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. The show isn’t emotionally exhausting though. While its situations and subjects can be grim, it gives the audience breaks to laugh, 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 in 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 it. Whitney’s character feigns indifference, but Whitney gives him more depth than that in his facial and body 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, but they recently found a permanent home in the old Crackers building in Broad Ripple. 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
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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

Claire Kauffman as Annie 2018
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.

fairfield2Directed by Ansley Valentine, Milicent Wright, one of Indianapolis’ most multi-talented actors, takes on the role of Principal Wadley. (She was most recently seen in the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s superlative staging of Romeo and Juliet and participated in an educational capacity in the IRT’s children’s production of Town Mouse and Country Mouse.) While Wadley isn’t a novice in the principal’s seat, she finds herself floundering during her first year at Fairfield, and Wright renders the descent of Wadley’s patience and professional sanity. Her nemesis is the young teacher Laurie Kaminski, played by Mara Lefler, who gives Kaminski a determined petulance that could rival her pupils’. She manages to straight-facedly and earnestly recite Kaminski’s mother’s words of wisdom that carry excellent double entendres: “If you pull out early no one is satisfied.”

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“Fairfield” at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Zach Rosing.

Wadley gets no help from the superintendent, who is fixated on the word “dialogue,” played by Doug Powers, who also portrays the father, Scott, of the white boy in a well-done definement of the two characters. Dwuan Watson also splits his characters, as the black boy’s father, Daniel, and Charles Clark, a participant in the civil rights movement who gives an, ahem, impassioned presentation at the school. Watson enthusiastically gives us some of the meatiest comedy in the show.

Jean Arnold, as Molly, and LaKesha Lorene, as Vanessa, are the mothers of the two boys. Arnold plays up the self-congratulatory aspects of Molly who thinks she is so nonracist but is, just…not, while Lorene’s character is self-righteously more combative if actually more rational. But, wow, Lorene’s death glare would stop an ax murder in his tracks.

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“Fairfield” at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Zach Rosing.

Sadly, the show’s design isn’t the most conducive to line of sight for the audience. The rounded stage area is set too far forward in the black-box theater, and for those of us sitting on the far sides, we were often staring at the actors’ backs. I felt this was a real detriment from my (obstructed) point of view. The night I was there, though, the theater was packed by the time I arrived, so my seating choices, granted, were limited.

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“Fairfield” at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Zach Rosing.

The show is the Phoenix’s last in its current building, so audiences are seeing a bit of the theater’s own history in the making. The last hurrah is a concert of “Pure Prine,” which you can still catch Friday, March 16, at 7:30 p.m.

  • Through April 1; Thursdays at 7 p.m.; Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $20-$33
  • www.phoenixtheatre.org
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Indiana Repertory Theatre: “Appoggiatura” (5 stars)

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“Appoggiatura” at the IRT. Photo by Ed Stewart.

Ah-podge-uh-TOO-ruh. That’s the first question most people ask when faced with the title of the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s current production, Appoggiatura: How do you say that? And then: What? “Appoggiatura” is defined as “a type of musical ornament, falling on the beat, which often creates a suspension and subtracts for itself half the time value of the principal note that follows.” For the non-musical among us, that’s not a concept easily grasped. The IRT’s descriptive blurb about the show’s plot doesn’t give a lot away either.

So let me elaborate. Appoggiatura is about three people taking a vacation to Venice hoping to outrun their heartache back in the States. Helen (Susan Pellegrino) and “Aunt Chuck” (Tom Aulino) are mourning the recent death of Gordon, Helen’s ex-husband and Chuck’s husband. (Yes, Gordon left Helen for Chuck and Chuck and Helen are friends, just to clarify.) Accompanying them is Sylvie (Andrea San Miguel), Helen’s granddaughter, who is dealing with her own emotional confusion toward her girlfriend, whom we only meet via Skype.

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“Appoggiatura” at the IRT. Photo by Ed Stewart.

The vacation is immediately soured by Chuck’s incessant complaining over typical international-travel snafus: lost luggage, missing hotel reservations, and, most fun, an incompetent but genial “travel guider,” Marco (Casey Hoekstra). Chuck’s grousing is met by Helen’s equally grating and unyielding optimism. For the most part, Sylvie tries to stay out of the middle. There must be something funky in the canals’ water, because come the second act, both Chuck and Helen are having some interesting time-travel hallucinations (and it’s not from the pot that Marco acquired for Chuck). In the end, what we witness is each of the characters’ coping mechanisms for confronting dreams and expectations unfulfilled, but Helen and Chuck learn to hang on to the good parts too.

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“Appoggiatura” at the IRT. Photo by Ed Stewart.

The way the show is written and executed makes it ridiculously funny. And not in a guilty-laughing, Schadenfreude-kind of way. These characters’ interactions and surrounding events are just plain silly at times. Street musicians—Andrew Mayer, Paul Deboy, and Katrina Yaukey—add comedic support, and they provide some enchanting music that enhances the setting. The show’s tone is set right from the opening scene as Mayer and Pellegrino play a sort of violin tag. And there are mop dogs—as in real mops. Anyone who has been to Venice will appreciate the all-roads-lead-to-San Marco, as well as a pigeon cameo.

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“Appoggiatura” at the IRT. Photo by Ed Stewart.

Director Peter Amster guided Aulino, Pellegrino, San Miguel, and Hoekstra into sympathetic and genuine characters. This is actually quite a feat because without balance, any of them could fall into an empty stereotype—queen, martyr with a brave face, angry lesbian, and clown. (This is actually an ironic statement because at one point, every conceivable nationality of tourist is parodied. OK, maybe there is some guilty-laughter there …) Instead, the characters are relatable, enjoyable, even with their flaws—and because of them.

