Posted in Uncategorized

Update, but no openings

Hi everyone! I didn’t find any openings for this weekend, but I wanted to let you know I’m still here. 🙂 For now, my sister and I are mostly looking at paperwork and what to do with Daddy’s things, so life is back to as normal as it can be after a parent’s death. I’ll keep you updated as theater events start to pick back up.

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Posted in Uncategorized

I’ve been MIA at the theaters

First there was sickness, then I was out of town for Thanksgiving and that Sunday, when I was going to see the IRT’s A Christmas Carol, my car’s battery bit the dust hard. Now, I’ve had to cancel the four shows I had lined up to see this weekend. My father is expected to pass away within the next 48 hours or so, and I am leaving to go to Ohio to see him before he goes.

I love you all, and I love the theater community, but I love my dad more, so this will be the third weekend with no reviews from me.

There are a ton of openings this weekend, so I will try to get a roundup on here either tomorrow or Thursday. If you want, you can check out my evolving calendar here.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 11/23

Phoenix Theatre: A Very Phoenix Xmas 13: Merry Superstitions

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Phoenix Theatre’s “A Very Phoenix Xmas 13”

Phoenix’s annual anything-but-traditional holiday show is the sketch comedy/cabaret/variety hour you never knew you needed. It’s a little slice of yule log with a big dollop of sass, and this year, it’s turning lucky number 13.

  • Nov. 23-Dec. 23, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m., Thursdays at 7 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $24-$39
  • phoenixtheatre.org 

Indiana Repertory Theatre: A Christmas Carol 

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Indiana Repertory Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol”

This is the IRT’s 28th year producing Tom Haas’s snow-filled adaptation. There are a TON of special events in conjunction with the show’s run. Check them out here.

Special Black Friday Sale

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Actors Theatre of Indiana’s “It’s A Wonderful Life (Live Radio Play)”

Actors Theatre of Indiana is offering a special Black Friday price for any ticket to any performance of It’s A Wonderful Life (A Live Radio Play) at the Studio Theater in Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts. Purchase tickets at special rate of $25 any time between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 23 with code BEDFORDFALLSFRIDAY. This deal is good for all sales — online, by phone or in person. atistage.org.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 11/16

Actors Theatre of Indiana: It’s A Wonderful Life (Live Radio Play)

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Actors Theatre of Indiana’s “It’s A Wonderful Life (Live Radio Play)”

This beloved Frank Capra American holiday classic film comes to life as a captivating live 1940s radio broadcast. With the help of an ensemble that bring dozens of familiar characters to the stage, the story of idealistic George Bailey unfolds as he considers ending his life one fateful Christmas Eve. It will take the help of a lovable angel, Clarence, to show George what life would be like if he wasn’t born and then guide him to a change of heart and understanding the true spirit of Christmas. Remember: “Every time a bell rings, an angel get its wings.”

  • Nov 16-Dec 14, various dates and times
  • $20-$25
  • Center for the Performing Arts
  • http://atistage.org

Magic Thread Cabaret: Melissa Schott: The Key of Me 

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Magic Thread Cabaret presents Melissa Schott: The Key of Me

Indianapolis native and current New York City-based singer-actor-dancer Melissa Schott presents a cabaret show in which she is accompanied by her pianist and music director Scott Harris. Singing a blend of pop, Broadway, and folk, in addition to tunes from the Great American Songbook, Melissa will share stories about her life and career during a captivating show that will also include some surprises.

NoExit/Indianapolis Movement Arts Collective: OPEN Indy

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Gerry Trentham

The first OPEN Indy features this year’s resident artist, Gerry Trentham, an internationally known director/performer based in Toronto and artistic director of lbs/sq” performance. The OPEN Indy culminating performance will include Trentham’s Yellow Scale, a 40-minute solo from his full-length work Four Mad Humours, which earned him a Toronto Dora award for performance. Local dance theater artist Lani Weissbach, director of artist residencies and embodied learning at IMAC, will present The Truth About Mr. Duffy, performed by Lukas Schooler of NoExit Performance and Tanner Hronek, previously with Dance Kaleidoscope. The performance will also feature the premiere of COMMUTE, which will be created by Gerry during his residency and performed by members of the Indianapolis community.

IndyFringe: Stark Naked

Stark Naked is a two-woman play in which the artist Margaret Stark and graduate student Carrie Cohen explore the choices women make in their lives and the consequences of those choices. Carol Weiss, the playwright, has been writing about artists and the arts for more than 30 years. She was a columnist and feature writer for the statewide arts magazine Arts Indiana and has co-authored three books.

Marian University Theatre: Urinetown the Musical

In a Gotham-like city, a terrible water shortage, caused by a 20-year drought, has led to a government-enforced ban on private toilets. The citizens must use public amenities, regulated by a single malevolent company that profits by charging admission for one of humanity’s most basic needs. Amid the people, a hero decides that he’s had enough and plans a revolution to lead them all to freedom! Hilariously funny and touchingly honest, Urinetown is a musical satire of the legal system, capitalism, social irresponsibility, populism, bureaucracy, corporate mismanagement, municipal politics, and musical theater itself!

  • Nov. 16-17, 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 18, 2:30 p.m.
  • $7.50-$34.50
  • Tickets here
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe: “Souvenir: A Fantasia of the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins”

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John Phillips and Lori Ecker in “Souvenir”

Florence Foster Jenkins was the laughing stock of the New York socialites. The true-life figure sincerely thought herself a highly gifted singer when in fact she couldn’t carry a note in a hermetically sealed container. Her friends indulged her, attending her recitals for the comedic entertainment, though Florence thought they were genuine in their support. She hired an accompanist, Cosme McMoon, who took the job because, as a struggling young musician, he needed rent money, though he was appalled by her voice. Her performances took on a cult-like following, with audience members shoving handkerchiefs in their mouths to muffle their laughter or even fleeing the hall because they were just going to lose it. Slowly, her performances got out of hand, with the audience growing and growing until the duo found themselves performing at Carnegie Hall in 1944.

Souvenir is ridiculously hilarious. This under-publicized show needs attention because not only is it a riot, but it’s also so well-done.

Of course, the play isn’t strictly biographical, as the conversations between Florence and Cosme can’t be recreated, and there is some conjecture about whether or not she really knew how bad she was. But, poetic license.

The story is told to us by Cosme, who is now working at a supper club. In between his flashbacks to his time with Florence, John D. Phillips gives us snippets of a few ditties, such as “One for My Baby” and “Crazy Rhythm,” a nice counterpoint to Florence’s unspeakable noises.

Lori Ecker is the flamboyant and melodramatic Florence. I don’t know how Ecker mangles her beautiful voice into Florence’s caterwauling, but at the end, we get to see what Ecker is really capable of in a moving “Ava Maria.” Ecker is endearing, even childlike in her comical enthusiasm, confidence in her talent, and flighty personality. At one point, she practically (and gleefully) assaults the audience with maracas and flowers. The Carnegie experience comes complete with equally absurd outfits by costume designer Susan Sanderock.

Phillips as Cosme is the picture of a pianist in pain, even frightened at times by the sounds emitted by Florence, but he slides in sly comments without Florence’s notice, which, with a bottle of wine, seem to help him though their rehearsals. The over-the-top looks on his face are just as outrageous as Florence herself.

The play explores friendship, loyalty, passion for the arts, and musical interpretation. The (NOT romantic but almost familial) relationship that evolves between Florence and Cosme over their 12 years of working together is deeply touching and a testament to the power of friendship. Camilla Upchurch has directed a hit that deserves to be supported. Go see it! You will love it!

  • Through Nov. 25, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.
  • $25
  • IndyFringe Basile Theatre
  • www.indyfringe.org
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

NoExit: “The Mutilated”

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Gigi Jennewein and Beverly Roche in NoExit’s “The Mutilated.” Photo by Daniel Axler.

Tennessee Williams is one of the best-known American playwrights, having penned the smashing successes The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. However, in the 1960s and ’70s, his work took a downward turn, as did his personal life. Drugs and alcohol severely affected the quality of his work, so those plays became unpopular and obscure. 1965’s The Mutilated is one of those plays, and while I find no fault with NoExit’s production, I am not going to defend the script. (However, the use of some really nasty rose incense at the end had my best friend on the edge of a full-blown asthma attack and left me with a headache from hell.)

Ryan Mullins directs fallen-out friends Gigi Jennewein as the self-conscious, pent-up Trinket and Beverly Roche as the shoplifting, washed-up prostitute Celeste. Roche is particularly interesting in her portrayal of a woman on the rock bottom, willing to eat Vanilla Wafers from a box containing a dead cockroach, and Roche and Jennewein play well off each other.

The supporting cast includes Zachariah Stonerock, Matthew Walls, Doug Powers, Mark Cashwell, Dan Flahive, Abby Gilster, and Elysia Rohn, all of whom help add interest, including very nicely done a cappella breaks (musical composition by Ben Asaykwee).

Mullins uses the space’s balcony to great effect, and Kipp Normand’s set and prop design includes some intriguing pieces. I love the hats that costume designers Kat Robinson and Traci Snider put on the ladies.

If you are up for a challenge, NoExit’s presentation is quality. But don’t expect anything close to the genius of The Glass Menagerie.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Fonseca Theatre Company: “Hooded, or Being Black for Dummies”

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Fonseca Theatre Company’s “Hooded, or Being Black for Dummies”

A mixture of comedy and commentary, Hooded, or Being Black for Dummies by Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm is about two black boys portrayed with the kind of broad stereotypical characteristics that would comfortably land them in The Breakfast Club. The title alone makes you want to laugh, but then you feel guilty immediately, knowing in this uber-PC world you shouldn’t laugh. And that intentionally placed tension is a hallmark of the show, immediately marked by the “laugh light.” A brutish police officer (Warren Jackson) instructs us, among other things, to laugh when the light comes on, but we soon learn that it lights up at inappropriate comments that are progressively less funny and more jaw-droppingly shocking.

Tru (Joshua Short) and Marquis (Chinyelu Mwaafrika) meet in jail. Tru was picked up for “loitering,” and Marquis is in for trespassing. He and his friends were in a cemetery taking photos of them “Trayvoning,” a social media thing where kids mimic the dead posture of Trayvon Martin, including a bottle of Arizona tea, Skittles, and a hoodie. While both black, they are polar opposites. Marquis attends an exclusive, all-white prep school and his adoptive parents are white. He is bookish and almost effeminate in his sunny attitude and mannerisms. Tru is more street-smart, living in a lower-class inner-city area with his single mother.

Marquis’s lawyer mother (Mara Lefler) shows up to collect Marquis and immediately demands that Tru be released as well. She takes Tru home with them, thinking how exciting it is that Marquis has his first cultural (i.e., black) friend. His mother spins scenarios in her mind, giving Tru an increasingly more depressing background, to the point where Marquis says Tru better watch out for a “hostile adoption” due to his mother’s well-meaning but misplaced fervor to give Tru a better upbringing. Fawning over her son and in extension Tru, as she is too excited to see Marquis form a friendship with another black boy.

Tru decides that Marquis is too white, and he writes a manual for Marquis on how to be black. Some of the advice is amusing, such as ending each statement with “bitch” so the other person will take you seriously, but it also addresses race-based social issues, such as how much harder it is to be black than white in many situations. When the manual lands in the hands of Marquis’s friend Hunter (Patrick Mullen), the transformation is at first ridiculous but then tragic, as we reflect on the often insurmountable stresses that are placed on black people.

Short gives Tru an ease and confidence that translates into both authority and entertainment. Though he is set up to be just a template, Short creates a much richer character in his manifestation of Tru through line delivery and body language. The sarcastic and coy Tru is accessible and approachable no matter your race. Mwaafrika’s milquetoast Marquis has no defining characteristics because Marquis has never tried to be his own person. He is an outsider in both races. Through either his innately submissive personality or his subconscious reacting to his all-white environment, he has never developed himself as an individual, merely reflecting the thoughts and attitudes of those around him. Is this nature versus nurture? Mwaafrika must take Marquis through this delicate revelation, but alas, the play ends before Marquis has the chance to make much progress. In the meantime, Mwaafrika gives us an endearing if somewhat clueless teen that you kind of feel sorry for in his awkwardness and naiveté.

Lefler as Marquis’s mom is an overbearing caricature of maternal instinct gone haywire, but she also gets to hang with the cool girls at school as the ditzy Prairie, along with Ivy Moody, the bitchy Meadow, and Dani Morey, the sweet Clementine. James Banta as school chum Fielder is so much more hilarious as Dionysus.

Directed by Ben Rose, the play elicits strong emotional reactions, from unbridled laughter to insuppressible exclamations of “ohhhhh” from the audience. Packaging hard truths in a piece that is truly entertaining is a hard match, but Hooded, or Being Black for Dummies does it. Highly recommended.

  • Nov. 9-Dec. 2, Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 5 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $25; $20 for students; $15 for Near Westside residents
  • Indy Convergence
  • fonsecatheatre.org
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From the Fonseca Theatre Company Facebook page: Ben Rose, in the middle between Josh Short as Tru (l) and Chinyelu Mwaafrika as Marquis (r), is the director of our next production “Hooded or Being Black for Dummies.” He has a deep connection with this play having been raised, like the character Marquis, as a trans-racial adoptee. What makes a person black or white has dominated Ben’s thoughts for as long as he can remember. As Marquis invades the life of Tru and his friends and starts injecting slang and black culture into his life it reminds Ben of his own journey joining a Black Fraternity and experiencing what had essentially been lost to him in his formative years. What he loves most about this play is its use of comedy to ease the audience into a number of very crucial conversations that we as a society are struggling with. Ben has been enjoying making his directorial debut working with a cast that has tremendous energy and talent.
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 11/9

IndyFringe: Souvenir

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John Phillips and Lori Ecker in “Souvenir”

Souvenir is a fantasia on the life of Florence Foster Jenkins, a wealthy socialite and a real-life historical figure, told through the eyes of her accompanist Cosme McMoon. Jenkins is completely tone deaf but convinced she is a great soprano. The audience enters Florence’s world completely, finding there the beauty she’d heard in her head all along. In 1932, she met mediocre pianist Cosme McMoon, and the two teamed up in the hope of achieving success. Over the next dozen years, their bizarre partnership yielded hilariously off-key recitals that became the talk of New York, earned them cultish fame. The play culminates in a sold-out performance at Carnegie Hall in 1944, where the audience “turns on her in gales of derisive guffaws.” The play’s title comes from Jenkins insisting on recording “Queen of the Night” (Mozart), saying that when her voice is not as strong, the recording will make “a lovely souvenir.”

This is presented by the same cast, crew, production team that brought you Souvenir at Footlite Musicals and IndyFringe Festival 2012 and last month at Myers Dinner Theater.

  • Nov. 9-25, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.
  • $25
  • IndyFringe Basile Theatre
  • www.indyfringe.org

Fonseca Theatre Company: Hooded, or Being Black for Dummies

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Fonseca Theatre Company’s “Hooded, or Being Black for Dummies”

A timely examination of growing up black in America by rising-star African-American playwright Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm. Marquis, a book-smart prep-schooler from the suburbs, meets Tru, a street-savvy Baltimorean, in a holding cell. Tru thinks Marquis has lost his “blackness” and decides to write a manual: Being Black for Dummies.

  • Nov. 9-Dec. 2, Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 5 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $25; $20 for students; $15 for Near Westside residents
  • Indy Convergence
  • fonsecatheatre.org

NoExit: The Mutilated by Tennessee Williams

It’s Christmas Eve in New Orleans, and two friends must navigate their usual territory of con men, cops, and the cruelty of fellow humans. In the company of fellow misfits and outcasts, Trinket Dugan and Celeste Griffin attempt to repair a friendship torn apart by unhealthy codependency and a string of hurt feelings. The popcorn is strung on the tree, the carolers are singing, and the booze is flowing. But will their friendship survive the ravages they inflict on each other? According to directed by Ryan Mullins, “The Mutilated beautifully embraces a variety of socials outcasts and questions whether or not they deserve the same happiness and redemption we associate both with the holidays and in our closest relationships. I love the idea that all of us are mutilated in some way. And while mutilation is a word that has a negative connotation, I would argue that no matter if it’s something physical or emotional, it’s something that makes you just as strong as it does vulnerable. And that’s a really fragile balance.”

Stage To Screen Studios Cabaret Series: The Best of Broadway

The Best of Broadway is a celebration of music from the Great White Way and features some of the most memorable songs, dances, and magical moments from your favorite Broadway shows, including A Chorus Line, Chicago, Gypsy, Evita, Cabaret, Grease, and many more.

  • Nov. 9-18, Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m., and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. 
  • Stage To Screen Studios
  • www.stagetoscreenstudios.com

Nickel Plate Players: Battle of Mudsock

A once in a lifetime opportunity to see the Fishers Police and the Fishers Firefighters perform an historical reenactment! On Saturday, Nov. 19, 1881, in the town of Fishers (then known as Fishers Station), a rowdy, cantankerous character by the name of Hampton “Hamp” West (he was also a grave robber) started a ruckus that culminated in a notorious battle. Commotion and mayhem ensued until it snowballed into an explosion of violence that left one person dead and 32 injured, and it caused the destruction of two buildings. So infamous was the occurrence that it made national headlines and put Fishers on the map. 

  • Nov. 10, 3 p.m. 
  • $12 online / $15 at the door
  • Historic Ambassador House
  • Homemade chili, provided by the Fishers Firefighters, will be available for purchase. A variety of local vendors will be on site with beverages available for purchase. 
  • All proceeds will go to The Historic Ambassador House, The Fishers Police Foundation, and The Fishers Fire Foundation. 
  •  www.battleofmudsock.com 

Storytelling Arts of Indiana: Indy Story Slam

The Slam theme is Immigration. These up-to-five-minute personal stories must be true, told in the first person, and based on the theme. The theme is broad and may be interpreted many ways. (No props nor reading from the page.) The slam judges are picked from the audience along with a time keeper and score keeper, so if you don’t want to tell, you can still participate. Host Celestine Bloomfield will pick names of those who want to tell from a hat at the top of the show. The first-place winner will open for Donald Davis on Saturday, Dec. 1; second and third place winners will receive complimentary tickets to an upcoming storytelling performance and IndyFringe performance.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 11/2

Storytelling Arts of Indiana

Dr. David Matlack: The Stories in Our Stones

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Storytelling Arts of Indiana presents Dr. David Matlack telling “The Stories in Our Stones”

Matlack is a veterinarian turned academic whose hobby is creating and telling stories. Thanks to the Frank Basile Emerging Stories fellowship funded by generous arts patrons Frank and Katrina Basile, Matlack developed The Stories in Our Stones about his life-long obsession with the fossils from Indiana limestone. Matlack grew up near the Whitewater Formation in Richmond, Indiana, which is world famous for its fossils. It was one of the first natural exposures from the Ordovician period to be discovered and studied in this country. This geological period and system is 450 million years old! Matack is quick to point out he’s not a paleontologist, so there will be just enough science to understand the historical importance of the Whitewater Formation in paleontology, but mostly, his story is a nostalgic one about childhood obsessions, growing up in Indiana, and the great teachers he had along the way. 

  • Saturday, Nov. 3, 7 p.m.
  • $15; $20 at the door
  • Eugene & Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center

Spirit & Place Festival: Sally Perkins presents “A Dance of Wisdom Tales and Tunes”

The festival theme this year is “Intersection,” allowing you to explore unique and even radical collaborative opportunities. Perkins will weave tales from various faiths and  cultures with music specifically chosen for each one. It promises to be a multi-sensory experience. 

Epilogue Players Night Out November Fundraiser

The evening will include musical entertainment, drinks, hors d’oeuvres, a group dance lesson, a silent auction, and more, all in the beautiful setting of McGowan Hall, a historic building a few blocks away from the theater.

Epilogue Players, a community theater, has been serving Indianapolis audiences for over 40 years. Its current home, 1849 N. Alabama St. in the historic Herron-Morton Place neighborhood, is in need of repairs and improvements to maintain the comfort and safety of the actors and audience members, who share in the experience of five productions each year. All of the actors, crew and board of directors are unpaid volunteers.

All proceeds will go to fund the materials needed for these upgrades and repairs. On the list of items needed are improvements to the exterior of the facility, installation of ADA restroom for audience and cast and crew, upgrades to the auditorium lighting system, and more. Funds will be raised through admission to the event and through a silent auction of items donated by various companies and individuals. 

The Improbable Fiction Theatre Company: Comedy of Errors

The Comedy of Errors is a fast-paced farce involving mistaken identities, backhanded business, and even more mistaken identities. Shakespeare’s shortest play is full of laughter, clever lines, and outrageous characters.

  • Nov. 2-10, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 and Sunday, Nov. 11 at 2 p.m.
  • $15
  • The Cat
  • Tickets here

Khaos Theatre Company: Emerging Artists Theatre New Play Festival

Along with a local artists’ bazaar, Khaos will have two performances of its annual New Play Festival (formally Dionysia New Play Festival), a collection of excerpts from international and local playwrights voted on by you, the audience. The winner will be produced in full in Khaos’s next season. The evening will culminate in the only performance of Yellow Heat, a new play by Allan Bates.

IndyFringe: The Inaugural Indiana High School Festival

This weekend you can see eight high schools from across Indiana compete for $1,000 in cash awards in a brand new performance opportunity for high school theater artists. All schools will share 50% of the box office.

Merrillville High School: Drift

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Merrillville High School’s “Drift”

Among the shadows of the bright lights of New York City’s theater district, nine homeless people search for hope and meaning. They’re not movers and shakers; they just get moved and shaken. In a world that’s been turned upside down, they find poetry and pain, with no pity and no shame. Nov. 2, 6 p.m.; Nov. 3, 3 p.m.; Nov, 4, 2 p.m.

Lawrence Central High School: Interrupting Vanessa

Vanessa lives with her mother, who is too busy to listen to her, so she spends a lot of time in her room. There is one treasure she keeps there: her father. Vanessa’s father died last year, but she is unable to let him go and imagined him back to life. Vanessa gets carried away with her imagination by telling her father elaborate stories. Then Mom does the unthinkable: she invites Timmy Fibbins over. No one at school talks to Timmy! Her imaginary father reminds her that no one talks to her either. Once Timmy arrives, things aren’t so bad. Nov. 3, 2:30 p.m.; Nov. 3, 9 p.m.; Nov. 4, 3:30 p.m.

Shortridge High School: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged [revised]

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s classic farce, two of its original writer/performers (Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield) thoroughly revised the show to bring it up to date for 21st century audiences, incorporating some of the funniest material from the numerous amateur and professional productions that have been performed throughout the world. The cultural touchstone that is The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged was born when three inspired, charismatic comics, having honed their pass-the-hat act at Renaissance fairs, premiered their preposterous masterwork at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1987. It quickly became a worldwide phenomenon, earning the title of London’s longest-running comedy after a decade at the Criterion Theatre. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged is one of the world’s most frequently produced plays and has been translated into several dozen languages. Featured are all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays, meant to be performed in 45 minutes, by three actors. Fast paced, witty, and physical, it’s full of laughter for Shakespeare lovers and haters alike. Nov. 2, 6 p.m.; Nov. 3, 1 p.m.; Nov. 3, 7:30 p.m.;

Castle Hill High School: These Shining Lives

These Shining Lives focuses on the story of Catherine Donohue and some of her female co-workers, known as the Radium Girls, who were lied to by their employers about the health effects of the radium they were using to paint watches in the 1920s and 1930s. Their case helped change laws that would help keep future employees safe from dangers and health issues they would face in the workplace. Nov. 3, 1 p.m.; Nov. 3, 7:30 p.m.

Roncalli High School: Steel Magnolias 

Truvy Jones runs a successful beauty shop in Chinquapin, Louisiana, where all the ladies in the neighborhood have a standing Saturday appointment. Shelby’s engagement is the talk of the town, but the joy and excitement of her wedding quickly turns to concern as she faces a risky pregnancy and a myriad of health challenges. Eventually, when Shelby dies from complications related to her diabetes, M’Lynn, her mother, has to deal with life’s most difficult challenge: the loss of one’s child. As the women of Chinquapin make their way over life’s many hurdles together, they find comfort (and a fair amount of verbal ribbing) in one another. Nov. 2, 7:30 p.m.; Nov. 3, 4:30 p.m.; Nov. 4, 12:30 p.m.

Carmel High School: Failure: A Love Story 

By the end of 1928, all three Fail sisters will be dead — expiring in reverse order, youngest to oldest, from blunt object to the head, disappearance, and finally consumption. Tuneful songs, and a whimsical chorus follow the story of Nelly, Jenny June, and Gerty as they live out their lives above the family clock repair shop near the Chicago River, before their time unexpectedly runs out. A magical, musical fable where, in the end, the power of love is far greater than any individual’s successes or failures. Nov. 2, 9 p.m.; Nov. 3, 6 p.m.; Nov. 4, 3:30 p.m.

University High School: Alice Through the Rabbit Hole

Alice goes on a steampunk, grunge rock journey through the eyes of five children. Lewis Carroll’s classic novel brought to life in a new era. Nov. 2, 9 p.m.; Nov. 3, 6 p.m.; Nov. 4, 2 p.m.

Westfield High School: The Actor’s Nightmare 

This play was inspired by the well known dream that many people in professional and amateur theater have, that they go must perform in a play that they have inexplicably never been to rehearsals for and for which they know neither the lines or the plot. So in this play, George is an accountant who wanders onto an empty stage, not certain where he is or how he got there. The stage manager informs him he’s the understudy and must go on in a few minutes. George doesn’t know his name, doesn’t think he’s an actor (“I think I’m an accountant”), and has no idea what play he’s supposed to do. Nov. 2, 7:30 p.m.; Nov. 3, 4:30 p.m.; Nov. 4, 2 p.m.

The District Theater: Coping with Autumn staged reading

Witness the first-ever staged reading of Indy playwright Megan Ann Jacobs’s new play. It unravels the inner workings of the human psyche and challenges the resilience of the human spirit when dealing with anxiety, depression, and abuse. Support the development of this new play and offer feedback through the talkback to immediately follow the reading.

Indiana Repertory Theatre: A Super Secret New Play staged reading

Join The New Harmony Project and Indiana Repertory Theatre for a first look at a new play by James Still. Take a glimpse inside the development process and hear this play before it comes to a stage near you! Following his incredibly successful 20th season as IRT’s playwright-in-residence, Still returns to Indianapolis to workshop a script that he began at The New Harmony Project’s 2018 spring conference. This is an incredibly unique opportunity to hear a play in progress and participate in the development of his work. Featuring Jerry Richardson, Jenny McKnight, Jan Lucas, Robert Neal, and Emily Bohn.

  • Nov. 2, 7:30 p.m.
  • Free. There will be a brief reception following the reading with a cash bar available. 
  • Register here
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Zach & Zack: “The Rocky Horror Show”

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Zach & Zack’s “Rocky Horror Show”

There’s a light … over at the Athenaeum place …

If you are going to Rocky Horror, if nothing else, do the fucking “Time Warp” for god’s sake. I hope like hell that Zach & Zack’s official opening weekend was raucous because the Thursday night preview audience was so limp I was pining for Viagra confetti poppers. This is not a passive show!

That night was tragic for me because Zach & Zack (producer Zach Rosing and director Zack Neiditch) put on a rocking, uninhibited, flamboyant staging of the cult classic. But just watching the show isn’t the whole experience. Since no audience props are allowed, the callback audience participation (and Time Warping) is crucial. I highly suggest Zach/k insert a plant into the audience for that reason.

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Dave Ruark and Joe Doyel in Zach & Zack’s “Rocky Horror Show”

Dave Ruark gets his distinctive “sweet transvestite” on as the corseted, pansexual Frank N Furter. This is the best vocal work I have heard from him in a long time, and he wraps his mouth around those syllables and spits them back out with a smirk.

Adam Tran’s Brad is a soupy mix of dweebery and discombobulation, like a nerd in the corner at a 1950s prom wearing high waters. But by the floorshow, Brad’s well into this “folk dancing.” His fiancée, Janet, played by Andrea Heiden, does her Stepford whine until trou starts dropping and she can’t get touch-a touched enough. She still seems innocent somehow even when she is climbing Rocky (eye candy Joe Doyel) like a monkey.

Davey Pelsue’s Riff-Raff is a show within himself. He takes what is usually portrayed as an unwashed undertaker and makes him sexy-grungy and quirky-funny. Anna Lee as Magenta and Alexandria Warfiel as Columbia also get their own looks but play out their characters more to book, with satiating results, as does Josiah McCruiston as Eddie (and Dr. Scott) with his “Hot Patootie.” Adam Crowe is very serious onscreen as the Narrator with no neck.

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Davey Pelsue in Zach & Zack’s “Rocky Horror Show”

The ensemble drips with various incarnations of sexuality in its eclectic costuming (Ashley Kiefer and Andrea Bear) and choreography (Mariel Greenlee). Other super heroes feasting on the show include scenic designer Andrew Darr, lighting designer Michael Moffatt, sound designer Mathew Ford Cunningham, makeup/wig designer Andrew Elliot, and many others. Read the program.

And you gotta love Brent Marty (music director). Hot Patootie, bless my soul! I really love that rock ’n’ roll!

 

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Catalyst Repertory: “Popular Monsters”

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Jamie McNulty and Tom Weingartner in Catalyst Repertory’s “Popular Monsters”

Bumbling journalist Greg is fan-boying. He’s interviewing one of his idols, horror monster moviemaker Ephraim Knight. It’s almost reminiscent of a scene in the movie Gods and Monsters, without the weird striptease. And instead of the 1950s, it’s 1978 — Halloween has just been released and the movie Rocky Horror is getting its heyday. Greg is writing an “all-Knight” issue for the magazine Popular Monsters (a nod to the movie-monster magazines that were prolific at the time). However, the magazine is in dire straits. Its owner is on his deathbed, and his daughter, Elsa, has no intention of keeping the magazine alive.

Actually, the show shares some of the topics touched on in Gods and Monsters, specifically the philosophy of the horror-movie-making industry, the evolution of the genre, and the fates of those left behind as they are supplanted by the next generation.

But then Lou Harry’s play, which is directed by Zachariah Stonerock, adds a plot twist concerning paternity. The addition is jarring in that there is no lead-in — the revelation seems pulled from the ass — and from there the story just loses its interest. There’s a metaphor there, but it’s lost in the lack of subtle. Instead of letting the audience ruminate on its deeper meaning, we are barraged by family drama.

Tom Weingartner as Greg is endearingly geeky. Jamie McNulty could have been an impressive presence in his approach to the characterization of Knight if he hadn’t fumbled so many lines on Friday night. Miranda Nehrig is fine as the emotionally maxed-out Elsa, and she is a cute drunk. Alexandria Miles plays Shawna, a brusque, abrupt, and annoying character that helps inject motivation for dialogue.

Before the show, my friend and I had a ball looking at Stonerock’s set, a hodgepodge of memorabilia reminiscent of an I Spy game.

There is some good stuff here, but IMHO, I think the script for Popular Monsters still needs some tweaking.

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 10/26

Zach & Zack: The Rocky Horror Show

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Zach & Zack present “The Rocky Horror Show”

Zach & Zack is, IMHO, producing some of the best stuff on Indy stages, and what could possibly be more fun than doing the Time Warp down memory lane? For me, Rocky embodies all that was the most unfettered in my high school and college years. Do it again or take a Rocky Virgin and laugh your ass off at them. I highly recommend the audience participation because the show just isn’t as interesting without it. (But WTF, no props? No toast? No squirt guns? No cards? I guess I can understand the no bologna and no lighters, but damn.)

Squeaky-clean couple Brad and Janet find themselves stranded on a dark and stormy night. A flat tire brings them to the home of the fabulous and mysterious Dr. Frank N Furter. Too bad for them, they’ve arrived on a very special night! Soon, Brad and Janet will meet Frank’s newest “creation,” battle with temptation, and experience the craziest evening of their lives. 

Plan to yell callbacks during the show? You’ll prefer the late-night performances. (But they won’t stop you at the early shows!) No props will be allowed into the theater (but costumes are highly encouraged).

Cast highlights include Dave Ruark as Frank N Furter; Adam Tran as Brad; Adam Crowe as the Narrator; and music director Brent Marty on the keyboard.

  • Friday, Oct. 26 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 27 at 7:30 and 10:30 p.m.; Thursday, Nov. 1 at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Nov. 2 at 9:30 p.m.; and Saturday, Nov. 3 at 7:30 and 10:30 p.m.
  • Opening night party at Metro Nightclub after the show to meet the cast and production team
  • $25 advance; $30 at the door
  • Athenaeum Theatre 
  • https://zachandzack.vbotickets.com/events

Nova Theatre: All the Best, Jack

A play by local actress Chelsea Anderson.

London, 1888. The city is on edge. Women are being murdered in the street. With a flick of his pen, one man creates the most infamous murderer in history: Jack the Ripper. Frederick Best, a freelance journalist working for The Star newspaper in London in 1888, is haunted by his actions, some years after his employment. Best is trapped in a personal Purgatory of guilt, reliving his involvement with the news coverage of the Jack the Ripper murders in Whitechapel in an unchanging, cyclical fashion. With the help of Her — a mercurial ferryman of sorts for Best’s addled mind — Best tries desperately to change his past, only to be driven mad by the attempt. The full cast of characters in Best’s memories serve as constants in an otherwise unstable, unforgiving, and deconstructed world. 

  • Oct. 25-28 at 7 p.m.
  • $15
  • Great Oak Commons Park
  • Tickets here

Catalyst Repertory: Popular Monsters

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Catalyst Repertory: “Popular Monsters”

By local journalist and arts enthusiast Lou Harry.

Halloween is hitting movie theaters. The VCR is about to change how we watch films. An old-school horror movie magazine is going under. A once-famous screen actor is doing incontinence commercials. And on a dark and stormy-ish night, four very different people are about to learn what they really fear. The Popular Monsters are coming to Irvington. 

NoExit Performance and Indianapolis Movement Arts: A Little Party Never Hurt Nobody!

CollectiveIndianapolis Movement Arts Collective and NoExit Performance are throwing a a wild party featuring work by local visual artists, live performances of all varieties, and lots of ol’ timey booze! Enjoy your giggle water in the meticulously restored prohibition era bar or under the stars in the beautiful beer garden. Fringe and feathers are highly encouraged, and remember, it’s a fundraiser, so bring your moolah! All proceeds will go to support OPEN Indy, a new program that brings top-notch interdisciplinary teachers and artists to our community for master classes and performances each year.

  • Oct. 26, 7 p.m.
  • $10 suggestion donation at the door and
  • Reclamation
  • Tickets here
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Indiana Repertory Theatre: “Pipeline”

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Aime Donna Kellyn in the IRT’s “Pipeline.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

A powerful cast coupled with a controversial play makes for an evening of thoughtful and hard questions.

