The Free Press, Mankato, MN

February 26, 2014

Winter respite: Mosaic's 'Cabin Fever' productions begin today

By Tanner Kent

---- — "The Memory Box" covers a lot of ground in only 10 minutes.

Though it was written as a short play by Ohio playwright Chris Shaw Swanson, its emotional trajectory is longer than its length indicates.

In the play — which was anthologized in "Best 10-Minute Plays of 2013" — two 11-year-old best friends in the 1960s have lugged home a large cardboard box. As they discuss their shared memories and consider the consequences of growing up, their coming-of-age tale quickly transports into more unexplored territory.

The surprise won't be spoiled here — which the playwright said is in keeping with the real-life events on which the play is based.

"It's based on a friendship I had and her family," said Shaw Swanson, adding that she contacted that friend after she wrote the play to seek approval. "In those days, families were more secretive."

The work is among four short plays included in the lineup for the Mankato Mosaic's next variety show, "Cabin Fever," productions of which begin tonight. And, as part of Mosaic's community-minded mission, "The Memory Box" will include a directorial debut for Elaine Hardwick as well as a Mosaic acting debut for high-schooler Destiny Engelby.

Hardwick, who called the piece a "one-of-a-kind drama," said the turning point of the play remains as arresting for her now as it did when rehearsals began six weeks ago.

"I've watched practices a bunch and I'm still cognizant of that moment," Hardwick said. "I'm so excited to see (the actresses) perform it."

But the surprises won't stop there.

In "We Appear to Have Company," by Iowa playwright Greg Freier, a Dostoevsky-reading clown positioned behind two otherwise staid and sedate cohabitants sets the stage for the unexpected. As the man and woman carry on an absurd conversation about their uninvited guest ("He appears to be reading. Might be best to wait until he's done. Don't want to be rude," the husband submits after concluding his inspection), the dialogue gradually reveals the clown is far from harmless.

Director Leslie DuPree-Cady characterized the work as a meeting of Monty Python dry humor and the Howells from "Gilligan's Island."

Further surprises include students of Satori Violet Belly Dance and members of the E.Z. Jazz Trio providing additional entertainment for the Thursday and Friday performances. During the Saturday performance, belly dancers will be accompanied by the Helder family, all of whom are talented musicians.

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If You Go What Mankato Mosaic's "Cabin Fever" Performances ■ 7:30 p.m. today, Arts Center of St. Peter ■ 8 p.m. Friday, Mankato Brewery ■ 8 p.m. Saturday, Mankato Event Center Tickets $10 at the door Note All productions are family friendly