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In "Keeper of the Light," playwright Katie Kaufmann looks to the job of lighthouse keeper as a metaphor for female strength, motherhood and perseverance. The imaginative, highly physical play shares the story of Ida Lewis, who at age 15 began a half-century-long watch off the Rhode Island coast in 1857.

Under the direction of Genevieve Bennett, the performers mime, use shadow puppets and bring Ida's seaside world to life by manipulating Meagan Kedrowski's clever set design, animated by Heidi Eckwall's dreamy lighting.

Helping tell the story is a comical chorus of clowns played by Mark Benzel, Benjamin Domask and Leif Jurgensen. The three actors play the male foils whom Ida (played by Kaufmann) encounters throughout her life. They're either getting themselves nearly drowned, begging Ida to marry them, throwing rallies in her honor that she does not want, or wrapping her up in literal red tape.

The script includes the playwright herself as a character. Portrayed by Kaitlen Osburn, she serves as Ida's sounding board, drawing out the introverted light keeper to talk about her quiet struggles. It also allows Kaufmann to tease out her own journey in writing the play, pushing against self-doubt, loneliness and the reality of being the mother of a young child.

Ultimately, Ida is more interesting than this self-reflection, and the play is best when it fully commits to its fanciful vision. Kaufmann offers a magnetic portrayal of one woman's fierce determination and heroism, even when she shies from the limelight.

Sheila Regan is a Minneapolis critic and arts journalist.


Keeper of the Light

Who: By Katie Kaufmann. Directed by Genevieve Bennett.

When: 7:30 p.m. Wed.-Sun.

Where: Red Eye Theater, 15 W. 14th St., Mpls.

Tickets: $5-$25. 612-870-0309 or keeperofthelight.bpt.me.