Pipeline is about Omari, a black student attending a private, mostly white school. His mother and father wanted him to have his best chance at a good life, so they bypassed the public high school where Omari’s mother teaches. However, Omari has had trouble at his school, and his “third strike” happens when he slams a teacher into a wall — and it’s surreptitiously videotaped by a student. Now Omari not only faces expulsion but also could face charges.

The story is about Omari as the stand-in for the African American males who are driven into the school-to-prison “pipeline,” but it’s also about the US school system and its inability to effectively teach our children while also providing them a safe environment.

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Cole Taylor in the IRT’s “Pipeline.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

Cole Taylor plays the troubled Omari. Omari is conflicted because he knows what he did was wrong and he doesn’t want to hurt his mother, but he admits that he has a rage inside that he can’t suppress. Taylor communicates both sides of Omari, creating the whole teenager that has so much at stake. And while Omari’s physical assault of the teacher can’t really be justified, Taylor’s portrayal allows us to sympathize with the struggling boy. Jasmine, Omari’s girlfriend at school, played by Renika Williams, is his sounding board, but even she, as what she calls a “token” poor black girl at their prestigious school, can’t handle Omari’s mood swings anymore.

Aime Donna Kellyn as Omari’s mother, Nya, is losing her own battle with her rage. She has no idea what to do next as she sees her son’s future potentially being destroyed. Kellyn boils on stage — a barely contained geyser of emotions and helplessness. Omari’s semi-estranged overbearing father, Xavier, played by Andre Garner, offers no realistic help and only exacerbates Nya’s already overstressed state.

Constance Macy as Nya’s white colleague Laurie rails against the unrealistic expectations laid upon the staff. Macy is dynamic in that her performance is so vitriolic you can’t help but be cowed by her rants. Toussaint JeanLouis as Dun, a school security guard, is an example of those expectations. He is genial and upbeat, but though he is diligent, he makes little more than minimum wage at a demanding and dangerous job.

Visually, the staging takes on stark and then haunting presentations through the work of scenic designer Junghyun Georgia Lee and lighting designer Xavier Pierce. The ubiquitous fluorescent lighting of classrooms gives way to the projected words from “We Real Cool” by poet Gwendolyn Brooks — words that echo in the minds of Omari and Nya.

Directed by Raelle Myrick-Hodges, Pipeline asks questions that are relevant to everyone — white or black, parent or not. The repercussions of these kids’ experiences will affect the entirety of society. No one has solutions, but they are imperative. Pipeline helps get the dialogue going.

  • Through Nov. 11, various dates and times
  • $25+
  • http://www.irtlive.com
  • When you book tickets for a show with a post-show discussion, use the code CICF for a $10 discount.

POST-SHOW DISCUSSIONS

Friday, Oct. 26 following the 7:30 p.m. performance

Alicia Collins, community collaborations director at the Central Indiana Community Foundation, will facilitate a discussion with community leader panelists to relate the themes highlighted in Pipeline to Indianapolis.

Saturday, Oct. 27 following the 5 p.m. performance

Brian Payne, president and CEO of the Central Indiana Community Foundation, will facilitate a discussion with community leader panelists to relate the themes highlighted in Pipeline to Indianapolis.

Friday, Nov. 2 following the 7:30 p.m. performance

Tamara Winfrey-Harris, vice president of marketing & communications at the Central Indiana Community Foundation, will facilitate a discussion with community leader panelists to relate the themes highlighted in Pipeline to Indianapolis.

Saturday, Nov. 3 following the 5 p.m. performance

Pamela Ross, vice president of opportunity, equity, and inclusion at the Central Indiana Community Foundation, will facilitate a discussion with Jacob Allen, co-founder and CEO of pilotED Schools, and Dr. David Hampton, pastor of Light of the World Christian Church and deputy mayor of neighborhood engagement for the City of Indianapolis. They will focus on the effects and disparaging outcomes of African American males driven into the school-to-prison pipeline.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 10/19

Indiana Repertory Theater: Pipeline

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Indiana Repertory Theater: “Pipeline.” Artwork by Kyle Ragsdale.

Nya’s son, Omari, is tormented with rage and in trouble at school. A fractured family navigates a broken system as a mother fights for her son’s future in a world divided by race, class, and money. Compassion and eloquence galvanize this gritty new work by one of America’s most sought-after playwrights, Dominique Morisseau. Note that Pipeline is a modern drama that contains strong language throughout and some adult situations.

Phenomenal Women

Produced by Connie Oates, this is a celebration of women through dance, poetry, and music portrayed through the work of Maya Angelou and Mari Evans. Emerging Indianapolis poets include Mijiza Soyini and the voices of Staci McCrackin and Sharon Rimmer.

Actors Theatre of Indiana’s Fall Barn Bash

The fundraiser includes a pig roast/ BBQ, live music, Sun King Beer, games, Cowboy Cocktails, wine, cash prizes, and show tickets. 

  • Saturday, Oct. 20, 6:30-11 p.m.
  • $75
  • Demaree Barn
  • Tickets here

Beef & Boards Children’s Theatre: Rapunzel

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Beef & Boards Children’s Theatre: “Rapunzel”

From the Emmy-winning writers behind the hit television series Friends comes Rapunzel, a familiar tale with a fantastic new spin. Forced to live alone in a tower, Rapunzel’s 16th birthday has come, meaning that she’ll be able to see the outside world for the first time. Before Rapunzel finds her prince and her inevitable “happily ever after,” she will have to face the wrath of the witch and a few other hilarious obstacles first!

  • Oct. 20-Nov. 17, Fridays at 10 a.m.; Saturdays at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3:30 p.m.
  • $16.50 (includes juice and snack)
  • Performances are one hour long with no intermission
  • www.beefandboards.com
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Civic Theatre: “Anything Goes”

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Civic Theatre’s “Anything Goes”

Hoosiers love their hometown heroes, and one of the best and most beloved is Cole Porter. With good reason. His infections tunes helped shape the sound of an era. Hence why his musicals continue to attract theaters and audiences some 80 years later. Songs from Anything Goes such as “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “You’re the Top,” “It’s De-Lovely,” “Let’s Misbehave,” and “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” are ageless.

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Susie Harloff and Parrish Williams in Civic’s “Anything Goes”

Civic Theatre’s production captures that signature Porter spirit, anchored by the indomitable Susie Harloff as Reno Sweeney. There are many good reasons to see Civic’s show, but Harloff is the top. Her stage presence and pro vocals are everything you would expect from the confident Sweeney.

Kari Baker is lovely as Hope Harcourt, though Juddson Updike is hit and miss as love interest Billy Crocker. Of course, Anything Goes is really more comedy than love story, and Matt Bays as the effusively effeminate Lord Evelyn Oakleigh and Parrish Williams as the goofy gangster Moonface Martin provide in spades. Natalie Cruz is a firecracker as Erma.

Anything Goes wouldn’t be complete without the tap number to the titular song, and again, Civic doesn’t disappoint.

Everything comes together here — direction (Michael Lasley), choreography (Anne Beck), lighting (Ryan Koharchik), and music (Brent Marty) — to make this a delightful and de-lovely staging of a classic musical.

  • Through Oct. 27, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $25-$48
  • civictheatre.org

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 10/12

Storytelling Arts of Indiana: Ghost Stories at Crown Hill

Celestine Bloomfield
Celestine Bloomfield at Storytelling Arts of Indiana: Ghost Stories at Crown Hill

The Halloween season has arrived!

Spooky stories will be told by Deborah Asante, Celestine Bloomfield, Doyne Carson, Lisa Champelli, David Matlack, Sally Perkins, and Bob Sander. Get ready for an evening of chilling tales told in one of Indianapolis’s most somber settings when Crown Hill Cemetery opens its gates for this annual celebration. Indiana storytellers take the stage among the tombstones, all sharing their eerie best and turning up the fright factor as the night goes on. 

Bring blankets and lawn chairs before darkness falls and prepare to be entertained. Pack a picnic or check out one of the food trucks that will be on site. Beer and wine may be purchased as well. Please use the entrance at 34th Street and Boulevard Place; the north gate will not be open.   

  • Saturday, Oct. 13. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. and stories begin at 7:30 p.m.
  • Crown Hill Cemetery
  • Children under 10 are free; students (ages 10-17) are $10 in advance and $15 at the gate; adults (18+) are $20 in advance and $25 at the gate. Family rate (all those living under one roof) is $50 in advance and $55 at the gate. Parking is free.
  • www.storytellingarts.org

RIP Reception: Start the festivities in style with complimentary music by the Unholy Trio, beverages from Sun King Brewery and Mass Ave Wine, and snacks provided by the Food Guys Catering Company. Meet and mingle with the storytellers and other patrons at Crown Hill’s Waiting Station, built in 1885 as the gatekeeper’s residence. Play Halloween trivia and bid to take home a decorated pumpkin for the season. This event takes place  from 5-7 p.m. Tickets are $40, which includes admission to Ghost Stories at Crown Hill.

Civic Theatre in partnership with Great American Songbook Foundation: Anything Goes

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Civic Theatre’s “Anything Goes”

Music, dance, laughs, and the age-old tale of boy meets girl — no musical puts it on stage better than Anything Goes! A hilarious shipboard romp, wrapped around one of Cole Porter’s most magical scores that is delightful, delicious, and de-lovely. 

Catch “Putting It Together: Anything Goes” presented by Yvonne Shaheen Friday, Oct. 12, 5:30 p.m. What does it cost to put on a show? Come to opening night of Anything Goes at Civic and find out for yourself! Experience what it actually takes to put on a production at Civic Theatre, from costumes and sets to the transformation from actor to character, printed programs, live stage manager calls, and more. See Anything Goes through the eyes of the actors and crew during this special evening. The ticket cost of Anything Goes on opening night includes the cost of “Putting it Together” ($25-$100).

  • Oct. 12-27, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $25-$48 
  • civictheatre.org

Stage To Screen Studios: Indiana’s Got Talent

Indiana’s Got Talent starts off the Stage To Screen Studios’ 2018/19 Cabaret Series. This is a variety show featuring a few of Indiana’s most talented artists, and it’s not only entertaining, but it will leave audiences inspired. Stage To Screen Studios’ Cabaret Series is proud to clearly demonstrate that the Hoosier state has some pretty amazing entertainers and is thrilled to give them a stage!

Beef & Boards: Man of La Mancha

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“Man of La Mancha” at Beef & Boards

This five-time Tony Award-winning musical is based on the Miguel de Cervantes 17th century novel Don Quixote. Set in a dungeon during the Spanish Inquisition, this musical play-within-a-play harkens back to a time of chivalry, adventure, romance, and a noble knight in a poignant and passionate quest for the impossible dream. It also confronts the vague line between sanity and lunacy, asking, “When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies?”

Candlelight Theatre: The (White) House of Horror

Election years always cause a hubbub in the nation’s capital, and this year’s election appears to be a real barn-burner. With all the noise and confusion being bandied about by the living residents of the District of Columbia, the unliving are fleeing like rats leaving a sinking ship! And where are they all headed? To the Presidential Site! Come meet the apparitions of haunted D.C. as they take residence in the Harrison home. Guests will travel from room to room enjoying performances throughout the National Historic Landmark home of President Benjamin Harrison, including up and down two flights of narrow stairs (elevator assistance is available). Guests will view shorter vignettes standing and longer scenes seated.

The performances are approximately 70 minutes long and are recommend for children age 10 and up due to the darkness of the home, length of the performance, and subject matter.

Want a spooktacular event your friends and family will talk about in the after life? Purchase a Room Buyout and bring up to 15 of your best ghouls and gals for a private performance unlike any other!

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Q Artistry and the Phoenix Theatre: “Cabaret Poe”

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Georgeanna Smith Wade, Ben Asaykwee, and Jaddy Ciucci in “Cabaret Poe” at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Zach Rosing.

Combine Edgar Allan Poe with Tim Burton and Edward Gorey, add a heaping scoop of self-aware, eccentric humor, and hit puree.

You now have Cabaret Poe: The Musical.

Sing: “It’s dark. It’s very, very dark …”

This is the 10th iteration of Ben Asaykwee’s comical take on some of Poe’s best-known works. However, this was my first time seeing it, so I came into the show with no preconceived notions, except knowing that my fellow critics raved about it. I came out of the show thinking this is one of the most bizarre, blatantly and unapologetically irreverent abuses of an author’s words since Disney desecrated Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame — and given my penchant for the bizarre and irreverent, that is the highest compliment I can dole out. You have won my black heart.

If you like weird, you. must. see. this.

(Please note that I do not, however, have any love for the talking gargoyles, goat, and happy ending in that vapid Disney cartoon.)

Asaykwee plays fast and loose with the stories, as I believe Poe never said someone had “the wit of an artichoke” or that a body was being exhumed so her lover could once more “run [his] hands through her nappy red wig.” The macabre is set to often upbeat music. Then there’s the shadow dancer (Rebekah Taylor) with Freddie Kruger-like hands. Poe’s melodrama is spoofed. Even blips are smoothly handled with improv-ish humor. (Oops, I forgot to grab my umbrella while I interred you. Throw that to me through the wall.)

Even the opening announcements are forebodingly funny, such as the threat to kill you if you don’t turn off your cell phone.

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Georgeanna Smith Wade, Jaddy Ciucci, and Ben Asaykwee in “Cabaret Poe” at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Zach Rosing.

Asaykwee and Taylor are constants but the actresses portraying the two female characters trade off nights (Renae Stone, Georgeanna Smith Wade, Julie Lyn Barber, and Jaddy Ciucci), so the show you see could be slightly different from the one I saw Thursday night. All of the actors wear garb designed by Kat Robinson that looks like Victorian-goth shabby chic. I don’t know if Smith Wade’s costume was meant to have a tag marked “9” on the back, but even if it didn’t, it made me smirk, thinking of the animated, steampunk-ish movie 9. Asaykwee’s hair defies gravity.

Michael Lamirand’s gothic scenic design — reminiscent of the arches found at the entrance to cemeteries — sets the mood, and Zac Hunter’s lighting fleshes (or de-fleshes it, as the case may be) out the otherwise sparse stage.

Good stuff here for people like me who unashamedly have twisted minds and a warped sense of humor.

  • Through Nov. 4, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $24-$39
  • Phoenix Theatre Basile Stage
  • www.phoenixtheatre.org

Check out a preview here:

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Indiana Repertory Theatre: “Holmes and Watson”

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Rob Johansen, Nathan Hosner, and Michael Brusasco in Indiana Repertory Theatre’s “Holmes and Watson.” Photo by Alexis Morin.

Where is Sherlock?

Well, there seems to be three of him.

Years after Sherlock Holmes went missing and he was presumed dead, John Watson gets a call from the supervisor of an insane asylum located on a remote Scottish island. He has three patients who each claim to be the Sherlock Holmes. Dr. Evans asks Watson to come to the asylum and determine if one of these men is, in fact, the real deal.

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Torrey Hanson in the IRT’s “Holmes and Watson.” Photo by Alexis Morin.

Murder, machinations, mistaken identities … all the good elements of a Sherlock Holmes story, but this one was penned by Jeffrey Hatcher.

The IRT opened its 2018-2019 season with a masterful production. Directed by Risa Brainin, Watson and Holmes is an imposing kickoff for the season.

Everyone is the cast does a stellar job of creating intriguing characters, effectively pulling you into their world. And as should be expected for such a play, each cast member carries an aura of mystery about him or her.

Dr. Evans presents Watson with the three Sherlock candidates (Michael Brusasco, Nathan Hosner, and Rob Johansen), and each has a very different, very distinct personality.

As amicable as Dr. Evans seems, Henry Woronicz subtly injects an unsettling feeling in his demeanor and interactions with Watson, a telltale sign of things to come. Torrey Hanson gives us a somewhat pompous and blustery Watson, though his mannerisms speak of efficiency and intellect. Jennifer Johansen as the asylum’s matron has a stink-eye that is visceral yet amusing — as long as you aren’t on the receiving end. Even the orderly (Ryan Artzberger) gives off a creepy vibe with his disciple stick.

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.Henry Woronicz and Jennifer Johansen in the IRT’s “Holmes and Watson.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

Robert Mark Morgan’s brilliant stage design consists of clean, layered curves — fitting for a story that reveals layers upon layers as it unfolds — and mimics the operation of the renovated lighthouse in which the asylum resides. The modern angles seamlessly complement the Victorian characters. Michael Klaers’ lush lighting design washes over the stage and gives the set even more depth.

This is most certainly a show that is worth its ticket price, but it has a relatively short run, so be sure to book before you miss it.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 10/5

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Q Artistry’s “Cabaret Poe”

Phoenix Theatre and Q Artistry:

Cabaret Poe

This is the 10th year for this wildly macabre and murderous musical! Classic horror, insanity, and comedy come together in this three-person, dark celebration of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous works in a full-scale, “Broadway-style” musical, blending original music and reimagined storytelling. Some of the pieces re-imagined for the musical are The Fall of the House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Masque of Red Death, The Black Cat, Annabelle Lee, and, of course The Raven.

poe2Nine local artists created a coloring book to celebrate the 10th run of Cabaret Poe and are for sale at all performances.

This performance is selling out FAST. If you want tickets, get them now.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Buck Creek Players: “37 Postcards”

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Buck Creek Players’ “37 Postcards.” Photo credit: photogary.net

You really can’t beat a gnome-like grandma with Tourette’s. I say this so that you won’t skip over this show and wave it off as just another family comedy. Gnome. Grandma. Tourette’s.

Thirty-seven postcards over eight years are only about four a year. When your only son is wandering Europe listlessly, that small amount of communication could wreak havoc on a mother. Especially one that’s already a little … off.

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Dave Hoffman in Buck Creek Players’ “37 Postcards.” Photo credit: photogary.net

This makes it especially awkward when Avery (Dave Hoffman) brings his fiancée Gillian (Letitia Clemons) home to meet his family. His mother Evelyn (Marie McNelis) is aflutter with her anticipation. Avery had prepped Gillian on his “eccentric” family, but neither of them was ready for the incredulity that awaited them, beginning with a house that is sinking, a full-sized moose, his mother’s perpetual confusion,” and Aunt Ester’s (Tracy Brunner) geriatric phone sex “cottage industry.”

Hoffman’s progressively shocked expressions and reactions are priceless. You can almost hear, “Oh. My. God,” from his eyes alone. McNelis as his spacy mother is a convincing resident of the ether, a foil for Brunner’s unshakable ability to just roll with the bizarre, maintaining a matter-of-fact attitude and a straight face no matter what is happening around her.

And oh, there is bizarre.

That would be Avery’s grandmother, who has been living in “a little room off the kitchen” while Evelyn thought she was dead and even (she thought) attended her funeral. Wendy Brown is hysterical as the almost feral Nana, who has devolved into a stooped old woman in red feather slippers and a stunted vocabulary — much of which consists of curse words that she hurdles at Gillian.

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Wendy Brown in Buck Creek Players’ “37 Postcards.” Photo credit: photogary.net

Clemons as Gillian bravely tries to keep it together in the face of this amusement park fun house, including being chastised as the maid due to Evelyn’s Dory-like memory. Gillian even acquiesces to Avery’s dad, Stanford (Mike Harold), taking her out for midnight putting with glow-in-the-dark balls. But Gillian inevitably reaches a (deserved — or, given the outcome, maybe not) breaking point.

Of the strange household, Stanford’s eccentricity is the most normal. Harold is congenial and upbeat, probably the most innocuous of the family.

The story and its production, directed by Jan Jamison (who also designed the slightly tilted set), is lots of fun and well-done. Take the drive way out on Southeastern for this one.

  • Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 5-6 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 7 at 2:30 p.m.
  • $18 adults; $16 children, students, and senior citizens (62+)
  • http://www.buckcreekplayers.com

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Footlite Musicals: “Brigadoon”

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Kristen Tschiniak (center) in Footlite Musicals’ “Brigadoon”

Brigadoon is a magical tale of a Scottish village that only appears every 100 years, leaving its residents safe in the 1700s when, for them, only one day has passed. Due to a poorly navigated hike, present-day travelers Jeff (Ethan Mathias) and Tommy (Charlie Metzger) are lost in the Highlands and happen to stumble upon Brigadoon.

This is a relatively well-known story, and for good reason. It’s funny and sweet, and it contains many enchanting musical numbers. Footlite captures the otherworld feel of the musical, and the cast’s impressive talent fills the stage. Each cast member holds his or her own, creating a well-put-together production.

Mathias and Metzger complement each other, with Mathias’s unapologetic pessimism and Metzger’s indecisiveness. When Tommy meets the charming Fiona (Sydney Norwalk), you can see that Tommy has found the meaning he has been searching for in his life.

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Sydney Norwalk and Charlie Metzger in Footlite Musicals’ “Brigadoon”

Norwalk’s sassy “Waitin’ for my Dearie” is soon overridden by her flirtatious duet with Metzger, “Heather on the Hill.” Donald Marter as Charlie gives a foot-stomping performance of “I’ll Go Home with Bonnie Jean,” and Kristen Tschiniak brings out Meg’s sauciness in “The Love of My Life.”

The prettily executed choreography by Linda Rees is accentuated by the women’s lovely twirling skirts designed by Karen Frye Knotts. A special nod to the exceptional choreography in “Sword Dance and Reel.” Set designer Bill Phelan imagined an area of isolated but lush landscape for the village.

Occasionally, the mikes need to be turned down, and the ensemble’s vocals are overridden by the leads or the orchestra in a few numbers. But these are minor quibbles for what is a lively and engaging show.

Director Paula Phelan and vocal director Damon Clevenger have created an experience that takes you along on their mystical journey.

  • Through Oct. 14, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $10-$25
  • Footlite.org
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Bard Fest: “The Merchant of Venice”

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Ryan Ruckman and and Zach Taylor in Bard Fest 2018 “Merchant of Venice”

First Folio Productions puts a small twist into their production that interprets a few lines, a few interactions in a completely different way. It’s not an unheard of approach, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it utilized.

This isn’t a spoiler alert because it’s revealed early: Antonio (Ryan Ruckman) and Bassanio (Zach Taylor) are lovers. This, for example, makes the last line of the play, spoken by Bassanio’s wife Portia, an “oh shit” moment: “Let us go in and charge us there upon inter’gatories, and we will answer all things faithfully.” This is accompanied by A Look from Portia.

I love it when people fuck with Shakespeare.

The women’s costuming by Danielle Buckel is prettily done in a 1940s style, but otherwise, the production is straightforward (sorry, I just can’t get around the word “straight”), and the company doesn’t shirk the anti-Semitism, so, just a heads up on that.

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Emily Bohn in Bard Fest 2018 “Merchant of Venice”

If you need a synopsis, here are the bare bones: Bassanio needs money, so Antonio co-signs a loan from Shylock. Bassanio wants to marry Portia, but her suitors must choose the right chest that contains her as the prize, like in a Cracker Jack box. Antonio’s investments go bottom up, and Shylock wants his payment in manflesh. Portia saves the day dressed in men’s clothes.

Shakespeare really liked crossdressing.

The whole cast does an admirable job of capturing the cadence and expression of Shakespeare’s language, making this an accessible production that novice or adept alike will enjoy thanks to Doug Powers’ direction and the actors’ commitment.

Emily Bohn as Portia is a classy, smart spitfire, the most colorful character besides Ryan Reddick as Shylock, who practically spits through his part. Ruckman mostly maintains a stoic persona — even as Shylock confronts him with a giant knife to get the infamous “pound of flesh” — until that “oh shit” moment. He fears for Bassanio under Portia’s wrath more than his own impromptu heart surgery. In contrast, Taylor is softer, more emotional.

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Ryan Reddick in Bard Fest 2018 “Merchant of Venice”

Dwuan Watson Jr. as the prince of Morocco and Ben Mathis as the prince of Arragon provide entertaining reactions to their opportunities to open the chests, and Mathis is also just funny, period, as Gratiano, as is Pat Mullen as Launcelot.

This is another good one to catch as Bard Fest continues into next weekend.

  • Friday, Oct. 5, 8 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 6, 8 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 7, 1:30 p.m.
  • $15 adult, $12 student/senior
  • IndyFringe building
  • www.indybardfest.com

 

(Side note: I often feel bad about not mentioning many of the crew — the people behind the scenes that help make the magic happen. But as is the case with many jobs, their best performances are the ones that you don’t notice … where lighting and sound blend seamlessly into the show. It’s easy to get distracted by, say, an erratic spotlight and call someone out on it, but when everything goes right, we sometimes forget to consciously admire the work of these invaluable people. So to ALL production crewmembers of any show on any stage, you rock.)

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Bard Fest: “Romeo and Juliet”

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Eli Robinson and Kayla Lee in Catalyst Repertory’s “Romeo and Juliet” at Bard Fest 2018

The best part of this staging of Romeo and Juliet is the fight choreography, so thank you fight choreographer Sarah Tam (who also plays Benvolio) for keeping my eyes from glazing over.

But the most important thing that I want to say about Catalyst Repertory’s production: slow. down. Under director Zachariah Stonerock, some of the actors speak so fast that I felt I was watching Romeo and Juliet on fast forward. This leaves little room for the actors to emote properly. Kin to this is enunciation, especially at that speed. I’ve seen at least a dozen incarnations of this play, but sometimes I still had a hard time keeping up with the dialogue. However, even at this furious pace, the show clocks in at almost exactly two hours to the minute, with no intermission. That’s grueling for both the actors and the audience. I can’t help but think that one of the 90-minute abridged versions may have been a better choice, allowing more engaging character portrayals and a more streamlined production overall.

While Mercurtio (Kelsey VanVoorst) gets to go crazy, everyone else is relatively tame in his or her deliveries and interactions with other characters. Physicality gives the audience important insight into what is being said (and more importantly, what is being implied). Too often, the actors are merely speaking while just looking at each other.

The black-and-white, modern costuming and non-period music doesn’t live up to the initial promise of an edgy version of a play that is already over-produced.

  • Sunday, Sept. 30, 5 p.m.; Thursday, Oct. 4, 8 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 6, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 7, 5 p.m.
  • $15 adult, $12 student/senior
  • IndyFringe building
  • www.indybardfest.com
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Bard Fest: “Much Ado about Nothing”

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Steve Kruze and Christine Kruze in “Much Ado about Nothing” at Bard Fest 2018

Many people find the antiquated language of Shakespeare hard to grasp, but The Carmel Theatre Company’s cast, under the direction of Laura Kuhn, does a marvelous job of delivering the lines in such a way that we can easily track the story. CTC plays Shakespeare straight, but their copious use of body language translates the words, helping us grasp even the subtlest jibes or phrases, such as gestures that illustrate sexual innuendos, making the play more enjoyable and humorous. Many people don’t even realize just how funny and even raunchy Shakespeare’s comedies can be when done right.

Much Ado about Nothing is one of Shakespeare’s most famous comedies, but if you need a synopsis, it can be boiled down to two sets of lovers combatting different obstacles. Claudio (Jeffrey Bird) rejects his bride Hero (Elysia Rohn) because she has been framed to look less than virtuous. Benedick (Steve Kruze) and Beatrice (Christine Kruze) see each other as archnemeses, but a plan is made by their friends to get the two together.

The best at bringing his character to life is Steve Kruze as Benedick. He is flippant, theatrical, and oh so expressive. He works well against the sharp-tonged Beatrice played by Christine Kruze (who also happens to be his wife in real life). Both have appeared on many stages around the Indianapolis area, so you may recognize them.

Costuming is inspired by the time period, and Jake Peacock’s set design is utilitarian, but it moves around more than the actors do, which, really, is unnecessary.

The cast is huge, so I won’t go into each and every actor’s performance, but as you have probably already deduced, this is a Bard Fest show well worth bookmarking.

  • Saturday, Sept. 29, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 30, 1 p.m.; Friday, Oct. 5, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 6, 1:30 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 7, 1 p.m.
  • $15 adult, $12 student/senior
  • IndyFringe building
  • www.indybardfest.com

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Carmel Community Players: “Forever Plaid”

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Carmel Community Players: “Forever Plaid”

There’s nothing quite like crooning by four dead guys.

The Plaids are a (fictional) group from the 1950s whose short career was cut even shorter by a car crash with a bus full of parochial high school girls. The students survived; the group didn’t. Now, the stars have aligned and they have their ticket out of limbo: In order to complete their unfinished business, they have the chance to perform the concert they never got to in life.

Darren Gowan as Sparky, Syd Loomis as Jinx, Rich Phipps as Frankie, and Howard Baetzhold as Smudge joke and harmonize their way through some of the best-loved hits from that era. Their goofy banter, distinct personalities, and on-stage bumbling are endearing.

Some of the highlights include The Ed Sullivan Show in three minutes and eleven seconds, “Crazy ’Bout Ya Baby” with giant toilet plungers, and a Jamaican mix complete with straw hats and party lights. Each of them gets to showcase his particular vocal talents, and they don’t disappoint. Baetzhold’s “Shangri-La / Rags to Riches” had me particularly impressed with his rich bass. The overall enthusiasm and vocal talent on stage can’t be denied.

They are backed by Sandy Baetzhold (who also directs) on piano and percussionist Richard Leap. The choreography sometimes stumbles (some intentionally as a gag — the guys have been dead for decades), but it’s a minor quibble given the plaid-tastic fun being had.

  • Through Oct. 7, Fridays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $18-$20
  • The Cat
  • www.carmelplayers.org
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Carmel Community Players: “Forever Plaid”

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Epilogue Players: “Becoming Dr. Ruth”

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Diann Ryan in Epilogue Players’ “Becoming Dr. Ruth”

Most people are familiar with the name “Dr. Ruth,” immediately connecting her to her famous media appearances and series of books (and even a board game). What most people aren’t aware of is the arduous path the diminutive, spunky woman had to take to eventually become the famous sociologist-turned-sex therapist. Just some of these events include being part of the Kindertransport at the age of 10 during WWII, being a rebel spy, and working toward her degrees as a single mother.

While Becoming Dr. Ruth includes her expertise and commentary in the field of sexology, with her matter-of-fact style that makes her advice so humorous, most of the play is her first-person account of her history: how she lived it, anecdotes, and observations. And it’s simply fascinating.

The audience are visitors to her home. It’s 1997, and her third husband, Fred, died three months ago. After 35 years in her apartment in Manhattan, she has decided to move. As she packs, she tells us about her experiences and obstacles—in between phone calls from movers and various family members. She’s chatty and affable, but you also get glimpses of her pain from some ordeals, such as losing her family to a concentration camp.

bookIn this one-woman show directed by Ed Mobley, Diann Ryan is a powerhouse buzzing with life. She never lets her energy level drop, maintaining Dr. Ruth’s perpetual motion and personality. She pulls the audience in, thoroughly creating the suspension of disbelief—you feel as if you are in the room with this plucky woman. I can only image Ryan bolting down Red Bulls during intermission.

Set designer Ron Roessler’s apartment is a cluttered mess, as Dr. Ruth admits she is a packrat. The window in her living room doubles as a screen for photos and graphics that illustrate her stories. The scenes of Jews during WWII are haunting, but we also see her joy in her grandchildren and her accomplishments.

This makes for both a history lesson/biography and a funny and moving show that has you leaving the theater inspired by Dr. Ruth’s durability and gift of positivity.

  • Through Sept. 30, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $15; $13 for seniors 65 and older; $12 for Epilogue members
  • www.epilogueplayers.com
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Phoenix Theatre: “Bright Star”

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Phoenix Theatre’s “Bright Star”

The Phoenix Theatre opened its 2018–2019 season with a musical that takes the hoedown to a new level but also tells a story full of both sorrow and hope. And there’s a lot of light-heartedness in between.

Molly Garner as Alice Murphy opens with a rousing number that says this is her story — a tale that is full of the material she later tells an aspiring writer that a good piece needs: one of loving, losing, and living. The musical, written and composed by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, is set in North Carolina, primarily during the mid-1940s but with flashbacks to Alice’s life in 1923.

It’s 1946, and Billy Cane (Ian Laudano) has returned home after serving in World War II. He reunites with his father (Joey Collins) and his childhood friend Margo (Betsy Norton). Billy has always wanted to be a writer, and Margo has consistently encouraged him, even while he was overseas. So Billy decides to move from their rural community and goes to the city to submit his work to a prestigious magazine. There, he meets Alice, the force behind the magazine, and her assistants, Daryl (John Vessels) and Lucy (Ashley Dillard).

Garner dominates the show with a striking performance, moving between country bumpkin with dreams of college to sophisticated executive with an intimidating reputation. But Laudano is the bright star with the richest voice and a sweet disposition, with Patrick Clements as Jimmy Ray, Alice’s beau during her time in the country, as a close second. Rae and Garner perform a gorgeous duet in Act 2.

We don’t see Charles Goad in the role of villain often, but he convincingly makes Mayor Josiah Dobbs, Jimmy Ray’s father, a cold-hearted bastard. Vessels is a riot as the effeminate Daryl. Dismissive arrogance to drunken happy dance, his scenes are always entertaining.

The actors are directed by Suzanne Fleenor and backed by an impressive nine-piece orchestra (nine!) under the musical direction of Brent Marty.

The choreography sometimes gets a little crowded, and occasionally the band overwhelms the vocals, but I’m still giving the show a full endorsement. While I am partial to musicals in general, the Phoenix’s production inspired me enough to get the Broadway soundtrack. 

  • Through Oct. 7, Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $24-$39
  • www.phoenixtheatre.org

Check out a preview here:

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 9/21

Phoenix Theatre: Bright Star

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Phoenix Theatre’s “Bright Star”

A sweet and homespun folk musical about family ties and the search for identity, flashing forwards and backwards over two decades. Written by Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin) and folk-rock musician Edie Brickell.

  • Sept. 21-Oct. 7, Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $24-$39
  • www.phoenixtheatre.org

Epilogue Players: Becoming Dr. Ruth

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Epilogue Players’ “Becoming Dr. Ruth”

Everyone knows Dr. Ruth Westheimer from her career as a pioneering radio and television sex therapist. Few, however, know the incredible journey that preceded it. From fleeing the Nazis in the Kindertransport and joining the Haganah in Jerusalem as a scout and sniper, to her struggles to succeed as a single mother coming to America, Becoming Dr. Ruth is filled with the humor, honesty, and life-affirming spirit of Karola Ruth Siegel, the girl who became “Dr. Ruth,” America’s most famous sex therapist. 

  • Sept. 20-30, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $15; $13 For seniors 65 and older; $12 for Epilogue members (Opening Thursday performance is pay-what-you-want donation.)
  • www.epilogueplayers.com

Carmel Community Players: Forever Plaid

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Darrin Gowan in Carmel Community Players’ “Forever Plaid”

Singing in close harmony, squabbling earnestly over the smallest intonations, and executing their charmingly outlandish choreography with over-zealous precision, the “Plaids” are a guaranteed smash, with a program of beloved songs and delightful patter that keeps audiences rolling in the aisles when they’re not humming along to some of the great nostalgic pop hits of the 1950s.

