Review: 'Pure Prine' at the Phoenix Theatre

John Prine music deftly adapted for the stage

May 12, 2010
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I don't often cannibalize my weekly IBJ review column for material for this blog. However, occasions arise where a show I'm reviewing for the print edition will close at or shortly before the time when that issue reaches readers. And when it's a show I'm wildly enthusiastic about, well, I don't want to delay getting word out.

In this case, the show is "Pure Prine," which has just one more weekend left in its two-week world premiere run at the Phoenix Theatre.

Prior knowledge of the work of songwriter John Prine's work is not required to enjoy the Phoenix Theatre's small wonder of a show (which, to be clear, does not feature Prine himself).

In "Pure Prine," director Bryan Fonseca deftly finds a theatrical voice and structure for the show that doesn’t compromise the material, providing just enough dialogue-free plot to keep it moving forward. Set in a bar (a nice amortization of the set from the preview Phoenix show, "Yankee Tavern"), it concerns a couple (Tim Grimm and Jan Lucas-Grimm) whose affection for each other has clearly helped them weather more than a few storms, a troubled guy (Michael Shelton) who can’t stay loyal to a feisty good girl (Bobbie Lancaster) and finds himself drawn to a barmaid (Jenni Gregory) as haunted as he is, and, of course, a bartender (Tim Brickley) who has seen and heard it all.

It’s helpful that all involved are expert musicians and terrific actors. And that none tries to imitate Prine and, instead, each pays tribute by honoring the grace of the music and the richness of the characters, both in their humor and in their pain.

More about the show in the upcoming IBJ. Here's hoping that you'll be reading it after seeing the show. Performances run Thursday through Sunday. Details here.

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