The newest company to hit the Twin Cities theater scene, Arrow Theater is shaking things up with its upcoming production of David Mamet’s Boston Marriage at Maison Bodega. Directed by acclaimed theater artist Grant Sorenson, this comedy of manners transports audiences into a high-society world filled with plenty of scandal handled with, ironically, little to no manners.
Ahead of opening night, we chatted with Sorenson about his unique partnership with Maison Bodega, the production’s all-star cast of actresses and what theatergoers can expect from Boston Marriage.
How did your partnership with Maison Bodega come about?
I met Liz Gardner and Josef Harris, the owners of Maison Bodega, socially and had long seen photos of the space on their Instagram feeds. I fell in love with the idea of staging a play in the space since it’s such a beautiful canvas to use as a starting point. I spoke with them last November about potentially staging something at Maison Bodega, but at that point I didn’t exactly know what play I wanted to do. Having the space in mind as I read different plays during my selection process absolutely helped inform the final decision to produce Boston Marriage.
How does the space lend itself to a theatrical experience?
The space has so much natural character and history, but it’s also a lovely blank canvas in many ways. It’s a perfect space, really. There’s so much natural light, which I wanted to use in our storytelling. The play takes place over the course of one day, so as the plot moves into nighttime, so do we as the audience in real time as it gets darker outside.
Something special about doing theater inside Maison Bodega is that when the house was originally built in the early 1900s, the family that lived there would host play readings, concerts and other artistic events in the space. So in many ways, what we are doing is paying tribute to the artistic history of the house.
What exactly is Boston Marriage about?
Boston Marriage concerns itself with Anna and Claire, two ladies of leisure in turn-of-the-century America. Situated in a “Boston marriage” — the colloquial term for two women who lived together independent of men — Anna and Claire are former lovers and unconventional friends. When the two become embroiled in a scandal involving a priceless emerald necklace and interlocking love triangles, they must hatch a plan to resolve the situation without exposing their true identities. Add in a much-abused Irish (or Scottish?) maid, a last-minute séance and far too much chintz, and the result is a frothy and agile comedy of manners that delights and surprises.
You have some pretty big local names in this production. What has it been like working with these three dynamic actresses?
In many ways, choosing this play was a great excuse for me to work with Michelle O’Neill, Christine Weber and Miriam Schwartz, three of my absolute favorite actors in town who also happen to be very good friends of mine. They are all immensely talented and also gifted collaborators. The rehearsal room has been so positive and full of energy and laughter throughout this entire process, which is not always the case. I couldn’t imagine taking on this play with anyone else in these roles; they have all met my expectations and continued to exceed them in such incredible ways. It’s been a really lovely collaboration.
How does this production differ from other shows currently running in town?
The site-specific nature of Boston Marriage definitely sets it apart from other shows currently running in Minneapolis. It’s a unique way of staging theater — not without its own set of challenges and obstacles — but I do think it creates totally singular theatergoing experiences for audiences.
Beyond that, with all of my work as a director, I strive to make work that provides a refreshing and sophisticated voice in the Minneapolis theater community. I’m interested in work that is innovative, human and forward-thinking while paying homage to our theatrical lineage, which I think Boston Marriage accomplishes with style and substance.
In just three words, what do you hope audiences gain from this experience?
A feminine ending.
Finally, what can we expect from Arrow Theater in the future?
Things are in the works. We are planning to officially launch the company toward the end of the summer as well as announce a couple upcoming projects. We are currently working on solidifying our mission and goals — really finding that niche for ourselves in an already very busy theater town. But yes, expect new things from Arrow Theater in the very near future; I can’t wait to share them with you.