  • Sept. 21-Oct. 7, Fridays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $18-$20
  • The Cat
  • www.carmelplayers.org

Actors Theatre of Indiana: A Comedy of Tenors

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Jenny Reber in Actors Theatre of Indiana’s “A Comedy of Tenors.” Photo by Ed Stewart.

This Sunday’s 2 p.m. performance has the popular Sun King Brewing Company talk back immediately following. Free beer for those of age and who attend. Call 317-843-3800 for tickets. The show runs through Sept. 30. For more info: http://atistage.org/.

White Rabbit Cabaret: Lloyd & Harvey’s Wowie Zowie Show

wowieThis wild, weird, and wacky variety show features judged performances from some of Indianapolis’s finest and not-so-fine musicians, comedians, dancers, jugglers, hummers, wild animals, and just about anything else that loosely qualifies as talent that will leave you either scratching your head or yelling, “Wowie Zowie!”

Storytelling Arts of Indiana: Saving the World: Oh, That Way Madness Lies

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Storytelling Arts of Indiana presents Vicki Juditz

Vicki Juditz is an actress, comedian, writer, and spoken-word artist. “I take experiences from my life and craft them into monologues that hopefully shed light on universal truths,” Juditz said during the social media platform ESME (Empowering Solo Moms Everywhere). The story includes heartbreaking details of the circumstances that led to her becoming a single mother.

  • Saturday, Sept. 22, 7 p.m.
  • $20
  • Eugene and Mary Glick Indiana History Center 
  • storytellingarts.org
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Mud Creek Players: “Exit the Body”

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Mud Creek Players’ “Exit the Body”

Crane Hammond, a famous mystery writer, just wants some quiet time in the New England countryside. She rents a house up the hill from her friend Lillian, and everything seems lovely. Until a Narnia-like closet keeps producing dead bodies.

Exit the Body contains all the aspects of a classic farce, scene-chomping characters, mistaken identities, close-call entrances and exits, a missing treasure, madcap chases, and even a Scooby-Doo-like ending.

Barcia Miller Alejos directs this romp with a cast that’s enthusiastic and having infectious fun. Crane, played by Linda Eberharter, takes the growing intrigues around her with alacrity—when she’s not fainting. Her friend Lillian, Judy McGroarty, is a rascal, being a polygamist and pranking her friend by placing the first “dead” body in the closet. The housekeeper Jenny (Savannah Jay), the real estate agent Helen (Ann Ellerbrook), and sheriff/taxi driver/man of all trades Vernon (Kevin Shadle) provide the over-the-top silliness.

But the best is Crane’s assistant, Kate, played by Barb Weaver. Her consistent, deadpan snark is excellent.

While the production may not be absolutely perfect, the experience is nonetheless enjoyable. Mud Creek makes you feel like family, and their production teams and actors practically are in their combined love of and commitment to live theater. This quaint little company puts the “community” in “community theater.”

  • Sept. 14-28, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 23, 2:30 p.m.
  • $15 (Sunday $13)
  • www.mudcreekplayers.org
     
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Fonseca Theatre Company: “Building the Wall”

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Clay Mabbitt in the Fonseca Theatre Company’s “Building the Wall”

The new Fonseca Theatre’s inaugural show is a political gut-punch. Robert Schenkkan’s Building the Wall portrays a potential future under the Trump Administration where radical measures are taken to eliminate the “threat” of illegal immigrants. The gruesome potential is laid out with no spin-doctor to soften the blow.

Set in a prison visiting room, the play is an intense conversation between Rick, a former prison supervisor—the one now wearing the orange jumpsuit—and a college professor, Gloria, who wants to pick his mind for answers about the events that led to his incarceration, giving Rick the opportunity to tell the world his side of the story.

Rick is defensive, fierce, and a Trump supporter. Gloria is appalled by him and self-righteous in her own liberal viewpoints. They volley accusations about Trump vs. Obama, but no one wins any of these numbers games.

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Milicent Wright in the Fonseca Theatre Company’s “Building the Wall”

Clay Mabbitt’s Rick is torn apart. We get (too much) information on Rick’s past, but the integral parts of the dialogue show us how he was snowballed into a situation similar to those who ran the Nazi death camps. Mabbitt knows Rick is inherently aware of his culpability in the events, but he also has Rick firmly in the self-justified position of “just following orders.” Mabbitt’s agitation reflects both Rick’s anger and the weight of his guilt.

Milicent Wright as Gloria takes her character from certainty to incredulity to horror as she takes in Rick’s story. She comes into the room expecting one thing and instead is left reeling when faced with unfiltered realties. But in the play, Gloria’s character is really used as a sounding board for Rick’s cathartic admissions.

The series of events leading up to the immigrant camps is easy to believe—too easy to believe. It is a future that feels too chillingly possible.

The show drags some, but this isn’t necessarily director Bryan Fonseca or the actors’ faults. There is a lot of lead-up that bogs the show down, even with its short 90-minute run time.

This is Fonseca’s fourth time as a founding member of a theater. This and the next production will be held at their temporary spot at Indy Convergence, but the theater company has just closed on a permanent location, which will hopefully be open by their third show.

  • Through Oct. 7, Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 5 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $25; $20 students; $15 for Near West residents
  • Indy Convergence
  • https://fonsecatheatre.org/
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 9/14

Fonseca Theatre Company:

Building a Wall

wallWritten on the eve of the 2016 election, the stunning play by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award–winning dramatist Robert Schenkkan has created a nationwide sensation. Building the Wall lays out the potential repercussions of Donald Trump’s anti-immigration campaign rhetoric. After that policy resulted in the mass roundup of millions of undocumented individuals, the former warden for one facility is now behind bars awaiting sentencing for the horrific injustices that happened under his watch. In a riveting interview with a historian who has come seeking the truth, he reveals how the unthinkable became the inevitable. Playwright Robert Schenkkan had this to say about Building the Wall: “In this play I have imagined a not so distant time to come in which President Trump’s rhetoric has found its full expression. While the current political crisis is extraordinary, it is not new. The question, of course, is not so much what the authorities will do but how we, the citizens, will respond.”

  • Sept. 14-Oct. 7, Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 5 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $25; $20 students; $15 for Near West residents
  • Indy Convergence
  • https://fonsecatheatre.org/

Jollyship the Whiz-bang

 

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Paige Scott and Dave Peluse in “Jollyship the Whiz-Bang” at IndyFringe 2018

This was my No. 1 pick out of the shows I saw at Fringe. Now, check out an extended version. GO. SEE. THIS.

Comin’ at ya with more songs, a bigger stage, a full bar, and all the swashbuckling pirate-puppet melt-your-face-off rock and roll you can take on a Monday or Thursday night! Jollyship the Whiz-Bang is a pirate-puppet-rock odyssey about a drunken captain, a treacherous sea, and a potential mutiny while in search of Party Island. 

The McBride Magic Experience

As seen on A&E’s Mindfreak and Penn & Teller: Fool Us, experience close-up, stand-up, mentalism, and stage magic. An extraordinary evening of magical entertainment featuring many of Jeff McBride’s famous performance pieces and amazing new wonders.

  • Friday, Sept. 14, 7 p.m.
  • Indyfringe building
  • $35; seniors $25; students $15; kids $15 (under 12 must be accompanied by adult)
  • Master class Saturday, Sept. 15 at 1 p.m.; $150, three-hour workshop
  • Tickets here

Mud Creek Players: Exit the Body

A mystery writer rents a New England house that is the rendezvous point for some jewel thieves. The focal point of the set is the closet, which opens into a living room and a library. A body found in the closet promptly disappears only to be succeeded by another. The hunt for the jewels reaches a climax at 2 a.m. when four couples unknown to each other turn up to search. Not since the days of Mack Sennett has there been such a hilarious series of entrances and exits.

  • Sept. 14-28, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 23, 2:30 p.m.
  • $15 (Sunday $13)
  • www.mudcreekplayers.org

Broadway Across Indianapolis:

The Lion King

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Broadway Across Indianapolis: “The Lion King” indianapolis.broadway.com
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 9/7

America’s Sweethearts

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America’s Sweethearts

America loved the swinging sounds of female close-harmony groups even before The Andrews Sisters hit the airwaves with “Bei Mir Bist du Schön” in 1937. But audiences will hear those great vintage songs with fresh ears when America’s Sweethearts takes the stage in their vibrant, time-honored show. These New York City-based ladies have performed across the USA at iconic spaces honoring our veterans (the Intrepid Air & Space Museum, the WASP Museum), as well as large theaters and intimate cabaret venues, getting crowds tapping their feet to hits like “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” as they celebrate history through their crystal-clear harmonies and colorful costumes. With selections from the Great American Songbook, classic Broadway, 1950s pop tunes, and jazz, America’s Sweethearts charms audiences of all ages while navigating their way through a variety of trios, duets, and solo features … all with a slice of old-fashioned fun! 

Storytelling Arts of Indiana: Indy Story Slam

“Saving the World” is the theme. You’ll have up to five minutes to tell a true, first-person, personal story based on your narrow or broad interpretation of the theme. You just can’t use props or read from the page. Host Celestine Bloomfield will choose 10 performers out of a hat at the top of the show. The slam judges are picked from the audience, along with a timekeeper and scorekeeper, so if you don’t want to share, you can still be part of the show.   If you win Indy Story Slam, you get to open for Moth GrandSLAM winner Vicki Juditz’s show. Second and third place will receive free tickets to an upcoming storytelling event and IndyFringe show. 

  • Saturday, Sept. 11, 7-8:30 p.m. 
  • IndyFringe Basile Theatre
  • $10 at the door or here

September Swing Dance WWII-Era Big Band

Bring your best Lindy hop moves for Agape’s true Big Band WWII-era Swing Dance! Dress in your best WWII-era costume to enter the costume contest! Concessions will be available. Proceeds go towards Agape’s Indy Bard Fest production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Tickets at the door.

  • Saturday, Sept. 8 at 6:30-10 p.m.
  • $10
  • Our Lady of the Greenwood Catholic Church, Greenwood
  • agapeshows.org

StageWorthy Fire Recovery Fund

On the early morning of Dec. 20, 2017, a fire broke out in the Community Room at the Broadway United Methodist Church (which houses StageWorthy Productions and all of its supplies, props, etc).  The room and all of its contents were destroyed.  

StageWorthy has been told by the reconstruction reps that they should not look to produce anything in the space for the entire calendar year of 2018. They are seeking financial help for the sure-to-be larger rental rates they may experience from an interim facility (and going forward after the renovation), adjusted production costs for the future, as well as for the replacement of the most basic of production supplies.

Please consider making a donation so they can get back on their feet and continue into their second decade of presenting quality, award-winning theater for dedicated patrons and newfound friends alike.  

Founded in 2007, StageWorthy Productions’ mission is to bring a quality, alternative level of entertainment to people from all walks of life. StageWorthy Productions strives to embrace and expand the creativity of our diverse community by encouraging its involvement in all aspects of theater. They are dedicated to exploring new ideas by presenting productions and activities that are fresh, inspired, challenging, affordable, and entertaining. Their seasons have been a mix of comedies and dramas, touching on such topics as Alzheimer’s, gender relations, economic class differences, unconditional love, courage, family dysfunction, bullying, death, gay/straight relations, race, and also just straight out silly farce. StageWorthy’s first two shows at the BUMC were rewarded with five Encore Awards for excellence in Indianapolis theater, with The Sum of Us earning top honors as Best Production of a Drama.   
 
StageWorthy is a not-for-profit, all-volunteer community theater group and a proud member of the Encore Association.

https://www.gofundme.com/stageworthy-fire-recovery-fund

www.stageworthy.org

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for 8/31

Butler Theatre Department: We Are Still Tornadoes

If I had posted yesterday (like I should have), you wouldn’t have missed the first opportunity to see this new play by local Lou Harry. But I didn’t so, mea culpa. Here is what Lou has to say about the show: “About two years ago, I read the galley of a novel in an afternoon and simultaneously fell in love with it and burned to turn it into a play. Well, that has happened and Butler Theatre will be opening its 2018-2019 season with a staged reading of We Are Still Tornadoes, which I adapted from the novel by Michael Kun and Susan Mullen. I hope you can be there. Admission is free and open to the public. The play, produced staged reading-style, tells of Scott and Cath, best friends who grew up across the street from each other and stay in touch via letters — it’s 1982! — when Cath goes off to college and Scott stays home to work in his father’s store. It’s the very human story of two people navigating their shifting friendship and their transitions into adulthood, with all the laughs and tears that go along with it. Both novelists are expected to attend this first-time presentation and will participate in a post-show discussion.”

  • Aug. 30, 7 p.m.
  • Free
  • Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall

Beef and Boards: Seven Brides For Seven Brothers

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Beef and Boards

A rollicking adventure that shows it takes a bride to turn seven unshaven, unkempt brothers into manly gentlemen … and to turn desire into romance.

Brooks and Bourke Theatre Company: Harvey

Harvey, a Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy by Mary Chase, is the story of a perfect gentleman, Elwood P. Dowd, and his best friend, Harvey — a pooka, who is a six-foot-tall, invisible rabbit. When Elwood begins introducing Harvey around town, his embarrassed sister, Veta Louise, and her daughter, Myrtle Mae, determine to commit Elwood to a sanitarium. A mistake is made, however, and Veta is committed rather than Elwood! Eventually, the mistake is realized, and a frantic search begins for Elwood and the invisible pooka, which ends with Elwood appearing, voluntarily, at the sanitarium. In the end, however, Veta realizes that she loves her brother and his invisible best friend just as they are and doesn’t want either of them to change.

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews, Indianapolis theater: reviews

Openings for the weekend of 8/24

As far as I can tell, it’s still all Fringe this weekend. There are new Fringe shows opening, though, so be sure to check out http://www.indyfringe.org/ for details.

There are over 70 shows offered at Fringe. I only got to see 15 — I wish I had been able to see more, but every free moment I had last weekend I devoted to Fringe shows. So, of those I saw, I thought I would pick my favorites (that are still playing this weekend).

No. 1: Jollyship Whiz-Bang

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“Jollyship the Whiz-Bang” at IndyFringe 2018. (Ryan Ruckman, center)

If you like weird and crass and inexplicable humor with puppets and music, this is it for you.

And the rest, in no particular order …

They Shall Take Up Serpents: a look into personal power and the subculture of snake-handling

The Pope Walks into a Bar, Father Ned!: an homage to the TV show Father Ted, but hysterical whether or not you’ve ever seen Father Ted

Queen Day: a concert by the Indianapolis Men’s chorus of hard-rockin’, high-energy awesome

Intrusion: a riveting look at rape culture through the eyes of those we don’t usually associate with it

Broadway’s Leading Ladies: a concert of three women wowing you with show tunes both old and new

 

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Festival: “Jollyship the Whiz-Bang”

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“Jollyship the Whiz-Bang” at IndyFringe 2018. (Ryan Ruckman, center)

Imagine an amalgamation of Avenue Q, Jake and the Never Land Pirates, and Pirates of the Caribbean. Except a lot dirtier. And with more of a random plotline. And a floating chalice of blood. And a treacherous talking crab wearing a derby. And if Jake were a closet homosexual in love with Cubby. And witches are men with no vagina.

If you found any of that offensive, turn back now.

If you found any of that funny, then let me make this clear, as I am saying it now instead of at the end: Go. See. This. Show. This is what Fringe is all about for me: stumbling upon the so brilliantly deranged it almost defies description. The show immediately spoke to my sick sense of humor.

Whimsical meets idiosyncratic in a singular spectacle that is described as “a pirate-puppet-rock odyssey” created by Nick Jones and Raja Azar. Cocaine-fueled Captain Clamp (Ryan Ruckman) outstrips the worst of Jack Sparrow while pushing his crew relentlessly toward the fabled Party Island. Ruckman chews up the scenery (I love that phrase, so piss off) and spits it out. Skeevy (Dave Pulsue) is his determined if ignored voice of reason, a loyal yet frustrated first mate. (I can’t help this … I have a KID. I know the damned SONGS. And Pulsue plays the GUITAR. Bones from JNLP — but not an imbecile … and hella cooler … and hot.)

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Paige Scott and Dave Peluse in “Jollyship the Whiz-Bang” at IndyFringe 2018

Paige Scott goads the crew toward mutiny while sporting Viking horns on her derby, spreading her own ubiquitous humor, and Leah Brenner controls the creepy crab that insinuates itself into the crew by killing, laying eggs in, and eating the parrot that was meant as a peace offering for the captain.

So much great fuckery here.

The entire cast deserves mention because they add so much to the show, so here are those I haven’t noted: Aaron Stillerman, Kallen Ruston, Chris Brown, and Dan T. Directed and produced by Callie Burk-Hartz.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Festival: “Haunted: Tales Told and True”

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Laura Packer

I love storytelling, so this show immediately made it into my list of must-sees. I’m glad it did because Loren Niemi and Laura Packer can twist a tale that makes you shiver, sigh, or even sad, and sometimes all at the same time.

Each session is different, so the stories I heard could be different from what you get. One constant is that each session includes a storytelling improv. Suggestions are taken from the crowd, and one of the tellers will spin a yarn on the spot.

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Loren Niemi at Patrick’s Cabaret in 2017. hwww.patrickscabaret.org.

The night I attended, Loren regaled us with a story about his time in the Boy Scouts. This was not the modern Scouting we know today; his Scout days were probably 50-odd years ago. His pack master’s creed? “It’s good for boys to suffer; it makes them men.” But what started out as scary stories told in the dark during a secluded camping trip ended in a sobering experience.

Laura told a story she found when doing some research into Indianapolis. (Both are from Minnesota.) Bypassing the most well-known stories from Indy — the House of Blue Lights, Hannah House, etc. — she told a tale I had never heard about a thieving milkmaid in Crown Hill Cemetery in the 1940s. She also told us about her first-person experiences while living in two haunted houses.

I thoroughly enjoyed this presentation and recommended this show. But if you don’t make it, I highly suggest checking out Indianapolis’s own Storytelling Arts of Indiana, which has a full season of storytellers from across the nation.

Produced by Niemi and Packer Productions

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Festival: “Hers Is the Head of a Wolf”

This is a confusing play.

wolfWhile mental health and sexual assault are both worthy topics of discussion, the script for Hers Is the Head of the Wolf is sketchy and unorganized, with no character development, and the audience is left wondering just what the story was about. We are given little initial information about main character Elise’s situation, and it remains that way for much too long. What has caused Elise (Raven Newbolt) to be in a state of constant fear? What does Danny (Riley Leonard) have to do with it? Why is her therapist, Dr. Hamilton (Michael Tingley), so forthcoming and accommodating? Does Elise suffer from PTSD, schizophrenia, or both? Slowly feeding the audience tiny morsels of information over time is an often-used playwright’s convention to keep us engaged, but there isn’t enough substance here to use that tactic. We are left frustrated and hungry.

The actors aren’t given much to work with. Elise and Hamilton are one-note characters, and Danny gets two: concern and anger. The conclusion is just as bewildering. One moment Danny is on the phone, and the next, he’s on the ground. When did he even get inside her home?

I’m sorry to say it, but there are too many other good shows playing at Fringe to give this one a recommendation.

Produced by Monument Theatre Company

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Festival: “ARCADEFIRE! [The Redemption of Billy Mitchell]”

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Kayla Lee, Anthony Nathan, Luke McConnell, Jim Banta, and Ryan Powell in Catalyst Repertory Theatre’s “ARCADEFIRE! [The Redemption of Billy Mitchell].” Photo by Gary Nelson
It’s the 1980s — the heyday for cabinet video games. Billy Mitchell (Luke McConnell) is the King of Kong, holding the world record for the highest score in Donkey Kong. His self-described “nemesis,” Steve Wiebe (Anthony Nathan), is obsessed with beating Billy. Fast forward a few decades. Steve remains obsessed, and his long-suffering wife (Kayla Lee) is on the edge. While Billy still holds the record for the highest Donkey Kong score, he has moved on with his life, opening a chain of hot-sauce-centric restaurants. But then Brian (Jim Banta), who always came in second to Billy’s scores and now appears to be something of a personal assistant, informs him that he is being accused of cheating and stripped of his titles. To redeem his gaming reputation, Billy decides to hold a Kong Off and brings in his old gaming referee, Walter (Ryan Powell). Devilry is planned, loyalties are weighed, and priorities are amended.

The show is cheesy as hell, but it’s supposed to be. After all, what wasn’t cheesy in the ’80s? And to sharpen that cheese flavor, the show is a musical.

Casey Ross wrote the play’s book, inspired (with liberties … lots of liberties) by the true story of Billy Mitchell, and Christopher McNeely created the original music. What the cast lacks in vocal talent they more than make up for with how seriously they take the silliness. Intentional overacting and ridiculous dance moves are executed with perfectly straight faces (after all, Billy is obsessed with perfection in all things). The plot gets really nuts as Steve becomes more and more intent on exacting his personal revenge.

Nostalgia and quirky entertainment coalesce into an over-the-top musical with its own kind of record scores — no barrels needed.

(Technical note: I do recommend eliminating or moving the screen that hangs to the right of the audience. Those of us on that side can’t see anything that is going on. I’d also love to see Steve initially drinking Jolt and then progressing to Red Bull.)

Produced by Catalyst Repertory Theatre

Addendum: At some point, I will post about my encounter with Billy Mitchell at the Sunday performance, but right now, getting the rest of my Fringe reviews up takes precedence. I’ve been told it’s a funny story simply because I went into the show having no idea whatsoever who Billy Mitchell is or that I was meeting him at the theater’s entrance. This caused much hilarity for one of my nerd friends.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Festival: “Two M@therf#ck*rs on a Ledge”

Two MFers on a LedgeAllyn (Ronn Johnston) is, quite literally, out on a ledge. His therapist, Mattie (Veronica Wylie), finds him there and pleads with him to come back inside, but instead, he ends up coercing her out onto that ledge with him.

Allyn has narcissistic personality disorder, which causes exaggerated feelings of self-importance. This is very closely related to hero syndrome, in which people think they are actual heroes and put themselves in dangerous situations because they believe they can survive them. As Allyn says, “Heroes don’t stay where it’s safe.” Mattie is a PhD candidate whose dissertation is on the pathology of heroism, most likely why she is Allyn’s therapist since his treatment could add to her research.

In the end, the ledge is a metaphor for vulnerability — facing the things that scare us or have scarred us and taking chances in life. And Allyn and Mattie discover that we become our own heroes.

Johnston is immediately sympathetic as a mental health patient who is trying to cope with his manic stream of thoughts. He oscillates; is he a real hero or not? Are heroes even real at all? This mental struggle makes him twitchy, agitated. Allyn works through this with an impromptu therapy session on the ledge with Mattie that includes discussions of heroes ranging from comic book characters to Jesus.

Mattie slowly moves from the role of therapist to a similarly vulnerable person searching for her own answers as to what makes a hero. Wylie lets this transition happen incrementally so that in the end, Mattie’s personal stories and confessions are realistic experiences.

But while the show is insightful, I felt that it dragged, as if it was too long. I kept anticipating the resolution only for the story to take another turn. By the time it did end, I was more than ready for it to wrap up.

Produced by Wisdom Tooth Theatre Project

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Festival: “Broadway’s Leading Ladies”

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Rayanna Bibbs

Broadway’s Leading Ladies? Yes, yes they are.

Another Fringe concert offering, this tour de force gives their target audience just what they want: show tunes performed with presence and panache.

Shelbi Berry, Rayanna Bibbs, and Virginia Vasquez infuse their songs with passion and vocal dedication — and even sometimes with humor. From their opening, “The Schuyler Sisters” from Hamilton, you are pulled farther in with each note, each number, all the way to the end.

The show combines the well-known (“Defying Gravity”) with lesser-known selections (“Gimmie Gimmie”) for an eclectic showcase of musical soundtracks. The tenor of each song is taken into account and performed accordingly, from the powerfully emoted “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” from Dreamgirls by Bibbs to the playful “What Is this Feeling” from Wicked by Berry and Vasquez. The show closes with a beautiful melding of the trio’s voices in “Climb Every Mountain” from The Sound of Music. And each song is pitch-perfect — as is the sound system (kudos to the tech team for pulling that off, especially with the inclusion of live musicians).

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Virginia Vasquez

Other standouts are Berry on “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from Funny Girl; “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” from Showboat and “Daddy’s Son” from Ragtime by Bibbs; “No One Is Alone” from Into the Woods and “Gimmie Gimmie” from Thoroughly Modern Millie by Vasquez; and the duet “In His Eyes” from Jekyll and Hyde by Berry and Vasquez.

Austin Schlenz gets some giggles as the placard changer. He struts on stage in a gold outfit reminiscent of Rocky in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. (Strangely, that is the second time I have referenced Rocky Horror in a Fringe review this year …)

This is the second concert I have seen at Fringe (the other being Queen Day) that has blown me away with the talent on stage. Proof positive that the Indianapolis area has some top-quality singers in our midst.

Yup, this is another one you must see.

Song list:

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Shelbi Berry
  • “The Schuyler Sisters” from Hamilton
  • “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from Funny Girl
  • “Someone to Watch Over Me” from Oh, Kay!
  • “Anything Goes” from Anything Goes
  • “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” from Showboat
  • “At the Ballet” from A Chorus Line
  • “I Have Dreamed” from The King and I
  • “No One Is Alone” from Into the Woods
  • “Daddy’s Son” from Ragtime
  • “Gimmie Gimmie” from Thoroughly Modern Millie
  • “In His Eyes” from Jekyll and Hyde
  • “What Is this Feeling” and “Defying Gravity” from Wicked
  • “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” from Dreamgirls
  • “Climb Every Mountain” from The Sound of Music

Produced by Magic Thread Cabaret

Check out their “The Schuyler Sisters” from Hamilton: 

https://www.facebook.com/MagicThreadCabaret/videos/705594489795642/

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Festival: “Intrusion”

intrusion

The one-woman show performed by Qurrat Ann Kadwani is intense and eye-opening — and riveting.

Twenty years in the future, rape has been eradicated — or so everyone thought. One night, the story’s narrator sees a woman enter the hospital across the street. She is compelled to follow her and discovers that this woman has come to the ER because she has been raped. Kadwani’s narrator relates the event in a rapid-fire delivery that emphasizes the urgency of the topic.

Over the next 50 minutes, Kadwani takes on eight characters — narrator, reporter, prosecutor, day trader, psychologist, politician, school kid, and professor. Each has a unique viewpoint of rape culture and some expose alarming facts or attitudes that drive home how vital education and awareness of the topic are and how it reaches into societal aspects no one thinks about it affecting.

The show also touches on how women are still seen as “less than” — the word “rape” could apply to many actions that are set against women, even in an idyllic world that is supposedly rape-free.

Kadwani creates distinct characters, showcasing her quick-change versatility. The heavy subject matter is counterweighted by its top-notch presentation and fascinating content. This is another IndyFringe show that should not be missed.

Produced by QK Company Inc.

To make this show even more interesting, it is playing Off Broadway!

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Festival: “Betsy Carmichael’s BINGO Palace”

Let there be Bingo.

betsyI never thought “interactive Bingo” could be so much fun, but Betsy Carmichael’s BINGO Palace is a high-camp trip. Reverence for the art that is Bingo, lots of stand-up comedy, and actual Bingo games (with prizes!) come together for a show that even the most introverted (such as myself) can enjoy (even if I am glad that I wasn’t one of the audience members brought on stage for Bingo balls arts-and-crafts or the Bingo wedding).

The actual Bingo games take second seat to Betsy’s Bingo commentary, storytelling, and and sexual innuendo — balls are a big deal, of course — with backup from her ex-brother-in-law Chip. 

But the interactive part is when the audience gets to join in. During Bingo play, certain letter-number combinations require actions or phrases — think Rocky Horror but with Bingo and flying candy instead of rice.

It’s a shame that you only have one more chance to see Betsy before she flits off to Bingo halls unknown, so do your best to squeeze in some ball time before they’re gone.

Produced by Betsibu Productions.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Festival: “Puddin Tane”

Puddin TaneTwo high schoolers sit side by side outside the principal’s office awaiting their fates for skipping school. One, Lisa, has no parents and a lonely hymen. The other, Angel, aka Crystal Queer, has a dad so far up his ass that his mustache started to tickle his ass. Of course, they become fast friends.

Both are known for their dumpster diving outside of the church because cool stuff can often be scavenged there. Lisa, especially, likes sifting through the trash to find objects that she can use in her art projects. As much as she hates high school, she desperately wants to go to art school — not “solve for X.” It’s at this dumpster that Lisa meets Puddin Tane, a creepy priest who smokes pot and wears sunglasses all the time.

The acting is somewhat clumsy, and the storyline isn’t focused. (Is this about being an outcast or a dysfunctional family — neither is fully explored.) This one still needs some work.

Produced by Theatre Sleuth of Indianapolis.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Festival: “Paper Swords: A Musical”

Paper Swords A MusicalAny member past or present of the SCA or fan of LARPing will sympathize with the characters in Paper Swords. Named for the homemade armaments ubiquitous in such groups, the play depicts two factions within a single kingdom being forced to fight over their land, cleaving the kingdom after the battle.

The drama, the rivalries, the friendships, and the politics of these self-contained worlds all play parts, especially when a group has an organized hierarchy over a long period of time.

If you have never been a part of or known someone who was a part of this scene, you might not “get” the people who immerse themselves into these fantasy worlds. Their alter egos are just as real and vital to them as their mundane lives — often the fantasy can even bleed into the reality in their personal interactions. And often they take themselves very, even too, seriously.

Paper Swords ups the ante by putting all this conflict into a musical setting — and a surprisingly good one. Donovan Whitney plays Avery, knight of Ferndrake, who falls for Elena, knight of Silvemore (Alicia Hamaker), both part of the kingdom of Eleren. Avery initially approaches Elena’s courtship by what he calls “wooing with 1500s lingo” before they finally settle on laser tag. The relationship is going well until the imminent battle is upon them.

Within Ferndrake is another tentative, awkward relationship that is building between Liz (Jordan Brown) and Will (Clarke Remmers) that makes for more comic relief than conflict.

With Sarah Tam as the Silvemore knight Bren, the main players in the show exhibit some solid singing and acting, and they are backed by a band behind the curtain. The show is just as sweet as it is entertaining, funny, and worth a spot on your Fringe stops.

Written by Matt Day and Kelsey Tharp.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Festival: “The Globe”

The Globe ProgramThe Globe is an all-female Shakespeare company. Out of the blue, its founder, Bella (Fawzia Istrabadi) is fired, soon to be replaced by a man coming in from out of state, James. Coincidentally, that night she has a Tinder date with Jackie (Spencer North), who happens to be a friend of James and is helping him get settled into his new apartment.

Bella’s initial reaction? Dial assassinationstation.gov.

While she does back down from the assassin idea, with the advice from said assassin (Ky Doyle), she is still intent on dislodging James from his new position while not telling Jackie that James is her replacement. She’s also trying to avoid the subject with her friend and stage manager, Mel (Lucy Fitzgerald).

The script has real potential, and the actresses performing it show talent. The concept is great, but the show feels truncated, short even for a Fringe setting, but that gives it plenty of space to be workshopped and refined into what can become a funny and thoughtful piece of theater.

The show is presented by the Earlham College Fringe Company, and the aforementioned actresses are joined on stage by Briana Miller and Grace Nickeson as members of the theater company.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Festival: “Queen Day”

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There is so much f*cking awesome in this show.

It’s not a “theater” production in the sense that it’s not a play. It’s actually a concert performed by members of the Indianapolis Men’s Chorus, an homage to the band Queen and other music that falls into a similar genre. I was fan-struck by the opening number, “We Will Rock You,” and they had my heart when Hedwig took the stage.

These guys put on a full-energy, sexy, goofy performance even at the 10:30 p.m. show. And that powerful presentation remained consistent throughout.

The singers showcase some voices that leave you in awe of their talent, and the choreography — a mishmash of headbanging, grunge-y style movements, and song-synced steps — adds more strength and even some humor to the numbers. Hedwig’s costuming is perfect, and the cameo by Marie Antoinette is hysterical. They also perform with a backing band, which gives the show more substance than if they had merely been singing with prerecorded music.

Just fantastic stuff going on here.

Sure, there are some tech issues, but really, with the quick turnover of stages for different productions, you have to give them some leeway. Lots of sound equipment, mikes, amps, etc.

This is another not-to-be-missed opportunity.

Song list (hope I didn’t mess this up because I was too taken in by the show to keep consistent notes):

  1. “We Will Rock You”: Queen
  2. “American Idiot”: Green Day
  3. “Somebody to Love”: Queen
  4. “Don’t Stop Me Now”: Queen
  5. “Basket Case”: Green Day
  6. “Origin of Love” from Hedwig and the Angry Inch
  7. “Fat Bottom Girls”: Queen
  8. “Gethsemane” from Jesus Christ Superstar
  9. “What You Own” from Rent
  10. “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”: Green Day
  11. “Wig in a Box” from Hedwig and the Angry Inch
  12. “Killer Queen”: Queen
  13. “Another One Bites the Dust”: Queen
  14. “21 Guns”: Green Day
  15. “Jesus of Suburbia”: Green Day
  16. “Bohemian Rhapsody”: Queen
  17. “We Are the Champions”: Queen

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Festival: “The Pope Walks into a Bar, Father Ned!”

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Blake Mellencamp, Jeff Kirkwood, David Molloy, and Kate Duffy Sim in “The Pope Walks into a Bar” at IndyFringe

While The Pope Walks into a Bar was inspired by the TV show Father Ted, I assure you that you don’t have to have seen the TV series to appreciate this howlingly funny production.

Perpendicular Island is a remote Irish isle that boasts 75 residents. It’s also the location of a Viagra factory, which spews its own special kind of fumy pollution. Take a whiff to get you stiff. The island also houses the Perpendicular Island Parochial House, a sort of exile in the wastelands for wayward priests. Father Ned (Jeff Kirkwood) gambled away funds that were meant for much-needed repairs to a convent — yet he is the most responsible and level-headed member of the household. Father Dermott (Blake Mellencamp) is a sweet man but seriously touched in the head. Father Finn (David Molloy) is downright feral. He communicates mostly in grunts and drinks his whiskey from a Hello Kitty water bottle. His favorite pastime seems to be looking at women in bikinis, whether in magazines or on his ViewMaster, followed by a close second of running around in his knickers … or nothing at all.

When Bishop Brannigan (Jim Lucas) arrives to oversee an impending visit from the pope, things start to get even more interesting.

The housekeeper, Mrs. O’Boyle (Kate Duffy Sim), is described by the bishop as coming from the sixth ring of hell, but as the show progresses, she moves down another ring — and her mind deteriorates along with her into buckets of crazy. While her cooking skills are questionable, she does play a mean bodhran.