All of this action takes place on a set that is gorgeous. Scenic designer Lee Savage’s concept is a work of art that captures Venice’s sense of otherworldly claustrophobia. Chuck and Helen are hopelessly lost on their quest to find for San Marco plaza, which is really the only open space in Venice, even though all roads lead there. So, insert a psychoanalytic comment here.

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“Appoggiatura” at the IRT. Photo by Ed Stewart.

Appoggiatura is actually part of a trilogy by IRT playwright-in-residence James Still: The House that Jack Built (which the IRT produced in 2012) and Miranda (2017). I didn’t see The House that Jack Built, but Miranda was dark. But I assure you, it’s not going to affect your understanding of the story if you haven’t seen one or both.

  • March 7-31; days and times vary, so check the IRT website for a full schedule
  • Tickets start at $25
  • Recommended for patrons ninth grade and older
  • irtlive.com
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 3/9

Actors Theatre of Indiana: Lillian Baxter & Friends We Enjoy Being a Girl

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Lillian Baxter at Actors Theatre of Indiana. Photo by Ed Stewart.

John Vessels as Hollywood’s favorite has-been makes her way to Carmel to celebrate the fairer sex. Joined by some old friends, Lillian Baxter takes you on a musical tour of womanhood. You’ll see women at work, in love, out of love, on the verge, sisters, mothers, and daughters all making their way through the hectic modern world of 1976. Big dreams and big hair are on parade as Lillian Baxter & Friends put a smile on your face and a song in your heart. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll call your mom at intermission.

IndyFringe’s OnyxFest: Jabberwocky: 50 Years Later

Read Dan Grossman’s interview in NUVO with Billie Breaux here.

  • Tuesday, March 13, doors 5 p.m., event, 5:30 p.m.
  • IndyFringe Basile Theatre, 719 E. St. Clair St., Indianapolis
  • Free, RSVP at IndyFringe.org

Indiana Repertory Theatre: Appoggiatura

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“Appoggiatura” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre

A Venetian escapade by IRT playwright-in-residence James Still. A trip to Venice brings love, loss, pain, and joy to three weary travelers in search of healing and happiness. Hearts leap, time bends, and the floating city works its wonders in this magical play filled with music and amore.

  • March 7-31; days and times vary, so check the IRT website for a full schedule
  • Tickets start at $25
  • Recommended for patrons ninth grade and older
  • irtlive.com

Phoenix Theatre: Fairfield

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“Fairfield” at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Zach Rosing.

Fairfield Elementary is a progressive, integrated school in a progressive, integrated community where Black History Month goes horribly, horribly wrong. One bad role-playing exercise by an over-eager first grade teacher and suddenly black and white parents, principals, superintendents, and teachers are fighting for their educational lives and to just reach the “CelebrEthnic Potluck” on Feb. 28 in one piece. This twisted comedy will have you laughing so hard you cry while raising poignant questions about the world and the manner in which we are raising our youth.

This will be the Phoenix’s last production at their current location!

  • March 8-April 1; Thursdays at 7 p.m.; Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $20-$33. Thursday, March 8 is preview night; tickets are only $20.
  • www.phoenixtheatre.org

The Alley Theatre: Hamlet

Yeah, these guys are kinda hard to find show info on. So here:

Hamlet

  • Anderson Center for the Arts (the Carnegie Building), 925 Jackson St., Anderson
  • March 9-10 at 7:30 p.m. and March 11 at 3 p.m.
  • $10; Tickets must be purchased in person at the time of the production at the theater. Cash and checks accepted.
  • 765-643-6957, 765-643-0701
  • www.thealleytheatre.com

Broadway in Indianapolis: Les Miserables

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Footlite Musical: “The Bridges of Madison County” (4 stars)

bridgesSo, I kept telling myself it was hyperbole to use this word, and kind of cliché really. But then I thought about Footlite Musicals as a theatrical entity: “Footlite Musicals is an all-volunteer organization administered by a Board of Directors and several committees with the support of a loyal membership paying nominal yearly dues. Productions are cast from open auditions, and no one in the cast or on staff is paid. [emphasis added]

You get it?

The cast and crew (and orchestra, which is so often overlooked) are doing this for nothing more than the joy of being onstage, telling a story, and sharing their talents with audiences.

So I’m gonna say it.

The leads, Lori Ecker and Rick Barber, are superstars.

Ecker and Barber gift Footlite’s production of The Bridges of Madison County with their superlative voices in the most captivating and emotional performances I have seen onstage in years—no matter if the show was volunteer, Equity, touring, whatever.

Barber’s vocals are majestic in a way that belies his character’s humble persona. Robert’s strength is born of his growing love for Francesca. His a cappella is enchanting. Ecker vocally and physically manifests Francesca’s yearning to yield to her soul’s starvation for living, but ultimately she is shackled to her obligations as a wife and mother. Together they perfectly depict the bumbling, unsure, but eager interaction of two people drawn to each other in a guilty but inevitable way.

Barber’s credentials include both local (including other Footlite shows) and traveling gigs, such as cruise ship performer, and he graduated from IU’s Jacob’s School of Music. Time and effort that was well-spent to hone his talent. Ecker is also a veteran of Footlite’s stage, and she was also in the intriguing production of The Golem of Havana at the Phoenix Theatre. She has worked with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Indianapolis Opera, and has her MFA in acting from Ohio University. But even with all this experience, talent such as theirs remains something special.

Darrin Gowan as Francesca’s husband, Bud, gets a chance to impress, especially in the moving song “When I’m Gone,” sung with Daniel Scharbrough and the company. Joseph Massingale, as Francesca and Bud’s son Michael, also gets a deserved chance in the spotlight for the song “State Road 20/The Real World.”

