Named #1 Show of the Year by Twin Cities Daily Planet!
You’re My Favorite Kind of Pretty explores the thrilling, gut-wrenching, all-enveloping nature of romantic love. Highly physical and poetic, this world-premiere production brings together some of the Twin Cities most acclaimed artists to take a fresh look at the absurdity and transcendence of love. Directed by multi-award-winning physical theater director Jon Ferguson (Or The White Whale, Please Don't Blow Up Mr. Boban), and collaboratively created with performers Jon Ferguson, Sara Richardson, and Jason Ballweber, two-time Jerome Fellow playwright Deborah Stein and visual artist Jennifer Davis, You're My Favorite Kind of Pretty renders our most beautiful and baffling experiences in one exceptional evening of theater.
You're My Favorite Kind of Pretty
February/March 2008 - The Southern Theater, West Bank Minneapolis.
Directed by Jon Ferguson
Co-created with artist Jennifer Davis, stage designer Erica Zaffarano and actors Jon Ferguson, Sara Richardson and Jason Ballweber.
February 28 & 29,
March 2 & 6-9, 2008
Thurs.-Sat. at 8pm,
Sun. at 7pm
AD/ASL Fri., March 7
Post-show discussion Sat., March 8
"Ferguson has distinguished himself in the Twin Cities as a director who emphasizes and ably captures the unspoken textures of everyday experience.”– Quinton Skinner, Variety
From red blood to the red carpet: A year's top ten
by Jay Gabler • 9/23/08 • It was a year ago yesterday that I published my first Daily Planet review: I wrote about the site-specific performance Strange Love by Skewed Visions. As I watched the stage blood gush from Charles Campbell’s gaping mouth, I suspected that as a newly-minted arts reporter, I was in for quite the ride.
Was I ever! It was a year of yawnworthy lows and hilarious highs, culminating in a trip to the 2008 Ivey Awards. Looking back at the dozens of articles and blog entries I’ve written over the past year, I compiled this list of highlights—my ten favorite shows among everything I’ve covered.
10. The Importance of Being Earnest, Pendulum Theatre Company (January)
Next to Tenebrism, this show had the smallest audience of anything I saw all year—but from the sound of it, all 12 of them wet their pants laughing. The cast performed with gusto and transported us from icy Minnesota (it was the only night all winter my car needed a jumpstart) to a sunny garden kept toasty by the dialogue’s snap.
9. Kirby, History Theatre (October)
Most reviewers saw this show’s ambiguity as a weakness, but I appreciated Syl Jones’s refusal to tie a tidy bow around the turbulent life of a complicated man. Also, in the men’s room I got to wash my hands next to Tony Oliva.
8. Old 97’s at First Ave (June)
We were all worn out from dancing by the end of this high-energy show, but it was just another night’s work for Rhett Miller and company.
7. Fat Man Crying, Joseph Scrimshaw Productions (December)
Joseph Scrimshaw is a meticulous writer of comedy: he simply will not permit more than a few lines of dialogue to go by without a gag. When he’s at his best, as he was in this show (being revived this December), it makes for a happily hedonistic evening at the theater.
6. Kate Nash at First Ave (May)
On her first American tour, the gifted young Brit was visibly uncomfortable when she was forced to emerge from behind her curtained keyboard—until she lost herself in one of her tuneful, introspective songs. Contrasted with the practiced polish of more experienced acts, Nash’s reticence made for a movingly intimate performance.
5. The Deception, Theatre de la Jeune Lune (October)
Though I missed every show in every one of Jeune Lune’s first 29 seasons, I was lucky to catch both shows what turned out to be its final season. Fishtank was a sad last gasp, but The Deception embodied the qualities that made a generation fall in love with Jeune Lune: daring, humor, sexiness, and—above all—intensity. (I was right, by the way, when I predicted that I wouldn’t see a more striking set all year—though it sounds like Cabaret may have given The Deception a run for its money.)
4. The Song of Hiawatha Pageant, Hiawatha Club of Pipestone (July)
30 years is a pretty good run, but the Hiawatha Club of Pipestone doubled that before the curtain (of night) fell on its final performance of the Song of Hiawatha Pageant. This time capsule from 1948 was preserved as if in amber…but its demise was inevitable, part and parcel with the demise of the small-town culture it sprang from and embodied.
3. The Avett Brothers at the Cabooze (May)
Like Bruce Springsteen, the Avett Brothers believe in rock-n-roll. As it happens, they also believe in bluegrass and country, and they refuse to choose among the genres. Their brilliant songwriting and impassioned performances haven’t gone without notice—they’ve been tapped by Rick Rubin for a jump to the majors with their next album, which he’ll produce. If the Brothers can top their 2007 release Emotionalism, they’ll be in a position to fill stadiums—and those of us who were there at the Cabooze can say we knew them when.
2. Mr. Marmalade, Walking Shadow Theatre Company (November)
I’m sorry, Fat Man, but I cannot tell a lie—this was the show I laughed hardest at all year. Led by pitch-perfect Jaime Kleiman, the cast gave itself with complete abandon to the lunatic invention of playwright Noah Haidle. The press kit included a script, which helpfully allowed me to realize that the play’s best line was improvised: “¡Hola!”
1. You’re My Favorite Kind of Pretty, Jon Ferguson (March)
It wasn’t perfect. Some of it was tedious, and some of it was awkward, and some of it was painful—but the overall effect was absolutely transcendent. Jon Ferguson’s moving production, with beautifully simple sets inspired by the work of Jennifer Davis, elegantly drew a parallel between stepping onstage and falling in love. It’s scary, and also exhilarating…all you can do is close your eyes, hold on tight, and let yourself be rushed away over the waterfall.
