Guest Column: Minnesota-centered ACT play ‘brilliantly directed’

Published 8:46 pm Thursday, February 22, 2018

Stage Right by Jerry Gabrielatos

Love is in the air in Bunyan Bay, the fictional town in which the new musical comedy put on by Albert Lea Community Theatre is set. Unfortunately, for its characters, that air is filled with mosquitoes.

Jerry Gabrielatos

“Don’t Hug Me, We’re Married,” takes place in a bar owned by Gunner and Clara Johnson (Jason Howland and Lisa Sturtz), a husband and wife. They are a couple who feel more like roommates than lovers. They sing a song called “The Status Quo” together. The couple’s marriage has been reduced to a competition in which points are awarded for being civil to each other. The winner gets to spend time away from the other.

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Juxtaposed with the Johnsons are another couple, Aarvid Gisselsen (Luke Zacharias) and Bernice Lundstrom (Teresa Wilson). They are just beginning their relationship and their lives. Like the Johnsons, this couple also keeps score. Bernice, an aspiring singer, measures her partner’s love by testing Aarvid on autobiographical trivia. Hopeless Aarvid, a karaoke machine vendor, knows a few facts, but notably, not how to spell her name.

Finally, there are Kanute Gunderson (Gordy Handeland) and Trigger Johnson (also Jason Howland). Kanute is a pal of Gunner’s who has done well for himself, but spends his days cracking wise at the bar. He seems to long for affection, taking the reins on a number called, “When Will I Find Love?” He laments what could have been with Bernice, and, depending on how much he’s had to drink, Kanute may succumb to Trigger’s (wo)manly charms. Like Kanute, Trigger is also starved for affection, perhaps a symptom of life as a forest ranger. The two provide some of the best jokes of the play, making consistent use of double entendres.

The witty and Minnesota-centric story revolves around what happens to these couples. Will the Johnsons get it together? Will Aarvid and Bernice overcome their naivete?

Sue Jorgensen should take credit for brilliantly directing a gifted and experienced group of actors. The songs were so catchy I debated writing this review to mimic the rhyme scheme I can still hear myself humming, a testament to Barb Lang’s talents. Clara’s rap (backwards hat and all) was especially fun. The set design was masterful. I felt that it looks like any bar up north where they might tell stories about the day that Dylan walked in.

The play runs for the next two weekends at the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center. Tickets are available online and at the box office.

Jerry Gabrielatos is the assistant city manager in Albert Lea, and an aspiring theater critic and hot dish judge.