Up–Down: A New Minneapolis Barcade

updown1

Just about everyone is comodifying off of the nostalgia of 80’s and 90’s kids, lately.  Book series, TV sitcoms, movies, plays…you name it!  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, so long as storylines remain canonical and our beloved characters don’t disappoint… (Cursed Child, anyone?)

A hot new trend that blasts you to past rather than modifying your memories are Barcades–that’s right, Bar+Arcades; you can now drink while playing Donkey  Kong–and it’s awesome.

FullSizeRender

Up–Down is barely a month old  but already drawing quite a crowd with classic arcade games like Frogger, Donkey Kong, Fix-it Felix, and Tetris.  For just a quarter you can flash back to your long nights in the bowling alley sipping Shirley Temples while trying to get the high score.  If you want to keep the nostalgia but update your drinking preferences, Up–Down carries dozens of local craft beer choices and has armed their pinball machines with cup holders in case you need an extra hand. TVs juxtapose sports games with old Nickelodeon cartoons which only adds to the buzzing, nostalgic atmosphere.

Like many Minneapolis joints, Up–Down has a garage-door wall which lets in a welcomed breeze on cool summer evenings.  The door doubles as a gateway to the patio area where friends can play giant Jenga and Connect Four for some more relaxed gaming.

Up–Down is fully equipped with ten different pinball machines with zany themes like GhostBusters, Iron Man, Star Trek and Family Guy, as well as four Skee Ball ramps if ball games are more your speed.  If you stay long enough to get the munchies, grab some pizza-by-the-slice before you camp out playing Mario Kart!

For a perfect $30 date, this blogger pairs a couple beers at Up–Down with a little walk to Milkjam Creamery to end your summer evening right.

Been to Up–Down, yet?  Let me know what you think of it in comments!

 

[Top image created by Phil Monger; no changes made; further details here]

 

 

A Literary Getaway: The Rivertown Inn

IMG_4481.JPG

Just a heartbeat away from the Twin Cities is a little town named Stillwater–a city known for its quaint, riverside location along the St. Croix bustling with candy shoppes, antique malls, and B&B’s.  Next to Duluth, Stillwater might be the Twin Cities’ most-loved getaway town–and with only a 35 minute drive between you and a ice cream-laden walk along the river, there’s no excuse to not make Stillwater a destination this summer.

Once a logger’s paradise, many prosperous families set up shop in Stillwater around the turn of the century.  Their mansions have been modified to bring us some of the most historically charming B&B’s this side of the St. Croix. As a literary lover, my favorite has to be The Rivertown Inn.

IMG_4471

The Rivertown Inn was, without a doubt, the most elegant, most carefully crafted B&B experience I have ever had (and no–nobody is influencing me to say this!)  Each of the suites are designed around a literary great–from Jane Austen to Lewis Carroll, the rooms are thoughtfully and expensively decorated to fit the master and their work.  Who’s greatness did I wish to bask in all weekend?  An obvious choice: Tennyson. Sorry, Austen fans!  Give me a depressed poet, any day.

IMG_4477.JPG

Although it’s fun to pick your favorite writing pal, you really can’t go wrong, as each of the rooms are impeccably decorated.  Pro-tip: We arrived to check-in a little bit early and, being the first guests to arrive, got to peek in every room in the house!   You can explore each suite for yourself here.

While only a 10 minute walk to downtown Stillwater, I wanted to relish in the Rivertown grounds as much as I could.  I spent my hours reading in the gazebo, helping myself to complimentary wine at the Inn’s social hour, and taking lonnnngg baths in the room.

IMG_4476 (1).JPG

Rivertown Inn: Come for the charm, stay for the breakfast!  On the weekends Rivertown Inn provides a 3 course sit-down breakfast prepared by one of their two full-time chefs (this ain’t your ma’n’pop’s B&B).  My weekend courses included a three-flavored gelatin, a delish quiche, and, my favorite, an avocado key lime pie with pecan crust (Yeah, that’s right, dessert for breakfast!  I see you grabbing that doughnut).

IMG_4478 (1).JPG

Our stay was, in a word, perfection.  A room can run a bit pricey, but, from our experience, gift cards make excellent anniversary presents.

South Pacific at the Guthrie

southpacific1

A summer in the Cities isn’t complete without a trip to see the Guthrie’s annual musical.  In recent years it has brought us classic delights like My Fair Lady, The Music Man, and H.M.S. Pinafore.  This season features South Pacific, by the greats Rogers and Hammerstein (of Oklahoma, The King & I, and The Sound of Music fame).  While South Pacific has been and is much-loved by many, it may strike a different chord with the modern theater-goer.

The story is set in (you guessed it) the South Pacific islands during World War II.  A young American nurse stationed there falls in love with an older Frenchman who owns a plantation in the area.  Nellie the nurse (played by Erin Mackey) and Emile (Edward Staudenmayer) have a series of will-they-won’t-they scenes that climax in Emile introducing his mixed-race children to Nellie after a romantic evening together.  The audience at the Guthrie fell hush as Nellie emotionally refused to accept his children due to their color and dashed offstage.
southpacific2

Nellie and Emile’s relationship felt at its best distantly sweet, at its worst, disjointed and awkward.  From the opening scene on Emile’s terrace, the pacing and charisma between the actors left me wanting.  I didn’t really care if Nellie washed Emile right out of her hair or not, and when they did come together at moments, it felt like the necessary direction of the plot rather than the consequence of their emotions.  That being said, I will not for one minute undermine the incredible baritone of Edward Staudenmayer–the vibrato and confidence of his notes carried the scenes and made the evening enchanted once more.

A similar, second romance is formed between a lieutenant and a (very) young Tonkinese girl.  After being woo’d to take a boat ride to the island of Bali Ha’i by an eager street vendor named Bloody Mary (Christine Toy Johnson), Lt. Cable (CJ Eldred), immediately falls for (and sleeps with) her daughter.  While completely smitten, Cable cannot agree to marry Liat (Manna Nichols) because of obvious social complications.

Choosing a musical so heavily focused on race is something to take note of in our heated times.  I was excited to see what the newest Guthrie artistic director, Joseph Haj, was going to do with this production.  It’s Haj’s first season in his new role and his mantra is diversity, in “programming, the artists we hire…and indeed our own administration,” Haj remarked in a recent interview with MPR.  “I think more diverse, plural voices simply make the work better.  And so that’s a focus.”

southpacific3

Let me propose, however, that choosing a race-heavy musical out of the 1950’s, finding some Asian actors, and calling it good is way too safe for 2016The resolution of Nellie and Emile’s relationship focuses on a “love conquers all odds” motif rather than the preferred “I have come to reject my upbringing and accept people of a different color now.”  As for Cable and Liat, while Cable does appear to undergo major conviction, we see no resolution of the racial tension.  By the end of the show, the South Pacific is still “exotic,” the women are still “younger than springtime” and the only lesson that’s learned is that “you’ve got to be carefully taught.”

I’m not asking for a rewrite, and I understand the play is a reflection of its time.  I had hoped that Haj’s diverse season would shed new light for a new era, perhaps in unique casting or staging–speaking more through a fresh interpretation of lines or actions.  Although seeing South Pacific is a fun and light night out, that is where it stopped, for me.  That being said, I have hope that other shows this season will pack a punch–get ready for Disgraced and The Bluest Eye coming to the Guthrie.  Here’s hoping Haj’s vision breaks down walls, evokes emotion, and creates conversation this season.