'Passage of Dreams': strong work by Theatre Latté Da

March 23, 2009.By Ed Huyck, MinnPost.

Though unified by layers of fantasies, the real glue amid the trio of pieces in "Passage of Dreams" is the clever writing and music from the team of Katie Baldwin Eng and Jeff Tang, and the equally clever staging by Theatre Latté Da. Mixing musical styles and theatrical formats, ­ including a striking turn by aerialist Heather Haugen, ­ the pieces work best when they drive right for the heart.

The evening opens and closes with a pair of short playlettes. The title work shows a series of interlocking dreams of ordinary folks, while "Rain" takes us into an absurdist's end time, where the very mention of water is seen by some as an obscenity.

The middle work, "Bessie's Birthday," is the most conventional of the pieces -- ­ you can see where it easily could be expanded into a full play ­ but still retain the dream-like qualities. In it, a woman returns from New York to Wisconsin for he sister's 30th birthday. Though the characters are broadly drawn, I can honestly say that in my 15 years of living in the Cheese State, I knew every single person here. And at the play's center is a complex heart, full of disappointment, pain and genuine love.

The ensemble is universally strong, with Emily Gunyou Halaas turning in the performance of the night as Delphine, the sister coming home in "Bessie's Birthday." Meanwhile, Haugen steals the finale with her striking aerial work. All of this diverse work is held together by Peter Rothstein's strong direction and Joe Stanley's lovely sets. The only real flaw is that the intermissions ­ necessary for changing scenery and costumes ­ interrupt the evening's flow, and break the spell. That's a minor quibble in the face of another strong work by a top local theater.

"Passage of Dreams." through April 5. Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis. $12 to $34. For tickets, call 612-340-1725 or visit online.