Clerical Error Productions gives us a full storyline and characters bursting with personality. Even some backstory slips in to flesh them out. The entire cast is fully invested, with Molloy and Duffy Sim getting the most outrageous.

This is a must-see. Prepare yourself for priest-on-leash, playing “pocket rosary,” ecclesiastical rapping (Nate Burner), a bobbing journalist (Kyrsten Lyster), and lots of fecking fun.

  • Sunday, Aug. 19, 7:30 p.m.; Tuesday Aug. 21, 9 p.m.; Thursday, Aug. 23, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Aug 25, 4:30 p.m.; Sunday, Aug 26, 1:30 p.m.
  • $15
  • The District Theater stage 2
  • http://www.indyfringe.org/theatre-show/pope-walks-bar-father-ned
  • Written, directed, and produced by Clerical Error Productions: K. Duffy Sim, J. Kirkwood, and D. Molloy

Watch a preview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GA9SfhI_v6A

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Festival: “They Shall Take Up Serpents”

Note: Apologies. WordPress decided to publish the very rough first draft of this review instead of the complete one I (thought) posted last night. Hence the double posting. Sadly, this one isn’t as detailed as the original complete review, due to time constraints.

They Shall Take Up SerpentsGarret Mathews (Carmel, Indiana) took a subject most people find insane — snake handling — and crafted a funny and thoughtful piece of theater from it.

Mathews has seen this phenomenon first-hand, having written a column about it (and many other subjects) for Evansville’s Courier & Press before his retirement from the journalism world. His main character in the play, Cindy, is based on one of his interviews.

Snake handling is a rare subculture within the Pentecostal church and is most often found in rural areas in the South. The practice stems from a verse in Mark 16: “They will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

You have to admit: tempting deadly snakes and drinking poison certainly take faith.

They Shall Take Up Serpents is set in Jolo, West Virginia, outside the Church of the Lord Jesus. Cindy (Hannah Jo Black), a new congregant, is a young woman deprived of power — her domineering father (Thom Johnson) bleeds her dry, saying she owes him for his financial investment in her. His demeaning verbal abuse over the years has turned her inside out, siphoning off all her perceived worth. But for the past eight weeks, Cindy has made the two-hour drive to Jolo to attend the services of a snake-handling church. Now, she is on the cusp of stepping up and taking her turn with the rattlers and, in effect, taking back her personal power.

Black plays the painfully introverted Cindy with a demure voice and restless hands. Cindy continuously tries to bury herself farther into her sweater, almost subconsciously trying to hide herself or protect herself from the world. In contrast to Cindy’s character, Maryanne Mathews plays the lively if eccentric one-eyed Velma, a life-long member and matriarch of the church. Velma’s character is bizarrely entertaining. If the show had scenery, I would say Mathews chews on it. Velma is country through and through, and she exudes the love for life and faith that is sorely lacking in Cindy’s world. Velma’s fun-loving, unfiltered, and infectious nature is what helps Cindy finally decide to take that step and come into her own.

The two are intruded upon by a bumbling young journalist, Ran (Kyle James Dorsch). Dorsch is a cute and gawky Ran, and Velma gets to poke some fun at him, eliciting a smile and eventually a laugh from Cindy. But his sudden and passionate concern for Cindy’s potential future is too abrupt, making that scenario unrealistic.

Overall, Garret Mathews manages to show us the growth of Cindy from withering wallflower to blooming self-confidence within 50 minutes. That is certainly an impressive feat.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Festival: “Act VI Scene I (Shakespeare and Zombies)”

Act VI Scene I (Shakespeare and Zombies)So, if Shakespeare hooked up with the writers of Dawn of the Dead …

“The Lord Chamberlain’s Men” tell the tale of a zombie apocalypse with all the Shakespearean trappings (such as a gooey, lovestruck couple, narration, and soliloquies) and tongue-tripping language.

And clogging … and condoms … and a soused, lustful priest … and shotguns … and boxed wine … and a Swashio to get them all through this alive.

While the show certainly has its moments of hilarity, it can also get a little dark, like when Swashio tells his tale of having to shoot his zombified mother. But it also has long stretches where it’s not funny, or dark, or much of anything — just filler dialogue.

More zombie conflict, please.

But the acting is laudable — Swashio by far my favorite — and the anticipation of what crazy might come next helps gets you through those slow parts.

Do keep an ear out for cameos of some of Shakespeare’s most famous lines or references.

You can watch a preview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjjLmUFpWy8

Starring Pat Mullen, Audrey Stonerock, Dave Ruark, and Nathan Thomas. Written and directed by Matt Walls.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 8/17

So, the Indy Fringe Festival will dominate the theater scene for the next two weeks. There are 78 shows spread over eight stages, so I’m not going to list them here. Go check out the schedule. I am planning to attend at least 13 of these — more if time and stamina permit. I’m a one-woman writing machine, so bear with me.

There are, however, a couple alternatives to Fringe.

Garfield Shakespeare Company: The Three Musketeers

Footlite Musicals Young Artists: The Pirates of Penzance

A fresh take on one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s most popular comic operas, this show is a hilarious farce of sentimental pirates, bumbling policemen, dim-witted young lovers, and an eccentric Major-General.

  • Aug. 17-26, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $25; $15 for youth 17 and younger; discount days Thursday evening and opening weekend Sunday matinee: $10
  • footlite.org
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Phoenix Theatre: “Cry It Out”

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Sally Scharbrough and Lauren Briggeman in the Phoenix Theatre’s “Cry It Out.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

If you are not a mom, you probably won’t fully appreciate the humor, grief, and even anger that are part of the first few months post-childbirth. If you are a mom, you might want to occasionally yell out, “Amen, sister!” during Cry It Out—a compulsion I had to quash several times.

Cry It Out, directed by Chelsey Stauffer, explores many of the raw and real facts and feelings of being a first-time mom that override the What to Expect series. You can read about bladder leakage, postpartum, breastmilk-soaked bras, depression, and sleep issues, usually in clinical terms, but the reality of them are much, much messier. Until you have experienced momhood firsthand, you have no idea what’s coming.

When a move is added to the life-rocking experience of bringing a little slave driver into your world, things get even more complicated.

Which is how Jesse meets her fellow new mom and neighbor Lena. When a readymade support group of family and fellow parents isn’t waiting for you at home, the feeling of isolation can be crippling. Which is what prompts Jesse to practical pole vault over a grocery store aisle to ask Lena to meet her for coffee during naptime. Once they find a spot in Jesse’s backyard where both their baby monitors can reach, they have their own first tentative playdate while sitting on a tiny outdoor playset.

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Sally Scharbrough and Lauren Briggeman in the Phoenix Theatre’s “Cry It Out.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

Lauren Briggeman (Jessie) and Sally Scharbrough (Lena) are very different people from very different backgrounds. Briggeman’s character, a lawyer and Manhattan transplant, is more reserved while Scharbrough, whose character’s credit score is 0, is completely uninhibited. But for their friendship, this is irrelevant. They become fast friends because nothing makes people bond like mommy yoga pants and 20 minutes of sleep per night. But while their motherhood escapades unite them, their socioeconomic statuses force them to make hard choices about going back to work after maternity leave.

I wish Lena had been my best friend postpartum. Scharbrough is hysterical and full of life—just what Jesse needs even if she seems befuddled by Lena’s behavior at times. Jesse’s little happy dances make you remember the exhilaration over small miracles, like a long nap, taking a shower, or wearing actual jeans. Each woman, in her own way, eloquently conveys the grit of stumbling through motherhood.

The women’s daily coffee klatch is crashed by a father from the super-rich neighborhood on the hill who is concerned about his wife’s disconnect from their new daughter. Michael Hosp plays Mitchell, a concerned, befuddled dad who needs someone to turn to for help. His wife Adrienne, played by Andrea Heiden, explodes with the kind of anger that can come with an uprooted lifestyle. The wealthy aren’t immune to their own challenges when it comes to parenthood.

This is a great show for a mom date. Leave the kids with Dad and commiserate with a fellow mom. You’ll feel better—and not so alone.

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Buck Creek Players: “The Rainmaker”

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Joe Wagner, Tim Latimer, Matt Spurlock, Jenni White, and Steve Jerk in Buck Creek Players’ “The Rainmaker.” Photo by photoGary.net.

The drought is devastating for the Curry family—the lack of both rain and marriageable prospects for Lizzie, the only girl in the family. There is little the Currys can do about the rain, so H.C. and his oldest son Noah focus their efforts on finding a husband for Lizzie, who is headed for spinsterhood because she is considered “plain” (e.g., unattractive) and she eschews the ridiculous art of flirting. The family’s dying cattle is a parallel to their receding hopes that they will find a husband for Lizzie.

But this is a romantic comedy—so we don’t get bogged down by their expectations of women. This attitude toward Lizzie may seem antiquated, but the story is set in a rural area out West during the Depression era. For us, given the decades of changing views of women, their concern for Lizzie is both off-putting and heartwarming—a paradox born of their concern for her future combined with the mindset of the time. The menfolk think they are doing the right thing.

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Steve Jerk and Jenni White in Buck Creek Players’ “The Rainmaker.” Photo by http://www.photoGary.net.

Enter the so-called “rainmaker.” For $100, he promises to bring the rain. He may be full of bull, but he does bring hope to Lizzie, giving her the confidence she needs to embrace her potential for the life she dreamed of but always thought was out of reach. He heals her insecurities. This makes the rainmaker a hero in a way.

Tim Latimer (H.C., the father), Matt Spurlock (Noah), Joe Wagner (Jim, the other sibling), and Jenni White (Lizzie) create a completely believable family dynamic. They don’t just deliver their lines—they mean them. This is some of the best acting I have seen on Buck Creek’s stage.

Spurlock is intense. He projects Noah’s unyielding rationality and fierce protectiveness of his family. He’s intimidating. His words to Lizzie are often harsh, and Spurlock doesn’t soften them, but it’s because he needs Lizzie to face reality—he believes false hope will leave her heartbroken again and again. Spurlock never backs down when showing us Noah’s personality or his disdain of hair-brained ideas. But he also leaves us with no question that he loves his family.

Noah runs most of the family as well as the farm, and H.C. is willing to let his second in command take charge until Noah takes it too far. Latimer’s H.C. is laid-back, open-minded, and observant, but he is also still the patriarch. When it counts, Latimer overrides decisions with a firm hand or gets in Noah’s face without backing down. Latimer crafts a complex personality and gives us a father figure that is fun and supports his children with a loving hand that only a father can provide. He’s Dad with that capital D.

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Tim Latimer and Jenni White in Buck Creek Player’s “The Rainmaker.” Photo by photoGary.net.

White’s Lizzie is strong but vulnerable at the same time—neither overrides the other completely—and White consistently expresses this dichotomy through her speech and body language. Confident words are belied by her nervous movements. Lizzie knows she is not the best candidate for a good match, but she won’t change who she is just to catch a husband. White manages these qualities simultaneously, creating a character you can’t help but admire and sympathize with.

Jimmy is the warm-hearted, happy-go-lucky counterpart for Noah—if a little dim. He loves his sister but doesn’t have the gumption to really take on his brother. Wagner’s fun-loving, sweet, and gullible character offers much of the comic relief, and Wager play it up wholeheartedly. You can’t help but smile when he’s on stage.

And of course, there’s Bill Starbuck, aka the rainmaker. Steve Jerk is just enough crazy and radiates the confidence of any good con man. But he surprises us with a serious side. He takes exception with Lizzie’s treatment by her family, and Jerk lets us know it. His disapproving looks and clipped comments ingratiate him to the audience and to Lizzie. Jerk’s gentle touch and encouragement for Lizzie make us forgive his cons.

Corey Yeaman as Deputy File, an insecure potential beau for Lizzie, and John Joyner as Sheriff Thomas round out the cast.

John Walker’s set design includes beautiful umbrella lights suspended from the ceiling, and his detailed farmhouse takes us firmly into the Currys’ environment.

Tim Spradlin directs, and he brings together a powerful piece of theater. An enticing story combines with a stellar cast to make this show an exciting opening for Buck Creek’s season.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 8/3

Phoenix Theatre: Cry It Out 

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Phoenix Theatre’s “Cry It Out”

Motherhood is terrifying. Through a burgeoning friendship in a Long Island suburb, two women seek to redefine their lives as “mother” with poignant moments of doubt sprinkled in the mix. This heartwarming story explores the times of quiet between the general chaos of raising a child that reveal the sheer comedy of motherhood balanced with the unrelenting truth of a life forever changed. 

  • Aug. 2-26, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • Before the official opening night, a single Thursday preview ticket is $25; regular ticket prices are $33-$37
  • http://www.phoenixtheatre.org/

Indianapolis Shakespeare Company: Coriolanus

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Ren Jackson as Titus Martius (aka Coriolanus) in the Indianapolis Shakespeare Company’s production

Coriolanus is an intriguing political thriller for times past, present, and future. Set in Ancient Rome and written in the early 1600s, the play has readily reflected the contemporary political climate of each of its professional productions. And it will do so once again for Indianapolis audiences. Shakespeare’s unerring instinct to tap into what matters to us, what we value, and what we are willing to fight for shines brightly in Coriolanus. But Shakespeare does not take sides — he asks us to decide which causes call our name and who and what we want our leaders to be.

Pack a picnic or enjoy food and drinks for sale in the park. Come early for the pre-show band Dog Mamas!, food trucks, Sun King, and Vino Winemobile beginning at 6 p.m. Bring a blanket or chairs for the show. The best parking is at the zoo ($15 nonmembers). Once you are parked at the zoo, look for the Shakespeare signs between the Butterfly Building and the zoo. Walk up through these building (also handicapped accessible) and you will arrive at the free shuttle stop. Take the shuttle or walk across the Washington Street pedestrian bridge and you will arrive at White River State Park.

Buck Creek Players: The Rainmaker

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Steve Jerk and Jenni White in Buck Creek Players’ “The Rainmaker.” Photo by Gary Nelson, http://www.photoGary.net.

During a time of a paralyzing drought in the West, we discover a girl whose father and two brothers are worried as much about her potential future as an old maid as they are about their dying cattle. The brothers try every possible scheme to marry her off, without success. Nor is there any sign of relief from the dry heat, but suddenly, from out of nowhere, appears a sweet-talking man with quite the sales pitch. Claiming to be a “rainmaker,” the man promises to bring rain for $100. Meanwhile, the rainmaker also turns his magic on the girl and persuades her that she has a very real beauty of her own. She believes it, just as her father believes the fellow can actually bring rain. Rain does come … and so does love.

Brent Marty & Claire Wilcher:

In Character!

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Brent Marty and Claire Wilcher

Have you ever wondered what it takes to create a cabaret? Local artists will be answering that question (and more) in the all-new Cabaret Incubator Series, starting with Indy’s own Brent Marty and Claire Wilcher. These local divas are bringing their big voices and even bigger personalities to The Cabaret. They’ve joined forces to serve up hot, local vocal delicacies with personal favorites, retro hits, and their favorite pastime — matching wits! Learn more about their creative process in a post-show Q&A!

Fat Turtle Theatre Company: Godspell

Godspell was the first major musical theater offering from three-time Grammy and Academy Award winner Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Pippin, Children of Eden), and it took the world by storm, led by the international hit “Day by Day.” A small group of people help Jesus Christ tell different parables by using a wide variety of games, storytelling techniques, and a hefty dose of comic timing. An eclectic blend of songs, ranging in style from pop to vaudeville, is employed as the story of Jesus’ life dances across the stage. Dissolving hauntingly into the Last Supper and the Crucifixion, Jesus’ messages of kindness, tolerance and love come vibrantly to life.

  • Aug. 4 at 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 5. at 2:30 p.m.; Aug. 9 at 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 10 at 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 11 at 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 12 at 2:30 p.m.
  • $15 ($20 at the door); senior/student/military pre-sale $12 ($15 at the door)
  • Theater at the Fort
  • https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3443516

Intern Theatre: A Night of One Acts

The Cat’s interns Tristan Zavaleta, Blake Miller, Emma Rund, and Audrey Larkin present their own night of one acts. 

Check, Please by Jonathan Rand: Dating can be hard. Especially when your date happens to be a raging kleptomaniac, or your grandmother’s bridge partner, or a mime. Check, Please follows a series of blind dinner dates that couldn’t get any worse — until they do. Could there possibly be a light at the end of the tunnel?

Personal Library by Emma Rund: Have you ever wanted to live inside a book? Megan does. In fact, she never leaves her house, living vicariously through books and speaking only to her best friend, Claire. When her concerned ex-boyfriend shows up at the door, he unearths a trauma that will force Megan to navigate that frightening place between reality and fantasy. 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Summer Stock Stage: “The Secret Garden”

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Summer Stock Stage’s “The Secret Garden.” Clockwise from top left: Sydney Meyers, Sally Root, Davon Graham, and Weston LeCrone

When the song “Lilly’s Eyes” began, I found myself holding my breath. Fair or not, this was the song that was going to have a disproportionate amount of influence over my reaction to the show. It was unavoidable. This is the song that made me see Mandy Patinkin as more than just Inigo Montoya. It is the most haunting song in The Secret Garden’s often eerie, eidolic soundtrack. I was already impressed by Weston LeCrone, but this duet with Davon Graham was crucial to me.

By the time it was finished, breath released, I was misty eyed and ready to jump to my feet in a spontaneous standing ovation. Every tone of devastating heartache, every note of loss and longing that makes this song so emotionally fundamental to The Secret Garden was beautifully, eloquently expressed.

I want to say thank you to LeCrone and Graham for giving me the chance to experience this—a song that has affected me every time I have heard it—in a live setting again. And for doing it so very, very well.

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Amelia Wray (center) with Weston LeCrone in Summer stock Stage’s “The Secret Garden”

Producer/director Emily Ristine Holloway must hold some of her own magic because for the second time this summer, I have been impressed by a young-adult Summer Stock Stage production that could hold its own against many adults’ local theater productions. As I said in my review of SSS’s Urinetown, I usually don’t cover young-adult shows because I believe these programs are learning opportunities for the kids involved—not something that should be held to particular expectations or standards. But SSS is becoming my exception.

Again, the stage is packed with teenagers from many schools in the area, and this time around, they are joined by younger kids from the elementary-age Summer Stock Academy. This put up to 45 bodies on stage, making for rich and powerful ensemble numbers, proven early on in “The House Upon the Hill.”

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Sally Root and Weston LeCrone in Summer Stock Stage’s “The Secret Garden”

Amelia Wray brings to life the petulant 10-year-old Mary Lenox who slowly begins to open up to the world—and the people—around her again, and she has a pretty voice. But LeCrone, as Archibald Craven, Mary’s uncle, is the one who consistently, unobtrusively draws your interest. He does not demand it. This would not be part of his character, the reclusive hunchback. His hold on you is subtle until you find yourself captivated and anticipating his every scene. LeCrone is a recent graduate of Zionsville Community High School, and in the fall, he is headed for Elon University to work toward a BFA in musical theater. If he is this good now, he will be Broadway bound after four years of university training. His vocals and emotive acting abilities—a true subversive performance—are already superlative. Sally Root, as Archibald’s late wife Lilly, and LeCrone deliver an especially poignant “How Could I Ever Know,” which is unsurprising in that Root has a gorgeous, ethereal voice as well.

Bright spots in Mary’s dreary world are her jovial, optimistic chambermaid Martha, played by Cynthia Kauffman, and Martha’s brother Dickon, played by Keith Smith Jr. Smith and Wray come together for the sweet, whimsical song “Wick,” and Smith has a good solo turn in “Winter’s on the Wing.” Kauffman lightens the dire mood of Mary’s arrival to Misselthwaite Manor with her playful rendition of “A Fine White Horse,” and then she gets to shift to the more somber but still hopeful “Hold On” in Act 2. Versatility and another exemplary voice on display.

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Amelia Wray and Cynthia Kauffman in Summer Stock Stage’s “The Secret Garden”

While I focus primarily on the music in a musical—because it seems natural, after all—it does occur to me that in addition to the previously mentioned performance by LeCrone, I should include that there is a great deal of just, well, straight forward acting happening on stage, creating believable, sympathetic characters, and this is what really pulls you into the story itself.

This was a good choice for the SSS students, as it also gave them a chance to tinker with accents. And like Urinetown, the show is visually striking, this time through costuming by Aaron Wardwell and choreography by Cherri Jaffee and Brandon Comer.

Another production that SSS can add to their growing list of smashing successes.

PS: If you haven’t read this childhood classic, shame on you. Hence no story synopsis. If you need a summary, this is great. For “Lily’s Eyes,” fast forward to 2:25.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 7/27

Red Couch Benefit Show

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Photo by Charles Borowicz

Acco, Israel, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, will play host to Red Couch, a performance that debuted at IndyFringe in 2011. Indianapolis-based performer and choreographer Tommy Lewey will bring this production—in which he stars alongside Morgan Skiles—to the Acco Fringe Festival in September.

Read more of NUVO arts editor Dan Grossman’s story about Red Couch here.

The benefit is to help the artists with expenses related to the show.

  • Saturday, July 28, 8 p.m.
  • $36
  • IndyFringe Basile Theatre
  • indyfringe.org

Young Artists Civic Theatre Program: Guys & Dolls

Set in the Manhattan of Damon Runyon’s short stories, Guys & Dolls is considered by many to be the perfect musical comedy. Gambler Nathan Detroit tries to find the cash to set up the biggest craps game in town while the authorities breathe down his neck. Meanwhile, his girlfriend and nightclub performer, Adelaide, laments that they’ve been engaged for 14 years. Nathan turns to fellow gambler Sky Masterson for the dough, and Sky ends up chasing the straight-laced missionary, Sarah Brown, as a result.

Summer Stock Stage: The Secret Garden

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Summer Stock Stage’s “The Secret Garden”

This enchanting classic of children’s literature is reimagined in brilliant musical style. A young orphan girl returns to Yorkshire to live with her embittered, reclusive uncle and discovers a magic garden with haunting melodies and spirits to guide her through her new life. The Tony Award-winning musical is a compelling tale of forgiveness and renewal suitable for all ages.

More than 30 talented high school students from 20 public, private, and charter schools in Central Indiana will perform a fully-staged and orchestrated production. Summer Stock Stage is an intensive, pre-professional program designed to equip students for collegiate and professional theater programs. Its mission is to enrich the community through theater by inspiring young people to learn, connect and perform. The SSS staff mentors and collaborates with student artists in two major musical productions each summer, while Park Tudor School generously donates use of its facilities.

  • July 25-28 at 7 p.m. and July 28-29 at 2 p.m.
  • $14 for the Wednesday preview performance and $18 for all other shows
  • Park Tudor High School
  • http://www.summerstockstage.com
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Saltbox Theatre Collective: “In the Soundless Awe”

At one point in The Soundless Awe, an actor portraying Mochitsura Hashimoto, captain of the Japanese submarine that torpedoed the USS Indianapolis, reverently holds a small potted bush while circling the stage, often presenting it in such a way as if it were Simba from The Lion King.

It pains me to say this, given the unfathomable tragedy of the USS Indianapolis and the deteriorating mental health that mercilessly dogged its captain, Charles McVay III, leading him to take his own life, but this show falls into the top five of the most pretentious pieces of theater I have ever seen in my almost two decades of theater-going.

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Charles McVay III, captain of the USS Indianapolis

I was intrigued by what the show promised: “The Soundless Awe is a horrific and heart-breaking imagining of McVay’s final nightmare before he pulls the trigger [killing himself].” I expected insight into McVay’s life and mindset post-Indianapolis. Instead, the play is bogged down by too many ostentatious metaphors and disjointed scenes. It can’t even compare to the stunned silence that rips through one’s soul during the three-and-a-half-minute speech in Jaws—even if that monologue is inaccurate.

There is material with so much potential that could have been mined for the play—all of it true. One of the most controversial aspects of the Indianapolis’ demise is McVay’s court martial, in which he was found guilty—a subject many laypeople know little if nothing about. This injustice (which was reversed posthumously), his barrage of letters from family members of dead servicemen, and overwhelming survivor’s guilt all led to his suicide. While we get snippets of the court martial trial in which McVay was charged with negligence, examples of the letters from family members of the deceased, and scenes from the servicemen in the water, none of this leaves enough of an impression—or even gives enough information—to make the show particularly compelling. Surprisingly, his court martial is only treated on the surface level, and as for his eventual exoneration, it is merely a footnote. I was so distracted by that little bush that I can’t even tell you if Hashimoto’s support of McVay, both during and after his trial, was even mentioned.

As for McVay, the only dynamic scene written for him that truly brings out his humanity is the complicated familial interaction between him and his father, including an explanation of the toy sailor he carried with him.

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Jason Narvy (bottom) in “The Soundless Awe,” Saltbox Theatre Collective

Leaving most of the emotionally riveting parts of the show the handful of period photos and video footage from the era.

As for presentation, watch your step, as a shallow pool of water is set in the center of the stage, which the actors get to roll around and splash in.

When allowed, most of the acting is quite good. The show opens with Jason Narvy, alone, sitting in a chair aimlessly watching Lawrence Welk. The raw emotion and haunted expression draw you in immediately. He remains in the spotlight long enough that it begins to make you uncomfortable—a smart device. However, as the show progresses, the other actors are often subjected to affectation through director Brian Fruits. Movements, such as slow, high steps, are used … why? Are they meant to add gravity? The story is grave enough already; this is unnecessary. It is particularly painful in The Gray Woman (Katie Zisson), a character used for multipurpose symbology as well as a lounge singer—and she also gets to be a weird shark.

And oh God, what is up with the voice modulation?

This show was brought to IndyFringe from Chicago as part of the USS Indianapolis Survivors Reunion happening this weekend, and I believe when I was there Friday night, the vast majority—if not entire—audience was made up of reunion attendees. As we were leaving, I heard some audience members say a genuine “thank you” and I heard one “amazing.” But I just can’t.

  • IndyFringe Theatre
  • Continues though Sunday, but sold out except July 20, 12:30 p.m. show
  • $10 general admission; 50 percent of ticket sales and donations will go directly to the USS Indianapolis Survivors Organization
  • http://www.indyfringe.org/

narwhalAuthor’s note: I am the wife of a Navy veteran. However, he was lucky enough not to serve in wartime (and he did serve before our relationship). So this is not me being callous. Just the opposite. Thinking that something similar to this could have happened to him if the circumstances of his service had been different freaks me the fuck out. Thankfully, the worst thing that happened during his enlistment was that he hit a whale while “driving” the submarine. Needless to say, this is something that my friends and I have mined for many, many jokes at his expense.

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 7/20

Saltbox Theatre Collective and U.S.S. Indianapolis Survivors Organization:

In the Soundless Awe

soundlessawe2July 30, 1945. The U.S.S. Indianapolis is hit by two Japanese torpedoes, killing three-hundred sailors in the initial blast and leaving nine-hundred men to drift helplessly in the Pacific Ocean. 321 survivors are discovered almost five days later drifting aimlessly in the South Pacific. Twenty-two years later, Charles Butler McVay III, the wrongly court-martialed and disgraced Captain of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, puts a gun to his head after many years of night terrors where specters, human and otherwise, call to him from below. In the Soundless Awe is a horrific and heart-breaking imagining of McVay’s final nightmare before he pulls the trigger.

  • Thursday July 19, 7:30 p.m.; Friday July 20, 12:30 p.m.; Friday July 20, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, July 21, 1:30 p.m.; Sunday, July 22, 12 p.m.
  • $10 general admission; 50 percent of ticket sales and donations will go directly to the USS Indianapolis Survivors Organization, as Saltbox Theatre Collective views the remounting of this play as a service to those that served and the city of Indianapolis.
  • IndyFringe Indy Eleven Theatre
  • http://www.indyfringe.org/theatre-show/soundless-awe

Noblesville Cultural Arts Commission:

The Tempest

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Noblesville Cultural Arts Commission’s “The Tempest”

William Shakespeare’s final masterpiece, The Tempest, is a comedy, a drama, and a fantasy all rolled into one. This is the 26th season for Noblesville Shakespeare in the Park, presented by the Noblesville Cultural Arts Commission.

 Amalgamated Stage Productions:

Charley’s Aunt

Jack and Charley have a problem. As their college careers wind down (at Oxford, no less), they have found the girls of their dreams. The problem, you ask? In 24 hours those girls leave on an extended trip, and if they don’t act now they may lose their chance with them forever! Polite society dictates they cannot be alone with the girls, but how else is a guy to propose? A welcome solution is found when Charley’s wealthy aunt is to visit him, and Charley and Jack seize the opportunity to invite the girls to a lunch in her honor. Trouble starts once his aunt cables she has been detained, and the boys, desperate and out of ideas, press their friend and amateur actor, Fanny Babbs, to portray Charley’s aunt. Hilarity ensues as the men and women of the tale misplace their affections, rekindle love affairs, and find themselves in some outrageous positions in the quest to find—and secure—true love. In the vein of classic films Some Like It Hot and Tootsie, Brandon Thomas’s English farce, Charley’s Aunt, is sure to thrill audiences today as it did in 1892, when it historically broke records with an original London run of almost 1,500 performances.

Beef & Boards: Million Dollar Quartet

mdqFilled with iconic music and based on a true story, it relives one of the most remarkable nights in music history. Million Dollar Quartet is set on Dec. 4, 1956, when an extraordinary twist of fate brought Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley together for what would be one of the greatest jam sessions ever. The four legends gathered at the Sun Records recording studio in Memphis, Tenn., where they’d launched their careers. Word soon leaked out of an impromptu jam session. A newspaper man who was there wrote, “This quartet could sell a million.” Soon, they were dubbed the “Million Dollar Quartet.” This was their only performance, a cultural flashpoint that caught rock ‘n’ roll at the moment of creation. That legendary December night reveals an irresistible tale of broken promises, secrets, betrayal and celebrations that is both poignant and funny. The incredible score includes: “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Fever,” “Walk the Line,” “Sixteen Tons,” “Who Do You Love?,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “Hound Dog,” and more.

Theatre for Christ: Godspell (2012 Broadway Revival Production)

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Theatre For Christ’s “Godspell”

This immensely successful rock opera needs little introduction, but when it was first produced on Broadway in 1971, it broke new ground in its stage treatment of the historical Jesus Christ. Based on the Gospel according to St. Matthew, it deals with the last days of Jesus and includes dramatized versions of several well-known parables.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

No openings for the weekend of 7/13 that I could find, so here are some events

HAPPENING NOW: Flash sale for Forbidden Broadway

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Logan Moore in Actors Theatre of Indiana’s “Forbidden Broadway”

Any seat, any date, any time: tickets for just $20 apiece. (Lisa says: Do this. DO THIS. This show is both hysterical and full of talent.)

Other Forbidden Broadway special dates:

  • July 12 ATI Industry Night. Are you an actor or artisan? Show your Equity card or a show program with your name and get a discounted ticket.
  • July 19 Favorite Broadway Star Night. Come dressed as your favorite Broadway star and enter your name for a drawing for two tickets to opening weekend of Comedy of Tenors in September.
  • July 29 SunKing Sing-along Night. After the show, ATI will host a five-song sing-along with lyrics and beer.

TONIGHT: Word Fringe Day Kingmakers Game for Good

Celebrate World Fringe Day at a giveback night at Kingmakers, IndyFringe’s neighbor down the road, for a night of game playing, refreshments, and giving back. In honor of World Fringe Day, a veteran Fringe performer will host the fun. All you have to do is enjoy a drink (or two) and a game with friends, and 18 percent of proceeds come back to IndyFringe. Plus, Kingmakers is giving out free Game on Us cards to be used during your next visit. 

Footlite Musicals: Young Adults

Into the Woods Fairytale Friday 

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“Into the Woods” artwork by cast member Rylie Gendron

Friday, July 13, dress as your favorite fairytale character to be entered to win a framed print of a painting inspired by Into the Woods by cast member Rylie Gendron. Then meet your favorite Into the Woods characters following the show.

Coming up

 Indiana Repertory Theatre’s

A Christmas Carol in July Sale

Early booking for A Christmas Carol begins July 16. Get the best seats at the best price to Indy’s favorite holiday tradition during the Carol in July sale before single tickets go on sale.

  • July 16-20
  • Tickets start at $25 and can be purchased from July 16 at 11 a.m. through July 20 at 5 p.m. by calling the IRT Ticket Office at 317-635-5252.
  • irtlive.com

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http://www.phoenixtheatre.org/

Footlite Musicals Annual Meeting & Barbecue Pitch-In Event

This event is open to both members and non-members, but only members may vote at the membership meeting.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Actors Theatre of Indiana: “Forbidden Broadway”

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Actors Theatre of Indiana: “Forbidden Broadway”

Sometimes, there is brilliance—an idea that is truly groundbreaking, pushing and challenging fellow artists to the next level. Let’s use Les Miserables as an example. When it premiered, it was considered a musical masterpiece. Now, 30-odd years later, if I ever have to sit through another production of Les Mis, I am going to throw myself on that barricade in the hope that a stray kitchen chair takes me out. As declared in another over-produced piece of music (part of a current Broadway production—because originality is dead), Let it go.

For those of us who can’t take another rendition of that lazy Susan musical, as well as other musicals that have descended into the tedious (or just WTF, ahem, SpongeBob), there is Forbidden Broadway.

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Logan Moore in Actors Theatre of Indiana’s “Forbidden Broadway”

The inaugural production at the District Theatre, formerly Theatre on the Square, is a (literally) nose-snubbing show presented by Actors Theatre of Indiana. The cachinnating-worthy performance parodies and bullies musical theater in ways that go beyond irreverent and into territory that some mainstream musical-lovers would find blasphemous. And it’s divine.

Granted, this means that a working knowledge of musical theater history and present trends is a necessity to cachinnate at—or even “get”—this show. Various popular show tunes have been re-lyriced to indulge in how hokey and/or hackney their sources really are.

Since its inception in 1982, Forbidden Broadway has continued to evolve. As new musicals/actors/producers hit the stage, many ripe with potential parody material, they have been incorporated into the show. Hence, we have the unbelievably hilarious Lion King with a demented Rafiki and neck-braced actors forced into costumes the Inquisition would have envied. There are some classics in there too, rehashes that won’t die, making the “saucy Fosse” number hysterical in its truth.

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Judy Fitzgerald and Cynthia Collins in Actors Theatre of Indiana’s “Forbidden Broadway”

Director Billy Kimmel is the mad Hatter to this insanity. With the fab-u-lous Brent Marty on piano, Don Farrell, Logan Moore, Cynthia Collins, and Judy Fitzgerald outdo themselves in their sheer glee of the devastatingly ludicrous. Special goof awards do need to go out to Farrell and Moore for the foolishness that so often falls to them. Donning those Mamma Mia costumes is a tame example, but they take to them like cats to chlorinated swim trunks. Farrell also belts out some awesome notes, and Moore was born for this kind of show (see my review of Edwin Drood, which contains many of the same descriptors I use here).

