“Romeo and Juliet” is one of Shakespeare’s greatest known tragedies. This is both a blessing and a curse for theater companies.

The show has great name recognition, but hasn’t it already been, ahem, “done to death?”

According to several critics, Ten Thousand Things Theater Company’s latest production appears to prove that there is still gold to be mined from this classic play. Only one critic found the show “a disappointment.”

Namir Smallwood and Anna Sundberg in “Romeo and Juliet”

From Ed Huyck at City Pages:

For director Peter Rothstein and the eight-actor cast with Ten Thousand Things, it’s all about ramping up the tension and emotions to the point that they are palpable. The early blushes of love between our “star-crossed” lovers? It’s like a dream as the pair share their first dance. You can feel the longing the two have for each other in your bones, as they spend so much of the play apart.

From Lisa Brock at the Star Tribune:

Smallwood, in particular, creates a fully inhabited Romeo, his mobile face transparently reflecting emotions and quicksilver nuances of mood as he falls precipitously in love. He’s clearly at ease with the language and overlays it with a modern tenor that makes it fully accessible, capturing both its lyricism and its wit.

Anna Sundberg and Namir Smallwood in “Romeo and Juliet”

From Janet Preus at HowWasTheShow.com:

…Under Peter Rothstein’s sensitive direction, I saw things I’d never seen before: the playful teenager quality of the balcony scene, the artifice of Lady Capulet, Friar Lawrence’s quick mind and deep understanding of the larger picture, more possibilities for comic relief in the servant roles.

The little mistakes in the story that become turning point moments were never “given away.” We know that Romeo got in the way in Mercutio’s fight with Tybalt, that Friar John didn’t deliver the letter, and Paris confronts Romeo in Juliet’s tomb. But do we always catch Shakespeare’s exquisite set up and timing of each of these incidences? Rothstein doesn’t miss a thing.

From Dominic P. Papatola at the Pioneer Press:

Peter Rothstein, whose guest-directing duties on “Romeo and Juliet” overlapped with staging “Master Class” for Theatre Latte Da (where he is artistic director), may have been suffering from a case of split focus with this staging. There’s a not-fully-thought-out vibe that permeates the production: questions that remain unexplored, moments that never really materialize, a setting whose fuzziness seems more lazy than intentional, relationships that don’t quite gel. This, then, leaves the actors to their own devices, and while the company is comprised of eight performers who have done some terrific work on local stages, none of them is near to their best efforts here.

Ten Thousand Things’ production of “Romeo and Juliet” runs through Nov. 2. Have you seen it? What’s your review?

Tonight, two galleries are opening two parts of the same show.

Michael Kareken‘s paintings and drawings of deteriorating cars fill both Burnet Gallery and the annex of Groveland Gallery. The double show allows for an interesting examination of how different spaces influence the art they present.

“Engine #4″ by Michael Kareken

The two galleries are almost a study in opposites; while Burnet is open, modern and bright, Groveland is a warm, cozy space that still feels like the stately home it once was.

In Burnet, visitors will be treated to several of Kareken’s large paintings, including a massive collage that fills most of one wall. It’s a piece that forces a person to stand several feet back to take it in.

At Groveland, people can get nose to nose with detailed sketches that invite intense scrutiny.

Groveland Gallery’s Sally Johnson says the idea came out Kareken’s own immense productivity.

“He had so much I couldn’t take it all, and some were so large we simply couldn’t fit them in the space. [Burnet Gallery Director] Jennifer [Phelps] and I are both such fans of his work that it seemed like a great way to draw attention to his work and to Twin Cities galleries at the same time,” said Johnson.

“I had an interest in doing larger work,” added Kareken. “Sally’s space is small and chopped up — albeit lovely — and the last show I had there I felt like I had to make some compromises in the work because of the space it was destined for.”

“Untitled,” by Michael Kareken

This is not the first time Kareken has had dual shows in the Twin Cities. Groveland hosted a supporting exhibition to a show he had in the MIA’s MAEP gallery.

“Parts” is the latest body of Kareken’s work examining the relics abandoned in scrap yards to be cannibalized by mechanics.

Groveland Gallery’s ambiance helps to invoke a sense of nostalgia in Kareken’s haunting black and white depictions of antique cars returning to the earth, with trees growing through windshields. Meanwhile Burnet Gallery’s more clinical lighting underscores the undeniable human element of his color paintings. Engine blocks and dashboards evoke chest cavities splayed on the operating table.

“The car particularly to me reeks of the human body, and the human figure,” said Kareken. “I see bones, I see skeletons, nerves, sinew – it’s all there. It’s particularly meaningful to me now as my parents are aging, and I’m thinking about mortality.”

“Collapsed Windshield” by Michael Kareken

Kareken says while the stripped cars hold an implicit sense of violence, they are also enticingly ambiguous. Was the car in a crash? Was someone injured?

Previous exhibitions by Kareken have looked at human waste, including the unending hills of recycled materials at the RockTenn recycling operation in St. Paul.

“With RockTen it’s disorder and chaos coming over the transom all the time to which [the empoyees] are trying to give order,” said Kareken. “In this scrap yard, it’s the opposite; the cars come in a certain sense of wholeness, and then they’re torn apart.

“There’s this post-apocalyptic feel of quiet desperation of these people ripping any useful morsel they can find out of these things.”

“Convertible” by Michael Karaken

Interestingly, Kareken says he’s really not that interested in cars.

“But they’re so much a part of our lives – you’re in them all the time, they become an extension of yourself, they give you this illusion of safety and protection, and when you see them in their final resting place, it’s just sad,” said Kareken. “They’re lined up in rows just like a graveyard. It’s beautiful — and disturbing.”

Kareken often sits in a car for a few minutes to get the feel of it’s “spirit” before deciding what part to focus in on with his camera, and later, with his paintbrush.

He says the painting of these relics is a sort of restorative process.

“It feels like I’m trying to put together something that was ripped apart. All these paintings on paper are collaged together. I built the pieces up, painted, built some more, painted. I felt like I was physically building the thing, and at any moment it could be coming together or it could be falling apart.”

“Parts” runs through Nov 29 both at Burnet Gallery and Groveland Gallery. During tonight’s opening from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. a shuttle will run between the two spaces.

GiveMN, the website that funnels charitable giving to Minnesota nonprofits and schools, has reached a milestone.

The organization has helped facilitate more than $100 million in charitable giving since it first began operating in the fall of 2009.

That’s an average of $20 million raised a year. The money has gone to nearly 8,400 nonprofits and schools.

GiveMN reports the average donation is $132.

The news comes just weeks before the website’s annual event “Give to the Max Day” which last year raised $17.1 million.

This year Give to the Max Day is slated for Thursday, Nov 13.

Each year the SAGE Awards recognize exceptional work in the Minnesota dance scene. The 2014 winners are: Outstanding Dance Performance One with Others – Karen Sherman Rooted: Hip Hop Choreographers’ Evening – Maia Maiden Outstanding Dance Performer Jesse Neumann-Peterson – Under the Current (Sharon Picasso), The Student (Vanessa Voskuil), Azalea Nights (Christine Maginnis/Christopher Watson) Duncan Read more