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PREVIEW: 7th House Theater’s The Passage

7th House Theater’s production of The Passage or What Comes of Searching in the Dark. Photo by Amy Anderson.

There’s a joke that’s sometimes tossed around the Twin Cities theatre community that goes like this: “What is Graydon Royce’s perfect show?” “Eighty minutes, no intermission.” 7th House Theater’s The Passage, which opens tomorrow at the Guthrie Theater, seems designed for this broad desire for a streamlined, fluff-less theatrical experience. While five minutes longer than this proscription, it’s otherwise pretty close to this definition.

7th House Theater is one of several actor-driven theatre companies that appeared in the Twin Cities in the last few years and have chosen to emphasize ensemble-driven creative processes. Their debut show, the classic musical Hair, made quite a splash – from which 7th House promptly walked away with its fourth production to explore creating short, intense new musicals. 2014’s Jonah and the Whale sold out its 10-day run at the Guthrie. 2015’s The Great Work was more hit-or-miss with critics, but attracted a strong return from the Jonah crowd and those who’d tried and failed to buy tickets the previous year. 2016’s The Passage has managed to retain a strong advance buzz and is hotly anticipated.

The advance synopses of original 7th House shows are written rather like clickbait – there’s what can be a very frustrating amount of vagueness about what the narrative story will be about. Consider what isn’t said in this description:

Albert Grissom has a problem. Well, two problems. He hasn’t seen his father in three weeks and there’s a monster living in his basement. With an original score, 7th House Theater’s The Passage follows two children on a real-life adventure stranger than anything they could have imagined.

Somewhere in a bar, some theatre aficionado has already perfected a drinking game involving 7th House-style show blurbs. You might never know from this description, for example, that The Passage features Alejandro Vega, a child actor who attracted critical raves in Minnesota Opera’s The Shining this past spring and in Latté Da’s Oliver. If you looked at 7th House Theater’s website, you wouldn’t even know the synopsis above. Or that this is the first 7th House show for which David Darrow has written the book, music, and lyrics.

Such is branding and the art of stoking word of mouth. Or infuriating people just enough to make them come and find out what the show is actually about, since they can’t read it online.

Grant Sorenson (Ensemble), Lara Trujillo (Mom), Alejandro Vega (Albert Grissom) and Cat Brindisi (Ensemble) in a camping scene. Photo by Amy Anderson.
Grant Sorenson (Ensemble), Lara Trujillo (Mom), Alejandro Vega (Albert Grissom) and Cat Brindisi (Ensemble) in a camping scene. Photo by Amy Anderson.

7th House Theater’s The Passage or What Comes of Searching in the Dark opens Saturday and plays through Dec. 4 at the Guthrie Theater.

Twin Cities Arts Reader