And Terry Woods’ costuming is absolutely brilliant. These are not merely costumes—they are a fifth actor, as essential as the cast wearing them. Some are infected with details a keen eye will appreciate. And while props are sparse, the itty-bitty baby chandelier for the Phantom is adorable.

This is an excellent opening for the District Theatre. A standing ovation to ATI for making it so.

  • Through July 29; dates and times vary
  • $30 general admission / $25 seniors (65 and over) / $20 students
  • District Theatre (formerly Theatre on the Square)
  • http://atistage.org

Special events:

  • July 12 ATI Industry Night. Are you an actor or artisan? Show your Equity card or a show program with your name and get a discounted ticket.
  • July 19 Favorite Broadway Star Night. Come dressed as your favorite Broadway star and enter your name for a drawing for two tickets to opening weekend of Comedy of Tenors in September.
  • July 29 SunKing Sing-along Night. After the show, ATI will host a five-song sing-along with lyrics and beer.
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Actors Theatre of Indiana’s “Forbidden Broadway”
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 7/6

Actors Theatre of Indiana:

Forbidden Broadway

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Actors Theatre of Indiana: “Forbidden Broadway”

In this long-running Off-Broadway hit musical revue, Forbidden Broadway pokes, teases, and lampoons anything Broadway has to offer — but always with love. This canon of witty and oftentimes brilliant parodies is a time capsule of American theater. Journey through more than 20 Broadway shows and spend the evening with Carol Channing, Julie Andrews, Ethel Merman, not to mention the casts of The Lion King, Wicked, Mamma Mia, Hairspray, and so many more in this entertaining tribute to some of Broadway’s greatest shows and stars!

  • July 5-29; dates and times vary
  • $30 general admission / $25 seniors (65 and over) / $20 students
  • District Theatre (formerly Theatre on the Square)
  • http://atistage.org

Special events:

  • July 5 opening night VIP party for all ticket holders
  • July 12 ATI Industry Night. Are you an actor or artisan? Show your Equity card or a show program with your name and get a discounted ticket.
  • July 19 Favorite Broadway Star Night. Come dressed as your favorite Broadway star and enter your name for a drawing for two tickets to opening weekend of Comedy of Tenors in September.
  • July 29 SunKing Sing-along Night. After the show, ATI will host a five-song sing-along with lyrics and beer.

 

Magic Thread Cabaret:

Katy Gentry Is Judy Garland LIVE!

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Katy Gentry as Judy Garland

Katy Gentry, who grew up in Crawfordsville and now lives in Fishers, is bringing Judy Garland to life as she recreates performances by the legendary superstar. Gentry first stepped into Judy Garland’s shoes when she originated the role in the Actors Theatre of Indiana premiere of Beyond the Rainbow in 2007, joining ATI’s reprisal of the show in 2017 to play 38-year-old Judy Garland in her iconic 1961 Carnegie Hall performance.

  • Friday, July 6-Saturday, July 7 at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, July 8 at 4:00 p.m.
  • $35 and $25 and reflect seating options
  • The Cat
  • https://katygentry.bpt.me or reserve 317-649-4CAT

7th Artistry: Little Red Riding Hood

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7th Artistry: “Little Red Riding Hood”

Carter’s summer is off to a rough start. Her friends’ pets keep going missing and her grades slipped during the last semester. Her friends are worried about their pets, and her mom is angry about her grades. No one seems to have time for her except her grandma. So how hard can running away be? The woods aren’t that scary. In this devised piece, the ensemble and a board of creators examine what we fear and how we can overcome it.

Epilogue Players: Run For Your Wife

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Epilogue Players: “Run For Your Wife”

London cab driver John Smith has two wives, two lives, and a very precise schedule for juggling them both, with one wife at home in Streatham and another at home in Wimbledon. Trouble brews when Smith is mugged and ends up in hospital, where both of his addresses surface, causing both the Streatham and Wimbledon police to investigate. Having upset his schedule, Smith becomes hopelessly entangled in his attempts to explain himself to his wives and two suspicious police officers, with help from his lazy layabout neighbour upstairs in Wimbledon.

  • July 6-22, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $15; $13 seniors 65 and older; $12 For Epilogue members
  • http://epilogueplayers.com/
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Summer Stock Stage: “Urinetown: The Musical”

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Summer Stock Stage: “Urinetown: The Musical.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

Usually, I avoid reviewing young-adult productions because the focus of these programs is the kids’ experience of theater, not necessarily putting on a production-perfect show. It’s supposed to be fun and educational. However, I love Urinetown: The Musical; it’s hysterical. But more important, I was recently so impressed by Eclipse, the young-professional arm of Summer Stock Stage, that I made an exception.

An exception that proved to not just raise the bar for all theaters in Indianapolis but that will require some of them to pole-vault over the bar.

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Summer Stock Stage: “Urinetown: The Musical.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

SSS’s production was gorgeous, almost flawless in its execution. Granted, the “kids” (roughly 13 to 19) have longtime theater veterans supporting them, but the best director can’t pull off a show this good without having the raw talent to work with.

And raw talent was abundant.

Eva Scherrer as Pennywise was outstanding. Chase Infiniti as Hope Cladwell and Nicholas Dunlap-Loomis as Officer Lockstock were also exceptional, both vocally and in characterization. Very close seconds were Jack Ducat as Caldwell Cladwell and Natalie Schilling as Little Sally—both of whom created the silly caricatures of their characters while maintaining quality vocals. Cameron Brown as Bobby Strong took some time to warm up but nailed “Run Freedom Run.” Minor characters Chinyelu Mwaafrika and Sally Root, backed by the Rebel Ensemble, delivered a major punch with “Snuff that Girl.”

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Summer Stock Stage: “Urinetown: The Musical.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

Which is actually a good segue into how amazing the choreography was. Mariel Greenlee (The Martha Graham Center for Dance, et al.), Lily Wessel (12 SSS and Eclipse shows), and Brandon Comer (a longtime member of Dance Kaleidoscope) created it, but the huge cast performed it like pros. Seriously. I think my jaw dropped a few times at just how good they were.

More mentors with serious credentials: Emily Ristine Holloway, a founder and artistic director of SSS, produced and directed, with Charles Goad as assistant director. Chuck Goad, people. If you follow Indianapolis theater, your eyes should pop just as mine did when I read the program. And the art director? Kyle Ragsdale. He’s not just a staple of the local visual arts community, but you may know his work from the posters for the Indiana Repertory Theatre, which he has painted for the last two seasons.

And the lighting! Michael Moffatt’s (Phoenix, Zach and Zack, et al.) lighting was dynamic and complemented Kristopher Steege’s set design.

All this and a live band!

I’m leaving people out, I know, but I’m running out of synonyms for “fantastic.”

Sadly, this show closed July 1, but SSS’s next production, The Secret Garden, is coming up July 25-29.

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Summer Stock Stage: “Urinetown: The Musical.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

This production represented students from 34 different schools. Here are the ones I mentioned (though Dunlap-Loomis’s is not noted).

  • Eva Scherrer: North Central High School senior
  • Chase Infiniti: recent grad of North Central High School
  • Jack Ducat: Carmel High School sophomore
  • Natalie Schilling: North Central High School sophomore
  • Cameron Brown: recent grad of Franklin Central High School
  • Chinyelu Mwaafrika: recent grad of Shortridge High School
  • Sally Root: recent grad of Park Tudor School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Summit Performance Indianapolis: “Silent Sky”

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Summit Performance Indianapolis: “Silent Sky.” Photo by Emily Schwank.

Summit Performance Indianapolis, a new women-based theatrical group, introduced themselves to us with a (have to say it) stellar staging of Silent Sky. The choice is apropos. The play by Lauren Gunderson is based on a little-known female astronomer, Henrietta Leavitt, who fought for equal recognition for her work while she also balked against social convention, single-mindedly immersing herself in a career at a time when most women were relegated to being wives and mothers.

Henrietta takes a post at the Harvard Observatory in the early 1900s, traveling from her home and family in Wisconsin, but when she arrives, she is surprised to find that she isn’t allowed access to its telescope, which for her is an awe-inspiring object she yearns to wield. Instead, she is placed with two other women in what the astronomy department calls “Pickering’s harem,” Edward Charles Pickering being a renowned Harvard astronomer. The women are referred to as “computers,” in that their only job is to “compute” data that has been collected by the men. Her own ideas are rebuffed and even discouraged, so Henrietta uses her off time to explore her own theories, ultimately making a breakthrough that changes the astronomic perception of the universe and later influences Hubble’s Law. She did receive some recognition for her work, but if she had been male, her discoveries would have been lauded as genius.

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Summit Performance Indianapolis: “Silent Sky.” Photo by Emily Schwank.

Henrietta isn’t the only member of the team who made a mark on the scientific world. Annie Cannon created the Harvard Classification Scheme, though most of the credit was taken by Pickering, and she remains with her fellow computers regardless. Women’s advances weren’t given as much credit as they should have, and they were often downplayed by men, who took their research and built on it.

Sadly, society hasn’t advanced as much as it should have since this time period. In 2016, The New York Times reported, “Women’s median annual earnings stubbornly remain about 20 percent below men’s. Why is progress stalling? It may come down to this troubling reality, new research suggests: Work done by women simply isn’t valued as highly.”

This is further illustrated in Mr. Shaw, Pickering’s apprentice, who oversees the women’s work. He and Henrietta immediately clash during their first meeting. As a man, he sees himself as her superior, not her colleague, though they hold equal academic degrees, and Henrietta calls him out on his subconscious misogyny. Shaw isn’t even particularly divested in his work, whereas Henrietta is passionate—a word she has to illustrate for Mr. Shaw.

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Summit Performance Indianapolis: “Silent Sky.” Photo by Emily Schwank.

Rounding out the “harem” is Williamina Fleming, Pickering’s former housekeeper whom he brought on because the “boys” tended to take the work and then move on to apply it to their own projects. The chipper Williamina gets away with more lip because she has been around the longest, but she always makes her unapologetic statements funny even when they are the bald-faced truth.

Henrietta is too focused on the stars to take much notice of the life that is happening around her. Above everything, her priority is the stars until her father’s stroke pulls her back home, at which point she continues to work remotely. While her sister Margaret and Henrietta see heaven vs. the heavens, Margaret isn’t a complete foil for Henrietta, as she harbors and delicately feeds her own passion for music.

With Lori Wolter Hudson directing, the cast and crew for Silent Sky come with impressive credentials all around, and their talent is on full display. Carrie Ann Schlatter captures Henrietta’s hard-headed dedication and her wonder in an energetic, sympathetic, and likable performance. Schlatter gives Henrietta a fully developed personality. Her character pushes on, growing with each new obstacle she encounters. She is always in motion, a parallel to her perpetually working mind.

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Summit Performance Indianapolis: “Silent Sky.” Photo by Emily Schwank.

Henrietta’s co-workers, Annie and Williamina, bookend her personality. Molly Garner as Annie is the perfect depiction of a straight-laced, aloof, somewhat intimidating woman who knows her place in the hierarchy. Watching her slough off that stone face and evolve into a suffragist keeps time for the audience and allows Garner to take her character in a different direction, with often-amusing results. Williamina is a constant, an anchor in Henrietta’s and Annie’s lives, and Gigi Jennewein provides the support and levity needed during Henrietta’s challenges and Annie’s new interests. Her whimsical Scottish persona is delightful.

Schlatter, Garner, and Jennewein develop a tactile bond among the three women that is beautiful to witness. Their dialogue and interactions combine wit and resilience for a truly entertaining and touching trio.

Adam Tran was recently seen as Elvis in Actors Theatre of Indiana’s Million Dollar Quartet, and his performance here is a testament to his versatility. Mr. Shaw’s air of authority deteriorates under Henrietta’s influence, finally settling on an adorable flutter as his attraction to her increases.

Devan Mathias as Margaret is a sweet and supportive sister to Henrietta, even in their goading, teasing sibling repartee. Though Margaret chose a domestic life, Mathias gives Margaret strength and perseverance, but she also allows vulnerability. Their sisterly bond never breaks through time or distance.

Lighting by Laura Glover plays an important part in the show, and her designs are ethereal, taking audiences into the cosmos. Abigail Copeland’s scenic design and props are smartly done, which is a must in a black-box stage. The set is a mix of the utilitarian practical with bits of shine to reflect the story’s subject. The silver adornments look like shooting stars. Especially impressive is a cunning table that transforms into several variations. And Brittany Kugler’s period costume designs are lovely.

This is an exceptional premiere for Summit. More, please.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 6/29

NoExit: Drosselmeyer’s

All-American Cabaret

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NoExit’s Drosselmeyer in the 2016 take on “The Nutcracker.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

Proud American (????) Wolfgang Drosselmeyer pulls out all the stops for a Christmas in July celebration of Lady Liberty, Old Glory, and Uncle Sam. Join his cohort of special guests for a night of performances, games, and celebrating all that makes America the world’s butthole favorite nation.

Summit Performance Indianapolis:

Silent Sky

Henrietta Swan Leavitt (July 4, 1868–Dec. 12, 1921) was an American astronomer whose work received little recognition in her lifetime. Leavitt is the subject of Lauren Gunderson’s play “Silent Sky,” the inaugural production for Summit Performance Indianapolis.

Young Artist productions

Summer Stock Stage: Urinetown

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Summer Stock Stage’s “Urinetown”

The Tony Award-winning Urinetown is a sidesplitting send-up of greed, love, revolution, and musical theater in a time when water is worth its weight in gold. In a dystopian city, a terrible water shortage has led to a government-enforced ban on private toilets. The citizens must use public amenities controlled by a malevolent company — until a hero decides to plan a revolution.

Summer Stock Stage features more than 40 talented students ages 13 to 19 from 20 public, private, and charter schools in Central Indiana who will perform a fully-staged and orchestrated production. Urinetown is co-directed by and Charles Goad and artistic director Emily Ristine Holloway, with musical direction by Michael Raunick and choreography by Brandon Comer, Mariel Greenlee, and Lily Wessel.

  • June 28-July 1,  Thursday-Saturday at 7 p.m. Sunday at 2 p.m.
  • Park Tudor School’s Ayres Auditorium
  • $14 for the Thursday preview performance and $18 for all other shows
  • http://www.summerstockstage.com

Personal note from Lisa: Not only is Urinetown freaking hilarious with a great soundtrack, but SSS is the supporting arm of Eclipse, which recently produced an amazing staging of Dogfight. This young-adult production is more than likely worth checking out.

Footlite Young Adults Production: Into the Woods

Featuring Indiana performers aged 18-25, check out this popular Sondheim musical — an epic fairytale about wishes, family, and the choices we make. The story follows a Baker and his wife, who wish to have a child; Cinderella, who wishes to attend the King’s Festival; and Jack, who wishes his cow would give milk. When the Baker and his wife learn that they cannot have a child because of a Witch’s curse, the two set off on a journey to break the curse. Everyone’s wish is granted, but the consequences of their actions return to haunt them later with disastrous results.

  • June 29-July 15, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $15-$25; The first Sunday performance and all Thursday evening performances are $10.
  • Footlite Musicals
  • Saturday, July 7 will be ASL interpreted
  • footlite.org

Civic Young Artists Theatre Program: Revue!

Under the guidance of Brent Marty (music/vocal director), Emily Rogge Tzucker (director), and Anne Beck (staging), high school students from across Central Indiana will present a showcase of scenes, dance, solo, trios, and small group numbers for an evening full of fun, cabaret-style entertainment!

 

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Storefront Theatre of Indianapolis: “Prowess”

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Storefront Theatre of Indianapolis: “Prowess”

When does fear become aggression? Self-defense becomes an attack? Heroics become vigilantism? When does drawing blood become an addiction?

Prowess explores all of these concepts and more through an intense staging by Storefront Theatre of Indianapolis, which has just announced that it will be moving into a permanent space in the former Crackers Comedy Club in Broad Ripple.

While its situations and subjects seem grim, it isn’t emotionally exhausting because it gives the audience breaks to relax, to take a breath, most often at the expense of the sole white character, Andy. You can’t help but laugh when he duct-tapes a tank of wasp spray to his back and charges into battle with squirt nozzles. The show has a little Kick-Ass feel to it.

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Jamaal McCray and Paeton Chavis in Storefront Theatre of Indianapolis’s “Prowess”

Mark, played by Jamaal McCray, advertises self-defense classes on Craigslist. Zora, played by Paeton Chavis, takes a chance on that ad. She has Mark come to her office after hours and enthusiastically begins training. But Zora’s motivations aren’t just self-defense. She wants retribution. But Mark won’t train her to fight offensively. He is still experiencing personal healing, and the classes are a sort of penance for past transgressions. But when Andy, played by Zachariah Stonerock, stumbles upon Mark and Zora mid-class, he insists on joining the sessions. Once Andy tells them his own story, Mark relents and begins teaching them how to actually fight. Safety in their Chicago neighborhood is elusive, and both Andy and Zora’s lives have been crippled in some way. They want their power back.

Near the office, a graffiti artist, Jax, played by Donovan Whitney, memorializes each killing that has occurred in the neighborhood, but he keeps his head down and away from potential trouble. His chosen outlet is his spray can. He thinks he is a realist. “What’s your color?” he asks Mark so that he can have the right can on hand when Mark is inevitably murdered. Watch for those colors.

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Donovan Whitney and Zachariah Stonerock in Storefront Theatre of Indianapolis’s “Prowess”

Chavis is a little ball of perpetual motion, a direct contrast to the focused demeanor of McCray. McCray’s character is like a guru, trying to guide his relentless students, but you can tell his character is holding something in—something dark he is trying to run away from just as much as Zora and Andy are trying to face their demons. It informs his reluctance to fight. Stonerock plays Andy as a loveable goofball—there is just no better way to describe him. Whitney’s character feigns indifference, but Whitney gives him more depth than that in his body and facial language. Each character is a survivor and distinctly reacts to that in his or her own way.

Director Ronan Marra’s cast and crew grasp the grit of Chicago and transfer it to the small stage. Much of the play hinges on violence, and fight director Rob Johansen does a remarkable job of making those hits realistic.

Storefront Theatre is still a new company, having only staged one other production. After seeing Prowess, I’m challenging them for an equally impressive follow-up.

  • June 21–July 1, Thursdays and Sundays at 7 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
  • $15-$25
  • IndyEleven theater inside the IndyFringe building
  • www.storefrontindy.com
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 6/22

Drosselmeyer’s All American Freedom Festival Cabaret presented by NoExit

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NoExit’s Drosselmeyer in the 2016 take on “The Nutcracker.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

Proud American (????) Wolfgang Drosselmeyer pulls out all the stops for a Christmas in July celebration of Lady Liberty, Old Glory, and Uncle Sam. Join his cohort of special guests for a night of performances, games, and celebrating all that makes America the world’s butthole favorite nation.

Drag History presented in partnership with IndyPride

They served looks. They served drama. They served fierceness. Strut down memory lane to discover how drag queens have werk’d it in Indianapolis for more than six decades. This is an evening of conversation, storytelling, performances, and fabulous signature drinks as you look at the history of Indianapolis’s drag scene and its evolution to today. Cash bar with signature drinks available for sale.

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Phoenix Theatre: “Indecent”

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Phoenix Theatre’s “Indecent.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

In order to understand the Phoenix Theatre’s current production, Indecent, a little must be said about The God of Vengeance, a Yiddish drama by Sholem Asch, because Indecent is a play about a play set as a play.

The God of Vengeance was unlike anything of its time—it was groundbreaking in its subject and presentation. However, it didn’t incite any protest during its plentiful performances in Europe, but then, it made its way to the U.S. via Broadway in 1923, at which point—surprise, surprise, welcome to the hypocritical U.S.—the cast and producer were arrested for obscenity because the play depicts a lesbian relationship and a single kiss between two women.

Martha Jacobs directs a beautifully staged show, with lush lighting (Jeffery Martin) and elegant movement (Esther Widlanski). As with the other two shows that have been staged at the new Phoenix Theatre Cultural Centre, the cast contains many Phoenix-familiar faces (as is Jacobs): Jolene Moffatt, John Goodson, Mark Goetzinger, and Bill Simmons (also the new artistic director). Joining them onstage are Abby Lee, Courtney Spivak, and Nick Jenkins. The cast portrays a troupe of actors telling the story of The God of Vengeance, from its inception all the way to the 1950s.

Portions of the show are spoken in Yiddish with projected translations, or if the actors are supposed to be speaking in Yiddish but are speaking in English (for the audience’s sake), it is noted on the screen. This keeps the experience of reading subtitles limited, which can get tiresome after a while. But the inclusion of Yiddish and Jewish cultural references give authenticity to the production. I do wish that some information, perhaps in the program, would have explained a few of these traditions, such as why Lemml refuses to cross the threshold into Asch’s home or why it is abhorrent to throw the Torah on the ground.

Overall, the presentation of the show is lovely, with a real rain shower for the infamous kiss-in-the-rain scene, and the actors give fine performances. An especially well-staged, intense scene with the company huddled in an internment camp is breathtaking.

  • Through July 8, Thursdays at 7 p.m.; Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $27-$33
  • www.phoenixtheatre.org
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Phoenix Theatre’s “Indecent.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

And now, the following will have me run out of town on a rail … and has nothing to do with the Phoenix’s production values in staging Indecent.

I try not to do this too often, but I need to get this out of my head because it was too distracting to me when trying to write this. (Part of the reason why this review is coming out so late.) I’m going to talk about the script and structure of the play.

Paula Vogel’s Indecent may be about a controversial play, but the lead-up to the actual events that marked it as something of note is unnecessarily long, making its pace painfully slow, and it makes the story somewhat dull. By the time the lawsuit happens, I wasn’t invested in the characters enough to feel sympathetic—until that internment scene, which I attribute to the vision of the Phoenix’s cast and crew.

However, I am in the minority with this opinion, as Indecent was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play in 2017.

Of course, SpongeBob the Musical was nominated for Best Musical this year, sooooooo …

This is the second of the three shows the Phoenix has produced at its new facility, and only one, The Pill, has been the kind of edgy show I have come to associate with the Phoenix.

I find it confusing that two rather tame shows, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater and Indecent, were chosen to christen the new Cultural Centre’s mainstage. Not edgy. I expected the Phoenix to come out strong, to make a statement with its opening shows, to prove it’s still the theater that will take a chance on unusual, unknown, and controversial works that you won’t see anywhere else in Indy.

Sure, Indecent is having its Indiana premiere, but meh.

While acknowledging the deeper themes behind Rosewater and Indecent uncovers social commentary—and as a critic, that is part of my job, I know—as a casual audience member, that’s a lot of work in an ambiguous and sometimes confusing play. This is why I like having a companion at shows. A layman’s opinion. And hers backed up what I just wrote. So, I know I am not totally alone.

After all that, I now fear being banned from the Phoenix.

I intentionally did not read any of my peers’ reviews before writing this, and I have no doubt that some if not all contradict what I have written. If you go to my homepage, you will find links to their websites (scroll to the bottom). So, if I have pissed you off, click on those links and feel vindicated that I have no idea what I am saying. I expect hate mail, too, so, go ahead. It won’t be the first time, and probably not the last. Years and years (and years and years, since I started writing about theater circa 1998 or so) ago, Bryan Fonseca himself wrote me one. So you will be in good company.

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 6/15

Storefront Theatre of Indianapolis: Prowess

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Storefront Theatre of Indianapolis’s “Prowess”

Summer in Chicago: Temperatures flare, shootings spike, and the city is stuck in status quo. Enter a mixed bag of underdogs ready to save whatever’s left of the day. Completely powerless but sky-high on passion, they join forces. But as broken bones multiply and alliances splinter, the team is forced to draw the line between well-meaning heroism and vigilante justice. This is the second production of Storefront’s inaugural season. Storefront Theatre of Indianapolis is a new nonprofit, professional theater company based in downtown Indy that is focused on producing new plays by underrepresented playwrights. Storefront stages productions in the style of Chicago storefront theaters: small and intimate settings and shows that are raw and underscored by emotional truth.

Find fun clips of Rob Johansen’s fight training here: www.facebook.com/storefrontindy/

  • Monday, June 18, 7 p.m. with a post-show reception; June 21-July 1, Thursdays and Sundays at 7 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
  • $15-$25
  • IndyFringe (IndyEleven)
  • www.storefrontindy.com

Phoenix Theatre: Indecent

In Paula Vogel’s stunning new work, a troupe of actors recreate the controversy leading up to and following the fateful Broadway debut of Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeance. From ashes, they rise to answer the question: “When! When will be the right time?” This blazing new work, hot from Broadway, features Indianapolis legend Martha Jacobs at the helm directing, and all the bells and whistles the fancy new building can provide. “It’s searing; it’s captivating; it’s not to be missed.”

  • June 14-July 8, Thursdays at 7 p.m.; Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • Preview performance June 14: Catch the show before opening night for just $25!
  • Producer Party June 15: After the performance on Friday of opening weekend, the Phoenix will host a Producer Party with food and Sun King beer.
  • $27-$33
  • www.phoenixtheatre.org

Don’t forget about the 23rd Annual Brew Ha Ha, Indy’s original craft beer festival, June 16, benefiting the Phoenix Theatre. This legendary block party is on the 700 block of North Park Avenue between Massachusetts Avenue and East St. Clair Street in the Mass Ave Arts & Theatre District. Enjoy unlimited beer samples from dozens of the best local craft breweries, live music from local bands, and food from some of your favorite local restaurants. General admission entrance begins at 3 p.m. with early access entrance (limited tickets) at 2 p.m., which allows for shorter lines and more time to take advantage of those unlimited samples! $20-$60.

Indiana Theatre Company in conjunction with Nickel Plate Players: Critical Recall

Do the brilliant minds of our time come from some other dimension; some other time; some other place? And are they all somehow unknowingly connected? From the writer of the IndyFringe sell-out hit The Gift, acclaimed playwright and author Dr. L. Jan Eira, re-imagines the life of an accomplished heart surgeon and takes audiences on a mind-bending journey in this theatrical “sci-fi” psychological thriller. It’s Groundhog Day meets No Exit.

  • June 15-24, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $15 online; $18 at the door
  • The Cat
  • www.ITCindy.com

Asante Children’s Theatre: Who’s You Daddy? A Hip Hopera

Performed by members of the ACT Academy together with seasoned adult actors. Bobby, a young rapper on the edge of stardom, finds out he is about to be a father and panics. His decision lies at the end of a musical journey that includes the voices of African ancestors, enslaved ancestors, and children who are not yet born. Due to the language content, this show is rated PG-13.

Sweat for NoExit

Get your yoga on and sweat for a good cause: helping to bring immersive, site-specific, and sometimes really weird theater to Indy! The class is a 60 minute Original Hot Yoga class, perfect for beginners and experienced yogis. While participants are encouraged to bring their own yoga mat, towel, and water, the Hot Room also has mats and towels to rent and bottled water available for purchase. They love beginners, so if you’ve ever been curious about The Hot Room, now is the time to check it out!

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Carmel Community Players: “Is He Dead?”

In 1898, Mark Twain was depressed. He used playwriting as therapy, and the result was Is He Dead? After a failed attempt at getting it on stage, the script languished in the UC Berkley archives until it was unearthed in 2002. David Ives adapted the play, cutting it down to more manageable theatrical perimeters, and it hit Broadway in 2007.

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Carmel Community Players’ “Is He Dead?”

Twain fictionalizes Jean-Francois Millet, an actual French Realism painter, 1814-1875, to spoof post-mortem celebrity. Millet, played by Jaime Johnson, is dirt poor because no one will buy his paintings. His work isn’t worth anything because he isn’t dead. So his students, Matt Hartzburg as “Chicago,” Adam Powell as “Dutchy,” and Kelly Keller as O’Shaughnessy, devise a plan: Millet will fake his death and they will all get rich. But in order for Millet to actually be able to enjoy his posthumous wealth—and avoid the arch villain, moneylender Bastien Andre (Larry Adams)—he needs a new identity. To avert suspicion as much as possible, he is coerced into donning drag and becoming Daisy Tillou, his widowed twin sister. Farce ensues.

Witnesses to the zany con are Millet’s landladies, Lucinda Ryan and Susan Hill, a sympathetic duo willing to accept paintings as rent. Keven Shadle as Papa Leroux is also indebted to Andre, who wants Leroux’s daughter and Millet’s lady love, Marie, played by Morgan Morton, as payment. Her huffy sister, Cecile, played by Monya Wolf, has her eye on Chicago, and she gets nosey when he and Tillou seem a little too close. Rounding out the cast is Dave Bolander in various roles that help accent the silly.

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Carmel Community Players’ “Is He Dead?”

The cast chomps up the scenery, embracing their characters enthusiastically. Johnson hits all the comedic expectations of man-in-a-dress with aplomb, and Adams well-milks his moustache-twirling, boo-hiss, melodramatic character. With Hartzburg as their mastermind, Powell and Keller are free to gleefully play up their characters’ over-the-top stereotypes, including Keller’s accented “Well, you can go to hell” interjections and Powell’s bluster and obsessive love of Limburger cheese. The cast gives us fine performances all around. Cathie Morgan provides eclectic costumes; the ladies’ frocks are especially fetching—including the intentionally ridiculous ones for Tillou. Mike Mellott’s sets—from a poor man’s flat and then a post-financial-windfall posh residence—are impressively realistic.

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The cast of CCP’s “Is He Dead” took a walkabout — in costume — through downtown Carmel.

Mark Tumey directs this circus, a show that he performed in previously and was eager to bring to Indy.

Is He Dead? certainly isn’t what would be considered a Twain classic, but it does its job as a laughable little distraction.

  • Through June 24, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $16; $14 for seniors (62+) and students
  • Studio 37 inside Ji-Eun Lee Music Academy, 10029 E. 126th St., Fishers
  • www.carmelplayers.org

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Broadway Across America Indianapolis: “Rent”

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“Rent” 20th Anniversary Tour, credit Carol Rosegg, 2017

Let’s just say that Rent doesn’t seem to have aged well.

It will maintain its status in the musical history books because when it debuted, it initiated rock opera in a time infested with Andrew Lloyd Webber. It intimately explored the lives of people snared in the AIDS epidemic. Many of its Broadway cast members became performance gods (Idina Menzel, Anthony Rapp, Adam Pascal, Taye Diggs). And the tale of its creator, Jonathan Larson, who died of an aortic dissection immediately preceding its first Off-Broadway preview, is a tragic parallel with Angel’s death—both so young with so much unfulfilled potential.

But over the last 20 years, its original audience has grown up. For us, it is a piece of nostalgia. But after the advent of hundreds of shows since then, the storyline has become a commonality (though still tragic in Angel’s death), and its music is less interesting and lacks tonal variety. And for the next generation, this particular production is a lackluster introduction to what could be considered a classic.

While the cast is capable, there are no superstars here, and most are still paying their dues in a professional capacity. Javon King as Angel does have a great voice and captures your attention and your heart in his colorful characterization and sweet persona, but the rest are pale imitations of others whom I have seen in many (many) other stagings. They are just not that impressive, and their characters’ relationships suffer for it. Logan Farine as Roger is a particular disappointment in his twitchy performance. But one ensemble member (sadly, uncredited) does hit a particularly beautiful note during a “Seasons of Love” reminiscent of the emotion embodied in the original version.

Marlies Yearby’s choreography is unimaginative and repetitive, and Evan Ensign’s direction is monotonous in that everyone moves and emotes in too-similar ways. A relatively insignificant quibble is that Mimi would have a minimal amount of moonlight in her hair with costumer Angela Wendt’s choice to not wig Deri’ Andra Tuckers’s close-cropped style, though many pieces of costuming are homages to one or another Rent production from over the years. (Going with Maureen’s embroidered, flared jeans for “Over the Moon,” IMHO, could have better been replaced with the original skinny pants that more often appear for this number.)

And at one point Tuesday night, the spotlight hit Mark square in the torso before quickly and shakily adjusting to include his face.

But why in the world is the sound so muddy? Clowes is a quality concert hall, yet the lyrics were often hard to catch even for me—someone who knows every word of every song.

Fingers crossed for the upcoming tour of The Lion King coming to the Murat in September.

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 6/8

Carmel Community Players: Is He Dead?

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Carmel Community Players: “Is He Dead”

In this play written by Mark Twain and adapted by David Ives, Jean-Francois Millet, a young painter of genius, is in love with Marie Leroux but in debt to a villainous picture-dealer, Bastien Andre. Andre forecloses on Millet and threatens debtor’s prison unless Marie marries him. Millet realizes that the only way he can pay his debts and keep Marie from marrying Andre is to die, as it is only dead painters who achieve fame and fortune. Millet fakes his death and prospers, all while passing himself off as his own sister. Now a rich “widow,” he must find a way to get out of a dress, return to life, and marry Marie.

  • June 8-24, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $16; $14 for seniors (62+) and students
  • Studio 37 inside Ji-Eun Lee Music Academy, 10029 E. 126th St., Fishers
  • www.carmelplayers.org

Quick! Switch Clothes With Me!

This is a devised piece of theater that explores the smothering — or perhaps amusing —  expectations placed upon all of us: expectations that we have for ourselves, expectations others have for us, and expectations placed on us by society. Emma Rund, Cooper Pell, Gwyneth Clare, and Layke Fowler in collaboration with director Kelsey Price have devised a summation of pieces that will bring you laughter, empowerment, and a damn good time. Please note that this show does contain heavy language and mature themes and may not be suitable for all audiences.

Broadway Across America-Indianapolis: Rent

Check out the 25th anniversary tour!

The District Theatre Open House during Pride Parade 

Theatre on teh Square is now the District Theatre. Walk through this new-and-improved space and grab a refreshment.

  • June 9, 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • 627 Mass Ave.

Footlite Musicals: Awards Night 

The annual end of season celebration. A cocktail hour and dessert bar are followed by a preview of the upcoming 2018/2019 season and awards for the 2017/2018 season. Bring cash to vote for your favorite show of the past season to receive the Fan Favorite Award. Dress is cocktail attire.

  • June 10, 5:30 p.m.
  • Tickets are only $5
  • Hedback Theatre
  • footlite.org

Tony Awards

harry-potter-broadwaySpongeBob the Musical. Josh Groban. I just don’t know about this …

However, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has 10 nominations, sooooo …

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Actors Theatre of Indiana: “Million Dollar Quartet”

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Actors Theatre of Indiana: “Million Dollar Quartet”

That. Was. So. Much. Fun.

