string quartet, written for renowned bassoonist Milan Turković (also from Austria).

“It really features the bassoon in a unique way,” Carr says. “It leverages the instrument in a way that's outside of a typical orchestral setting. And also is playful with the instrument in a way that you don't usually see.”

The performance features Fei Xie, principal bassoonist of the Minnesota Orchestra. Also on the program: Sergei Prokofiev’s “String Quartet No. 2 in F Major, Op. 92” and Jean Françaix’s “Divertissement for Bassoon and String Quintet.”

The performance will be Oct. 22 at Antonello Hall at the MacPhail Center in Minneapolis.

This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.