WHAT: The War Within/All’s Fair
WHERE: The Southern Theater, 1420 S. Washington Ave.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m., Thursday-Sunday, June 7-June 10
COST: $28 (two for $28 for students)
They say war is hell. On the stage at The Southern Theater, the war certainly is hellish and uncomfortable, but it’s also bizarre and laugh-out-loud funny.
That’s because The Moving Company’s “The War Within/All’s Fair” is not trying to examine any war from history books or that’s raging overseas, but the wars that culminate from a thousand little everyday interactions and the tension of sharing space with someone.
“The War Within/All’s Fair” is directed by Dominique Serrand of the legendary Theatre de la Jeune Lune. He created the show last fall with Steve Epp and theater students at the University of Minnesota. More than 20 University students originally performed the play, which was further refined for this professional run at The Southern Theater.
“People take three or four weeks to rehearse for a show but for a creation [like this] you just can’t,” Serrand said. “So building it with the University buys us time. We do it once, and we research it for a time, and then we professionally produce it.”
The show takes advantage of the gorgeously decrepit stage of The Southern to create a manic, industrial workplace where larger-than-life characters bounce around, occasionally colliding and bursting into song and fits of violence. According to Serrand, the mayhem on stage, as well as the show’s nonlinear storyline, is meant to reflect the decaying political language and polarization seen today.
Besides adapting to a new space, Serrand and Epp, along with playwright Cory Hinkle, cut the ensemble down to seven and created new characters, such as Suzanne Warmanen’s office gossip and Jon Ferguson’s boss, who puts an explosive spin on familiar characters like Michael Scott of “The Office” and Bill Lumbergh of “Office Space.”
“There were no characters, so to speak, when we first did it. It was just actors doing numbers,” Serrand said. “Everything changed because the characters were suddenly invested in doing these particular numbers.”
Serrand also cast three University students from the original production in the professional run of “The War Within.” Haley Carneol, Peter Rusk and Sam Kruger all perform alongside professionals like Moving Company artistic associate Nathan Keepers.
“Doing work with Dominique Serrand is special for me because I grew up in Minneapolis so I got to see Jeune Lune shows as I was learning that I wanted to do theater,” Rusk said.
Kruger gives a particularly strong performance as Gaush, a new hire who is killed before the third act and spends the remainder of the show as a ragdoll, thrown and dragged around the stage, “Weekend at Bernie’s” style.
With a devised work like “The War Within” there’s always a danger that certain elements significant to the players will be lost on the audience. While “The War Within” is opaque in some places, it’s entertaining throughout. So while it’s not always clear why the characters are singing karaoke to a toy dinosaur or hitting each other with potted plants, it’s always a lot of fun.
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