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Brandon Alstott and Don Farrell in “Million Dollar Quartet” at Actors Theatre of Indiana

Million Dollar Quartet is the story of an epic studio recording/jam session with the rock/country legends Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins at Sun Records. The studio was on the cusp of change. Sam Phillips was about to find out that Cash was moving to Columbia Records, Elvis wanted to come back to Sun, and Jerry Lee was still relatively unknown. Perkins was in the studio to make a new record, hoping to reignite his career, accompanied by newcomer Lewis. On this one auspicious night in 1956, the four superstars spontaneously came together—the only time—for one of the most amazing sessions in music history.

The show combines the most famous and some lesser-known music from these four performers with a little bit of background, a little bit of banter, and a whole lot of rockin’. The context and glimpses into each personality are nice segues into what we really all come to see (or hear, as the case may be): the music.

milliondollar3And the cast doesn’t disappoint. Brandon Alstott as Cash, Sean Riley as Perkins, Gavin Rohrer as Lewis, and Adam Tran as Presley nail the mannerisms, personalities, look, and sound of their characters. They recreate these immortal names. If you open your ears and let your eyes slightly unfocus, you can believe you are there in the studio with the real lineup. And not only are their vocals spot-on, but they also play their own instruments. Think about it—lines, songs, blocking, direction, characterization, and performing the score. That’s an impressive load. An impressive heavy load. And they’ve got it. Grok it. On every single song.

Backing them are Kroy Presley on the upright bass and Nathan Shew on percussion to fill out the sound. Betsy Norton as Presley’s girlfriend Dyanne gets to take the mike too in a sultry “Fever” and rousing “I Hear You Knockin.’”

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“Million Dollar Quartet” at Actors Theatre of Indiana

But the brightest star has to go to Gavin Rohrer as the buckets-of-crazy Jerry Lee. He is all over that piano in quintessential Jerry Lee fashion and captures the manic Jerry Lee vibe. He is a hoot.

Don Farrell as Phillips, the star maker, gives us much of the narrative insight. His night is emotionally turbulent as he gleefully sees the talent in his performers as he catches them on tape, but he is faced with choices and obstacles that leave him uncertain about the future.

While the show is set in a recording studio, Marciel Irene Green’s lighting design transports you to a concert stage when the songs really kick up a notch. Music director Taylor Gray keeps the sound real, and costumer Donna Jacobi provides iconic outfits. Director/choreographer DJ Salisbury brings it all together for a concert performance that will get you out of your seat and movin’ to the music.

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“Million Dollar Quartet” at Actors Theatre of Indiana

It’s worth including the song list because you’re going to love it.

  • “Blue Suede Shoes”: company
  • “Real Wild Child”: Jerry Lee Lewis
  • “Matchbox”: Carl Perkins
  • “Who Do You Love?”: Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis
  • “Folsom Prison Blues”: Johnny Cash
  • “Fever”: Dyanne
  • “Memories Are Made of This”: Elvis Presley and company
  • “That’s All Right”: Elvis Presley
  • “Brown Eyed Handsome Man”: Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins
  • “Down by the Riverside”: company
  • “Sixteen Tons”: Johnny Cash
  • “My Babe”: Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash
  • “Long Tall Sally”: Elvis Presley
  • “Peace in the Valley”: company
  • “I Walk the Line”: Johnny Cash
  • “I Hear You Knocking”: Dyanne
  • “Party”: Carl Perkins and company
  • “Great Balls of Fire”: Jerry Lee Lewis
  • “Down by the Riverside (Reprise)”: company
  • “Hound Dog”: Elvis Presley
  • “Ghost Riders in the Sky”: Johnny Cash
  • “See You Later Alligator”: Carl Perkins and company
  • “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”: Jerry Lee Lewis and company
  • June 1-17, Wednesdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • Carmel Center for the Performing Arts
  • $25+
  • http://atistage.org
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Summer Stock Stage’s Eclipse: “Dogfight”

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Leela Rothenberg and Patrick Dinnsen in Eclipse’s “Dogfight.” Photo by MIchael Camp.

I don’t know how Eclipse passed under my radar last year when they produced Spring Awakening, but Friday night, I was floored by their current production of the musical Dogfight.

Eclipse, now in its second year, is the young-professional arm of the youth-centric Summer Stock Stage, and it exclusively features alumni of SSS, providing paid opportunities for college and post-college artists. SSS has been providing theater experiences for teenagers for 15 years, and judging by the talent I witnessed from Eclipse, SSS is a damned good program.

Dogfight opens in 1967, with Eddie Birdlace, a U.S. Marine who has just returned from Vietnam, riding a Greyhound bus home. A fellow passenger asks him about his tattoo of three bees. Flashback to 1963. A trio of friends refers to themselves as the three B’s. They are fresh-faced, exuberant Marines about to ship out for Vietnam: Patrick Dinnsen as Birdlace, Joey Mervis as Boland, and John Collins as Bernstein. They are so young, so naïve—they have no idea what they are about to endure overseas. To celebrate their last night before being deployed, they, along with some fellow jarheads, decide to have a “dogfight.” This is a game where each participant adds his bet to the pool and then sets out to find the ugliest girl he can and bring her to the party as his “date.” The lounge singer is in on the gamble, and during a predetermined dance, he rates each girl. Whoever gets the highest score wins and walks away with the pot, the girl usually none the wiser. However, Birdlace’s “dog” throws him for a loop—he actually starts to respect and even like her.

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Joey Mervis, John Collins, and Patrick Dinnsen in Eclipse’s “Dogfight.” Photo by Michael Camp.

The show is performed in IndyFringe’s Basile Theatre, which is a pretty sparse space to begin with, and the simple set for Dogfight is two sets of stairs leading up to a second level, with the live band underneath. But I quickly discovered that the lack of color or copious props was completely irrelevant. The male leads, along with the backing ensemble and dynamic band, immediately knock you out of your bobby socks with their intensity, exceptional voices, unwavering energy, and immersive characters. Equally stunning is female lead Leela Rothenberg as Rose, Birdlace’s “dog,” a thoughtful but inexperienced girl whose inner strength captures Birdlace’s attention.

Seriously, everything about this production is awesome. Thinking that the cast potentially had somewhat limited performance experience, I set my expectations accordingly, but they blew away that unwarranted preconceived notion immediately. The show’s execution is top quality, and every single performer completely engages with his or her character. Just two ensemble examples of note are, at the party, Courtney Krauter as Ruth Two Bears (a fellow “dog”) and Aaron Huey as the lounge singer—both of whom are hysterical, with Krauter’s articulate WTF facial expression and Huey throwing himself into the singer’s flamboyant persona.

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Leela Rothenberg in Eclipse’s Dogfight.” Photo by Michael Camp.

Emily Ristine Holloway is a founding member and artistic director of SSS, and she produced and directed Dogfight. Forget the traditional bouquet of roses; she deserves the whole flower shop—as do the cast and crew of the show.

Coincidentally, another production of Dogfight also opened this past weekend, this one at Buck Creek Players. Sadly, I was not able to squeeze that performance into my schedule.

  • Through June 17, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
  • $20 adults; $18 children, students, senior citizens (62+)
  • Buck Creek Playhouse
  • www.buckcreekplayers.com
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 5/30

The Indianapolis Shakespeare Company: Macbeth

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Indianapolis Shakespeare Company’s “Macbeth.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

Indianapolis Shakespeare Company presents the Traveling Troupe, the new community outreach arm of Indy Shakes that is an extension of the professional company. It will present a one-hour performance of Shakespeare’s Macbeth in multiple venues throughout the month of June 2018. Thanks to the support of the Indianapolis Parks Foundation and Indy Parks, Indy Shakes is excited to provide programming within Indy Parks to bring free, high-quality Shakespeare productions to several parks across the city. Please bring your own lawn chairs or blankets for the outdoor performances. Go to www.indyshakes.com for more info.

  • June 1, 6:30 p.m. Garfield Arts Center
  • June 5, 7:00 p.m. Perry Park
  • June 6, 11-noon at Central Library
  • June 11, 1:00 p.m. Brookside Park
  • June 12, 6:30 p.m. Martin Luther King
  • June 14, 2:00 p.m. Tarkington Park
  • June 15, 7:00 p.m. Broad Ripple
  • June 16, 1:00 p.m. Garfield Arts Center
  • June 19, 6:30 p.m. Eagle Creek
  • June 21, TBD Watkins Park
  • June 21, 7:00 p.m. Holliday Park
  • June 30, 11:00 AM Martin Luther King Park
  • June 30, 1:00 p.m. Frederick Douglass
  • June 30, 3:00 p.m. Tarkington Park
Nathan Wilusz left and Addison R. Koehler in Pasek & Paul's DOGFIGHT Photo by Gary Nelson, www.photoGary.net
Nathan Wilusz and Addison R. Koehler in Buck Creek Players’ “Dogfight.” Photo by Gary Nelson, http://www.photoGary.net.

Buck Creek Players: Dogfight

The hauntingly beautiful musical Dogfight takes audiences on a romantic and heartbreaking theatrical journey. It’s November 21, 1963. On the eve of their deployment to a small but growing conflict in Southeast Asia, three young Marines set out for one final boys’ night of debauchery, partying, and maybe a little trouble. But, when Corporal Eddie Birdlace meets Rose, an awkward and idealistic waitress whom he enlists to win a cruel bet with his fellow recruits, she rewrites the rules of the game and teaches him the power of love and compassion. From the Oscar-winning lyricists of the film La La Land, composers of the film The Greatest Showman, and the creators of Broadway’s current Tony Award-winning best musical, Dear Evan Hansen, comes the 2012 Off-Broadway musical based on the 1991 film starring River Phoenix and Lili Taylor.

  • June 1-17, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
  • $20 adults; $18 children, students, senior citizens (62+)
  • Note that this show is rated R
  • www.buckcreekplayers.com

And Dogfight again, this time from Eclipse, Emerging Artists Program of Summer Stock Stage

Actors Theatre of Indiana: Million Dollar Quartet

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Actors Theatre of Indiana: “Million Dollar Quartet”

This Tony Award-winning musical takes place on Dec. 4, 1956, when an extraordinary twist of fate brought Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Elvis Presley together at Sun Records in Memphis for what would be one of the greatest jam sessions ever.

  • June 1-17, Wednesdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • Carmel Center for the Performing Arts
  • $25+
  • http://atistage.org

Sip-N-Song benefiting Actors Theatre of Indiana

Join Actors Theatre of Indiana and the Million Dollar Quartet for an evening of wine and music. June 5, 2018 6-9 pm at Peace Water Winery in Carmel. Appetizers provided by Donatello’s. $25 Donation to enjoy an evening of fun and fabulous music.

Beef & Boards: Annie

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Claire Kauffman as “Annie” at Beef & Boards

Little orphan Annie charms everyone’s hearts despite a next-to-nothing start in 1930s New York City. Songs include “Tomorrow,” “Hard Knock Life,” and “Maybe.” Rated G, but children under age 3 cannot be admitted to this show.

  • May 31-July 15; dates and times vary. Check the website for a full schedule.
  • $44-$66. Discount of $10 off per ticket available to children ages 3-15.
  • www.beefandboards.com

Longshot Theater: 24-Hour Playhouse

This is the second edition of the show in which several 10-minute plays are written, rehearsed, and then performed for you all within 24 hours. Some of Indianapolis’ best talents push themselves to new heights.

​​​​If you would like to write, act, or direct, e-mail Bob at 24hrplayhouse@gmail.com. Actors: Take a picture of yourself in a costume of your choosing with a prop of your choosing. Those pictures will be given to the writers for inspiration.

  • June 2; actors rehearsal from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Show at 8 p.m.
  • Wheeler Community Arts Center
  • $5 online; $7 door
  • www.longshottheater.com

Civic Theatre’s Education Fundraiser

Show your support for Civic Theatre’s Education Programs. Celebrate theater education and have a “peachy” time! Song, dance, food, fun, and themed cocktails!

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

The Phoenix Theatre: “The Pill”

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“The Pill” at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Zach Rosing.

It turns out that The Pill, the second production to open at the new Phoenix Theatre Cultural Centre, provides what I had been anticipating for the theater’s premiere. While Rosewater was fine, The Pill is everything I have come to associate with the Phoenix over the years: edgy, controversial, smart, unapologetic, funny, and, especially in this case, emotionally violent. It’s psychologically visceral; its characters are real; its subject matter messy. And it’s orgasmic in its ability to blindside and entertain at the same time.

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Constance Macy in “The Pill” at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Zach Rosing.

Playwright-in-residence Tom Horan has captured the tumultuous personal interactions of the people who were most relevant in the advent of the birth control pill. His characters are intense but with an amusing dynamic. Primary among them is Margaret Sanger, who was also the driving force behind Planned Parenthood. Her friend, Katherine McCormick, was also a birth control advocate, so much so that she smuggled diaphragms into the U.S. from Europe by sewing them into her clothes. She ended up financing the pill’s progress. Dr. Pincus worked out the biological logistics, but because of his medical practice’s spotty reputation, Dr. John Rock, a Catholic OBGYN, was also brought in to lend the project legitimacy. Sanger hooks Pincus with the idea of acclaim, but both men are drawn in by the science. Finally, Sadie Sachs is an everywoman representing the nameless, countless women who suffered and even died due to bigoted laws and anti-women morals that kept effective birth control unobtainable.

The show is set in the smaller Basile Theatre, a flexible black-box space. For this production, the audience is seated on all four sides, surrounding the small space the actors populate. Like Rosewater, several of Indy’s most well-known actors are cast.

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Jen Johansen and Constance Macy in “The Pill” at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Zach Rosing.

The story begins with a cackling Constance Macy riding a rolling wingback chair pushed by Jan Lucas. Sanger, played by Macy, is now in her 80s. While having done so much for women’s rights already, she admits to McCormick, played by Lucas, that if she could have accomplished anything more, it would have been a form of birth control that was inexpensive, easy to use, and accessible to any woman who wanted it. She says her accomplishments are like teaching starving people about nutrition but giving them nothing to eat. McCormick convinces Sanger to seek out Dr. Pincus, who is known for his unconventional thinking.

Horan’s dialogue is snappy, and director Bill Simmons gets it snappily delivered. Macy and Lucas bring the unapologetic aspect to the stage in their characters’ brash personalities—Macy’s more so than Lucas’ because McCormick has maintained a more level head, whereas Sanger is still a bulldozer. Their fuck-you attitudes are almost anomalous given the time period. It was the 1950s, and even after WWII, most of society still saw women as wives and broodmares first, people second. Sanger spent most of her life defying that pigeonholing and championing change, and Macy gives her that steel spine and intimidating demeanor that made Sanger so effective. But neither woman will back down when she knows what she wants. Macy and Lucas show us tough women who did what needed to be done.

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Jan Lucas in “The Pill” at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Zach Rosing.

Arianne Villareal portrays Dr. Pincus, a brilliant squirrel-like man burdened by the attention span of a goldfish for anything non-academic. Her character is perpetual motion of mind and body, but he’s also funny in the way an eccentric can be somewhat infuriating to others. Villareal gives Pincus manic characteristics and a fascination for the science behind the project.

Johansen as Dr. Rock, whom Sanger claims smells of “incense and shame,” carries herself with the confidence of a man who thinks himself superior both intellectually and morally—and a dapper man at that—but she allows him to become intellectually and, eventually, emotionally invested too, though Rock often just doesn’t know what to make of Sanger.

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Arianne Villareal in “The Pill” at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Zach Rosing.

Horan wrote imperfect characters that communicate the stress and humanity inherent in the project. It was a brutal struggle. The team was working on something that was illegal in 30 states at the time, but it was also vital not only to women’s health but to families and society as a whole. Sanger falls further into alcoholism; Pincus uses questionable testing methods. Rock admits to performing a hysterectomy on a woman who begged to escape further childbearing. This imperfection mirrors the imperfect pill itself with its potential side effects, most notably blood clots, which are still listed as a possibility today. But the need for the easy-to-use, unobtrusive contraceptive trumped everything that stood in their way.

Entwined into this story is Sadie, played by Jenni White. In her letters to Sanger, she first speaks of her admiration for the pioneer, and she is cheerful and optimistic in her outlook for the future. Sadie, 17, has just married her high school sweetheart, and she plans to go to nursing school as Sanger did. But several months later, a letter informs Sanger that Sadie is pregnant. Sadie tries to maintain her optimism, saying she’ll just put off nursing school for a year. But as Sadie faces pregnancy after pregnancy, she devolves into hopelessness, even anger at Sanger’s ineffectiveness to save her. After 11 children by the age of 40, Sadie’s body and mind are wrecked. When she asked for family planning advice from her doctor, he told her to sleep on the roof to avoid her husband’s advances.

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Jenni White in “The Pill” at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Zach Rosing.

Sadie is the manifestation of Sanger’s desperation—and the desperation of so many women who were (and are) enslaved by a single ambiguous biblical verse. White is Sanger’s feelings of responsibility and failure toward these women—each woman she was too late to save, each woman whose dreams and bodies were crushed by the weight of too many unplanned pregnancies. Women who used poison and taken coat hangers to their wombs in their desperation; women who died because their bodies finally just wore out.

See this. It’s amazing. Yes, it’s challenging, but the most important parts of life—and the best theater productions—always are.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 5/18

Phoenix Theatre: The Pill

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“The Pill” at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Zach Rosing.

Playwright-in-residence Tom Horan has penned a new work about a little invention that changed history. In this compelling, fast-moving play, women prove that they’re no longer “practically invisible” and that “womanhood no longer means the same thing as motherhood” as five female actors embody the seven characters — two of whom are men — central to the creation of the birth control pill. Bill Simmons directs the show in the brand-new Basile Theatre. Featuring outstanding local actors Jen Johansen, Constance Macy, Jan Lucas-Grimm, Jenni White, and Arianne Villareal, expect to leave the theater feeling empowered.

  • Preview performance May 17: Catch the show before opening night for just $25!
  • Opening night Producer Party Friday, May 18: After the performance, the Phoenix will provide food and Sun King beer.
  • May 17-June 10, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.; Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $25-$39
  • http://phoenixtheatre.org

The Genesis Theatre Company: O Zion — A Musical Tribute to Women in the Bible

O ZionIn what has become the “Year of the Woman” and in conjunction with the “Me Too” movement, the Genesis Theatre Company will perform their moving production of O Zion — A Musical Tribute to Women in the Bible, which is an original stage play presentation that features nine women who tell the unique and inspiring stories of 24 women from the Bible through musical numbers ranging from gospel, to jazz, to R&B.

Written and Directed by Sherri Brown-Webster, this musical is based off the biblical accounts of various women, including Eve’s “somewhere in the beginning” to a sultry Delilah’s “it was necessarily so” to a wicked Jezebel’s “I shall kill them all,” to Tamar’s “he touched me.”

O Zion – A Musical Tribute to Women in the Bible is family friendly, and while the show’s title is quick to draw mostly women of all ethnicities, everyone in attendance will be able to relate to the overall content of the show.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

The Phoenix Theatre: “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater”

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Patrick Goss in the Phoenix Theatre’s “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

Well.

That was weird.

In a nutshell: Crazy rich man abandons wife to fight fires and throw money at poor people. And sings about it. As do other cast members.

The Phoenix Theatre brought together a combination of beloved Phoenix veterans and new faces for its inaugural production in its new location, starting with producing director Bryan Fonseca as the director for God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, a musical based on a book by Kurt Vonnegut.

Dance-like movements with office furniture open the show, and then it moves into a strong opening number, “The Rosewater Foundation,” from the ensemble.

Patrick Goss as Eliot Rosewater, the above-mentioned eccentric, carries Eliot’s buckets of crazy in an endearing manner, capturing Eliot’s naiveté even in his occasionally questionable self-centered behavior. Emily Ristine as his long-suffering wife, Sylvia, endures prettily until the building mental strain reaches its breaking point and Sylvia has a breakdown while cowering under a table amidst a shower of Cheese Nips.

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Emily Ristine in the Phoenix Theatre’s “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

The most striking scene in the show involves these two talking on the phone, miles between them physically and metaphorically. Eliot has learned that Sylvia is seeking a divorce. As they sing their hesitant words to each other, Goss and Ristine slowly move around each other, and by the end of the song, they are entangled in each other’s phone cords. It’s a remarkably touching visual that communicates their snarled lives, both individually and as a couple.

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Wellhauen, Greenwell, and Arnold in the Phoenix Theatre’s “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

Charles Goad as Sen. Rosewater is a commanding presence. Isaac Wellhauen, as the financial advisor Norman Mushari, a comical melodramatic villain, is an artist with the single-eyebrow raise. I didn’t even know such a pronounced gesture was possible.

Rob Johansen has an especially impressive performance of “Rosewater Foundation (2nd Reprise).” Scot Greenwell and Jean Childers Arnold as Fred and Caroline Rosewater do “The Rhode Island Tango” with help from Wellhauen in another exceptional scene.

Suzanne Fleenor, Devan Mathias, Josiah McCruiston, Deb Sargent, Peter Scharbrough, Diane Boehm Tsao, and Mark Goetzinger round out the cast with solid backup characters.

The Phoenix’s stage virtually drips with talent in something akin to an all-star cast.

But I will state this: The show, as in the songs and script, is … well, like I said, weird. Normally I like weird. No, I LOVE weird. Absurd, dark, bizarre, challenging. Bring it on. I am also a manic fan of sci-fi and fantasy. I am not, though, a fan of Vonnegut. (Gasp! Blasphemy! Burn her!) While I have not read this particular book (I have, though, read others), I still can’t help but feel something was lost in the adaptation—as if it were watered down to a thin broth.

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Rob Johanson in the Phoenix Theatre’s “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

So, if you go, there are several possible outcomes. Like me, you might exit the theater with the thought “What the hell did I just see?” Or you may love it, hate it, be enraged by the treatment of the book’s material, or dote on how well it translated to the stage. This one is really up in the air. So you’ll just have to take your chances.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 5/11

Phoenix Theatre: Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

rosewaterThis is the first production to open in the Phoenix’s new building! Kurt Vonnegut’s legendary Indiana voice rings out clearly in this cheeky, blazing satire of corruption and goodwill. As his alter-ego Kilgore Trout puts it: “Now we know that giving respect to people who don’t deserve it is possible, too. Since practically nobody is very respectable any more, it has to be one of the most important experiments of modern times!” Musical comedy meets Kurt Vonnegut satire meets the brand-new Russell stage. Expect laughter, witticism, and that new theater smell.

Improbable Fiction: The Butler Did It, Again!

This play combines the thrill of a murder mystery with the hilarity of a raucous comedy. Presented by the same team that created the highly successful The Butler Did It, this sequel furthers the hysterical antics. The mystery writers are brought together once again by Miss Maple for a fun-filled weekend party, each impersonating the detective characters they write, including the gumshoe, sophisticated New York couple (à la Nick and Nora), soft-spoken crime-solving priest, Asian “quotemaster,” and cowboy investigator, with the addition of a novelist who writes supernatural fiction.
The hostess has prepared exciting events to challenge the writers during the party, but one occurs that she didn’t count on — an actual murder! The writers scramble to solve “whodunit” before they become the next victim. But actual detectives they are not, so they blunder through this real-life investigation with comical results.

  • May 11-19, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; May 13 at 2 p.m.
  • The Cat
  • $15
  • thecattheatre.com

At the Fringe

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Bonnie Bitch at IndyFringe

Bonnie Bitch: Presented by Steve Daly Productions, America’s first and only comedy female impersonator hypnotist returns to Indianapolis. Direct from Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, Bonnie Bitch swings her mesmerizing watch in this HER-larious evening of hypnotic fun. Come see the show or BE the show, as audience members become outrageous characters that will have everyone rolling with laughter.

  • May 10-11 at 7:30 p.m.
  • $20; $15 student/senior

Camp Summer Camp: Defiance Comedy is at it again, this time with a full-length run and even more fun! Love triangles! Rivalries! Campfire songs! Serial killers! Cabins built on ancient burial grounds! The year is 1984, and the camp counselors at Canada’s #3 ranked midsize, regional summer camp are ready to have their yearly entertainment!

  • May 11-12 and 18-19 at 8 p.m.; May 14 and 20 at 4 p.m.; Friday, May 18 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, May 19 at 8 p.m.
  • $10 in advance, $15 at the door

Poetry on the Fringe: Mother’s Day Edition: Spend part of your Mother’s Day with IndyFringe! Mom gets in free! Poetry on the Fringe is performance poetry and theater arts in concert with one another. Come experience this unique show. This bi-weekly series includes 20-minute open mic for emerging artists, never-before-seen theatrical productions, and NPS-certified poetry slam competitions.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

NoExit Performance: “Nickel and Dimed”

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NoExit’s “Nickel and Dimed.” Photo by Daniel Axler.

It was the hotdog buns.

There are some images that stick with you. For me, it was the hotdog buns. That’s when I was sure that I had seen this show before. Because seeing someone eat hotdog buns for lunch because that’s all they can afford is something that stays with you.

That review, which was produced  by a different company, is so old that it doesn’t even exist electronically, but what I find ironic and sad is that I can relate to this story even more now than I did then. I know how accurate the food bank box that Barbara gets is. I’ve been one of those people who work three jobs and still can’t make ends meet. Sometimes I still can’t.

Many people who can afford theater tickets have never personally experienced these situations. That’s why it’s important for them to see it spilled* out for them onstage (or in the round, in this case).

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NoExit’s “Nickel and Dimed.” Photo by Daniel Axler.

The play Nickel and Dimed is based on the best-selling book by Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, which was published in 2002. Ehrenreich, who was very comfortable financially by working as a writer, took on an investigative project that would require her to live on minimum wage—that meant rent, food, transportation, clothing … all of it. The play distills her experiences and commentary from the book, but the message rings out: People can’t live this way. No matter how hard they work—and they work very, very, VERY hard—they will never get ahead. It’s simply a matter of numbers. Everything costs more for the poor because they have nothing to start with, so, for example, they end up living in seedy motels—or their car—because they can’t afford a deposit on an apartment.

For NoExit’s production, the audience sits in relatively comfy office-type chairs in the middle of a currently empty office space that is easily imagined to become a cubicle hell. Scene by scene, minimum-wage workers bust their asses off around you.

Barbara, played by Bridget Haight, never really has to feel the full pain of poverty because she starts with a slush fund, and she can bail when she wants to and return to her posh apartment that she shares with her boyfriend. She tries out several different states, starting off each time with no job and no living space of her own. By the time she finishes her project, Barbara has a much clearer view of the working poor’s backs that support the upper-middle-class and upper-class lifestyles.

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NoExit’s “Nickel and Dimed.” Photo by Daniel Axler.

“Malmart” workers are required to put in unpaid overtime. Their managers are stuck in a similar rut because they are under the thumb of quotas and budgets set by suits that have never walked into a discount store. Or the owners of a cleaning service or restaurant are so intent on making a any profit that they don’t mind pulling it from the life force of their employees. These workers rarely if ever get to sit down. They are subjected to the verbal abuse from customers and sometimes-unsafe working conditions. Waitresses are given crap tips, and their paychecks reflect only a $2+ wage because the government expects them to make up the difference in those tips.

NoExit’s production brings these people to life. Carrie Bennett, Kallen Ruston, Tracy Herring, Latoya Moore, Elysia Rohn, and Ryan Ruckman play multiple roles under the direction of Callie Burke Hartz. The actors embody each person’s different circumstances, heritage, and mindset. Their characterization flexibility is remarkable. The team of actors creates convincing characters who really think getting a raise to $7.35 an hour is a big deal or working in a factory for $9 an hour is a small miracle. Haight builds Barbara’s frustration and helplessness in the face of these revelations as she encounters each new and appalling workplace and story from her co-workers.

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NoExit’s “Nickel and Dimed.” Photo by Shannon Samson.

At the end, the workers stand on one side of the room and Barbara, back in her Florida apartment where her boyfriend recently bought an $800 couch, stands at the other, the literal space emphasizing the symbolic one. This last scene makes a poignant silent statement. We are not the same, and no matter what, we never really will be. Even a living wage isn’t going to bridge that divide. A living wage is a great place to start, but it will take generations and scores of other governmental changes to truly lessen the gap between the working poor and everyone else.

Hopefully, the message will make people think more about those waitresses, those customer-service people, those wage slaves.

  • Through May 19, Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 p.m.
  • $12-50-$25
  • The Bingo Hall, 3633 E. Raymond St.
  • Industry Night: Half price tickets May 10
  • https://nickeldimed.bpt.me

“Work is what you do for others; smoking is what you do for yourself. I don’t know why the anti-smoking crusaders have never grasped the element of defiant self-nurturance that makes the habit so endearing to its victims—as if, in the American workplace, the only thing people have to call their own is the tumors they are nourishing and the spare moments they devote to feeding them.” —Barbara Ehrenreich

Amen to that.

* This is in repsonse to an e-mail I got questioning the choice of “spilled out.”

“Spill” is intentional. Yeah, the typical phrase is “spelled out,” but for a subject like this, I felt spill was more visceral. You can read something on paper and still not get it. I had another paragraph that was really personal and I cut it. Part of it had to do with me being a weekly food banker myself — St. Vincent de Paul off 30th and Gleaners on the west side. Always these two because of all the food banks in town, these are the best ones because you get the best quality and selection. I also know what times and days are best to go. If you hit St  V on the wrong day and the wrong time, you can wait upwards of 3 hours to get food.

So, I went with the phrase “spill” because sometimes you will get produce that has gone bad. Sometimes it’s manageable. Oranges that are green outside but still OK if you cut them open. A pineapple where about half can be salvaged. But sometimes, it’s not so great. The worst two times involved potatoes and salad. I got a bag of potatoes one day. When I got home and unloaded I noticed one of my bags was leaking. All that was in the bag were the potatoes. When I emptied the bag, I found that one or two of the potatoes was so rotten it had liquified. It smelled so horrible that I had to throw away the bag (I had put the bag of potatoes into one of my own re-usable shopping bags). And I had to throw away the rest of the potatoes because once that sludge had started spilling out, it contaminated the entire lot of them. A potato can’t really come back from something like that. Not as easy to wash as an orange.

The salad was a similar experience. If they aren’t past-due pre-bagged from grocery stores, then the food bank gets it in bulk. (Places like restaurants or other mass food producers will donate expired produce and other products. This is most often seen at St. V.) So large bags of cut lettuce aren’t unusual. Actually, if St V has a surplus of anything that is really in bad shape, it’s a “freebie.” (Gleaners does this sometimes too.) Once you are checked in, according to household size you get a number of “points” to go “shopping.” Different items are worth different amounts of points. Anyway, one of these bags of salad ended up being a mass of similar sludge. This was a bag I had even spent one of my points on. I put it in the crisper drawer of my fridge. Let’s just say bleach was involved later, as there were small air holes in the packaging.

One of my friends got a watermelon there once. (There are 3 of us who carpool on a regular basis. Maybe the poor run in packs?) It looked fine, but when she cut into it, the entire inside was sludge.

So instead of the issues in the play being “spelled out,” I saw them as being “spilled out.” Again, a far cry from reading about something versus having a bag of rotten potatoes or lettuce spilled out at your feet. The sight, the smell, the feel on your hands of cleaning it up …

I had gone on in the review so much about the subject matter in the play as opposed to giving the majority of the space to the (very well-done) production that I cut all this stuff out before I posted it. Maybe I should have left it. Admitting that I go to food banks is embarrassing. I suppose it shouldn’t be, but the social stigma is there. Akin to the smoking thing. Lots of people get indignant when “poor people” smoke because it’s expensive, but it really is a matter of control. I quit when I was pregnant, but the stress of the situation my family was in (it was pretty dire) drove me back about 3 months after my son was born. I needed that break, that time, and the nicotine really *is* a stress reliever to boot. There is so much that we can’t control that it feels like a small act of defiance to do so. And it *is* a chance to step away and let the rest of the world go on without you for three minutes. It’s a relief, an escape, an oasis. And other people leave you alone while you do it … unless they are other smokers, in which case an immediate comraderie occurs because you are all social outcasts, rebels in this one way.

I feel being a reviewer is a privilege in so many ways. Theaters put their trust in me to evaluate a production. And in the end, who am I, really? I’m just one person. Any critic is, no matter what paper or blog or whatever they are affiliated with, whether it’s wordpress or the New York Times. And it’s not unusual for other critics to disagree with me. So, given my own circumstances, being afforded comped tickets is my own small miracle — like that daydream of $9 an hour the “Malmart” employee talks about. There’s no way I could see shows without those comps. So when someone takes the time to actually read let alone respond to something I wrote, it means a great deal to me.

Sorry about the novelette I’ve written here. 🙂 I think writing all this out was somewhat cathartic for me — to put into words things I have rarely even said out loud, even admitted to myself or tried to ignore.

A song from Avenue Q comes to mind:

What do you do with a BA in English?
What is my life going to be?
Four years of college and plenty of knowledge
Have earned me this useless degree.

I can’t pay the bills yet,
‘Cause I have no skills yet,
The world is a big scary place.

But somehow I can’t shake,
The feeling I might make,
A difference
To the human race.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Footlite Musicals: “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”

priscilla2Footlite Musicals spent a small fortune to rent the costumes for Priscilla, Queen of the Desert from the Broadway show, and they are just as fab-u-lous as you would expect from a musical about three drag queens. So visually, Priscilla is a riot of color and outlandish styles.

The bad part is that the ensemble looks hesitant, off-balance, or just terrified in the costumes. My first thought is that it’s fear of destroying something that cost, most likely, more than my house. I would be freaked out too. Or perhaps they just didn’t get the opportunity to wear the costumes enough before opening night to really get a feel for them. After all, 4-foot-high headwear and the like can take some getting used to.

But whatever the cause, it just didn’t look as if the ensemble was having fun. And that’s what the show is really about—it’s an excuse to be campy as hell and sing some reinterpreted classics from the ’70s and ’80s. Arguments can be made that it is a reflection on societal issues such as homophobia, but really. It’s too Mamma Mia.

Set in Australia, the thin plot begins with Michael Howard as Tick/Mitzi, who has never seen his son. His act in Sydney is stale, and after his young son Benji pulls a promise out of Tick to visit, Tick recruits two other performers, Chris Jones as Adam/Felicia, and John Phillips as Bernadette, to accompany him to Alice Springs, where they will put on a show at his wife’s casino. Felicia acquires an RV for the two-week journey that she christens “Priscilla,” which looks like a Gay Pride Mystery Mobile. Beware of stuffed roadkill too.

Howard portrays Tick as a character at odds with himself. His heart is in drag, but he is still skittish about admitting it outside the safety of the theater. When not onstage, he is always dressed in more “normal” clothing. In addition, he has guilt over being an absentee dad. Howard communicates these conflicted feelings well. Somewhat ironically, though, his strongest song is “Always on My Mind,” which he sings with his son, played by Rocco Meo. Although the “MacArthur Park” abandoned cake bit was pretty funny.

Jones is by far the queenest of the queens, overflowing with sass and unapologetic about it. His performance is the most entertaining and animated, and his songs are the best. He also leads a slo-mo effect for “Hot Stuff” that is riveting.