But a special mention needs to be made of Jeanne Chandler as Francesca’s nosy neighbor Marge. In a hilarious and unexpected turn in such a somber show, Chandler gets to strut her stuff in “Get Closer,” sporting a muumuu and headwrap and using a strainer spoon as a microphone. Seriously, this was a riot.

Director Tim Spradlin, an Indianapolis directing and acting force in his own right, has overseen a beautiful piece of stagecraft for Footlite.

Admittedly, I was hesitant about seeing the show at first. I have never read the book or seen the movie, and the only impression I had about the plot was that it was sad and dealt with adultery, neither of which appealed to me. And while yes, the story is downright heart-wrenching, this production makes the chest pain worth it.

So why only four stars? There was a lot of prop rearranging, and sometimes it took too noticeable an amount of time. This movement was really distracting. However, the backdrops that took audiences from the farm to the bridge are lovely—understated but effective, just as these elements should be.

And that damned spotlight. I’ve said my piece about it before. So, yeah, that.

  • March 2-18, Thursday,  Friday, and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
  • $25; 17 and under $15
  • Come a half-hour early to the show and enjoy live music performed on the beautiful two manual, eleven-rank Page Theater Pipe Organ at most performances.
  • http://www.footlite.org
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 3/2

7th Artistry: Hansel and Gretel 

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7th Artistry: “Hansel and Gretel”

Hansel and Gretel don’t have a perfect life. Their father abandoned them and the woman who was kind enough to take them in has grown tired of them. Hansel decides that it is for the best if they leave, but is it really that easy to get rid of your addictions? This  is an extravagant tale, set in a 1920s speakeasy during prohibition.

*Please note this is a darker telling of “Hansel and Gretel.” Yes, please.

  • Friday, March 2 at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.; Saturday, March 3 at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, March 4 at 4 p.m.
  • $15
  • The Friday opening night performance’s will be part of First Friday at Circle City Industrial Complex.
  • Circle City Industrial Complex, 1125 Brookside Ave., Indianapolis, Ind. 46202. Located in the old ifab space just north of the parking lot, few does down from ruckus.
  • https://hanselandgretel2018.brownpapertickets.com/

Footlite Musicals: The Bridges of Madison County: The Broadway Musical

footlite2The Bridges of Madison County chronicles the four-day affair between an Italian war bride and a traveling National Geographic photographer who comes to Iowa to shoot the area’s fabled covered bridges. Based off of the bestselling novel written by Robert James Waller, Bridges tells of how the sadness of Francesca’s solitude is broken when her husband and children leave for the 1965 Iowa State Fair and a weary Robert Kincaid stops to ask directions for his assignment. The pair’s connection is instant and deep, yet short-lived. But that liaison will haunt them both for the rest of their lives.

  • March 2-18, Thursday,  Friday, and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
  • $25; 17 and under $15
  • Come a half-hour early to the show and enjoy live music performed on the beautiful two manual, eleven-rank Page Theater Pipe Organ at most performances.
  • http://www.footlite.org

 Epilogue Players: Lucky Me

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Epilogue Players: “Lucky Me”

If it weren’t for bad luck, she’d have no luck at all. Unlucky in love, life, and pets, Sara refuses to give up. Sharing her home with her overprotective, grumpy, and confused father, she dreams of something more. Her perpetually injured suitors all run away in self-preservation. Can her new neighbor, Tom, be her knight in shining armor? Can he survive a relationship with Sara, or her father?

  • March 2-18, Fridays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $15; $13 seniors 65 and older; $12 for Epilogue members
  • http://www.epilogueplayers.com/

Theater at the Fort: Black Voices — The Grand Finale

Directed by Delores Thornton, Black Voices from the past includes a cast of 13 performers that will bring the history of blacks to life. This is the finale of the 3-part series and will highlight the Kings and Queens of Africa from the past, all the way to the present day.

Love You Reckless produced by Ankh Productions

Man and Woman. They live with each other and can’t live without one another. They simply have to share, care, love, yell, fight, hate until something… “sticks.” There is plenty of power for everyone.

  • Friday, March 2-Sunday, March 4. Times vary.
  • IndyFringe theater
  • $15; student/senior $12
  • Tickets

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Indiana Repertory Theatre: “Town Mouse and Country Mouse”

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Indiana Repertory Theatre: “Town Mouse and Country Mouse”

The beloved children’s story Town Mouse and Country Mouse has been adapted by Vicky Ireland and brought to the Indiana Repertory Theatre stage as part of its Exploring Stages program, and it’s absolutely adorable.

Exploring Stages targets ages three to eight as a way to get kids to experience live theater. Every facet of the production is created with this target audience in mind. The program doubles as an activity book, and crayons can be found for coloring pre-show. Two seating options are available: sprawl out on the floor for the more wiggly kids or take a chair in the back (for those who need a more comfy place to sit their butt). Pre-show announcements help ground the kids for what they are about to experience, and post-show discussion with an IRT teaching artist and cast members actively engages the children to reflect on what they have seen and understand the story’s life lessons. There is even a study guide available for parents and teachers.

In case you aren’t familiar with the story, the mouse William lives with his grandmother in a cozy if shabby little boot in the country, and they are happy. One day his fancy cousin Monty arrives to tell William that he has inherited a posh boot in the attic of a nice house in the city, where she is from. William decides to take this adventure to the city and see what it is like.

