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Sally Wingert Shines as the Core of Master Class

Andrew Bourgoin, Kira Lace Hawkins, and Sally Wingert.

Andrew Bourgoin, Kira Lace Hawkins, and Sally Wingert.

While talking about performing with Theatre Latte Da in Master Class last week, Sally Wingert said she would would do "Mary Had a Little Lamb" if director Peter Rothstein was in charge.

It's safe to say that I -- or any theatergoer -- would definitely pay to see Wingert read an evening of children's verse. Heck, I'd come out for a night of dramatized eBay listings for refurbished auto parts if Wingert was involved.

See also: Sally Wingert Prepares for Challenges of "Master Class"

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The tremendously talented Wingert towers above Master Class, playing famed opera diva Maria Callas with tremendous wit, verve, and power.

Her strong performance, however, showcases the weaknesses in Terrance McNally's script, which is more clever than insightful, and struggles to get under the surface of this intriguing character.

During the 1950s and '60s, Callas cut a swath through the opera world and the upper reaches of European and American societies. Bold, opinionated, and extremely talented, Callas was as known for her fiery temperament and affair with Aristotle Onassis as she was for her performances in Tosca, Norma, and Macbeth.

McNally based the play on a series of master classes that Callas gave in 1971 and '72 at Julliard. Through the play, she works with a trio of singers, though the scenes are as much about her and her stories as the singers she is "helping" onstage.

While she's onstage (and talking) throughout, we only get clues from McNally's script as to what makes Callas tick. There is talk about how to be present onstage, and what kind of preparation you should do ahead of time to really feel the character and, in turn, the music, but that remains stubbornly superficial.

Wingert, however, is able to fill in the blanks left by the script. Her Callas is haunted by a career cut short, bitter resentment over the success of her rivals, and the failure of her time with Onassis. There is also a deep, abiding love of the music, which comes out as each of the students finds the depth and soul within their arias.

Kira Lace Hawkins is also very strong, playing aspiring singer Sophie DePalma as someone with a lot of nerves, but who finds great musical beauty (with Callas's help) when she sings.

Rothstein has crafted a solid production from beginning to end, with great acting, music, and an intriguing central character that only adds to the great year that Wingert has experienced in 2014.

IF YOU GO:

Master Class Through November 2 Antonello Hall, MacPhail Center for Music 501 S. Second St., Minneapolis $35-$45 For tickets and more information, call 612.339.3003 or visit online.