Why did the Duluth Playhouse put Annapurna on their schedule? Quite simply it was to have a pair of performers like John Pokrzywinski and Christine Winkler Johnson sink their acting chops into the play’s final scene, which runs about an hour, and mesmerizes the audience into a breathless silence.
Anna-what? Anna-who? Seriously…what is this show?! It’s an unrecognizable title, but don’t let that hang you up!
In this new play by Sharr White, our main man Ulysses writes an epic poem about his ex-wife Emma in which he uses climbing the mountain Annapurna as an analogy for their long, complicated, fractured relationship. The revelation of the poem comes at the end of 90 minutes of taut, natural, funny, heart-breaking, real, beautiful dialogue between these two layered and well-defined characters. And you couldn’t ask for two better actors than Christine Winkler Johnson and John Pokrzywinski n to play Emma and Ulysses. (Fun fact: Annapurna is the tenth highest mountain in the world, named after the Hindu Goddess of nourishment.)
The week before the 40th anniversary of the sinking of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald, Ten November opened November 5, 2015 at the Underground as a solemn requiem for the most remembered shipwreck on the Great Lakes. Directed by John Pokrzywinski, it also is a blistering rejoinder to the powers that be who whitewashed the tragedy as an act of God.
Each year in the last edition of The Wave we publish a list of memorable moments from what area audiences saw on stage during the year. But I can tell you right here and now that the production of Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike directed by Julie Ahasay that opened at the Duluth Playhouse on Thursday night is making that list and it is making it at least twice, because Christopher Durang’s Tony Award winning play provides not one but two absolute tour de force scenes well worth seeing.