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Review of Bars and Measures at The Jungle Theater, Minneapolis

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Quote of the Day: The music is not enough. A line from Bars and Measures, a new play by Idris Goodwin, which explores the power of music to connect and the forces of this world that pull us apart. This powerful drama examines life through the bars and measures of music, life, and our culture of fear. Two brothers, connected by music, but play to a different beat. Balil is a jazz musician in search of belonging. His brother Eric has gone the classical route. Balil gets caught in the crossfires of suspicion and hate against the Muslims. Eric tries to rally support for his brother who is behind bars, even though he starts to question his actions. The situation becomes more complicated than an Italian Opera blended together with free-stylin’ jazz musicians. The beat won’t always jive.

Darius Dotch as Eric and Ansa Ankyea as Bilal PHOTO CREDIT: Dan Norman

Darius Dotch as Eric and Ansa Ankyea as Bilal
PHOTO CREDIT: Dan Norman

The music, though, is enough to connect the brothers. Eric visits Bilal who says he spends much of his time in solitary composing music in his head. He tries to teach it to his brother Eric. The clash between the classically

Darius Dotch (Eric) and Taous Claire Khazem (Sylvia) Photo by Dan Norman

Darius Dotch (Eric) and Taous Claire Khazem (Sylvia)
Photo by Dan Norman

trained Eric and his free-stylin’ brother become apparent, even as Eric tries to learn Bilal’s songs. Meanwhile Eric is making a connection with an opera singer, Sylvia (Taous Claire Khazem), who doesn’t quite give the Italian aria Caro Mio Ben her full voice, but bends to the soulful riffs of Blue Gardenia

The music is not enough when other’s actions, choices, and relationships work their way in. The discord can be too great to sustain, and it all falls apart. In some ways this play feels too short (runs just 80 minutes, no intermission), leaving us feeling like maybe we didn’t get the whole story, or perhaps it’s not yet finished. But, that is the way with life, with many unresolved issues. Some of the discord in the world is being fueled by hate, fear, the media over-emphasizing violence and never showing the good in humanity.

It’s funny how an evening can take on a theme. I attended this performance with my son whom I will be sending off to college this week. We arrived in the Lynn-Lake neighborhood way ahead of schedule and quickly grabbed a spot in the parking lot behind the Jungle Theater. We got out of the car and started looking for a place to eat. Not having planned ahead very well, we googled burger places. We headed in the direction of a fairly famous one, but found that it was further than we thought on foot. We were also getting hungry and in need of a restroom (it’s a two hour drive from up north). My 18-year-old son didn’t want to  go a one of the numerous brew pubs along Lyndale Ave. He wasn’t hungry for Mexican or pizza, so we kept walking. We looked across the street and saw a quiet place called 20160826_174853_resizedCommon Roots Cafe. “That looks good,” he said. It worked for me. And, luckily, they served hamburgers. As we were eating, I started to take note of the place, and read this sign, in reverse, from our table. 

I reads: We stand with our MUSLIM COMMUNITY MEMBERS. We stand with REFUGEES AND IMMIGRANTS in our community, with the heading Hate has no business here. I said, “It feels like this is a place where activists would hang out.”

So, I snapped this picture after we enjoyed a delicious supper. Common Roots Cafe is a locally owned, small business that supports sustainability, locally grown, grass-fed beef, made from scratch food. They have several vegetarian and gluten-free options. My boy had a hamburger, and he said the bun was especially good. I’m assuming they make their own bread. I had the lamb meatball gyro with cucumber tomato relish, and we both had beans as the side. We kind of wished we’d ordered one more side, but it left us room for ice cream.

Common Roots Cafe, located at 2558 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN.

Common Roots Cafe, located at 2558 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN.

I had a great evening with my son, one last date to the theater before he gets engulfed in campus life and his education. We had a nice ride down to the metro while listening to recordings of the choirs he’s been in this year. We ate at a wonderful restaurant, supporting a local small business that promotes inclusive and healthy values. We saw a thought-provoking show about the power of music to connect, and the discord of the world. We listened to an interesting podcast on This American Life on our way home that sparked even more conversation. 

Bars and Measures is playing at the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis through October 9, 2016. Directed by Marion McClinton and featuring the amazing talents of Ansa Akyea, Darius Dotch, Taous Claire Khazem, and Maxwell Collyard. The set is gorgeously imagined by Andrea Heilman, lighting design by Michael Wangen, and costumes by Trevor Bowen. The wonderful music is arranged and composed by the fabulous Justin Ellington. What a night of music, thoughtfulness, and delight.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: What do you think: is the music enough? Have you ever stumbled upon a unique restaurant, shop, or podcast that resonated with you?

 

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