Burnt pizza, drab diction

The Mixed Blood Theater’s new play spent a few too many minutes in the oven.

The key ingredients to Kurdish-style lovemaking are fresh figs and green pistachios that one can open using only a tongue, according to the newest production at the Mixed Blood Theatre. Poetry and pizza are the key ingredients to love in “The Poetry of Pizza,” the latest installment in the theatre’s yearlong feature of female playwrights. “Poetry,” however, results in a tepid love story that is part romantic comedy, part immodest exhibition.

“The Poetry of Pizza”

WHEN: Through Feb. 10, Wednesday through Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 3 p.m.
WHERE: Mixed Blood Theatre, 1501 S. Fourth St., Minneapolis
TICKETS: $11-28, call (612) 338-6131 or www.mixedblood.com

Sarah Middleton (Stacia Rice), a college poetry professor, goes to Copenhagen to study poetry and work on yet another convoluted book about poetry. The irony is that, though she studies poetry, she fails to see its point. And as her obnoxious American friend reminds her, she needs to get laid.

Once in Denmark, Sarah is thrust into various awkward romantic exploits. Her colleague at the Danish University, Heino Andersen (Sean Michael Dooley), introduces her to life in Denmark and the idea that sex can just be sex.

There’s Ule, played by Patrick O’Brien, the aging, love-starved husband of an agoraphobe, who sees the love he’s been missing in Sarah, though Sarah sees nothing but a love-sick, annoying older man.

Most importantly, she meets Soran, a romantic pizza-maker, played by Ron Menzel, who misses his native Kurdistan and cries whenever he hears Andrea Bocelli’s “Con Te Partiro.”

The action surrounds love matches and mismatches, as poetry professor and pizza-maker fall in love despite the ardent advances of the other two men.

Through the language of pizza, loves are lost and found and the cold, hard poetry professor remembers how to feel.

The tangled narratives of the characters manage to come together throughout the play, with the help of the nosy landlord and the interfering boss.

While the dialogue fills in the explanatory gaps, much of the scenery – and even the artistic pizzas Soran creates to make Sarah fall in love with him – are left to the imagination. The pizzeria flows into Sarah’s rented room, then into a university lecture hall, with no set changes and only the character’s dialogue to explain where the action is taking place.

While the acting is never lacking, the need for the actors to exaggerate becomes tired quickly, as they assert the qualities of their characters through the all-too explanatory dialogue.

Even before the play begins, the liner notes explaining how “Poetry” came to be, written by playwright Deborah Brevoort, already deserve eye-rolls. She explains that she spent some time in Denmark and the characters and setting for “Poetry” are based on this experience. Plays overtly based on personal experience, even autobiographical plays, aren’t necessarily narcissistic. Unless, perhaps, the main character is a brilliant poetry professor, asserting her brilliant ideas as everyone in a five-block radius falls in love with her brilliant self.

It’s all just too much. It’s a shame, because clearly the acting talent of the cast is wasted on an overlong, reminisced fantasy.