Bernadette, who is transgender, is old school from when performers appreciated the art of lip-synching. Phillips acts as the matron of the trio, a lady in many ways, but she doesn’t back down when a one-liner or a good kick is needed to put someone in his or her place. A burgeoning love interest between her and Bob, a backwoods mechanic played by Dan Flahive, makes for some sweet feels.

While the spotlight wasn’t as schizophrenic as it often is at Footlite, the sound was an issue. Bad mikes or overwhelming orchestration made for lost lyrics.

But I will end this with a positive note: An unexpected moment of pure hilarity from a mullet-ed redneck, Shirley, played by Lauren Johnson, was actually the highlight in laughter for me. Her unabashedly grody state and pelvic gyrations are so obscene they simply have to be seen.

  • Through May 20,  Thursday-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $5-$23
  • Sign language-interpreted performance: May 12
  • Sing-Along performance Saturday, May 12 at 2:30 p.m.
  • Priscilla’s Closet Fashion Show Saturday, May 19 5, p.m. Feast your eyes on a 45-minute fashion show extravaganza showcasing the Tony Award-winning costume designs.
  • www.footlite.org
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 5/4

Footlite Musicals: Priscilla Queen of the Desert 

priscillaPriscilla Queen of the Desert is a story of three Sydney, Australia, drag artists who boldly “Go West” on a roadtrip to Alice Springs to perform at a casino. The ulterior motive of Tick is to reconnect with his young son. Bernadette needs a distraction from her grief after the death of her lover Trumpet. And Adam wants to blatantly disrespect aboriginal sacred land and climb to the top of Ayers Rock in a frock and sing Kylie Minogue tunes. Along the way they have engine troubles, meet hostile locals, and sing 23 ’70s and ’80s dance tunes such as “I Will Survive,” “It’s Raining Men,” “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” and “MacArthur Park.” This production will feature the original Broadway and Academy Award-winning outrageous costumes from New York. *Intended for mature audiences.

  • May 4-20,  Thursday-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $5-$23
  • Sign language-interpreted performance: May 12.
  • Sing-Along performance Saturday, May 12 at 2:30 p.m.
  • Priscilla’s Closet Fashion Show Saturday, May 19 5, p.m. Feast your eyes on a 45-minute fashion show extravaganza showcasing the Tony Award-winning costume designs.
  • www.footlite.org

NoExit Performance: Nickel & Dimed

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NoExit Performance: “Nickel & Dimed”

Based on the novel Nickel and Dimed, on (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich. Ehrenreich’s voyage into the world of the working poor made headlines when her novel about her low-wage service jobs was released in 2001. A bestseller, Nickel and Dimed was adapted in 2002 into a play, and it remains relevant to our current socio-economic landscape. Nickel and Dimed reminds us that the promise of a “good day’s pay for a good day’s work” is, for a large swath of the population, a quaint fantasy. Ehrenreich’s research was conducted in the late 1990s, and perhaps what is most disturbing is how little has changed. Joan Holden’s stage adaptation is a focused comic epic shadowed with tragedy.

  • May 3-19, Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 p.m.
  • $12-50-$25
  • The Bingo Hall, 3633 E. Raymond St.
  • Friday, May 4: Talkback. Lynn Duggan, labor studies professor at IU and IUPUI, will be hold a talkback immediately following the May 4 production. Duggan has a background in political economy and is a professor in the Labor Studies Department at Indiana University Bloomington. She is interested in gender and social policy around the world, currently focusing on women in retail and building trades, and on work-family policy in Germany and Ireland.
  • Industry Night: Half price tickets on May 3 and May 10
  • https://nickeldimed.bpt.me

Epilogue Players: Maggie’s Choice

The laughs begin when Maggie “chooses” to find out what life holds in addition to “wife and mother.” Stir in a wacky mom, a confused husband, an adult daughter who won’t grow up, two lovable sidekicks, and the hilarity escalates to crazy-funny chaos of epic proportion!

  • May 4-20, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $15; $12 members; $13 for seniors
  • www.epilogueplayers.com

Ten-minute Play Festival

From page to stage. Emerging playwrights take you on a personal journey through their imagination. The themes are as wide-ranging as the playwrights themselves. IndyFringe and the Indiana Writers Center have put together an emerging playwrights’ showcase featuring ten-minute plays by exciting new playwrights who have been honing their craft at the Indiana Writers Center and presented by your favorite local theater companies.

Jabberwocky presented by Storytelling Arts of Indiana: “How Does Your Garden Grow?”

The time has finally come to plant your flower and vegetable gardens. Hear stories from those that are passionate about their gardens. During the open mike portion of the evening, you may choose to share your own 2 to 3 minute gardening story. The evening includes a cash bar, snacks, stories and a chance to make new friends.

IRT special for Noises Off

Save $10 with a limited time offer. Use promo code FARCE1 on your next purchase to see IRT’s season finale Noises Off. Valid on individual tickets priced $35 and higher now through May 14. Other exclusions may apply. irtlive.com.

Plus these events at the Phoenix

where is Phoenix

thepill

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Civic Theatre: “Hairspray”

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Nina Stilabower in Civic Theatre’s “Hairspray”

It’s likely you’ve seen the movie, the musical, the movie-musical, and/or the “live” TV-musical of Hairspray, but Civic Theatre’s production is so much fun you will be glad you went ahead and saw it again.

First, the choreography. I was blown away by the choreography.

Sometimes, in a community theater setting, especially when working with a large ensemble, you are lucky to get a few synchronized steps and call it a success. Here, the choreography isn’t just well-executed, it is dynamic, and more than just high-energy, it is intense. And it is flawless. Anne Beck’s choreographer is challenging, but the cast, over 40 total, owns it. I can only imagine the rehearsals and the sweat. Acknowledgement should also be given to the hard work of the dance captains, Michael Humphrey and Melissa Mellinger, for coaxing out dance moves of such high caliber.

Second, the sets. The shadow effects that are used, the backdrop of colorful lights, the details in the joke shop, the use of scaffolding as layers … Scenic designer David Rockwell and lighting designer Ryan Koharchik crafted an above-par, changeable environment for the story.

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Evan Wallace, Nina Stilabower, and Company in Civic Theatre’s “Hairspray”

And so on to Tracy Turnblad, the high-haired star of the show. Nina Stilabower delivers in a performance that any fan of the soundtrack would find impeccable. And as a character, Stilabower keeps Tracy’s backbone intact. Tracy stays strong in her resistance to bigotry in any form in any situation.

Stilabower and Zachary Hoover, as Link Larkin, complement each other vocally in “It Takes Two,” and Hoover is adorable as the pretty boy who learns to see the bigger picture, so to speak.

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Justin Klein, Zachary Hoover, and Nina Stilabower in Civic Theatre’s “Hairspray”

So many high-caliber scenes and songs deserve mention, but I am just going to give you my personal faves. One standout for me is “Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now,” with Stilabower, Evan Wallace (Edna), Mikayla Koharchik (Velma), Emily Hollowell (Amber,) Robyne J. Ault (Prudy), and Jenny Reber (Penny). They just mesh so well together, it left me impressed. Joyce Licorish as Motormouth Maybelle performs a rousing “I Know Where I’ve Been.” And Michael Hassell has some sweet moves as Seaweed Stubbs. Two unnamed standouts are the scatting prowess of the Prison Matron and the aerial moves of the photographer in “Welcome to the ’60s.” Wallace and J. Stuart Mill (Wilbur) combine the funny yet sweet in “Timeless to Me.” And Hollowell is the manifestation of a teenage-y temper tantrum as Amber.

The show’s message is still vital, but it is wrapped up within such a lively show that the heavy stuff—the situations of those perceived as “different”—begin to sink in later. Then, you can continue the conversations that started decades ago. Maybe someday, we won’t have to. Until then, you have Hairspray.

  • Through May 11, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m.; final Saturday at 5 p.m.
  • $24-$45
  • http://civictheatre.org

Side note: There were a couple little kids in front of me at the performance I attended; they looked to be around the age of 8 give or take. I was impressed that they cheered more for the announcement of Newsies as part of Civic’s next season than they did for Shrek and that they not only sat through the performance but also seemed to truly enjoy it. However, I do want to caution parents that if you choose to take your youngsters, be prepared for some funny looks and/or questions, such as explaining the correlation between circumcision and Judaism. Just saying.

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Actors Theatre of Indiana: “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”

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Actors Theatre of Indiana’s “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”

Who knew that Charles Dickens could be so funny?

I didn’t. His writing always made me go “blah,” and after a few pages, I would toss the book across the room, never to be seen again.

But … The Mystery of Edwin Drood, the final, unfinished novel by Dickens, was adapted into a hilarious musical melodrama, and Actors Theatre of Indiana is staging a sidesplitting production of the choose-your-own-adventure show.

This is the second play-within-a-play production that opened last weekend, but this one most definitely has a different feel to it. For starters, it’s in the small Studio Theater in the Carmel Performing Arts Center, so you are in a more intimate setting. Speaking of intimate, if you are one of the lucky few to have a table in the front row, don’t be surprised if you end up with a “lady of the evening” on your lap at some point. Aisles are fair game for interaction, but lap sitting is limited for obvious logistical reasons.

The story is set in a pub, where the patrons and bar wench perform their sad tale, which, incidentally, isn’t so much about Drood but his fiancé, the lovely Rosa Bud, who is the picture of propriety, and Drood’s uncle, John Jasper, a creepy man who desires Rosa for his own. The point of Drood’s character is to decide who killed him.

The show starts off strong with a company number, and from there just gets funnier and funnier and better and better. This is melodrama at its best weaved with crackerjack songs. Everything is gloriously ludicrous—characters are overplayed to create the most absurd personas possible.

It. Is. Awesome.

Everyone in the cast takes on multiple roles … except Flo, the barmaid, played by Karaline Feller, whose poor character is often left in the sidelines despite her vivacious if lowbrow personality.

Drood (before he is offed) is played by Alice Nutting, who is played by Cynthia Collins. “Alice” is introduced as a famous “male impersonator” and given the role of Drood. Collins’ Drood is a happy if clueless little chap; audience sympathy for Drood runs high when his bloodied coat is discovered and the worst is assumed.

One who is not sympathetic is what should be an intimidating force known as Neville Landless, played by Logan Moore. Moore’s character is just deliciously ridiculous. Neville tries to look aggressive, but his outrageous movements and facial expressions just make him look like a fool. His equally bizarre twin sister Helena, played by Jaddy Ciucci, is fluid where Neville is stiff, gliding around the stage in her Middle Eastern-dance-type garb and looking mysterious. Both are from abroad with accents of “indeterminate origin.”

Another is John Jasper. Eric Olson as Jasper is by turns deranged and slightly less deranged. His pursuit of Rosa Bud, played by Harli Cooper, an innocent little bird in a cage, is so creepy.

This article does not cover the entire character list or cast, but I’m not leaving anyone out just to be kind. Really, everyone is exceptional here, so kudos to director D.J. Salisbury for this wonderfully campy show.

  • April 27-May 13, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $25+
  • Carmel Center for the Performing Arts
  • http://atistage.org/

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Tony Award nominations

Really? REALLY?

I know I promised a review of Edwin Drood, but work got … chaotic. I had to stop for a moment though when I saw that Spongebob the Musical was nominated for a Tony. Twelve of them.

What. The. Fuck.

I don’t care who was involved, who wrote it, who stared in it, who wrote the music. It is FUCKING SPONGEBOB.

https://www.yahoo.com/finance/news/tony-award-nominations-tuesday-promise-clash-big-brands-070319134.html

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Indiana Repertory Theatre: “Noises Off”

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Indiana Repertory Theatre’s “Noises Off.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

Have you ever wondered what is happening backstage during a play? Oftentimes it is all typical show work, such as prop handling, costume changes, etc. But sometimes, things can start to go terribly wrong, as is the case in Noises Off, and if those somethings snowball, they can cause the production to implode.

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Indiana Repertory Theatre’s “Noises Off.” Photo by Amber Mills.

Guess what happens here.

It’s the final dress rehearsal (or technical rehearsal—there is no agreement) before opening night of Nothing On, a silly little farce. The opening‘s trouble is leading lady Dotty, played by Hollis Resnik. It’s nearing midnight, but Dotty still cannot make it through her scene without flubbing lines or misplacing her plate of sardines. Director Lloyd Dallas, played by Ryan Artzberger, has reached, retreated, and reached his breaking point several times. He barks orders at the poor assistant stage manager Poppy, played by Mehry Eslaminia, a mousy woman who looks terrified each time Lloyd makes demands. His verbal abuse is made even more inexcusable when we find out that he is sleeping with her. But he is also sleeping with Brooke, played by Ashley Dillard, a spacy blonde who can’t seem to fully comprehend what is happening around her. She also seems to lose her contacts as often as Dotty loses her sardines. But Dotty isn’t the only one causing trouble, as issues such as motivation are brought up by other cast members—questions that should have been explored waaay before this moment.

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Indiana Repertory Theatre’s “Noises Off.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

The cast’s peculiarities continue with the persistently and annoyingly optimistic Belinda, played by Heidi Kettenring. Leading man Garry, played by Jerry Richardson, seems to have a unique speech disorder; he cannot complete a sentence, instead ending each one with the phrase “you know,” as if you are supposed to know. He is romantically involved with Dotty, which will make for some good backstage comedy later. Freddie, played by Robert Neal, has his own strange disorder in that the mere insinuation of any kind of violence causes a nosebleed. Selsdon, played by Rob Riley, is supposed to be a seasoned actor, but he’s also a drunk, and when he is actually around, he spends most of his time playing “find the whisky bottle”—which he always inevitably does. Finally, the stage manager Tim, played by Will Allan, is barely conscious from overwork and lack of sleep but finds himself in some very strange predicaments.

With a set of characters this idiosyncratic, mayhem is bound to happen.

While the first act is good for laughs, Acts 2 and 3 are where the farce really takes off. Yes, there are two intermissions, but I am certain the second one is for the actors’ benefit. You’ll understand why. Scenic designer Bill Clarke’s set rotates as if it is on a giant lazy Susan (think the Les Mis barricade), exchanging the front of the stage for backstage. The next two acts are then set during the actual run of the show.

Over the next two acts, the slapstick escalates and Nothing On deteriorates.

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Indiana Repertory Theatre’s “Noises Off.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

One of the most entertaining of the shenanigans involves Gary, who is incensed when he thinks something is going on between Freddie and Dotty. Of course Freddie gets pulled into the middle, one incentive being misunderstood fellatio. Accidental dry humping, a fire ax, dropped trousers, shrinking bouquets, missing sheets, missing sheiks, and so much more over the next two acts lead to the show’s inevitable demise. Richardson, as Gary, especially is subjected to physical humor, climbing and rolling around on the two-level backstage with his shoelaces tied together while he attempts various attacks.

It’s likely the “audience” for the last performance of Nothing On was either very confused or highly amused.

I was highly amused.

The cast, with director David Bradley, has a field day with this play. In their hands, it’s hysterical, horrifying, and fascinating to watch. The cast lets the tension rise until everyone and everything just snaps. It seems as if I’ve used this word a lot lately, but it is too apropos to not use again, and it actually defines the whole play: schadenfreude at its best.

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews, Indianapolis theater: reviews

Theater marathon

It’s not unusual for multiple theaters to open shows on the same weekend.

What is unusual is that every single show was fantastic.

This week, I started with Wicked on Thursday, Noises Off at the Indiana Repertory Theatre on Friday, The Mystery of Edwin Drood at Actors Theatre of Indiana on Saturday, and then I concluded my whirlwind weekend with Hairspray at Civic Theatre.

I’m trying my best to get my thoughts about the last three up here as quickly as possible (I already posted Wicked), but how many synonyms can you come up with for “fantastic” before you just sound unbearably repetitive?

I’m hoping for a minimum of one review per day, in the order that I saw them. So bear with me.

Interesting side note: The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Noises Off are both play-within-a-play structures. I just thought that was a funny coincidence.

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Wicked” presented through Broadway Across America Indiana

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The cast of “Wicked” presented by Broadway Across America — Indiana. Photo by Joan Marcus.

It’s all about the spectacle.

For many of us, touring productions of big-name shows are the closest we will ever get to Broadway. While I am confident that there is talent here in Indianapolis that could pull off Wicked’s book and songs, the awe-inspiring sets, scenery, lighting, costumes, and special effects are what really make those expensive tickets worth every cent. (Interesting side note: Local musicians are incorporated into the traveling orchestra.)

And this tour of Wicked is no exception.

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Mary Kate Morrissey and Ginna Claire Mason in “Wicked.” Photo by Joan Marcus.

This is not to say that the quality of this troupe is lacking. The very opposite. And the people onstage are what the audience predominantly focuses on after the cascade of green lights or flying monkeys pass. Mary Kate Morrissey as Elphaba and Ginna Claire Mason as Glinda must have a rapport that runs deeper than just being co-stars. They play off each so well when the girls begin to form their friendship. Thursday night, Morrissey had Mason almost losing her character at one point; Morrissey must have thrown in an improv move during one of their popularity lessons. Over time, both actresses realistically develop their characters, as flighty Glinda matures and is exposed to the darker side of reality and angsty Elphaba’s anger coalesces into the persona of the Wicked Witch that we are familiar with. But of course, Elphaba is never completely wicked, just as Glinda never completely turns on Elphaba. Both actresses give us those clandestine glimpses before tucking them back behind the masks they wear.

WICKED. Photo by Joan Marcus
Mary Kate Morrissey and Ginna Claire Mason in “Wicked.” Photo by Joan Marcus.

Glinda is exceptional in her role, but while Morrissey is equally talented, hand gestures that look forced and so-close-but-not-quite-there notes in both “I’m Not That Girl” and “Defying Gravity” were distracting. However, most audience members wouldn’t even notice these unless they were analyzing details.

Jody Gleb as Madame Morrible and Tom McGowan as the Wizard give their roles the weight the cunning characters deserve. The only other person I’m going to mention—you can read the program—is Jon Robert Hall as Fiyero. (Another interesting side note: He played the beat box Warbler in Glee.) His presence as Fiyero (as written in the musical, not so much the book) is spot-on, as are his vocals. And he’s hot.

Bottom line: The ticket price is worth it. This is an excellent rendition of what will eventually be considered a classic.

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 4/27

Actors Theatre of Indiana: The Mystery of Edwin Drood

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Actors Theatre of Indiana’s “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”

ATI’s 13th season closes with the rip-snorting rendition of Rupert Holmes’ The Mystery of Edwin Drood, based on Charles Dickens’ unfinished novel of the same name. In this bombastic rendition of the whodunit Dickens mystery, the audience enters the action and becomes the ultimate detective, deciding who committed the dastardly deed. Multiple endings are determined by audience vote.

  • April 27-May 13, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $25+
  • Carmel Center for the Performing Arts
  • http://atistage.org/

Indiana Repertory Theatre: Noises Off

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Indiana Repertory Theatre’s “Noises Off.” Photo by Amber Mills.

Ever gone to a play and something went wrong? What happens when everything goes wrong? Rehearsal implosions, backstage shenanigans and onstage disasters have the cast on life support—and the audience in stitches!

Storytelling Arts of Indiana presents Barbara McBride-Smith: Crooked Ways of the Ancient Greek Gods

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Barbara McBride-Smith

A bonafide wordsmith, Barbara McBride-Smith, whose wicked wit is underscored by serious research and scholastic excellence, brings a stellar reputation to her interpretation of the Greek myths. With her incurable Texas drawl, Barbara spins the Greek myths as you’ve never heard them before, rending them 99% more fun while retaining 100% of their original insights into the crooked ways of the human heart and the no-less crooked ways of the ancient Greek gods.

In celebration of our 30th year, Bob Sander will kick-off the evening with a story of his choice. He began pursuing a career as a storyteller at the same time that he co-founded Storytelling Arts of Indiana. Bob travels the state for Arts for Learning and is currently teaching an-eight week workshop on storytelling at the Hamilton East Public Library in Noblesville for us.

  • Saturday, April 28, 7-9 p.m.
  • Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center
  • $20/advance and $25/door
  • storytellingarts.org

Civic Theatre: Hairspray

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Civic Theatre’s “Hairspray”

The 1950s are out, and change is in the air! Hairspray is a family-friendly musical, piled bouffant-high with laughter, romance, and deliriously tuneful songs. It’s 1962 in Baltimore, and the lovable plus-size teen, Tracy Turnblad, has only one desire: to dance on the popular Corny Collins Show. When her dream comes true, Tracy is transformed from social outcast to sudden star. She must use her newfound power to dethrone the reigning Teen Queen, win the affections of heartthrob Link Larkin, and integrate a TV network … all without denting her ‘do!

  • April 27-May 11, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m.; final Saturday at 5 p.m.
  • $24-$45
  • http://civictheatre.org

Renaissance: A Harlem Affair

The historic Madam Walker Legacy Center and the Langston Hughes Family Museum presents Renaissance: A Harlem Affair, an evening of the arts celebrating the achievements of Indiana artists. Dress in your favorite vintage attire from the 1920s and 1930s and prepare for an unforgettable experience. Dive headfirst into a living art installation featuring interactive 3D projection mapping coupled with talented actors, dancers, musicians, and poets interpreting the long-lasting impact and importance of the Harlem Renaissance.

Phoenix Theatre: From Ashes, They Rise

It’s time to celebrate the amazing 35-year history of Phoenix Theatre and launch into the spectacular new Cultural Centre with style. A short presentation of memories at the old building precedes a procession down the Cultural Trail to the new facility. Mayor Joe Hogsett and the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce will perform a ribbon-cutting ceremony. A short presentation in the new building will reveal the company’s hopes and dreams for the new Cultural Centre of Indianapolis.

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Mud Creek Players: “The Amorous Ambassador”

I hadn’t been out to see a show from Mud Creek Players in years, but I remember their theater always being packed. This trip was no exception. The theater has a loyal following, which is a testament to the productions they produce.

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Ronan Marra (Harry)Tom Riddle (Captain South, standing) and Katie Carter (Marian) in Mud Creek Players’ “Amorous Ambassador.” Photo by Duane Mercier.

The Amorous Ambassador is a fun, silly comedy. It’s the sequel to The Sensuous Senator, which Mud Creek also produced in 2016. However, if you didn’t see The Sensuous Senator, pay it no mind. The premise of The Amorous Ambassador is very easy to pick up. Harry Douglas, played by Ronan Marra, has become the American ambassador to Great Britain after losing a presidential race in which he ran on a “morality” platform. Seeing as how Harry is known as “Hormone Harry,” this is no surprise. The man is a horn dog. He and his family are still settling into their new life abroad and enjoying their country house, but Harry has already found himself a mark: the very willing next-door neighbor Marian, played by Katie Carter. Each member of the family is supposed to be leaving for the weekend, but Harry and his daughter Debbie, played by Sara Castillo Dandurand, each think they have the perfect plan: empty house means getting laid.

Harry is having Marian over for the weekend, complete with role-playing costumes. Carter looks great in her sexy French maid costume, but Marra in his Tarzan outfit … just … yikes. (This is the point, though. Remember: fun, silly comedy.) Debbie is planning to spend the weekend with her boyfriend Joe, played by Colin C. Landberg. Joe seems to be the most reserved of the four, which is interesting given the situation he will find himself in later. At first, Joe seems to be an auxiliary character, but in fact, Landberg gets the most fluid and animated role, and he is absurdly entertaining in each persona.

Perkins, the proper English butler, played by Craig Kemp, is stuck in the middle of Harry and Debbie’s drama. And while Perkins may be a professional, I was amazed that Kemp was able to keep a straight face throughout all the madness he gets dragged into. Perkins gets as much action as Joe in the sight gags and turns of phrases, but Kemp never lets Perkins lose his cool, even when he is trapped in Debbie’s cleavage. Quite convincingly, I might add.

When the American Embassy receives a bomb threat, the country house goes on lockdown—no one in or out. Which then introduces us to Marine Captain South, played by Tom Riddle. (I’m so sorry, Tom. I can only imagine the number of Harry Potter jokes you must have to endure.) Harry’s secretary Faye, played by Ann Ellerbrook, arrives with South. Ellerbrook’s Faye elevates the “dumb blonde” caricature to a new base-camp high, to the point where Faye could easily have brain damage from extended oxygen deprivation. Unfortunately, South is always the victim of Faye’s clumsiness, and Riddle has to be manhandled several times due to Faye’s uncanny ability to inadvertently knock him out cold.

Rounding out the cast is Harry’s wife Lois, played by Sherry Compton. Compton is seen only briefly, but she gives the show an unexpected last laugh.

Director Arlene Haskin balances the over-the-top characters with the more straightforward depictions of others, keeping the show from being too ridiculous. Instead of being bombarded, you can enjoy the crazy without feeling overstimulated.

Landberg and Kemp get the gold stars, but the entire cast is solid and commendable. The show is proof of why Mud Creek has that loyal following.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Carmel Community Players: “Ragtime, the Musical”

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Carmel Community Players’ “Ragtime, the Musical.” Photo by Charles Hanover.

For its first production after being uprooted from its home in Clay Terrace, the Carmel Community Players prove the move is no setback, knocking it out of the park with Ragtime, The Musical. For Ragtime, CCP takes the stage at the Ivy Tech auditorium in Noblesville, which is a really nice venue. And judging by audience size when I attended, CCP’s move didn’t hinder ticket sales. Seats in the auditorium are plentiful, and a great deal of them were occupied.

CCP’s production of Ragtime is a streamlined version, known as Version 2, but you won’t notice. All the music is there. Version 2 is designed for a smaller cast and/or orchestra with little to no scenery, making this a better fit for CCP. But to successfully stage this show, strong direction is a key, and Doug Peet delivers. A few props and minimal set pieces are used effectively, but the choreography, colorful costuming, and well-populated stage come together to create the look and feel of the show. The large ensemble fills out the stage, creating a moving backdrop of humanity, which is apropos given the issues of inequality the show is built on. Since both costumes and choreography have such an impact on the show, costume designer Stephen Hollenbeck and choreographer Maureen Hiner-Akinx must be congratulated.

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Carmel Community Players’ “Ragtime, the Musical.” Photo by Charles Hanover.

And the excellent talent on this stage will keep you focused on the cast. To pair off, Heather Hansen and Rich Phipps as Mother and Father both perform with dynamic vocals. Angela Manlove, as Sarah, with Ronald Spriggs as Coalhouse, has a moving, eloquent voice, and Spriggs holds his own as well. Individually, Benjamin Elliott as Younger Brother and Clarissa Bowers as Emma Goldman both perform impassioned numbers. And Detra Carter steps out of the ensemble to perform an equally intense solo. All of the aforementioned sounded pitch-perfect at the performance I saw. Thom Brown as Tateh has a little trouble with the upper registers but still gives an impressive performance overall.

There were some minor sound and light mishaps, but, hey, it was opening weekend in an unfamiliar venue …

Carmel Community Players is proving that it will be just fine as it moves through the available performing spaces around town while looking for a new permanent home.

  • Through April 29, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $18; $16 for seniors (62+) and students
  • Ivy Tech, 300 N. 17th St., Noblesville
  • www.carmelplayers.org
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 4/20

Agape Performing Arts Company: The Pirates of Penzance

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Major General Stanley’s daughters in Agape’s “The Pirates of Penzance”

The Pirates of Penzance, Gilbert and Sullivan’s most popular production, is a hilarious farce and a timeless classic. This delightful musical features a  beautifully witty score and lovable characters including gentlemen pirates; lovely daughters; a charming Pirate King; the 21-year-old Frederic who was recently released from his apprenticeship to the pirates; Mabel, the daughter of the Major General whom Frederic loves; and a bumbling bunch of constables, led by their fearless sargent. The production features a full orchestra and many leads who were double-cast because of their extraordinary talent.

The Agape Performing Arts Company strives to help performers grow in confidence and character. Within a loving community, they work to create high-quality theater productions that are good family entertainment. Productions help young people strengthen their performing arts skills while also reinforcing their self-control, teamwork, diligence, and patience. Agape is a ministry of Our Lady of the Greenwood Catholic Church, in partnership with the Knights of Columbus Mater Dei Council’s McGowan Hall.

  • April 20-29, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and matinees Saturdays and Sundays at 3:30 p.m.
  • $15 VIP, $10 adult, $5 child (ages 11 years and under)
  • www.agapeshows.org

Carmel Community Players: Ragtime, The Musical

At the dawn of a new century, everything is changing … and anything is possible. Set in the volatile melting pot of turn-of-the-century New York, three distinctly American tales are woven together: that of a stifled upper-class wife, a determined Jewish immigrant, and a daring young Harlem musician. They are united by their courage, compassion, and belief in the promise of the future. Together they confront history’s timeless contradictions of wealth and poverty, freedom and prejudice, hope and despair, and what it means to live in America.

The Tony-winning score is just as diverse as the melting pot of America itself, drawing upon many musical styles from the ragtime rhythms of Harlem and Tin Pan Alley to the klezmer of the Lower East Side, from bold brass band marches to delicate waltzes, from up-tempo banjo tunes to period parlor songs and expansive anthems. This presentation is Ragtime Version 2, which is better suited for an intimate stage yet still includes all the musical numbers as Ragtime.

  • April 20-29, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $18; $16 for seniors (62+) and students
  • Ivy Tech, 300 N. 17th St., Noblesville
  • www.carmelplayers.org

Mud Creek Players: Amorous Ambassador

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Mud Creek Players’ “Amorous Ambassador.” Photo by Duane Mercier.

When Harry Douglas, the new American ambassador to Great Britain, tells his family he is going to Scotland to play golf, his wife and daughter announce weekend plans of their own. Their newly hired butler, Perkins, watches stoically as each leaves and secretly returns for a romantic rendezvous in the empty house. Harry’s secretary and Captain South of Marine Corps Embassy Security then arrive in the wake of a bomb threat and the embassy is sealed off, with hilarious results. Even the imperturbable Perkins is drawn into the shenanigans

  • April 20-May 5, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 29 at 2:30 p.m.
  • Pay What You Want night Thursday, April 19
  • $15; $13 Sunday matinee
  • http://www.mudcreekplayers.org

Broadway Across America — Indianapolis: Wicked

Yeah, you don’t need a synopsis …

“Sharing Hoosier History through Stories: Over There and Back Again” told by Sharon Kirk Clifton

Sharon Kirk Clifton
Storytelling Arts of Indiana presents Sharon Kirk Clifton

It was called the Great War, the World War, the War to End All Wars. In its early years, most Americans referred to it as the European War. We wanted to protect our own interests by staying out of the fray, remaining neutral, and trading with both sides. However, Germany would not recognize U.S. neutrality. American ships at sea became fair game. After the Germans sank two of our ships, American sentiment shifted, and the public pressured President Woodrow Wilson to go to war against the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy. On April 2, 1917, Wilson sent a war request to Congress. Four days later, the United States declared war on Germany. Among the first to answer the call to serve were two Hoosiers. Ruth Wright of Rochester had recently become an RN and was working at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. When she heard the Red Cross needed nurses to volunteer for duty in France, she signed up to go with the first wave. Robert H. Tyndall, an Indianapolis native, was a successful businessman who heard the call to serve and sold his half of a tailoring firm to his partner and re-entered the military. He had served in the War with Spain.

Using the Indiana Historical Society’s archives, storyteller Sharon Kirk Clifton will share the stories of these two people who, after the war, became leaders in Indiana.

Sharon is a professional storyteller who is also passionate about writing, especially for children. She has published two middle-grade novels and is working on a third. She received the Frank Basile Emerging Stories Fellowship in 2004 for which she premiered “Abigail Gray: Living Under the Drinking Gourd.” This is her second commission for the Sharing Hoosier History Through Stories series. Her previous story, “At Home and In Harm’s Way: The Role of Indiana Women in the Civil War,” premiered in 2007.

  • Saturday, April 21, 2 p.m. at Carmel Clay Public Library
  • Tuesday, April 24, 7 p.m. at Hancock County Public Library
  • Free
  • http://storytellingarts.org

Natural Shocks reading hosted by the Phoenix Theatre

Be a part of the national movement! Across the country, readings of Lauren Gunderson’s new play are scheduled to benefit the fight to end gun violence. Claire Wilcher and Scot Greenwell will read this fantastic play. Produced by special arrangement with The Gersh Agency.

  • Friday, April 20, 7 p.m.
  • Indy Convergence, 2611 W. Michigan St.
  • Suggested donation of $10. All proceeds go to support Everytown for Gun Safety
  • https://everytown.org/ 

Circle City Tap Company: Tapping into the City

Circle City Tap Company presents a family-friendly showcase featuring some of their classic numbers as well as new pieces choreographed by company members. Circle City Dance Productions is dedicated to bringing performing arts education and opportunities to the Indianapolis metro area as well as creating a strong community of artists that work together to ensure dance and the performing arts are kept alive and well for generations to come. The Circle City Tap Company features professionals, apprentices, and pre-professionals.

Indianapolis Shakespeare Company’s “Shakespeare’s Birthday Bash”

Party like it’s 1564!! (But much better!) Buffet dinner, cash bar, live entertainment, directors’ talks, stage makeup demos, birthday game silliness, and a silent auction! VIP tickets are a MUST with VIP check-in and seating, a DOPE swag bag ($40 value), and 2 drink tickets!

Brooks and Bourke Theatre Company: The Pajama Game

Conditions at the Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory are anything but peaceful as sparks fly between new superintendent, Sid Sorokin, and Babe Williams, leader of the union grievance committee. Their stormy relationship comes to a head when the workers strike for a 7.5 cent pay increase, setting off not only a conflict between management and labor, but a battle of the sexes as well.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 4/13

2018 DivaFest: A Celebration of Women Playwrights

JosephineDivaFest is a juried playwriting festival sponsored by IndyFringe each year. Nationally, only 19 percent of published contemporary plays have been written by women. IndyFringe is seeking to change that. Over the past nine years, DivaFest has fostered the growth of new works, new audiences, performing companies, and new IndyFringe festival shows.

2018 DivaFest lineup:

Unholy Trinity written by Mary Karty: Some people will speak their Minds, but what if the Heart and Body were given voice as well? What would they want and how would they get along? Unholy Trinity explores these internal conflicts and complexity by giving each of these aspects her own character. They will have to work together in this hilarious, absurdist search for love. It will take all three to find the one.