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Indiana Repertory Theatre: “Town Mouse and Country Mouse”

Benjamin Hanna directs the dedicated cast of Paeton Chavis as Monty, Carlos Medina Maldonado as Snowey, Brianna Milan as Silver, Grant Somkiet O’Meara as William, and Claire Wilcher as Granny. They all dive enthusiastically into their storybook characters and make them come alive in a way children rarely get to see outside of their imaginations, encouraging a new perspective. Chavis is a hoot in her mousy finery and high-life affectations, and Maldonado and Milan make a great devil-angel set as “the twins.” Wilcher is everything you would want in a loving and supportive grandmother, and O’Meara, as the only kid in the cast, holds his own admirably.

When my eight-year-old son was asked what his favorite part was, he immediately responded with the fight between Monty and the cat, in which Monty defends himself with a button for a shield and a sewing needle as a sword. But I know for fact that he also loved the songs that the kids participate in. In fact, about halfway through the one-hour show, he turned to me and declared with a grin, “This is great!” I can’t think of a better compliment than that.

  • Feb. 24-March 25
  • Children Storytime Seating $8; adult Storytime Seating $15; all chair seating $25
  • www.irtlive.com
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Indiana Repertory Theatre’s Exploring Stages production: “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse”
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Phoenix Theatre last hurrah for the old building fund-raiser

Here’s a note from Bryan Fonseca, the Phoenix’s artistic director:

I really need your help on this one.
I know you’ve seen one or more of our musicals. Did you know that local musician – Tim Brickley worked behind the scenes on many of them? I have collaborated with Tim since our early days in the Ambassador Building on 9th street.
One of our favorite collaborations was working on a concept show called Pure Prine. It featured six remarkable performers interpreting the music of the great recording artist – John Prine.

 

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Phoenix Theatre: Pure Prine

We’re remounting and updating that show with the original six performers – Tim Brickley, Jenni Gregory, Tim Grimm, Jan Lucas Grimm, Bobbie Lancaster and Michael Shelton. And we’re adding Jackson Grimm and a few more songs from the Prine catalogue.
The performers have come together to help us raise money.  As a fundraiser it will be an intimate party with free beer (thank you Sun King,) wine and nosh. You can even bring you favorite beverage. We’ll provide soft drinks and mixers.
The cost is $75. That’s just $2.50 per song. But the performance is priceless!
Dates are March 15 at 8:00 and 16 at 7:00.
And it’s right here in the church – Russell stage.
We really need your help. It’s pricey, I know. But if you haven’t already made a contribution (or if you’d like to increase your current contribution) there isn’t a more fun way to do it. Only 150 seats are still available. We selling just 125 per performance to keep it intimate.
Contact the box office to purchase tickets 317-635-2381 or online at phoenixtheatre.org.
Please join Tim and me for this unique night of fun and music.
Sincerely
Bryan

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Carmel Community Players: “American Buffalo” (4 stars)

buffaloCarmel Community Players is currently producing its last show on its Clay Terrace stage: David Mamet’s American Buffalo. Buffalo was a special addition to the company’s season, and it was slated to run only two weekends, a coincidence that is almost prescient of CCP’s unexpected upcoming move. CCP is looking for a space to complete its season—Ragtime, Is He Dead?, and Kitchen Witches—as well as a permanent home.

The play is typical Mamet style: exclusively dialogue driven with bow-string-tight tension. Set in a little junk shop, its proprietor, Donny (Larry Adams), is agonizing over a buffalo nickel he recently sold. He feels he was grifted into letting it go for far less than what it was worth. So Donny is planning to remedy the problem by taking the nickel back. He’s been having his employee, Bobby (Daniel Shock), stake out the mark’s house, and Bobby has just reported that the man has left with a suitcase, which means he will be gone for some time. Donny is ready to put his plan into motion when his friend Teach (Earl Campbell) shows up. Teach wants to be the one to pull off the burglary (and a cut of the profit), and he uses Bobby’s naiveté as his argument. Donny agrees to let Teach do the deed but only if he takes their other friend, Fletcher, with him. However, best laid plans and all that …

Director Lori Raffel has the toughnut trio moving at a quick clip, never letting the audience get mired down by the deluge of words. Keep up! There is character commentary to be found if you dig deep enough for the prize, like in a Cracker Jack box, that also invites people to confront their own ineptness.

Adams and Campbell create lowbrow braggadocios that are comical in their complete conviction that they can pull this plan off. Each approaches his character differently however. Adams’s Donny sees himself as the intellectual, the mission control of the heist so to speak, while Campbell is all action and swagger. Adams gets to exhibit some common sense in his treatment of Shock’s character, Bobby, who is a bit dim but means well, but Campbell gets to serve his Teach with a side of sleaze.

My only quibble is that sometimes it’s hard to hear what the actors are saying. In a show where language is key, projection and enunciation are paramount.

If you are up to Mamet speak, this is a well-done production that deserves a last hurrah in Clay Terrace.

  • Feb. 23-March 3, Fridays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Feb. 25, 2:30 p.m.; Sunday, March 4, 3:30 p.m.
  • $16; $14 students/seniors
  • www.carmelplayers.org

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 2/23

Carmel Community Players: David Mamet’s American Buffalo

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Carmel Community Players: David Mamet’s “American Buffalo”

Carmel Community Players, now in its 24th season, is at a crossroads: The theater company is looking for a new home. Over its history, CCP has staged performances at many different venues in the Carmel area, an approach it will return to while searching for a permanent residence. The remaining shows in the 2017-18 season are Ragtime, Is He Dead?, and Kitchen Witches, but this production of American Buffalo will be CCP’s last show at the Playhouse at Clay Terrace. This is a special production, not part of the regular season, that only runs for two weekends.

