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REVIEW: Inconsistent Norseplay (Maximum Verbosity/Phoenix Theater)

Rob Ward (left) and Mickaylee Shaugnessy (center) play the titular Thor and Loki, respectively, in Norseplay: The Musical Adventures of Loki and Thor, now playing at the Phoenix Theater in Minneapolis.

Norseplay: The Musical Adventures of Loki and Thor opened at the Phoenix Theater last evening. The occasion? The 20th anniversary of Maximum Verbosity, a theatrical entity that began its very first season at the 2004 Minnesota Fringe Festival with excerpts from this show, under the title Lokasenna. This ambitious but flawed musical overflows with ideas, mixing elements of vaudeville and circus comedy with snarky commentary.

The original title of this show is a reference to one of the classic narrative poems of Norse mythology. As you might expect, it’s very focused on Loki, whose mythological incarnation has more actual pranks (and general weirdness) than the character of the same name in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In its better moments, Norseplay delves into the weirdness of the Norse gods’ oft-time savior also being the parent of their destruction in Ragnarok.

The book and lyrics for Norseplay were written by phillip andrew bennett low [sic], with a score by Elizabeth Byrd. While it has its moments, the show runs long, with many tonal dissonances as it jumps between segments. Some of that is how Norse mythology goes, which includes digressions for things like Loki conceiving and giving birth to an 8-legged horse, but in a theatrical presentation the whole is less than the sum of its part. It also suffers, somewhat, from the size of the stage – the best experience is in the front row, where the more slapstick and burlesque aspects are better appreciated.

Highlights of the show include Megan Guidry’s first song as Freyja and Rob Ward’s many slapstick dives across the stage. If you extracted a 45-minute (or so) segment centered around the theft of Thor’s hammer, you’d have a fun children’s show with some of the best songs and physical humor. As-is, to quote the film critic Jeremy Jahns, “It’s a better time if you’re drunk.”

Norseplay: The Musical Adventures of Loki and Thor runs through 10 at the Phoenix Theater, Minneapolis. 


Basil Considine