Author and performer Lorna Landvik returns to Bryant-Lake Bowl to reprise her wildly popular one-woman improv show, “Party in the Rec Room.” If you haven’t read any of her books, check them out. “Chronicles of a Radical Hag (with Recipes): A Novel” just came out last year and tells the story of a small-town reporter known for her liberal notions.
Set in everyone’s mother’s “rec” room (a basement room, usually resplendent with wooden paneling and an eclectically stocked home bar), Landvik opens each performance by making margaritas on stage and handing them out to the audience. (Hot tip: If you want to get one, make sure you sit close to the stage or in one of the aisle seats!) Bryant-Lake Bowl’s gloriously broken-in theater, complete with drink rails, cabaret tables and wood paneling couldn’t be a more ideal place to see this show. Three blocks away, Reuter Walton Development’s six-story condos point toward the increased sterilization of Uptown, but you would never feel that in Bryant-Lake Bowl or its theater, which is lovingly lo-fi and intimate in a house-party type of way. Once drinks are in hands, Landvik announces that she has “friends” backstage clamoring to meet us, and away it goes!
As this is improv, the show will be different every night, and the ability to go back and revisit the show is absolutely part of its charm; I went on opening night, and there were very few of us who hadn’t attended one of her performances before. Landvik is a shrewd observer of human follies and kindness, making her characters ridiculous and lovable. Playing into Midwestern and Minnesotan tropes provides exactly what the audience wants. What butcher jokes and family complaints are to “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” cracks about Iowans and wildlife are to Landvik. My favorite character (and scarf!) of the evening came via an impressively puckered Melania Trump. I can’t promise you blue box mac and cheese, flirtatious nuns or Landvik lovingly teasing your date (as she did mine), but I can promise this show will be enjoyable.
Of course, doing one-person improv can be challenging. Depending on suggestions from the audience is always hit-or-miss (someone in my performance thought that “the Bahamas” was an acceptable answer for “Where would you like to go on a date?”), and the 15-45 seconds it takes Landvik to go backstage and garb herself in wigs, hats, amazing glasses or sketch-specific shoes often takes long enough to deflate the audience’s attention. But Landvik is a charmingly awkward and charismatic hostess, so once back on stage, she deftly regains the spotlight.
While she is perfectly capable of doing her bits by herself (buttressed by a bit of tequila), my favorite parts of the evening involved the playful back-and-forth between her and her sound engineer as well as when she brought a member of the audience up onstage to do a scene with her. I came away from this show with the renewed desire to read her work and to see her in a group setting. Perhaps both are something to look forward to in 2020!
Party in the Rec Room
When: 7 p.m. Jan. 11, 17, 18, 24 and 25
Where: Bryant-Lake Bowl Theater, 810 W. Lake St.
Cost: $18 in advance, $20 at the door
Erin McNeil is a museum professional, writer and entrepreneur living and working in North Minneapolis.