Winner of the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best American Play, David Mamet’s American Buffalo is a volatile drama that starred Robert Duvall in the original Broadway production and has seen revivals with Al Pacino and most recently on Broadway with John Leguizamo in 2008. In a Chicago junk shop, three small-time crooks plot to rob a man of his coin collection. These high-minded grifters fancy themselves businessmen pursuing legitimate free enterprise. But the reality — Donny, the oafish junk shop owner, Bobby, a young junkie Donny has taken under his wing, and Teach, a violently paranoid braggart — is that they are merely pawns caught up in their own game of last-chance, dead-end, empty pipe dreams.

  • Feb. 23-March 3, Fridays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Feb. 25, 2:30 p.m.; Sunday, March 4, 3:30 p.m.
  • $16; $14 students/seniors
  • www.carmelplayers.org

EclecticPond Theatre Company: Sonnets and Slow Jams 

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EclecticPond Theatre Company: “Sonnets and Slow Jams”

A snarky and romantic post-Valentine’s Day cabaret of paired sonnets and slow jams featuring special guest performances, a live band, and a raffle, with performances by Katie Angel, Jason Adams, Paige Scott, and more. Raffle tickets are $5 for five tickets or $20 for an arm’s length of tickets (doesn’t have to be your arm).

  • Feb. 22; doors open at 7 p.m. and performance at 8 p.m.
  • Tickets are $10 online, $12 at the door
  • White Rabbit Cabaret
  • Age 21+ with a valid ID
  • www.eclecticpond.org

Indiana Repertory Theatre’s Exploring Stages production: The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse

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Indiana Repertory Theatre’s Exploring Stages production: “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse”

William has a cozy, familiar home in a boot in the barn. But when his cousin Monty takes him to the big, dangerous city, William learns to wade through plush carpets, climb hot-water pipes, and outwit mischievous mice. Where will his expedition take him next?

Exploring Stages is specifically designed for children aged 3-8 and includes pre- and post-show activities led by IRT artists to engage young minds and allow families to experience live theater together. Immediately after each performance, students will join an IRT teaching artist and cast members in various interactive learning activities designed to enhance their understanding of the play and the experience of live theater. This post-show experience is free for any ticket holder and will last between 10 and 15 minutes. The production includes Storytime Seating where children are invited to sit cross-legged on carpet and enjoy the cast and characters up close. Parents can purchase a floor seat and watch the production while sitting with their children or can purchase a seat along the back and side areas of the theater.

  • Feb. 24-March 25
  • Children Storytime Seating $8; adult Storytime Seating $15; all chair seating $25
  • www.irtlive.com

Asante Children’s Theatre: Snatched: A Passage to Madness

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Asante Children’s Theatre: “Snatched: A Passage to Madness”

This is a controversial story of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and its parallels with today’s society. This production explores the journey from Africa to America through the eyes of several misguided youths. Performed by members of the Asante Children’s Theatre’s Academy together with seasoned adult actors, the play examines how the African holocaust tragically impacts the lives of both black and white Americans of today.
Adapted from the original drama, The Middle Passage written by Crystal V. Rhodes and Deborah Asante, Snatched will enlighten and shock audiences as three black teenagers and a white policeman are snatched back in time and find themselves at the center of an ancient struggle.

  • Feb. 23-24, 8 p.m. and Feb. 25, 4 p.m.
  • $10 advance and $12 day of show. Thursday, Feb. 22 is Community Night. All seats are $5 in advance and $6 day of show.
  • Madame Walker Theatre
  • Tickets here
  • www.asantechildrenstheatre.org

Butler Theatre: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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Butler Theatre: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

Shakespeare’s magical comedy. Butler Theatre Chair Diane Timmerman’s 90-minute adaptation is directed by beloved Indianapolis actress Constance Macy.

Go. Why? Because Diane Timmerman and Constance Macy.

  • Feb. 28, 7 p.m.
  • $10-$25
  • Clowes Memorial Hall
  • Tickets

Village Voices: Notes from the Griot

Village Voices is a celebration of artistic contributions from African-Americans that will be performed throughout the month of February to coincide with Black History month. The artistic director of Village Voices, Joshua A. Thompson, has created this program with the assistance of local artists who currently perform works of African-American artists. Amassing a legion of vocalists, musicians, composers, poets, visual artists, and an African dance troupe, Mr. Thompson has enlisted an up and coming playwright to construct a single narrative that weaves biographical/historical information with the masterworks of selected artists.

  • Feb. 24, 7 p.m.
  • $20; $15 student or senior; $12 military or vet
  • Theater at the Fort
  • Tickets

VDAY 2018: The Vagina Monologues

Eve Ensler’s unforgettable show based on interviews with women all over the world. There will be a silent auction every night before and after the show. Proceeds from auction and ticket sales go to benefit Coburn Place Safe Haven (www.coburnplace.org).

  • Feb. 22-24, 8 p.m.
  • The Church Within
  • $15; $10 for seniors/students
  • Tickets

And other various events of note …28058497_10159919225955401_4290253389322931670_n

 

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For information and registration, click here.

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Posted in Indianapolis theater: interviews, Indianapolis theater: previews

Sunday, Feb. 25: “Dinner: A Romance in Four Courses,” a collaboration between NoExit Performance and the restaurant Mesh on Mass

This article can also be found at nuvo.net.

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“Dinner: A Romance in Four Courses” presented by NoExit and Mesh on Mass.

“Have you ever been slapped with a pork chop?”

Apparently, this is a possibility in Dinner: A Romance in Four Courses, a collaboration between NoExit Performance and the restaurant Mesh on Mass.

