Audience Member Review of “Ask the Question”

Posted November 9, 2011

On Thursday November 3 I attended the opening of ghostbridge theatre’s Ask the Question at Bryant Lake Bowl. Just looking for a quick rating? Eight out of ten—outstanding—some of the best theatre I’ve seen in the Twin Cities. Where too many shows are primarily flippant escapism, Ask the Question reaches toward an ethos of weight balanced by humor. Get your tickets now for either of the remaining Thursday evening shows.

The structure is incredibly clear without being blocky—this show has flow. An opening patter of interweaving lines spoken by all the characters communicates depth and a sense of surprise, setting up the work to come. While the intense and information-dense opening text flutters by, each character repeats a unique gesture that inaudibly sinks right to heart of what that character represents or holds dear. This opening draws the audience immediately into the world of the play. No clunky exposition here! I found myself imperceptibly leaning forward to make the mental connections faster, to catch the hints rapidly dropped by the rhythmic interplay of text and iconic gesture.

The playwright and director Jeff Nichols has an exacting sense of timing. For me, it was just at the right moment that this opening blur of overlapping text moved into a series of monologues. I will refrain from spoiling the meta-theatrical surprises that unfold from one monologue to the next. How are an author, a Pakistani prisoner, a cult leader, and a young veteran connected? See the show, and find out.

Particularly memorable and compelling were spoken word performances by Aly Westberg as the character of The Author, as well as the gorgeous and subtle insertion of musical director Karen Elaine Massey’s voice as a nostalgic childhood memory of The Author. Alex Cotant disturbingly found the humanity in the character of The Initiated One. Actor, director, and script powerfully combined to push my empathy buttons even for such an obviously messed up megalomaniac.

Touchingly edgy and realistic is the depiction by Christian DeMarais of Iraq war veteran Alex Dobson who has found a tenuous niche back at home as a museum security guard. His attempts to protect the art at all costs are a bit scary, not to mention his genuinely vulnerable reaching out to (or hitting on) a young art history co-ed researching her paper at the museum.

There are two shows left, both on Thursdays: November 10 and November 17. Get there before 6pm to ensure your seat and to catch Happy Hour: $3 domestic taps, $4 select taps, house wines, rail cocktails, and $4.25 appetizers. Make a date night of it, and grab dinner fresh from local farms like my wife and I did—BLB has food and drink service in the theater!

Ask the Question premiered in 2008 at The Marsh in San Francisco. Do not miss its limited run here in Minneapolis.

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