MINNEAPOLIS ST PAUL MAG
2.29.08: My Favorite Kind of Pretty at the Southern Theater
By Lightsey Darst
Jon Ferguson’s latest physical-theater work, the love-fable My Favorite Kind of Pretty, takes place in a pretty, quirky pastel world inspired by the artwork of Minneapolis’s Jennifer Davis. Ferguson and his design collaborators—stage designer Erica Zaffarano, composer Pablo, and prop master Jim Hibbeler—recreate the way Davis unfolds her constantly surprising world in one small panel after another yet keeps a consistent overall feel. The bright clothes of the heroine–her fuchsia cable-knit bathrobe, her anklet socks—make her the perfect inhabitant for a miniature house with an even smaller white picket fence. A rainbow path leads to her door, and her closest friend is a pink songbird. But the cuteness has its ragged edge: a weather-balloon moon with a frowny side, a toothy monster-head out of a child’s picture book, a trio of rabbits with darling English accents who keep meeting horrible fates, and the songbird itself, which, when launched into “flight” by the heroine, simply lands with a thud on stage.
This milieu of sweetness and dark is matched by the onstage action, a mix of the metaphorical, the absurd, and the real. The hero gets jealous of the heroine’s previous relationship with the moon (it doesn’t help that the moon claims they slept together “five times a day”) and takes a toy train to get away, but his emotion is real enough. When he finally slays the green demon of his jealousy and brings its paper-bag head back to the heroine, she cries out, “You’re back! And you brought groceries!”
Ferguson’s characteristic directing style pays off handsomely here: the characters play to the house as well as to each other, reacting to stage props (wine glasses glued to a table for easier transportation, for example) with mild astonishment. But they are also completely, pathetically absorbed in their emotions (smiling beatifically during a love montage dotted with tissue paper hearts tossed by visible stagehands). Sara Richardson and Ferguson, as the hero and heroine, win the audience’s affection, but Jason Ballweber’s mercurial Fate steals the show with (among other things) his condor impersonation.
I wish Pretty had been showing around Valentine’s Day: The show seems made to give new life to that sticky sweet holiday. Somehow, Ferguson pulls off the trick of keeping us laughing at the characters without ever introducing contempt for them, with the wonderful result that Pretty plays like the love child of Monty Python, Jane Austen, and The Princess Bride. However, I would recommend Pretty not as a first date show but as a date-night show for couples, because its subject is not that pixie-stick rush of crush, but rather the stranger territory of long-term love.
One montage is a pitch-perfect encapsulation of marital tensions—their silliness as well as their tenacity. When the hero and heroine overcome their troubles and set sail on the roof of their little house, love-flag flying, you’ll want to overcome the argument about who does the dishes and kiss your spouse. And if the show ends with a completely unexpected baby arriving via USPS, it’s easy to forgive Ferguson for the non sequitur: by that time, his own new baby (with versatile performer Megan Odell) was sleeping soundly in the back row of the house.
Review: Poignancy eclipses cutesy in 'You're My Kind of Pretty'
Romance, rainbows, unicorns? Yes, but, Jon Ferguson's work manages to maintain an edge.
By CAMILLE LEFEVRE
Who: Dance-theater by Jon Ferguson., with art direction by Jennifer Davis.
When: 8 p.m. Thur.-Sat., 7 p.m. Sun, ends March 9
Where: Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Av. S., Mpls.
Tickets: $18. 612-340-1725.
Paper hearts and choo-choo trains, pastel colors and a rainbow river, bunny slippers and human-animal creatures occupy Jon Ferguson' s new movement-theater work, "You're My Favorite Kind of Pretty," running through March 9 in Minneapolis.
Inspired, in part, by the surrealistically cute paintings of Minneapolis artist Jennifer Davis, who collaborated as art director, the 90-minute piece tiptoes along the high wire between sugary sweet and romantically poignant.
That it falls on the side of the latter is a testament to Ferguson' s finely hued sensibilities. With pitch-perfect timing, the three actors traverse the rocky terrain of contemporary love with a smooth, childlike simplicity. But as in Davis's paintings, there are edges, and a topsy-turvy outlook that continually destabilizes a sense of the ordinary.
The basic story is simple. Miranda (Sara Richardson, in pastel green and pink dress), who enjoys being "fiercely independent and thinking about the universe" while sitting on top of her little house, breaks up with the Moon (Jason Ballweber, in just one of his hilarious iterations). So Cupid (Ballweber, who wears white pants and shirt, and winged, blue hightops throughout the play), and a little bird (probably plastic) lead Heathcliff the Hunter-Warrior (Ferguson, in pink shirt and green tie) to her door.
Instant romance. The Moon reappears. Miranda protests too much. Heathcliff heads back into the forest. Bunny carnage leads to a bunny revenge subplot. Miranda finds Heathcliff. They move in together. The daily routine leads to boredom, and Heathcliff bolts again. It 's the push-pull, commitment-averse, still-need-to-find-myself scenario familiar to anyone who's ever dated.
Only this version includes cartoon sound effects, Bee Gees songs, lethal-looking arrows and daggers and a choreography of gangly, awkward, character-defining moves deftly performed. And it has Ballweber, who with tremendous sass also plays a French waiter, a postman who rides away on a unicorn, and Gladys the meddling mythical neighbor.
As a valentine to his partner Megan Odell (of the movement-theater troupe Live Action Set) and their newborn son, Ferguson's play is filled with enough charm, quirk and heartfelt emotion to disarm almost any cynic. Because even as they blissfully float on the rainbow river into the future, Miranda and Heathcliff do so knowing rough water lies ahead.
Camille LeFevre is a Twin Cities performance critic.
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