If I could give one piece of advise for audiences of Complicated Fun, the new play by Alan Berks playing at the History Theater, besides go see it, is go see it with someone. It is one of those plays that just asks to be shared. And if you aren't someone who is very familiar with the music scene of Minneapolis in the early to mid 1980s, bring along someone who is and share it with them. I myself brought along my father, who arrived in the Twin Cities from rural Montana in the late 1980s, as he explained "after Hüsker Dü had already broken up but before Soul Asylum got big". And there were all sorts of people like my Dad in the audience, people who were part of that story, giving the performance already alive with energy from the music an extra layer. And that is just part of the reason that Complicated Fun was...well so fun.
The story is told through the lens of many different characters. The Boy, played by Bowen Cochran, from Edina who is introduced to the punk scene by his cousin. The Girl, played by Stephanie Bertumen, who is an aspiring musician. The seemingly dueling record store clerks, played by Joseph Miller and Skylar Nowinski, who compete with each other over whose favorite band is the most important. Nowadays they might be called music snobs, but their commentary was both hilarious and informative. The manager of First Avenue, Steve, played brilliantly by Josh Carson, showing us all the passion, and many challenges of the business side of the music. And the band onstage, the backbone, hardly involved in the actual drama or dialogue, but through which see the music that is the motivating factor for all that is happening.
Because music is what was happening. This play does not have much of a plot, not much of a climax and resolution, it is a history. And although we see this history through the various characters it is not a character study either. Unless that character is the music of Minneapolis in the 1980s. And there is nothing wrong with this. It seemed that this work is exactly what it should have been. It spoke to the time. For those of us who were not familiar with the music in the 80s in these awesome Twin Cities it taught us something. For those who lived that, it brought them back. And the timing of this show, coming a week after Prince's death felt right. Because he was also a part of creating what was being studied on stage and everyone knew it.
Complicated Fun is a beautiful, and frankly hilarious tribute to the times. And it was a night that I greatly enjoyed.