Joking Envelope presents “Sexy Librarian” at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage through May 21. Here’s how playwright Joseph Scrimshaw describes the show:
A meek librarian lives in quiet frustration until she finds an ancient tome with a horrible spell and transforms herself into a beautiful monster. Whip off your glasses and shake out your hair for this stereotype smashing twist on the classic Jekyll and Hyde tale. A rock musical about fantasy, obsession, and rockin’ the bookmobile after hours. Get ready for the total opposite of quiet in the library.
Thinking of going? Check out these excerpts form local reviews, or click on the links to read them in their entirety.
Writer/director/drummer Scrimshaw’s genre-busting plotting and often clever jokes–presented, per Scrimshaw usual, with infallible regularity–keep Sexy Librarian moving, but it’s sometimes an uphill battle. At two and a half hours (including intermission), the show feels long, and if you gave me the editing pen, I’d trim the whole “rock musical” part of Sexy Librarian: File Under Rock Musical. Though the band adds an element of fun to the proceedings–and reveals that actor Adam Whisner has serious guitar chops–Mike Hallenbeck’s songs are just okay, and the sound mix at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage on Saturday night often made Scrimshaw’s lyrics difficult to discern. (I should note that I was sitting far to stage right; the mix might have been better in the middle of the house–er, the garage.)
Scrimshaw’s assembled a wonderful cast, from the leads down to invaluable supporting player Kevin McLaughlin as a patron who keeps stumbling upon Internet porn–possibly deliberately. Sundberg, Landman, and Rylander have their characters on lock, and deliver rich comic performances that are a treat to watch. All three find the humanity behind their caricatures. Most poignant is Landman, whose hands are so gnarled from carpal tunnel syndrome that he won’t even pull them out of his pockets; watch him try to pick up a book with his knees rather than accept Sundberg’s help.
City Pages just named Joking Envelope the best local theater company presenting original comedy, and that assessment is hard to argue with–especially on the basis of the shows Scrimshaw writes. He’s not just one of the funniest local writers, he’s also one of the smartest and most challenging. That’s evidenced not only by his ability to write ribald jokes about books and libraries–though he can do that too. After Sexy Librarian, you’ll never look at a bookmark the same way again.
The play stars Anna Sundberg, and that’s all you really need to know.
…Sundberg makes the louche play work. As the Sexpot she is attractive and convincingly over-sexed but I came to greatly prefer her quiet and composed Librarian. Sundberg gives the frowzy Constance razor sharp cynicism and an impish grin. She makes long deliberate takes. The overall effect is, imho, very sexy.
Sundberg is greatly aided by her two male compatriots. As Frederick, Constance’s superior, arthritic hands permanently thrust into his pockets, Sam Landman displays edgy amiability and impeccable comic timing. When he suddenly (and for unclear reasons) recovers the use of his hands, Landman is a hoot and a half. As is Mike Rylander who plays Chad the actor (he’s auditioning for the timeless role of “Guy Selling Ladies Swimwear”) beautifully. He’s gorgeously air headed and appropriately swept off his feet by the hungry Constance. The rest of the ensemble (Kevin McLaughlin, Katie Kaufman, Lisa Bol and phillip andrew bennett) are quite good.
As to the material, well, gee. Joseph Scrimshaw (who also directs and plays the drums) has written a script that lurches along with admirable bravado and with regular flashes of brilliance (“You’re prettier, but meaner.” “Which is your Jekyll and which is your Hyde?”) But the plot is garbled, fitfully developed and repetitive. How many toilet paper jokes can one play sustain? Still, as is always the case with Joking Envelope, the material is played with seriousness and passion. This adds up to a recognizable style.
[Sundberg's] Jekyll-to-Hyde change is one of the things that work well in this promising, if slow-paced, musical comedy at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage.
The show, which riffs on cultural types and tropes, revolves around a librarian on the frontline of a citizenry that is becoming increasingly dumb and entitled. Patrons seek classic texts that they know only from films, and demand books that have movie pictures on the covers.
One library visitor wants Constance to re-stock the toilet paper in the men’s bathroom. And yet another, a bad speller, keeps getting his Internet connection broken because he’s typoing things to get into porn sites.
…Some of the tunes are catchy, and hummable, even if the score could be improved with better orchestration and a bigger band.
“Sexy Librarian” is a work-in-progress. The pacing suggests a drama, not a fast and funny show. The music and the play exist in different realms. In fact, although it’s billed as a rock musical, it feels more like a play with rock musical interludes.
Have you seen “Sexy Librarian” at the Minneapolis Theater Garage? If so, what did you think of the show? Share your reviews in the comments section.