Youngblood Theatre’s outdoor “Minnesota Moon”
A ramshackle farmhouse. Pullman lanterns and truck headlights. A chorus of crickets and a starry night. Trimborn Farm Park — the “secret” location of Youngblood Theatre’s Minnesota Moon — puts any other theatrical set in the city to shame.
The set fits Youngblood’s staging. This production of Minnesota Moon doesn’t feel like a play. It feels like life.
John Olive’s play, set in the 1960s, focuses on two high school friends from a small Minnesota town at the end of their last summer together. They’re saying their goodbyes. Alan, nonchalant and intellectual, is headed to college in the Twin Cities in the morning. The grittier, blue-collar Larry is staying in town and sick about it.
In a Youngbloodian sort of twist, actors Evan James Koepnick and Andrew Edwin Voss flip a coin determine who plays which character each night. So it’s safe to say they know this play cold.
It showed opening night, Monday (Aug. 15). Koepnick and Voss have the cadence and rhythm of the play down to a science. From the moment they roll up to the barn in their truck, they simply are Alan and Larry: a little drunk, a little mournful, and a lot wary of the future.
Ironically, the conversation sobers as the night wears on. They talk about Alan going to college and Larry working at the local gas station. They talk about Vietnam. They talk about death.
In summary, it sounds like boomer cliché: Two friends go out into the woods on their last night together to have fun, but the conversation gets serious and they get into a huge fight and realize they were never truly friends at all and walk away broken.
But that isn’t quite Minnesota Moon. They do fight, a bit, and at one point even bring up the specter of the idea that maybe they aren’t friends anymore. And maybe they aren’t. But they certainly don’t deny that they were before, nor do they deny that they care about each other, even if they do express it in the usual manly man ways.
The problem is it’s hard to stay friends with the person you leave behind or the person who leaves you, no matter the decade. Alan and Larry both know that. Which is what makes the dawn rising up over the cornfields (an event serendipitously mirrored by a bright moonrise Monday night) so tragic.
Minnesota Moon is listed by Youngblood as running 45 minutes, although by my watch it was a bit closer to 30 than 45. Whatever the actual duration, it felt like a whole starlit night, a big night in the lives of Alan and Larry.
Youngblood’s production of Minnesota Moon runs through Aug. 25 at Trimborn Farm, very near to Southridge Mall, with all shows at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are free, although donations are accepted, and you can either buy seats for Youngblood’s concurrent show, Gruesome Playground Injuries, or sign up for the company’s mailing list to get a ticket. Gruesome Playground Injuries runs through Aug. 27 at UWM’s Kenilworth Studio Theatre. For more information on either show, visit Youngblood’s website.