Dinner: A Romance in Four Courses is an intimate performance experience produced by NoExit Performance and hosted by Mesh on Mass Ave.,” explains Lukas Schooler, executive director of NoExit. “Our ‘stage’ is a table and two chairs situated at the middle of the dining room. The performance occurs just a few feet away from our guests.” Schooler worked at Mesh for almost five years, giving him insight into how the venue could accommodate his idea.

“What the guests at Dinner will see is a single performance piece that incorporates theater, dance, and live music to portray a Date Night gone bizarrely awry,” adds Lauren Curry, the event’s choreographer. “The principal performers are local movement artists Bethany Bak and Heidi Keller Philips. There will be a supporting cast of waiters-turned-henchmen and a loopy walking violinist played by Anna Hassler. The principal performers will be dining alongside the guests (but at their own table). They will be served and eat the same food at the same time as the guests. At times, they will use the food to communicate with each other. Have you ever been slapped with a pork chop?”

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2017’s “Dinner: A Romance in Four Courses” presented by NoExit and Mesh on Mass. Photo by Ed Stewart.

This blending of theater and pork chop first occurred to Schooler in college. “I first began percolating on a performance based in a restaurant, responding to the natural choreography that exists within a restaurant—between servers and cooks, trays of food gliding through the air, the occasional guest unknowingly interrupting the flow of the fast-paced choreography, the focused trance of a server transporting champagne flutes through a bustling dining room. It wasn’t until I began working with NoExit that I found an opportunity to fully explore these concepts. Beyond all this, the culinary arts have always been engrained in American culture, but little collaboration exists with other art forms. This isn’t dinner theater—this is dinner as theater.”

This is its third time the event has been held, but none is alike. “Every iteration has been created by a different collaborative team and every team has approached the concept in a wildly new way. This was largely the intent behind the concept—what happens when you give different artists the same set of loose, but unique boundaries? It’s quite wonderful to be able to be the mediator in these processes—to really just let the artists take the boundaries and make them their own,” Schooler says.

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“Dinner: A Romance in Four Courses” presented by NoExit and Mesh on Mass.

Curry emphasizes just how exclusive each performance is. “NoExit Performance has created a unique opportunity for Indy choreographers to collaborate with chefs. I told Chef Travis Hitch the tone of the first section, what the actors would be doing. He’s going to take that information and create a custom dish for that section. That kind of high-concept cross-pollination is very innovative and rarely done in an art market of Indy’s size.”

“Lauren is taking the most theatrical approach to this concept—really looking at the act of dining in a restaurant and the culture that exists within the restaurant between the diners, the staff, the furniture, the utensils, and the food. Yes, there is romance somewhere in there, but that’s not necessarily the total focus.”

“My particular vision was to present a dining experience turned on its head. To imagine what it would be like if some of the things we think at dinner but don’t say were put on full display,” Curry says.

Pork chop fight?

  • menuDinner: A Romance in Four Courses
  • Sunday, Feb. 25; doors at 6:30 p.m. and dinner and show from 7 to 9 p.m.
  • Guests will be served a set, four-course menu with wine pairings. If you have dietary restrictions, substitutions can be made from Mesh’s regular menu.
  • Only thirty-six seats are available. Tickets are $100 per person, which covers admission for one person, a four-course meal, drink pairings, and gratuity.
  • To purchase, visit dinner2018.brownpapertickets.com.
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 2/16

Civic Theatre: Dr. Seuss’s “The Cat in the Hat”

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Civic Theatre: “The Cat in the Hat”

From games and mischief to Thing One and Thing Two, The Cat brings all sorts of trouble to a grey day— but will Sally and her brother be able to explain the mess to Mother? This Dr. Seuss classic leaps onto the stage with chaotic exuberance in this adaptation from the National Theatre in London.

Inclusive performances will be presented Feb. 22 and 24. Through a contract with the Department of VSA and Accessibility at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and in collaboration with ArtMix, Civic Theatre will provide over 400 tickets of the professionally produced, weekday matinee, sensory-friendly performances to special education classrooms on Feb. 22 and 24. These adjusted performances ensure theater access in a comfortable setting to all members of our community through accommodations for sensory sensitivities, mobility issues, and other special needs. Adaptations include keeping the house lights up, adjusting overwhelming sound effects, adjusting house rules to allow for talking and moving, additional seating options for those with mobility devices, and an American Sign Language interpreter upon request. Overall, these adjustments provide an open, welcoming, and safe environment for everyone to enjoy live theater at Civic.

In addition, on Feb. 24 from 1-3 p.m., Civic will host its third annual Disability Awareness Day. This special event will be a chance for children, parents, and caretakers to interact and learn about Civic’s various partners including the Monon Center’s Playback Program, The Joseph Maley Foundation, ArtMix, and more. To further increase learning through performing arts access, Civic and ArtMix will send artist-instructors to each participating classroom to implement visual and performing arts lessons relating to show content. Students will be provided adaptive opportunities with trained artists to increase learning through the arts with activities that may include drawing the set and characters or performing alternate endings.

Storytelling Arts of Indiana: Antonio Sacre telling The Leprecano

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Storytelling Arts of Indiana: Antonio Sacre telling “The Leprecano”

Known to his family as Papito and his school peers as Tony, Antonio Sacre has learned to embrace his diverse upbringing. In The Leprecano, he embraces his status as one of the world’s only Cuban-Irish-American storytellers, sharing brand-new adult adventures.

If you have elementary age children or grandchildren, join us from 1:30- 2:30 p.m. for a family performance, “High Five, Daddy! (Mis) Adventures in Family Camping and Other Stories,” for free, at the Glendale Library, 6101 N. Keystone Ave (next door to Staples) .

