Perfect Arrangement at Theatre in the Round Players in Minneapolis

Zach Christensen, Courtney Matula, Ariel Pinkerton, Tony Burton. Photo by Roger C. Watts.

Wonderfully acted by a strong ensemble Perfect Arrangement is the perfect show to celebrate Pride. It reminds us how far we have come in terms of LGBTQ rights despite what feels like some steps backwards in recent years. Set in the 1950’s, it is a look back in time when being in the closet didn’t feel like a choice but a necessity. Opening like a 1950’s sitcom including built in commercials, the play grows darker and more real as it progresses. Opening with a look at the face, the characters show the world by the end we see all of them as they really are with their masks removed. Part historical, part satire, part drama, part comedy, within all of these parts runs a message about being your authentic self and how that is never as straightforward as it seems. Even by the end if you put yourself in the character’s shoes, you find yourself at a crossroads where ideals and reality intersect.

Written by Topher Payne Perfect Arrangement refers to the situation that the four main characters have set up for themselves. Bob and Millie are married and live next door in a duplex to their friends Jim and Norma. Bob and Norma work together at the State Department, Bob is the head of a team that has been looking for Communists within the U.S. Government. As the play opens the two couples are having a get together with Bob and Norma’s boss Theodore and his wife Kitty. During this opening scene, Theodore announces to Bob and Norma that they will be leading a new initiative to seek out and expose anyone who’s moral shortcomings could make them vulnerable to blackmail. This includes among other things, those who are homosexuals. As the scene plays out, the characters behave and speak as if they are on the Dick Van Dyke Show. Once Theodore and Kitty leave, the performances immediately become less stylized and one of the first lines of dialogue contains a certain four letter word that would never have escaped the lips of Rob and Laura Petrie. You see the perfect arrangement is that the couples have married each others lovers. Millie and Norma are the real couple who live in the this half of the duplex, Bob and Jim are lovers and live next door which they are able to move between through a closet that connects their two living spaces. For the rest of the play, Bob and Norma are tasked with doing their jobs without exposing themselves. When an affair from Millie’s past surfaces achieving these two paradoxal goals becomes more and more complicated.

All four leads are well cast with the standout being Courtney Matula as Millie. While not a complete natural with all of the comic bits, she captures the 50’s housewife facade perfectly and by the end she is the heart of the play. Ariel Pinkerton as Norma, gets to be the voice of outrage and conscience for the the foursome, and has some nice moments when she gets to vent her frustrations. Zach Christensen as Bob is the cool headed planner of the group, who does some ethical gymnastics in order to reconcile his personal and professional goals. Tony Burton as Jim seems to have the least to do and as such comes off as more or less a Bob’s trophy husband, albeit one that is kept in the closet. Alison Anderson does a nice turn as the easily confused and distracted Kitty, and Daniel Hildebrand as her husband, nicely vacillates between congenial and no-nonsense boss. Also quite strong in a smaller role is Katie Wodele as Barbara, a co-worker of Bob and Norma’s whose sexually free lifestyle has put her in the hot seat.

The show is well directed by Alissa Blaeser. She seems most adept at the satirical portions such as the opening scene and the dramatic moments such as the climax, and a little less sure in the broader almost slapstick or farcical passages. Lee Christiansen’s Set Design makes good use of the unique theatre in the round format and feels authentically period. The costumes by Colleen O’Dell felt very period correct as well and the gowns worn by Ketty, Norma, and Barbara as they head to the Opera were actually quite stunning. Lastly, I enjoyed the music by Sound Designer/Composer Robert Hoffman particularly the use of “I’m Coming Out” as exit music.

Perfect Arrangement is the closing show of Theatre in the Round Players’ 70th season for more information about the show and to purchase tickets go to

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