A cross between Fargo and The Music Man, Elate Theatre’s Don’t Hug Me presents the musical tale of two inarticulate couples attempting to communicate their needs in cold Northern Minnesota. Entertaining and laugh out loud funny, the show features outstanding performances and fine singing.
Gunner and Clara Johnson (Jeffrey Markle and Wendy Hirschman) run the sparsely attended bar the Bunyan, aided by their naïve waitress Bernice (Coleen Forward). Gunner yearns for sunny Florida, Clara for a little romance from the inarticulate Gunner, Bernice ponders life with her selfish fiancé Kanute (Steven Kirk). Throw in a charming, persistent karaoke salesman named Aarvid (Scott Robbins) who’s attracted to Bernice, and it’s love on the tundra.
Director Linda Miller builds an energetic rhythm thanks to the excellent timing and playfulness of the cast. They keep the pacing brisk and lighthearted, with sly expectant pauses and quick retorts.
The ensemble possesses fine chemistry and excellent singing voices that bring vigor to the intelligently written, witty songs that parody many recognizable tunesmiths. Markle anchors the show with his solid portrayal of the sarcastic, set in his ways Gunner. Robbins brings pizzazz and tongue-in-cheek subtlety to the persistent karaoke dealer Aarvid. Kirk makes the conceited, pompous Kanute a likable, sweet doofus. Hirschman gives sympathetic warmth to the lonely Clara, while Forward’s Bernice radiates a charming innocence.
Jeffrey Thorsen creates an extremely realistic small town Minnesota bar, right down to the hunting trophies and antler chandelier.
Don’t Hug Me offers hysterical comedy and caring relationships in an hilarious production of love lost Minnesotans.
Elate presents Don’t Hug Me Friday and Saturday, May 7 and 8 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 9 at 2 p.m. at the Lincoln Stegman Theater, 6020 Radford Ave. in North Hollywood. Tickets cost $10 for adults and $8 for seniors and students (13 and under). For more information or to reserve tickets, call (818) 509-0882, or visit elate2001.fortunecity.com/index.htm.