IRT Radio Show

The IRT Celebrity Radio Show is the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s annual fundraising event. It is a truly one-of-a-kind event that focuses on what the theater does best: producing a grand and exciting evening of live entertainment. The event features a hand-crafted script presented as a 1940s radio program with live sound effects, audience participation, and community VIPs dressed in costumes. The evening is a fabulous party and silent auction hosted at the IRT.

  • Feb. 16; 6:30 p.m. doors open + silent auction; 8 p.m. Radio Show with celebrity guests. Following the performance, join us for appetizers, drinks, and music.
  • $175
  • Indiana Repertory Theatre
  • http://tickets.irtlive.com
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 2/9

Catalyst Repertory: Hell’s 4th Ring [The Mall Musical]

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Catalyst Repertory: “Hell’s 4th Ring [The Mall Musical].” Photo by Matthew Walls
The hilarious hit of the 2015 IndyFringe returns “home” to its Fringey roots for a full-scale and full-length run. The show is the brain-child of local playwright Casey Ross and musician and actor Davey Pelsue. Hell’s follows the forlorn staff of Hell’s Gate Mall as they try to escape from the mall that is sucking out their souls. No, literally: When new girl, Sophie, notices things are amiss at the mall, her suspicions are quickly confirmed, but will the staff escape alive or will they be … terminated? It’s a rock-musical, horror-comedy romp featuring some of Indy’s favorite onstage talent and an exciting team of local designers, musicians, and technicians.

Phoenix Theatre: Sweat

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Phoenix Theatre: “Sweat.” Photo by Zach Rosing

In the year 2000 in one of the poorest cities in America — Reading, Pennsylvania — a group of down-and-out factory workers struggle to keep their present lives in balance, unaware of the financial devastation looming in 2008.

  • Feb. 9-March 4, Thursdays at 7 p.m. ($27), Fridays at 8 p.m. ($27), Saturday at 8 p.m. ($33), and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • www.phoenixtheatre.org

 

Mud Creek Players: Sylvia

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Mud Creek Players: “Sylvia”

Sylvia is a story of empty nesting told through the quirky guise of a furry four-legged friend. It’s a romantic-esque comedy playing on tribulations of human emotion while offering a surprisingly poignant take on important qualities of life — happiness, love, and connection, with our pets and with one another.

  • Feb. 9-24, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and a matinee Sunday, Feb. 18 at 2:30 p.m.
  • $15; $13 matinee
  • www.mudcreekplayers.org
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Civic Theatre: “Sense and Sensibility” (4 stars)

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Indianapolis Civic Theatre: “Sense and Sensibility.” Photo by Fierce Little Bird Productions.

Jane Austen. Either you love her or you don’t. There’s really no middle ground. So even though Civic Theatre chose the playful 2016 minimalist adaptation by Kate Hamill to produce, it’s still Jane Austen.

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Emily Bohn in Indianapolis Civic Theatre’s “Sense and Sensibility.” Photo by Fierce Little Bird Productions.

While I am not a Janeite, I can appreciate a well-done production, which is what Civic delivers. In the spirit of Hamill’s take on the staging, a single background is used for all the scenes (a set of wrought-iron gates behind a rotating section of stage). Actors mime most of the actions that would normally involve props (eating, playing the harpsicord, etc.). Actors also take on multiple roles; in addition to covering several characters, they often are props themselves, acting out parts such as dogs, trees, or a horse. Justin Klein is especially amusing in his enthusiastic clipity-clopping, which brought to my mind Monty Python and the Holy Grail. These inclusions may seem small, but they really help lighten up the often-tedious interaction of the characters (Sorry, again, not a Janeite.) and engage the audience’s imagination.

Overall, the large cast makes a laudable effort. Foremost, of course, are the two eldest Dashwood girls, 19-year-old Elinor (the sensible one), played by Emily Bohn, and 16-year-old Marianne (the sensitive one), played by Morgan Morton. The two women create perfect foils for each other’s characters while maintaining the underlying sisterly bond they have. Bohn lets Elinor respect propriety without sacrificing Elinor’s personality or making her stuffy or uptight. There is strength under her fragility. Morton’s Marianne indulges her character’s flighty tendencies. Marianne is impulsive, and Morton channels that over-emotional state common to teenagers.

The over-the-top “gossips” that comment on situations are caricatures of busy-bodies, which endure to this day, but their exaggerated affectations do become grating. Of course, all the characters are shallow to a point—they, after all, aren’t meant to be much more than vehicles for commentary on the social and gender issues of the day.

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Morgan Morton in Indianapolis Civic Theatre’s “Sense and Sensibility.” Photo by Fierce Little Bird Productions.

Even so, the cast still manages to make distinctions between each of their various characters. One good example is Klein, in his dual roles of John Dashwood and Willoughby, sets the two apart—one vacantly carefree and the other smooth and self-serving. Joshua Ramsey is so sweet as Ferrars, the other beau of note; Ramsey knows he is vulnerable, and Ferrars genuinely wants to follow his heart but his honor won’t allow him.

If you are a fan of Austen, this this is an opportunity to enjoy Sense and Sensibility, which is directed by John Michael Goodson, in a compelling way.

  • Feb. 2-17, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m.; final Saturday at 5 p.m.; student matinee Wednesday, Feb. 7 at 10 a.m.
  • $24.50-$40.50
  • Receive a discount for your Sense & Sensibility ticket when you purchase a ticket to the Sisters & Spirits event.
  • civictheatre.org
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the week of 2/2

Civic Theatre: Sense & Sensibility

civicA playful new adaptation of Jane Austen’s beloved novel follows the fortunes (and misfortunes) of the Dashwood sisters—sensible Elinor and hypersensitive Marianne—after their father’s sudden death leaves them financially destitute and socially vulnerable. Set in gossipy late 18th-century England, with a fresh female voice, the play is full of humor, emotional depth, and bold theatricality. Sense & Sensibility examines our reactions, both reasonable and ridiculous, to societal pressures. When reputation is everything, how do you follow your heart?

