Criticism

My aspiration to be a critic took seed early on: as a teenager, I wrote movie reviews for my high school paper and launched my Front Row Seat column, which continues to this day in the Duluth News Tribune. Today, I write criticism covering a wide range of media. (Some of my work, notably the weekly theater reviews I published in the now-defunct Minneapolis weeklies City Pages and Vita.mn, is unfortunately no longer available online.) Here are recent examples.

Theater

  • Reimagined Oklahoma! hints America is not O.K. (The Tangential, Nov. 12, 2021). “It’s a pointed challenge to the many culturally complacent productions that have come before, but it also has the effect of shaking the dust off one of the most influential works of American art ever created, reclaiming Oklahoma! as a product of the modernist era.”
  • Theatre Pro Rata brings shoulderpads-era Caryl Churchill to the Crane Theater with Top Girls (The Tangential, Nov. 8, 2021). “Even acclaimed playwright Caryl Churchill had her work cut out for her trying to match 9 to 5 screenwriters Patricia Resnick and Colin Higgins in lucidly critiquing ’80s workplace sexism, but it always needs to be said once more for the people in the back.”
  • The Birth Play Project’s Aquelarres brings strange magic to the open air (The Tangential, Aug. 6, 2021). “Director Madeline Wall’s world premiere production of Joel F. Wilshire’s play, presented under the auspices of The Birth Play Project, is certainly invested in its distinctive milieu. Unfortunately there’s not much else for the audience to invest in.”

Books

  • Maya Phillips on her life as a proud Nerd (The Tangential, Nov. 3). “Nerd constitutes a testament to the real-world power of imagined universes, and for the importance of remaining critically engaged even while meeting these stories on their own terms.”
  • In new book, Bob Dylan shares personal takes on other artists’ songs (Duluth News Tribune, Nov. 3, 2022). “‘Of all the people who sang “Tutti Frutti,”‘ Dylan writes, ‘Pat Boone was probably the only one who knew what he was singing about.’ On the surface that sounds heretical given that Boone’s take on the song is most infamous whitewashed cover from the early rock era, but Dylan doesn’t mean it as a compliment.”
  • Frances Kai-Hwa Wang’s You Cannot Resist Me When My Hair Is In Braids (The Tangential, Aug. 18, 2022). “The most seductive lies are the tidiest ones, and Frances Kai-Hwa Wang isn’t afraid to make a mess of any tidy assumptions readers might have.”

Movies

  • Memoria opens space for silence at Zeitgeist (Duluth News Tribune, Aug. 8, 2022). “There’s virtually no end to the layers of human experience that have been lost to memory, and Weerasethakul creates a sense of urgency by suggesting that there is joy and wonder to be had along with the pain of restoring those layers.”
  • Hallelujah documentary celebrates Leonard Cohen’s classic song (Duluth News Tribune, Aug. 4, 2022). “The song ‘Hallelujah’ treads into risky territory, which is part of its power, but the filmmakers settle for telling a straightforward comeback story and elide Cohen’s pricklier aspects.”
  • Nope is more than meets the eye (Duluth News Tribune, Aug. 1, 2022). “Peele’s third feature film as writer and director is a popcorn movie about a cowboy and a flying saucer. It’s also an allegory, layered with symbolism, about race and representation spanning the entire history of the motion picture as a medium.”

Music

Television

Visual art

Food