Moon Beneath Her Feet written by Carol Stamile: Moon Beneath Her Feet is a challenging yet hopeful play about a woman, Julia, struggling not only with her messy love life, but also with unexplained, occasional blindness and troubling insomnia. There are answers for both Julia’s heart and mind in the truth, but finding the truth in her mother’s stories won’t be easy…

Josephine — Special Returning Event, co-created by Tymisha Harris, Michael Marinaccio, and Tod Kimbro: Indianapolis audiences will see the full-length version of Josephine, the 2017 IndyFringe hit play, as part of this year’s DivaFest lineup. Featuring three new original Josephine Baker songs, Tymisha “Tush” Harris embodies the legendary artist in the magnificent “burlesque cabaret dream play” Josephine at IndyFringe Basile Theatre. Harris recounts Baker’s journey from Missouri poverty and exploitation (she was married twice before she turned 16) to Parisian high society and Martin Luther King’s March on Washington. Harris makes the audience feel Baker’s pain and pride at every turn, both through songs — highlighted by a heartbreaking rendition of “Bye Bye Blackbird” and a stirring slowed-down reinterpretation of Dylan’s “Times They Are A-Changin'” — and heartfelt soliloquies. ($25 online and at the door. Special performer pricing for Sunday, April 15 – $10 at the door only. Bring past program for proof at the door.)

Keeping the Pace written by Casey O’Leary and Stacy Post: Kit-Kat is retiring and selling her small business, a gym exclusively for women. However, her three most loyal clients are devastated by the news and set out to stop the sale. As the four women share what the gym means to each of them, they discover common ground and the strength to face life’s challenges.

Stark Naked written by Carol Weiss: Stark Naked is a one-woman play in which the artist Margaret Stark and graduate student Carrie Cohen explore the choices women make in their lives and the consequences of those choices.

Operation Farley written by Ramona Henderson: Jack and his best friend Dale have been in a rut since their recent retirement. When Jack discovers his great, great grandfather’s Civil War memorial is going to be destroyed he enlists Dale to help him save it. Their adventure leads to excitement, trouble, and making a new friend.

Cassandra’s Dream written by Maripat Allen: Unconscious forces are unleashed when a woman with a secret joins a seminar on Interpretive Art through Dreams.

Beef & Boards: Singin’ in the Rain

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Timothy Ford reprises the role of Don Lockwood in Beef & Boards’ “Singin’ in the Rain”

It’s the classic MGM movie-turned-musical with the catchy tunes that include “Good Morning,” “Make ‘Em Laugh,” and its infamous title tune. In silent movies, Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont are a hot item, but behind the scenes, things aren’t always as they appear on the big screen! Meanwhile, Lina’s squeaky voice might be the end of her career in “talking pictures” without the help of a talented young actress to do the talking and singing for her.

  • April 12-May 26
  • $44-$64. Discount of $6 off per ticket for ages 3-15.
  • beefandboards.com

Storytelling Arts of Indiana: Bill Lepp, Don White, and Bill Harley

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Bill Harley is joined by Bil Lepp and Don White for “Father’s Daze”

Bil Lepp, Don White, and Bill Harley have joined forces to share their unique perspectives on fatherhood in Father’s Daze. The show includes stories, songs, and a chance to ask your burning questions about parenthood. Experience some laughs at the expense of their foibles. For a few short hours, let the outside world slip away, laugh, remember our own parenting missteps, and celebrate 30 years of Storytelling Arts of Indiana. The celebration includes desserts, beer, and wine during intermission as well as a chance to make a difference by supporting the many outreach programs sponsored by Storytelling Arts of Indiana.

If you would like to mingle with Lepp, Harley, and White as well as partake in appetizers, beer, and wine before the show, then attend Before the Curtain from 6 -7 p.m. downstairs in the Stardust Cafe. This is an additional cost of $15 for a total ticket price of $50.

Candlelight Theatre: Murder in Triplicate

Prepare for an evening of intrigue, mystery, and murder as Candlelight Theatre presents Murder in Triplicate. Three one-act plays, written by James Trofatter and Donna Wing, will entertain patrons as they rotate through three rooms of the Benjamin Harrison presidential mansion. Ambient lighting, candlelight, and artifacts of the 23rd president of the United States set the stage for a most unique theater experience. Looking for a VIP experience? Book a private room for up to 20 guests and enjoy a night with friends, family, clients, or coworkers.

Betsy: A newlywed couple arrives home after a whirlwind romance to find they are not alone.

The Photograph Album: Siblings cope with the deaths of their parents. A family photo album reveals a horrifying mystery.

The Companion: An invalid woman is suspicious that her new nurse is not who she seems to be.

Footlite Musicals Indy Pride preview of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert

Footlite Musicals welcomes the entire Indy Pride community for a special preview night of  the upcoming show. Mingle with members of the Footlite board of directors, Priscilla cast members, and other Indy Pride community members. Representatives of Indy Pride and Footlight will present a welcome, and then attendees can enjoy some songs from the cast of Priscilla. The Footlite Pub will be open and selling beer and wine, and the snack bar will be selling water and non-alcoholic beverages.

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

EclecticPond Theatre Company: “J. Eyre: A New Musical”

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Abby Gilster and Tim Hunt in EclecticPond Theatre Company’s “J. Eyre: A New Musical.” Photo by Derek Martin.

Full disclosure: I have not read Jane Eyre. I feel this statement is necessary because the show I am writing about is J. Eyre: A New Musical, so, obviously. Which segues into … Last month I went off on the bastardization of A Wrinkle in Time because the movie played too loose with the book.

So I’m feeling some guilt.

If you are a fan of Jane Eyre, I’m sorry that I can’t compare and contrast the book and this adaptation by Paige Scott (music, lyrics, and book). I also can’t compare this production and the one that EclecticPond also staged in July of 2017 because I didn’t see that one.

More guilt.

So, those of you who have read the book need to let me know if the character of Jane really does have a stick the size of a tree trunk up her ass.

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Abby Gilster and Tim Hunt in EclecticPond Theatre Company’s “J. Eyre: A New Musical.” Photo by Derek Martin.

I can understand the puritanical, sometimes painful naiveté given Jane’s upbringing, but her interactions with Rochester here are practically clinical. Wasn’t she supposed to actually be in love with him in the book?

This could be why Abby Gilster’s default expressions are confused and confused outrage. Sadly, Gilster’s Jane is as bland as artificially flavored vanilla ice cream. HOWEVER, this could be a byproduct of Jane as a character just being boring. In contrast, Tim Hunt as Rochester is a chocolaty emo manwhore with a mohawk. Whereas we see Rochester vaguely (because he’s emo) start to see Jane as the antithesis of his self-centered, shallow lifestyle, there is no indication that Jane’s feelings are evolving or softening—because there is no indication that Jane has feelings beyond confusion and confused outrage. While Hunt is fun to watch in his ridiculous self-induced despondence, there is just no chemistry between him and Gilster.

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Miranda Nehrig in EclecticPond Theatre Company’s “J. Eyre: A New Musical.” Photo by Derek Martin.

But this adaptation is a musical, so let’s move on. I encountered a lot of raised eyebrows when I told people I was seeing a production of Jane Eyre that is a musical, but it works. The numbers provide needed exposition, complement the events, condense plot lines, move the story forward, and/or introduce characters. Just one example is Miranda Nehrig distilling and elucidating Blanche’s motivations and personality within a single number, a wickedly sexy “Hot to Trot.”

Vocally, the cast is striking and decidedly impassioned. While not absolutely perfect on absolutely every note, they are close, and they are singing with no mics, no fancy auto-tuning—just the accompaniment of pianist Jacob Stensberg (and kudos to you, too, for being the sole instrumentalist). This makes their musical numbers acutely dramatic.

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Mary Margaret Montgomery in EclecticPond’s “J. Eyre: A New Musical.” Photo by Derek Martin.

Gilster and Hunt are the only two actors who don’t work multiple characters. In addition to Nehrig, Mary Margaret Montgomery, Andrea Heiden, Chelsea Leis, and Carrie Neal effectively create the many auxiliary characters, giving each one distinct traits and mannerisms that manifest even the most minor characters.

The language is tweaked in this production to add an unexpected modern word or phrase, so there are the occasional throw-ins such as “kinky” and “bat shit.” The costuming is also a blend of styles with nods to the time period. Most are an elegant mish-mash, except for poor Jane, who is dressed in a remarkably unflattering outfit with a skirt that looks as if she pulled a Scarlett O’Hara.

The staging area is ringed with electric votive candles, containing the action and appropriately setting a somewhat gothic mood. Lighting designer Patrick Weigand gets the most out of the limited lighting effects available.

Does the show make me want to peruse the literary moors of Thornfield? No. But I will give credit where it’s due, and this production of J. Eyre does contain some notable acting and eloquently arranged music.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Can’t … not … post … this …

Jay and Silent Bob Get Old

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Jay and Silent Bob Get Old

Fast-talking, foul-mouthed Jay and his “hetero life partner” Silent Bob will give fans the opportunity to be a part of the popular podcast series and see their slacker heroes on stage doing what they love, telling stories and poking fun at each other. Jay and Silent Bob are getting old, come watch it as it happens!

Following the release of the cult-classic film Clerks in 1994, longtime friends Jason “Jay” Mewes and Kevin “Silent Bob” Smith quickly became much loved stoner icons, with their mischievous characters going on to star in Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and Clerks 2, all of which were written and directed by Smith.

The duo have toured Jay & Silent Bob Get Old through the US, recording each evening and then releasing the audio as a free podcast, resulting in the show being ranked the #1 podcast on iTunes Comedy. The shows are a sometimes touching, always hilarious, and a very honest insight into what happens when two people grow up together in the Hollywood limelight.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 4/6

 

EclecticPond Theatre Company: J. Eyre: A New Musical Adaptation

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EclecticPond Theatre Company: “J. Eyre: A New Musical Adaptation”

A modern minimalist musical based on Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel.  Journey back to Thornfield … J. Eyre tells the story of Jane Eyre from contemporary eyes. Told by six women and one man, you will be swept away by this new musical to the mysterious grounds of Thornfield Hall. You may find love there, but you may find something else …

The Reduced Shakespeare Company: William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged)

Reduced Shakespeare Company
“William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged)”

Discovered in a treasure-filled parking lot in Leicester, England (next to a pile of bones that didn’t look that important), an ancient manuscript proves to be the long-lost first play written by none other than seventeen-year-old William Shakespeare from Stratford. We are totally not completely making this up. William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (abridged) is the literary holy grail: an actual manuscript in Shakespeare’s own hand showing all his most famous characters and familiar speeches in a brand-new story. But because it’s one hundred hours long and contains multiple unwieldy storylines, the RSC decided, as a public service, to abridge it down to a brief and palatable ninety minutes and perform the world premiere of this lost masterpiece.

The Reduced Shakespeare Company is a three-man comedy troupe that takes long, serious subjects and reduces them to short, sharp comedies. The “Bad Boys of Abridgment” have created nine stage shows, two television specials, several failed TV pilots, and numerous radio pieces — all of which have been performed, seen, and heard the world over.

Indy Convergence: Hourglass

Hourglass is a movement and live music experience where participants (any age, any experience level) are invited to improvise movement to an original score played live.

Immersive music, lights, and movement, Hourglass is sixty minutes of original music for violin, cello, and electronics. Composed and performed by violinist Robin Cox and cellist Maya Sutherland, with movement facilitation by Stephanie Nugent, Hourglass invites participants to enjoy a full hour of living in-the-moment with a community in motion.

  • Friday, April 6 at 7:30 p.m.
  • Family Hourglass Sunday, April 8 at 2:00 p.m.: This Hourglass is super special because while young people can join in anytime, this is the first time the production will have a particular family-friendly time.
  • $10 for adults, $5 for kids cash/check/card at the door
  • Indy Convergence
  • https://www.facebook.com/events/170155090304061/?active_tab=about
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“The Matchmaker” at Buck Creek Players

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Brigette McCleary Short and Gloria Bray in Buck Creek Players’ “The Matchmaker.” Photo by photoGary.net.

The best part of Buck Creek Players’ The Matchmaker is Gloria Bray. As Dolly Gallagher Levi, Bray can spit out dialogue at a breakneck speed like a caffeinated puppy with ADD on fast-forward.

Bray makes Dolly demand your attention whether she is central to the scene or not—Dolly will find a way to make it about her. She’s not one to stand by idly while other people talk—unless she is eavesdropping. And while Dolly cloaks her matchmaking duties in beneficence, each maneuver is part of a strategic plan to land her the rich merchant Horace Vandegelder (C. Leroy Delph).

Bray keeps Dolly smart and sly without comprising her character’s reflection of the times, the 1880s. In that era, intelligence wasn’t a characteristic many men were interested in for a wife. So Dolly manipulates Vandegelder into thinking her ideas were actually his ideas. She knows what kind of lifestyle she wants, and she immediately pivots when necessary to make it happen.

Dolly is a complex meddler, and it’s no wonder she was given her own musical, Hello, Dolly!

Bray’s closest contender is the taking-no-shit whip-cracker Brigette McCleary Short as Irene Molloy, with her impertinent, unapologetic ways when it comes to men. Molloy takes what she wants, the best demonstration of which is McCleary Short roaring a declaration with a finger almost shoved up the other person’s nose. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Molloy had declared,” Fuck off!” at that moment. Of course, Molloy was drunk at the time, but I think McCleary Short would have allowed it sober.

  • Through April 8, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
  • $18 for adults; $16 for children, students (through college), and senior citizens (aged 62 or older)
  • http://www.buckcreekplayers.com
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“And Then There Were None” at Civic Theatre

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“And Then There Were None” at Civic Theatre. Photo by Zach Rosing.

It’s all fun and games until someone drops dead.

Well, even then it’s still fun and games for one person. The question is, who is that person?

Hence, And Then There Were None, the Agatha Christie murder mystery on stage at Civic Theatre. Ten people have been invited to Soldier Island off the coast of Devon, England; the goal is to successively pick them off following the pattern in the poem “10 Little Soldier Boys” — sort of like a checklist. The killer sees this as redemption for the alleged murders each guest is accused of, which are recited on a recording so the others can know each other’s sins.

Once Anthony Marston (Bradford Reilly) chokes to death, the threat finally seems real. The group is completely cut off from the mainland, and there is little for them to do but accuse each other and wait to die next.

Completing the list of potential victims are Matt Anderson, Christy Walker, Carrie A. Schlatter, Joshua Ramsey, Steve Kruze, Tom Beeler, Christine Kruze, David Mosedale, David Wood, with Dick Davis as the ferryman.

The actors’ performances were guided by their characters’ superficial descriptions — the righteous old maid, the flighty young woman, the defensive cop, the swaggering soldier, etc. I didn’t really care when one of them got picked off. It felt as if the cast was just going through the motions.

From a technical standpoint, Ryan Koharchik’s set design was spot-on, and director Chuck Goad had everyone hitting his or her marks. But overall, I wasn’t as impressed as I could have been by the Civic or the cast and crew involved.

  • March 23-April 8; Wednesdays-Saturdays at 7 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m.; last Saturday at 5 p.m.
  • Prices vary
  • http://civictheatre.org
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

IRT season released

Friday, the Indiana Repertory Theatre revealed its 2018–2019 season, its 47th, to the media during a small marketing luncheon, which also included the (literal) unveiling of Kyle Ragsdale’s lovely artistic interpretations of each show. This is the IRT’s fifth year collaborating with Ragsdale, whose originals are auctioned at the IRT Radio Show fundraiser.

The lineup is a diverse offering of challenging works and popular classics. The season consists of six productions as part of its subscription package and three special productions.

So now, let’s see what the IRT has planned for its next season. (Note that the show descriptions have been provided by the IRT. I have not personally seen many of these plays produced.)

 

Holmes and Watson by Jeffrey Hatcher, Sept. 25–Oct. 21, 2018: a chilling mystery (part of subscription package)

Summoned to a remote asylum on a rocky island, Dr. Watson investigates three inmates who all claim to be the late master sleuth Sherlock Holmes. This eerie new puzzler by award-winning playwright Jeffrey Hatcher will stir your blood and tease your mind.

Pipeline by Dominique Morisseau, Oct. 16–Nov. 11, 2018: a searing drama (part of subscription package)

Nya’s son, Omari, is tormented with rage and in trouble at school. A fractured family navigates a broken system as a mother fights for her son’s future in a world divided by race, class, and money. Compassion and eloquence galvanize this gritty new work by one of America’s most sought-after playwrights.

Lilly Presents Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol adapted by Tom Haas, Nov. 17–Dec. 26, 2018: an Indy holiday tradition

As the weather turns cold, warm your heart with Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, and spirits of the past, present, and future. Filled with laughter and tears, A Christmas Carol celebrates the power of kindness and love in this uplifting tale of one man’s journey to redemption.

Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan Macmillian with Jonny Donahoe, Jan. 8–Feb. 10, 2019: loss and laughter (part of subscription package)

What makes life worth living? The answers are both simple and profound in this one-of-a-kind Off-Broadway hit. A theatrical experience like none other, this witty new play shines compassionate light into the dark corners of the human condition.

The Diary of Anne Frank by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett adapted by Wendy Kesselman, Jan. 25–Feb. 24, 2019: a courageous classic

In a world turned upside down by the Holocaust, Anne Frank held on to her faith in humanity. This story of resilience, optimism, and a young girl’s extraordinary spirit transcends time and offers hope to today’s world.

Elephant & Piggie’s “We Are in a Play!” with script and lyrics by Mo Willems and music by Deborah Wicks La Puma, Feb. 23–March 24, 2019: joyful musical

The author of the best-selling Elephant & Piggie books brings you a rollicking celebration of friendship and fun in a colorful musical for children 3- to 8-years-old and their families. With their backup trio the Squirelles, Gerald and Piggie sing, dance, and laugh their way through a day where anything can happen.

A Doll’s House, Part 2 by Lucas Hnath, March 12–April 7, 2019: fierce and funny (part of subscription package)

Straight from Broadway, A Doll’s House, Part 2 begins fifteen years after Nora left her husband and her children. As she returns to the place where she slammed the door on her past, long-kept secrets are split wide open. A scaldingly funny and deadly serious exploration of divorce, family, and lost love.

Amber Waves by IRT playwright-in-residence James Still, April 2–28, 2019: from the Heartland (part of subscription package)

Hard times mean hard decisions as an Indiana family faces the prospect of losing their farm. This small-town tale returns by popular demand, featuring music by Tim Grimm and Jason Wilbur, with generous helpings of courage, love, and humor.

You Can’t Take It with You by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, April 23–May 19, 2019: madcap comedy (part of subscription package)

Alice loves her eccentric family, but what if her fiancé’s straight-laced parents don’t feel the same way? Brimming with colorful characters, this Pulitzer Prize-winning farce with heart brings people together in a comedy classic that ignites fireworks of laughter!

 

Executive Artistic Director Janet Allen is by far most excited by A Doll’s House Part 2 and Every Brilliant Thing, both of which are the season’s edgiest shows. Getting the rights to A Doll’s House Part 2 was quite the coup for the IRT. The show closed on Broadway in September of 2017, and since there won’t be a touring show, the rights were opened to regional theaters. Allen assures us that if you haven’t seen A Doll’s House Part 1, that’s OK because you will learn all the background you need during the first 10 minutes of Part 2. Allen referrers to how the “slammed door changed theater forever,” in that the main character, Nora, defied convention and committed an act almost considered taboo in the Victorian era. In Part 2, we will see how those actions affected everyone.

Audiences might be familiar with Every Brilliant Thing because it was also an HBO film. While the subject matter may seem dark—Donahoe’s character is compiling a list of things worth living for—the writing keeps the audience engaged. Quite literally. As Allen commented, it is “highly audience involving.” So be prepared for some level of audience participation. The one-man show has been cast already: Marcus Truschinski will take the stage. Audiences may remember him from the IRT’s production of The Mystery of Irma Vep: A Penny Dreadful in 2016, where he played opposite Rob Johansen. And when I say played, these two played. Irma Vep was hilarious, so I have faith in Truschinski’s ability to pull this show off.

While You Can’t Take It with You was writing in the 1930s when racial viewpoints were different than they are today, Allen says the theater will “expand” its view and “do it in a way that will be respectful to the play.” This includes their approach to casting choices.

While some people may roll their eyes at yet another production of A Christmas Carol, Allen makes a good point regarding it, as well as Anne Frank and Elephant & Piggie. They are “gateway” productions. Carol is the IRT’s best multi-generational production. It acts as both a family tradition and a way to introduce all ages to live theater. Anne Frank targets the teenage set by tying in with the students’ curriculum and then bringing it to life. Elephant & Piggie is part of Exploring Stages, which is a program designed for ages 3-8. (Town Mouse and Country Mouse recently closed, but it was a joy to share the experience with my 8-year-old son).

When choosing the season, Allen says the process involves determining “the audience we want to make works for.” The IRT sets out to serve audiences for a lifetime, so they ask, “Who are we serving with a particular show?” The season then reflects a combination of the new, the edgy, the classics, and the gateway productions.

Beginning on March 27, seated ticket packages can be purchased for the Signature Six Series. Go to irtlive.com for more information.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 3/23

IndyFringe Theater: OnyxFest: A Celebration of African-American Playwrights

Onyx Fest is Indianapolis’ first and only theater festival dedicated to the stories of African-American playwrights. The inaugural Onyx Fest in 2012 was developed in response to the lack of diversity on stage and in audiences of Indianapolis’ theaters; except the IndyFringe Theater. IndyFringe has actively worked towards embracing diversity in the Indianapolis theater scene and these efforts have yielded fruit by working with African-American playwrights to change the Indianapolis theatrical landscape of storytellers, actors, and audiences at the IndyFringe Theater. Onyx Fest is another step towards institutionalizing the IndyFringe Theater’s commitment to provide support and a performance venue that is inclusive of all playwrights who make up the Indianapolis community.

The importance of Onyx Fest: Develop and present voices not often heard and showcase the work of established voices. Engage new and established audiences in the art and craft of production Bring new excitement to theatre and grow Onyx Fest as a center for African-American playwrights.

Impact of Onyx Fest: Growth of new works, new audiences, new performing companies, new Fringe Festival shows. Imagine the new voices being heard.

Dear Bobby: The Musical 

Playwright: Angela Jackson Brown; Music: Peter Davis

dear-bobby-v9-2Judith Rosenstein and Annabelle Strong are two twelve-year-old girls from opposite sides of Indianapolis but their stories are similar. Both girls are growing up without their mothers and both have two very loving fathers and brothers.This play explores the very real struggles and successes of the Jewish community and the black community to unite as one in Indianapolis during this time. It explores in a larger scope, the tumultuous times everyone was living through as they watched in horror the assassination of their leaders.

www.indyfringe.org/theatre-show/dear-bobby-musical

Forever Moore  

Playwright: Lanetta Overton

The holidays are quickly approaching, and the Moore family is planning to visit with one another. Ruby and Michael are anticipating the arrival of their three beloved sons. Tyrique is the eldest son, he is a lawyer who has worked hard to make partner at Lax and Chism Law firm. He’s in the right business, but he may soon need a lawyer of his own. Trent is the middle son who is currently in his last year at Notre Dame, his passion is football, but he has a love for something else which could lead to his demise. Lastly, the youngest son Jywan is a military man that has not always had a voice, but is in desperation of trying to be heard. The Moore’s will share more than good food and laughs over the holiday. It’s time for this family to show they will be there for one another despite the odds they may face.

http://www.indyfringe.org/theatre-show/forever-moore

Take My Hand (A Blues Man’s Path to Gospel)

Playwright: Lillie Evans, www.lilliebarnettevans.com

takemyhandThomas Dorsey, a self confident composer and self-taught pianist, is determined to make his mark. In his early twenties he was well on his way to being one of the most prolific composer in blues history and was sought after by some of the top blues artist of his time. But, what’s gospel have to do with it? His vision is to marry church music with blues rhythms — it was called gospel. Pressured by those around him, he is unable to choose between the blues he loves and the secular music he was striving to change. The answer comes at a heavy price but heralds a song that anointed Dorsey as the “father of gospel music.”

http://www.indyfringe.org/theatre-show/%E2%80%9Ctake-my-hand%E2%80%9D

Fat Turtle Theatre Company: The Quest for Don Quixote (Indiana Premiere)

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Fat Turtle Theatre Company: “The Quest for Don Quixote”

Playwright Ben Eisenberg sits in a Starbucks on the eve of the first rehearsal of his stage adaptation of Don Quixote. There’s just one problem — he hasn’t written it. He hasn’t written anything in years, and his status as wunderkind playwright is quickly fading to has-been hack. His agent is apoplectic, the producer’s advance is long since spent, and adapting a 1,000-page Renaissance adventure is beginning to feel a bit like tilting at windmills. But then — whether from a stroke of genius or a near-lethal dosage of caffeine and Xanax — Starbucks itself begins to transform, and the errant knight arises in this delightfully theatrical and hilarious retelling of Cervantes’ classic tale.

Civic Theatre: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

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Civic Theatre: “And Then There Were None”

Ten strangers are summoned to a remote island. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they’re unwilling to reveal and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder. As the weather turns and the group is cut off from the mainland, the bloodbath begins and one by one they are brutally murdered in accordance with the lines of a sinister nursery rhyme. One of Christie’s darkest tales and a masterpiece of dramatic construction, its growing sense of dread and unfaltering tension will keep you guessing to the very end.

  • March 23-April 8; Wednesdays-Saturdays at 7 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m.; last Saturday at 5 p.m.
  • Prices vary
  • http://civictheatre.org

Indianapolis Opera: South Pacific

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s endearing classic deals with many socially significant issues of today: war, romance, racism and battle fatigue. Rodgers wrote most of the lyrical melodies specifically for opera stars, including Ezio Pinza, the lead bass at the Metropolitan Opera for 22 years. Audience members will be moved by some of the most popular songs in all of musical theater including “Some Enchanted Evening” and “Younger than Springtime.”

  • Friday, March 23 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, March 24 (sold out); Sunday, 25 at 2:30 p.m.
  • Schrott Center for the Arts
  • $25-$55
  • www.indyopera.org
Posted in Uncategorized

“A Wrinkle in Time” sucked

No theater review this week, so you get a review of a different color.

10 Things I Hate About the

New Adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time

Did you read the book? Yes? Run. Run far, far away.

No? OK, rent it on DVD, wait until it hits Netflix, Amazon Prime, whatever and you are really bored. That’s the best and only recommendation I can dole out.

However, I will acknowledge that the filmmakers did a wonderful job in assembling a racially diverse cast, and it is directed by acclaimed African-American director Ava DuVernay, best known for the film Selma. So major kudos there.

So other than that accolade, in the order of my personal misery, here is my list of What Went Wrong with this movie.

1. Mrs. Whatsit

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Mrs. Whatsit in Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time.” What the everloving fuck?

I was livid. However, I remained optimistic that this was the only perversion I would endure. Oh, how wrong I was. It was actually foreshadowing future insults. All the Mrs.-es were depicted in almost unrecognizable forms, Mrs. Who being the closest to the novel’s counterpart, but Mrs. Whatsit was the worst. First of all, Mrs. Whatsit is made into a serious bitch. The Meg in the book would have hit her. Multiple times. And what the hell is up with Mrs. Whatsit’s costuming? Where is her congenial playfulness? And her transformed state—what was wrong with a buraq? It’s symbolic. Come on, it’s a centaur with wings. Is that really so uncool? Instead, we get a weird flying leaf in an amalgamation of The Neverending Story and Avatar.

2. Charles Wallace

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Charles Wallace from Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time”

He is meant to be a preternaturally precocious boy, even psychic, but here he has too many traits of a petulant five-year-old. He’s much too excitable when he is supposed to be an anchor for Meg. Unacceptable. This leads into another issue, along with her reunion with her father, which is elaborated on in No. 5.

3. The Black Thing

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Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Who, with Meg behind Mrs. Whatsit’s arm, in Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time.” Can’t find a photo of The Dark Thing, so I am using this fuckery instead.

The Black Thing is a manifestation of IT’s influance, but in the movie, it is identified as Camazotz? Really? In the book, Camazotz is simply one of many planets that has fallen under the control of IT. At this point, I had to take a break. After a painful facepalm, I retreated for a few minutes to acquire a $5 box of Junior Mints. This alone should indicate just how pissed off I was getting. If I hadn’t felt the obligation to return (my five friends still trapped in the theater and the growing necessity of this article), I would have just left the building all together.

4. The depiction of IT

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This is just a brain

IT is still a giant brain, so, yes—the filmmakers got that part right. But from there everything else was tossed. For one thing, IT was supposed to be a disembodied, swollen brain. Guess that wasn’t good enough.

IT represents the ultimate battle against conformity (see No. 5), and the writers even mussed that up. And they cut out most of CENTRAL Central Intelligence.

5. Loss of depth of the book

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Meg from Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time”

This should be No. 1, but I am about to go on an even larger tirade, so I stuck it in the middle.

Why am I even surprised? A Wrinkle in Time was not meant to exclusively be a coming-of-age story or a good-versus-evil story. There is so much more there. L’Engle said before her death in 2007, “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” A Wrinkle in Time is similar to the His Dark Materials trilogy by the equally amazing writer Philip Pullman. (Pullman’s work The Golden Compasssuffered a similar cinematic fate in 2007. 2007 was a rough year.) Or, as more people may recognize, The Chronicles of Narnia. You can read A Wrinkle in Time at age 10, again at 20, and again at 40, and you will find that as you mature, you discover more and more within the story. The protagonists may be young, but A Wrinkle in Time isn’t a kiddie book. Disney turned its back on that and instead targeted a younger demographic, making the novel, which was written in 1962, into a movie that is dumbed down and flashy (see Mrs. Whatsit, No. 1).

Meg’s journey is whittled down to overcoming her feelings of inadequacy. While an important message, it also makes the movie one-dimensional.The story is also a cautionary tale about the brutal consequences of conformity and the power you gain in denying that kind of safety. It is about overcoming fears such as personal responsibility and everything that comes with it. It is a celebration of embracing what makes us “other,” and trusting others, even when it’s scary. And so, so much more.

6. Calvin

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Calvin from Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time”

Calvin is another victim of depiction. He’s supposed to be his own kind of outcast and awkward and with his own hurdles to overcome. Instead, he’s all cute and decidedly normal. Meg’s future and maturation is linked to Calvin’s, but whatever. This movie will never see a sequel…hopefully.

7. Mr. Murray’s rescue

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Mr. Murray from Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time”

Mr. Murray is supposed to be in stasis inside a clear column. Instead, Meg climbs a staircase that took me back to the music video for A-ha’s “Take on Me” and found her dad in a fetal position in a hallway that resembles a Doctor Who TARDIS set. WTF?

8. Depiction of Mrs. Murray

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Mrs. Murray from Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time”

In the book, Mrs. Murry doesn’t have the same reaction to the strange appearance of Mrs. Whatsit. After her transcendental work with her husband and her peculiar son Charles Wallace, it made sense that Mrs. Murray would be nonplussed by Mrs. Whatsit appearing at their door in the middle of the night in all her bizarre glory. Instead, Mrs. Murray is suspicious and untrusting—almost rude. While this may be the normal reaction of a real-life parent, that is not the point in the book. Mrs. Murray is unconditionally accepting of the strange and different. It seems perfectly sane that in her reality, this is her normal.

9. Studio Ghibli should have done it

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“Howl’s Moving Castle”

After a Studio Ghibli marathon, it occurred to me that an adaptation should have been done by them. Hayao Miyazaki (who’s already out of retirement, so why not?) is friends with John Lasseter, so it could happen! They could have animated the hell out of it and come out with a thing of beauty. Miyazaki is a story artist, which is exemplified in his unscripted Spirited Away, but his ability to take the essence of a book and translate it to the screen is proved in the adaptation of Howl’s Moving Castle. Sure, there are some major deviations from novel to screen for Howl, but it worked without pissing me off. If anyone was going to reinterpret Madeleine L’Engle’s brilliant writing, it should have been him.

Which segues into No. 10 …

10. The Disney disappointment

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Disney let the opportunity to redeem itself for its 2004 TV adaptation travesty slip by. That year, Newsweek asked L’Engle if it met her expectations: “Oh, yes. I expected it to be bad, and it is.”

Yeah, this one too.

There is such a thing as a tesseract—and all it stands for. But you will still only find it in the book.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 3/16

Indiana Theatre Company, in association with Nickel Plate Players: The Masks We Wear: a cabaret

masksThe Masks We Wear explores the very real challenges faced by those who suffer from depression, anxiety, and the societal stigmas surrounding them. The show was created and written by Indiana native Adam Allen, a 2016 graduate of Ball State University and owner of Fierce Little Bird Productions. Through his own life experience, Adam Allen has created a poignant exposé on the challenges of living with anxiety and depression. Through his recognition of the impact these disorders have within our society, he has created a unique and powerful message for those who suffer from these sometimes crippling mental health disorders. The Masks We Wear brings together eight performers who,  through the power of contemporary musical compositions and a brand-new song called “The Masks We Wear,”  strive to open up a more informed conversation about the realities of living with mental health disorders in our world.  The show is endorsed by Mental Health America of Indiana, and they will have a guest speaker each night of the performance.

Garfield Shakespeare Company: Richard II

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Garfield Shakespeare Company: “Richard II”

Richard II tells the story of the opulent King Richard’s fall at the hands of Henry Bolingbroke, who will become King Henry IV. Noble families will fall in line with the unpopular king, and which will support the ambitious Bolingbroke? A harrowing political intrigue; watch as dominoes are set to fall over the next two years.

Richard II starts a 3-year long project of performing what is called “The Henriad” —Richard II, Henry IV Part 1, Henry IV Part 2, and Henry V. Garfield Shakespeare Company will be combining Henry IV into a single production next spring and will conclude the Henriad during the summer of 2020.

Indy Actors’ Playground March Reading

Actress Leah Brenner will be back in Indianapolis to do this month’s reading. This one will be a musical. Leah will be joined by the Brent Marty and Andrea Catherine.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Phoenix Theatre: “Fairfield” (4 stars)

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“Fairfield” at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Zach Rosing.

Playwright Eric Coble shows an almost wicked sense of humor in his play Fairfield, a portrayal of Black History Month at Fairfield Elementary School that goes horribly wrong. Far from being a dig at the commemorative month, however, the play’s farce highlights what can be an equal opportunity clusterfuck when people are hyper-aware of being politically correct or aren’t aware of their own prejudices or lack of actual education.

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“Fairfield” at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Zach Rosing.

Fairfield Elementary considers itself a diverse, liberal school, touting “Peace. Love. Respect for all.” But a young, clueless, and overeager first-grade teacher’s attempts at what she considers educational lesson plans for Black History Month — the most benign of which is a spelling list including the words “chitlins” and “booty” — set off a chain reaction of misguided escapades that deteriorate in almost diabolical ways. (The teacher genuinely seems lacking in good judgment based on her wardrobe choices alone. She’d win any ugly sweater competition hands down.) The lynchpin comes when the parents of two boys —one black, one white — go tête-à-tête after the white boy “role plays” master and slave by trying to flog the black boy with a chain he crafted out of linked paperclips. The poor principal is on the verge of a heart attack by the time it all comes to a head in a raucous and so gloriously offensive assembly.