Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A Bunker with a View 

Last evening my husband and I went to the world-renowned Guthrie Theater newly located on the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis. After exiting the parking ramp at ground level one crosses the street, outdoors, to the Guthrie theater entrance. The lobby reminds one of an enormous cave with its dark walls, dark blue glass, and subtle lighting.

To reach the theaters, people ride a totally enclosed escalator, dimly lit, to the fourth floor. Emerging from this tunnel, one sees wide spaces with chairs, bars, and bunker-like windows. Everything is dark: black chairs, dark carpet, black ceiling, etc. The only noticeable light components are the brushed steel counters for beverages and the information desk.

At intermission we walked around the entire theater portion of the building - dark, dull, depressing. There is a lit fabric wall of red: not an uplifting red, but rather a German Cabaret red from the 1930's. Though the views are impressive, looking at the river through mostly bunker-like windows is eerie.

The visibly bright spot is the theater. The Guthrie stage has maintained its intimacy with its audience. Comfortable, inviting seats in warm, melon/orange/autumn gold colors welcome each to the theater arena.

The performance of The Merchant of Venice was terrific! However, this current focus on the trendy, hip, Manhattan architectural style of darkness, glass and metal results in a cold, antiseptic, unfriendly atmosphere in the rest of the building, including what could have been a spectacular restaurant, Cue. The interior environment was depressing; there was no "buzz." I prefer entertainment in an uplifting venue. I will take the Ordway Theater in St. Paul, with its inviting architecture and warm ambiance any day of the week.