Lately when I write about a theatrical piece that I have seen I try to think about who the play is for. I do not like everything I see, but I also know that in most cases the fault is not in the show itself, but in that I am not the right audience for this show. I have been struggling with how to answer this question for the play Subprime, a new play that recently opened at Mixed Blood Theater (although the piece is not produced by them). It is a play about two couples from the Linden Hills neighborhood of Minneapolis, who in 2008 in the brink of the recession decide to go on a “budget” vacation to New York City. Being together in a foreign place, and phone calls about how the recession is affecting their houses and ways of life bring out the worst in them. This play is filled with very nasty people, whose actions and words I find despicable. This is why I struggle to answer the question, who is this play for? People who enjoy watching entirely unpleasant people in order to feel better about themselves? People who hate Minnesotans, who believe that under the guise of Minnesota nice lives a monster just waiting to come out and play in New York City?
I do not want to come off as a theater reviewer who hates a play that is negative about Minnesota because I love Minnesota. I do love Minnesota, but I can also recognize its faults. Many times Minnesota nice does mean passive aggressive. We will cut the last piece of the brownie in half until it is a crumb because we are afraid of appearing selfish in any way. We have one of the most education populations, but the racial disparities when it comes to education testing is one of the worst in the country. Minnesotans and people from Minneapolis are not saints. They are not better than people in any other state (I have lived on both Minnesota and the east coast, which is why I was so interested in this play), but Minnesotans are not monsters.
The play is however filled with very good performances. I couldn’t dislike the play as much as I do if the actors onstage were not able to give performances that made me despise their characters as much as I do. All the actors, Charles Fraser, Bonni Allen, Dan Hopman, Jen Burleigh-Bentz and Jorge Quintero, are local performers and get the chance to play a role unlike the others that I have seen them in.
Subprime is a deep and unflattering look into two Minnesotan couples. A look that I do not like believable. It is playing at Mixed Blood Theater until May 27.
*Photo by Bill Cameron