Quote of the Day: This play has been a treat to work on and I can’t say enough nice things about the artists who have been so generous in sharing both their talents and their own lives to help inform the story you’re watching tonight. I hope that everyone finds something to laugh at or love about this play, but, in particular, to anyone who’s ever traded someone all the ice cream they can eat for five minutes of silence, taken career advice from a three-year-old, or used a toy helicopter to open a beer: this play is for you. Josh Tobiessen, playwright. You nailed it.

I may have traded ice cream bribes for quiet time, or getting that youngster to move, i.e. get in the car, put on your shoes, put down the breakables in the store, hurry along because we’re late – AGAIN. Although, my boys are all grown up, now, college age and beyond, something lingers in that parent-child relationship. You remember “those days” and smile. The same kids who smothered you with their demands are the ones you bribe to spend time with you when they’re teenagers and young adults. So, Josh Tobiessen’s play about family dynamics hits home. Even if you never raised a human from infancy to adulthood, you probably had parents who did, and you have that side of the relationship. 

Sally Wingert and John Catron star in Josh Tobiesson’s new comedy “Stinkers” premiering at The Jungle Theater in Minneapolis, MN. Photo by Jessica Eckstrand

In my opinion, Josh Tobiessen is living the playwright’s dream. He had an idea for a play and one of the Twin Cities’ finest actors interested in playing a part. When he learned that Sally Wingert was on board with the project, he wrote her role as the felonious Grandma Joyce specifically for her. He could imagine her doing the actions, saying the lines, and bringing that character to life. And, of course, she knocked it out of the park! (pardon the cliche’) Honestly, the relationships felt so real, I had to remind myself that this was a play! It adds the element of Grandma having a record to a more typical family, but don’t we all have crazy relatives?

John Catron plays her son Brad, a stay-at-home dad with a calm demeanor. He handles all the poopy pants problems, irrational meltdowns, and needs of his children with ease. His mom watches in awe, and sometimes irritation, sometimes from a distance, and other times stepping in. She has her own agenda.

The toddlers are played by puppets with adult actors manipulating them. Reed Sigmund (a TC favorite and a company member at The Children’s Theater) plays Oscar, age 4. Megan M. Burns (another TC favorite and often seen on stage at The Jungle) plays Evie, who is not quite two-years-old. What felt so true to life with toddlers is how they follow the grown-ups around, make their demands loud and clear, and everyone focuses on them and their needs. Reed and Megan look like their puppets, use their expressive voices and movements to enhance the scenes, and you see them and their puppets as one. It was fascinating to watch.

Brad has one of those friends who is always looking for easy money, hangs out a little too much, talks a little too loudly, but has a lovable, if sometimes irritating, demeanor. Nate Cheeseman plays Brad’s friend Calvin, and I’m still chuckling at his antics. He’s sort of dumb and likable, and you find yourself rooting for him, even though he doesn’t quite deserve it!

Joyce also has a friend, Lilith, played by George Keller, whom she met in prison. Their relationship is complicated, and money is involved. At first, Lilith seems hard and cash focused, but we see a softer side of her later. She teaches the youngsters a few new things, too, but I don’t want to give too much away.

Cast of “Stinkers” premiering at The Jungle Theater in Minneapolis, MN through August 18, 2019. Photo by Dan Norman

Jungle Artistic Director Sarah Rasmussen directs this new play, and what a delight it is to be the first audiences to experience it. It’s fresh, funny, endearing, and familiar, while still giving us a few surprises. My friend and I had a lovely theater date, enjoying the escape of a great comedy. Although, as my friend said, “It was a little too realistic at times,” as she is in the middle of that melt-down stage with one of her kids!

Praise for Chelsea M. Warren on her Scenic and Puppet Design. I am fascinated by puppets, and it was fun to watch the actors manipulate them for this show. The setting seemed so familiar, an open floor plan house Up North. Turns out the play is set in the Brainerd area. We’re from the Brainerd area. We chuckled because we drove down from Brainerd to see a show set in Brainerd at a theater in Minneapolis! (Tour it Up North! We’d love to have you.)

You can seen Stinkers at The Jungle Theater in Minneapolis, MN through August 18, 2019. Tickets are selling fast, so don’t drag your feet. This show is a must-see. 

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: What are some of your family stories?