Every artist needs a charismatic, articulate advocate; fortunately for Mexican sculptor Abraham Cruzvillegas, he has that advocate in himself. At a media preview on March 21, Cruzvillegas utterly charmed attendees with clear and quotable (“To me, nothing is trash”) explanations of his work. What visitors who don’t have the luxury of having the artist at hand will make of The Autoconstrucción Suites, though, is an open question.
The title of the show—a major collection of Cruzvillegas’s work that will tour to Germany and Mexico following its Walker sting—refers to the theme of construction and reconstruction, inspired by Cruzvilegas’s childhood in a poor but politically active community where no resources were wasted.
The pieces on display have been assembled from motley components, and the first impression most visitors will have is that of a surreal landscape. Objects Man Ray might enjoy include a feathered umbrella, a stump penetrated by dozens of knives, and a mobile featuring dung molded into the shape of shrunken heads. (The fact that they’re reproductions and not actual heads is significant: “I’m not a fetishist,” said Cruzvillegas.)
At the center of the show is a large wooden assemblage built in Paris from found materials, in a shape that replicates the historical growth of the French capital’s boundaries. That fact, of course, would be completely opaque to anyone who didn’t read the catalog—just as you’d never know that the collections of white- and red-painted paper and cardboard are ephemera from the artist’s own life. Cruzvillegas’s gift for creative composition will catch viewers’ eyes and imaginations, but if you want to delve deeper, you’ll need to do your homework.
“If I were a conceptual artist,” said Cruzvillegas to the assembled media (I’m paraphrasing, since I was too busy taking Vines to take notes), “I’d say this is all a fiction. But I’m not. This is all real, this is all my life.”
Places in St. Paul for Tiger Woods to Pick Up Women to Satisfy His Sex Addiction When Lindsey Vonn Brings Him Home to Meet the Family
Mickey’s Diner for tourists and (challenge points) waitresses
Red’s Savoy Inn to rock it like Norm Coleman’s dad
Fabulous Fern’s for college students and legislators
Chairs that play music in the MPR lobby, also for college students and legislators
Highland Village for desperate housewives
Tiff’s for slumming Minneapolis hipsters
Como Park for kinky zookeepers with access to whips and tranquilizers
Science Museum for ladies who can arrange after-hours Omnitheater porn
Town & Country for ladies whose caddies carry their condoms
On March 7, a performance of Twelfth Night by the UK company Propeller was attended by the smallest audience I’ve ever seen for a professional Guthrie-presented production on the Wurtele Thrust Stage. “Sometimes you just get Shakepeared out,” said my girlfriend—and maybe it’s true that local audiences’ tastes are shifting towards lighter, more summery fare, but it’s also true that this is not Shakespeare for beginners.
Shakespeare’s convoluted plots can be hard enough to follow the first time you see them, and unlike the Acting Company—a regular Guthrie partner presenting “Shakespeare for a new generation”—Propeller doesn’t bend over backwards to help new audiences understand the text. Further complicating matters is the fact that Propeller’s casts are all male. What I’m getting around to admitting here is that until the last scene, I thought Viola and Sebastian were actually the same person.
They’re not—they’re siblings separated by shipwreck, Viola (Joseph Chance) in disguise as a man to procure employment with Duke Orsino (Christopher Heyward). Olivia (Ben Allen), the recently widowed (but not badly bereaved) target of Orsino’s affection, falls for “Cesario” (Viola in a suit) and, when Sebastian (Dan Wheeler) shows up, marries him. Eventually, both Sebastian and “Cesario” show up onstage together, and in the production’s campiest moment, Olivia cries with a throaty hint of pleasure, “Most…wonderful!”
Casting one of Shakespeare’s gender-benders with all men—men who are very comfortable in drag—lends a welcome contemporary perspective to shows where hints of same-sex attraction are generally played for yuks and/or yucks. Here, the erotic heat between the men in each pairing is, so to speak, embraced; the cross-dressing is played for dramatic effect, not for cheap laughs.
If anything, this production could stand to be a little cheaper. It’s adorned with a rich soundtrack created onstage by cast members in character as well as those who stealthily don white masks—those who are still trying to forget Tom Cruise’s creepy orgy in Eyes Wide Shut, you’ve been warned—to play water glasses, bass guitars, conga drums, and other motley instruments. (I can’t be positive there wasn’t a saw in there somewhere.)
Composed collectively by the company, the music is expert and sometimes very enjoyable—notably during a spirited jig by Gary Shelford, who all but steals the show as the gossipy servant Maria—but all that stage business tends to distract, and imparts a sinister air that director Edward Hall’s production doesn’t ever fully explain.
If you’re a Shakespeare fan with a Twelfth Night or two under your belt, you’re likely to find this a stimulating production. If you’re new to this twisted comic tale, though, you might first point your dinghy towards more accommodating shores.
Photo by Manuel Harlan, courtesy Guthrie Theater