It’s the part of February where the cold has taken so much from your personality you become a winter husk of your former self. Walking through the cold streets of Uptown I make it to the basement of the Calvary Baptist Church. There, the smell of free tater tot hotdish and candlelit tables surround the space before the performance takes place, giving me enough time to become more than a husk.
The BAND Group’s The Madwoman of Minneapolis is a modern interpretation of the famous The Madwoman of Chaillot, a French show well known for its whimsy and humor. The show’s plot starts simply enough: a group of businessmen meets in a small cafe where they devise a dark plan to make loads of money. As it turns out, beneath Minneapolis is a large deposit of oil, and the men plan on destroying the city in order to extract it. After learning of this plan to destroy her home, the owner of the Cafe, the Madwoman of Minneapolis (Meg Bradley), works to stop their evil plan.
Once one hears the oil plan, the political implication and voice of the show become clear: the show is a shining a light on the state fossil fuels. That’s incredibly noble, as well as interesting considering the play is an adaptation from a show written in 1943. This message falls short however, because the play is far too whimsical.
Like, it’s so whimsical it’s almost impossible to tell how seriously the characters feel about anything. Granted, a large part of this is probably due to the construction of the source material but certain considerations should have been made for contemporary ideas on the environment. The main issue with the fantastic nature of the play is how hard it is to empathize with the protagonist. Meg Bradley as the titular character was more than capable. Her jokes, japes, and cryptic nothings made for laughs that were clear to see. Because of that, it was a disappointment to see a lack of a straight man to play off of. In the cacophony of oddballs, Bradley’s work feels at it’s best when playing with one other character or by herself; unfortunately, this is rarely the case. The Madwoman of Minneapolis surrounds herself with almost equally cartoonish people. Collectively, they make scenes that are hard to understand and quickly plateau on an emotional level.
Occasionally, serious questions are asked via a single character, but the answers these questions receive make the Cheshire Cat sound cogent, thus defeating the point. The lack of seriousness can be seen throughout the show: in the hypothetical trial of the businessmen, in a distracted meeting between the protagonist and her friends, and even in the very moment when the city is eventually saved. Essentially, the show is so silly it’s hard to imagine the characters actually care about the environment, Minneapolis, or most anything.
What the show clearly does care about is the costuming and acting. Sitting in the basement of Calvary Baptist Church, the one thing that consistently jumped out to me was how well the cast was dressed. There were businessmen, hipsters, countesses, and a talking cat. The costuming never faltered and what’s interesting is that the costumes, and everything else on stage, was thrifted or recycled. It’s little considerations like that that make the BAND groups work stand out.
The BAND Group’s The Madwoman of Minneapolis wants so much to speak on heavy matters with whimsy. Unfortunately, they can’t have their cake and eat it too. The show’s oddities make for a sight to behold, just not a message to care for.