Becoming, a Mu Performing Arts Production at Dreamland Arts

Becoming publicity photo courtesy of Mu Performing Arts

Even the name is perfect: Dreamland Arts, a small one story building nestled in a modest St Paul neighborhood (not far from Hamline University), containing an intimate (maybe 40 seats) theater. I adore spaces like this, where actors can play with a soft, exploratory subtlety, with none of the bombast needed in theaters like CTC and the big G. Here, a small gesture, a soft vocal effect, a muted guitar riff, a minute turn of the head can fill the space.

This makes it the perfect venue for an understated and compelling play like Becoming (Mu Performing Arts, at Dreamland Arts, 677 Hamline Avenue, St. Paul, through May 2, muperformingarts.org) by Iris Shiraishi and Zaraawar Mistry (who also directs). In this one person show, Ms. Shiraishi takes and holds the stage with a quiet sweetness that often belies the emotional intensity of her material. She gives us the story of her life: growing up in Honolulu, with imperfect but loving parents, finding a refuge in music, going to the mainland (to Iowa, of all places) to study, meeting and marrying composer Alex Lubet (who is onstage throughout, creating music and lending the proceedings an interesting Pirandellian touch), bearing and raising two children. I don’t want to give away too much of this lovely story. But I will say that Shiraishi discovers/rediscovers her Japanese-ness in many ways, but most theatrically via a newfound talent for Taiko drumming, a skill she demonstrates with verve and grand enthusiasm.

Mr. Lubet, as indicated, provides underscoring with a quiet good humor that is a perfect foil to the passionate Shiraishi. He plays stringed instruments – acoustic guitar, a ukulele, a resophonic guitar, a violin, as well as a nice variety of percussion devices. If I have a complaint, it’s that Lubet doesn’t get the opportunity to show off his obviously expansive chops. Still, there’s an excellent turn at the end, with Shiraishi drumming and Lubet flying on guitar.

Becoming represents a lovely finale to Mu’s excellent 09-10 season, which featured a musical at the Ordway, a Lonnie Carter play at Mixed Blood, a fascinating David Henry Hwang piece at the Guthrie, among others. Mu Performing Arts is a unique and consistently first rate organization. So do check this one out – and be sure to get on Dreamland’s list.

Recommended.

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