Puntila and His Hired Man Matti



The reviews are in.

“Director Wendy Knox put actor Grant Richey to the task of animating Puntila. Richey’s rubber-faced mien and shambling comportment capture the necessary Brechtian exaggeration. Further, Richey shades the portrayal with some honest — if delusional — introspection that tightens up the reality. He loses some steam, as does the production as it stretches deep into the second act, but rebounds at the end. Knox loves Brecht, but a pair of shears would have helped get us to that conclusion sooner. A section of Finnish folk tales offers an irresistible invitation to daydream.

“As Matti, Carson Lee’s calm strength contrasts well with Puntilla’s bombast. Matti is, after all, purposely the one character who takes on dimension — “the human being.”

“Brecht needs big performances rather than intimate character portrayals, and Knox’s production gets that done. Emily Zimmer is a britle mix of fragile privilege and gritty determination as Puntila’s daughter, Eva. Patrick Bailey fusses his way through the role of Eva’s intended, a lightweight government attaché. The chorus is strong, with Cheryl Willis a fine example of the vaudevillian panache.

“Jake Endres kicks in songs and soundscapes that drive the show, and Kathy Kohl’s costuming — as always — articulates each character.” –Graydon Royce, StarTribune, http://www.startribune.com/entertainment/onstage/16954851.html

“Matti is played, with earnestness and clarity, by Carson Lee. Puntila is played by Grant Richey, in a tour de force portrayal that ranges from bufoonery to delusion. Emily Zimmer plays Puntila’s daughter, who falls for Matti’s no-nonsense style, but is ultimately spurned in her affections for him because he knows that their worlds can never intertwine. Zimmer plays the part of the haughty rich girl with surprising ferocity at times and simple vulnerability at others. The scenes between Eva and Matty are humorous in the manner of the screwball comedies of the 1930s, and director Wendy Knox does a good job of finding the humor in the text as well as the political message.” –Sheila Regan, tcdailyplanet.net

“The magic of a Frank Theatre production begins before the proverbial curtain even rises. A theater without an official space, each production is staged in new and often unexpected environs. It’s a joy to watch what was once a factory, a warehouse or a garage get a second lease on life as a theater, complete with light and sound.

“The evocative and cartoonish set (design by John Bueche) includes birch trees painted on the walls which juxtaposed nicely with the occasional real train going by (yes, the Light Rail!) Painted Styrofoam buildings were moved on and off the set, and of particular interest was a library scene where bookcases were both painted onto the walls and brought onstage painted on flats.

“Richey as Mr. Puntila sometimes reminded me of Ray Bolger as the Wizard of Oz’s scarecrow as far as the looseness of his intentionally two dimensional character. Zimmer is a dainty Eva who never seems to set down the fake stage cigarette she puffs on for the entire show. Carson Lee as Matti added an intensity as the human conscience of the production. Patrick Bailey as the Attaché reminded me a bit of a polite but stuffy, Tony Randall. Of the supporting ensemble (11 strong) Celeste Jones as the Telephone Operator stood out as did Cheryl Willis as the Milkmaid both providing plenty of physical comedy. All told, there are 15 roles in this production, perhaps a reason this lesser-known of Brecht’s play not often performed.” –David DeYoung, howwastheshow.com

“Wendy Knox’s scrappily ambitious company has spent the past few years bouncing from unconventional location to unconventional location. Her most recent venue is a building in a public works yard, which houses one of the German playwright’s yarns of the noble worker and the rotten boss.

“Everything about Knox’s production plays into this sense of not-quite-lifelike-ness, from John Bueche’s carefully slapped-together set to the periodic musical interludes that pop up on the stage, off to the side, or behind and above the audience.

“And Richey — now jigging and mugging, now glowering and grating — is nothing short of a wonder in the title role: It’s like he’s gathered the mania from all the goofy roles he’s ever played and the bile from all the creeps he’s portrayed over the years and squeezed them into this mesmerizing, metamorphic rock of a performance. Creepy and captivating, it might be the best work Richey has done to date.

“Knox and her ensemble can artfully dress up these variations, and they do so in some nicely flavored performances — from Carson Lee’s worldly wise manservant to Zimmer’s rabidly entitled daughter to Patrick Bailey’s pitch-perfect turn as Eva’s prissily clueless suitor…” –Dominic Papatola, Pioneer Press,