Phil Olson, playwright, and his brother Paul Olson, musician, grew up in Edina, Minnesota, home of the first indoor mall, so it’s probably a safe bet to say they know the mores and local idioms when it comes to all things Minnesotan. This vast knowledge is on display in their ridiculous musical comedy Don’t Hug Me now onstage at Broadway Rose Theatre Company.
The play opens in The Bunyan, a small bar near Ely, Minnesota, on the coldest day of the year. Clara Johnson (Elizabeth Young) laments to her employee Bernice (Clara-Liis Hillier) about the sorry state of Minnesota men. Clara and her husband Gunner (Kevin-Michael Moore) are at that stage of life when romance has departed the marriage–if, indeed, there ever was any to start with. We’re talking Minnesotans of Scandinavian descent, after all.
And then, in walks the karaoke machine salesman, Aarvid Gisselsen (Matthew H. Curl). What he’s really selling is a “Lifestyle System”, the LSS-562. And both Clara and Bernice could use some lifestyle changing. But Gunner won’t have it. In fact, Gunner wants to sell The Bunyan and move to Florida. Clara wants to stay put. Meanwhile, Aarvid takes an immediate liking to Bernice, who’s engaged to Kanute Gunderson (Peter Liptak)–another Minnesotan of Scandinavian descent who, it seems, is right behind Gunner in the romance department. As the days grow even colder–in fact, colder than all get out–the tension builds. So who is going to break down and give us a hug? And will the bar get even higher? Dinner? A movie? Flowers?
This is a silly play that will make even the grumpiest of Norsemen laugh out loud. Part of the humor can be found in the song titles. Topping the list of Sven Jorgenson hits is “I’m a Walleye Woman in a Crappie Town”, “My Smorgasbord of Love”, “The Bunyan Yodel”, and “I Wanna Go To The Mall of America”. Stand back, Lawrence Welk!
Broadway Rose managing director Dan Murphy directs and choreographs Don’t Hug Me, with book and lyrics by Phil Olson and music by Paul Olson. Music direction is by Jennifer Ackerman with Bryan Boyd, scenic designer; Annie Kaiser, costume designer; Larry Larsen, lighting designer; Brian Karl Moen, sound designer; Emily Wilken, properties designer; Jeff Duncan, production manager; Jessica Junor, stage manager; and Phil McBeth, technical director.
Don’t Hug Me will be a hit for anyone in need of a laugh. It runs through May 8 at the Broadway Rose New Theatre, 12850 SW Grant Avenue, Tigard, OR 97223. Tickets are available here. Ya-sure-youbetcha!