If you could make a mixtape of the songs you loved as a young teenager, what would you include? Mine would range from All-4-One’s “I Swear” to Tim McGraw’s “Don’t Take the Girl” to Ace of Base’s “I Saw the Sign.” Complicated Fun at History Theatre is a mixtape of what could be seen as Minneapolis’ early teenage years as it was just coming into it own with the rise of First Avenue and the introduction of punk and funk to the music scene.
Titled after a song by the Suicide Commandos, Complicated Fun perfectly describes the life of a teenager – it’s fun, but as one might proclaim as their Facebook relationship status these days, “it’s complicated.” Written by Alan Berks and directed by Dominic Taylor, the show loosely centers around Boy (Bowen Cochran) who’s sweet but out of the music loop… because he lives in Edina. Boy meets Girl (Stephanie Bertumen) who’s passionate and cool and something he aspires to be. We follow the evolution of their relationship through the emergence of The Replacements, Hüsker Dü, Suburbs, and of course – Prince. To name a few, anyway.
Music director Nic Delcambre and his band provide the music for this soundtrack, and while it feels like almost too much to cram into one show, where would you even begin if you had to pull out a number or two? Steve McClellan (Josh Carson) was the manager at First Avenue in the 80s who had the vision to bring in these groups and diversify the patronage of the venue, which is portrayed well.
My favorite duo is Joseph Miller and Skyler Nowinski, who play record store clerks and have spirited discussions, ranging from the genre of a band to the message a band is trying to send. They serve as narrators of sorts throughout, but they have such great chemistry and their roles seem so natural to them, you feel like a good friend is telling you a fascinating story.
Complicated Fun brought me back to my coming-of-age years, and I easily identified with Boy – a kid from suburbia trying to figure things out and find a place in the world. Music can make you feel important, and it’s such a deeply personal and unique experience to each of us. That moment, though, when you connect with a few song lyrics and feel like there’s someone out there who truly understands you, that’s not something anyone can ever take away from you. This show presents that feeling tenfold thanks to a talented, passionate cast, and the soundtrack of the Twin Cities circa 1980s. This show is us. It’s home. And it’s ours.
Complicated Fun runs through May 29. Click here to purchase tickets. You can also read this Q&A with Nic Delcambre on Artfully Engaging and A Sneak Peek on The Room Where It Happens to learn more about the show.
Complicated Fun by History Theatre
April 30 – May 29
30 East 10th Street
St Paul, MN 55101