  • Feb. 2-17, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m.; final Saturday at 5 p.m.; student matinee Wednesday, Feb. 7 at 10 a.m.
  • $24.50-$40.50
  • Receive a discount for your Sense & Sensibility ticket when you purchase a ticket to the Sisters & Spirits event.
  • civictheatre.org

Beef & Boards: Mamma Mia!

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Beef & Boards

ABBA’s greatest hits tell the story of a young bride’s search for her birth father on a Greek island paradise. This feel-good musical includes catchy songs such as “Honey, Honey,” “Take A Chance on Me,” “Dancing Queen,” and of course the title tune.

Conner Prairie: Black Hoosiers: Untold Tales

An evening of theater performance and conversation as part of Giving Voice: African-Americans’ Presence in Indiana’s History, a collaborative initiative of Conner Prairie and Asante Children’s Theatre. The work of African-American playwrights will be performed first, followed by a facilitated dialogue with the audience about issues of race, history, and identity. Go here for more information an details.

The Belfry Theatre: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

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The Belfry Theatre: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”

The play examines a charismatic rogue who manipulates the system so he can serve his short sentence in an airy mental institution rather than prison. He learns quickly that this move is a mistake when he meets his match in the head nurse whose tyrannical grip on her patients had been unshakable until McMurphy. He swiftly takes control of the ward, accomplishing what the medical personnel have been unable to do for twelve years: coaxing a presumed deaf and dumb Native American to speak and leading the others from submission into independence. For this “infraction,” Head Nurse Ratched punishes McMurphy with electric shock treatments. The duel between the two finally culminates when he arranges a rollicking midnight party, complete with girls and liquor. Lest she lose complete control over her ward, Ratched forces him to undergo a frontal lobotomy. But, an unexpected friend helps McMurphy have the final word.

  • Feb. 2-18, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m.  and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $15; children 12 and under $12
  • www.thebelfrytheatre.com

For some reason I included the Actors Theatre of Indiana’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee in last week’s openings roundup even though it actually opens this weekend. So, go here for more info.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Buck Creek Players: “The Rink” (4 stars)

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Buck Creek Players: “The Rink”

The Rink has an impressive by-line. Terrence McNally (Love! Valour! Compassion!, Master Class, Kiss of the Spider Woman, etc.) wrote the book, and the duo best known as Kander and Ebb (Cabaret, Chicago, Kiss of the Spider Woman, etc.) created its music and lyrics. Despite its impressive pedigree, the show doesn’t boast the kind of songs that so many of the other musicals associated with these names often do. However, it is a sweet story about family and home.

Set in a dilapidated skating rink in the 1980s, Anna (Georgeanna Teipen) is on her way out the door and headed to Florida for retirement after selling the rink. The wrecking crew is onsite and ready to go. At this eleventh hour, her estranged daughter Angel (Miranda Nehrig) shows up and goes ballistic when she finds out the rink is being demolished. Verbal warfare and threats of lawyers bounce between the two like a Super Pinky ball.

Teipen has a voice made for a Kander and Ebb production. Her single-note stamina is impressive, and her Jersey accent is catching. Nehrig also has a powerful voice with several good numbers, but she does show some vocal strain at times. The two work well together in a mother-daughter head-to-head relationship. Some of that typical teenage hostility lingers in Angel, and Anna confronts it with a mother’s exasperation. But there is love hidden underlying that friction.

The two are backed up by a surprisingly large cast, and there’s a little drag thrown in for a laugh. In fact, for a show that sounds overly emotional plot-wise, the cast and director D. Scott Robinson make sure that there are some good guffaws to break up the mother-daughter hostility on stage. The wreckers get to do a little skating, which turns out to be really cute, but I assure you this is no Starlight Express.

The set (Aaron B. Bailey) looks authentic, and both the sound system and the live band sounded awesome. Woot!

  • Through Feb. 11, Friday-Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
  • $20; $18 students and seniors
  • Recommended for ages 13+
  • www.buckcreekplayers.com

PS: If you want to read something short and fun, follow the Super Pinky link.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Indiana Repertory Theatre: “Romeo and Juliet” (5 stars)

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Indiana Repertory Theatre: “Romeo and Juliet.” Photo by Zack Rosing.

Most—if not all—of Shakespeare’s plays are cut down for performing to keep the run-time more suitable for modern audiences. There are many different ways to shorten them, but for a 90-minute show, even when abridged, you have to put Shakespeare on fast-forward. And you feel it in the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s Romeo and Juliet, which speeds along at a breakneck pace. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. It keeps your attention laser-focused. You don’t have time to think about the potentially confusing language. Instead, you find yourself slipping into it, as if you are absorbing it on a subconscious level. This is how it should be.

Director Henry Woronicz’s goal is made clear from the beginning: make the show relevant to teenagers. This production, with funding by the National Endowment for the Arts, is aimed at middle school and high school audiences, allowing them this theatrical experience.

All elements of the show combine to appeal to this—and every—age group. Sound designer Todd Reischman’s opening beats immediately jar the audience to attention with the loud, thumping music. The teenage characters in the show are clothed in contemporary, punkish outfits, designed by Courtney Foxworthy and Linda Pisano. Benvolio even has pink hair. Intense, exciting fights are riveting (which are choreographed by Rob Johansen).

Woronicz has coxed such expressive body language from the actors that translation is effortless. The show’s physicality is daunting. The language becomes clear. Plus, you can catch a lot more insults and sex jokes that way. (Really, I never thought I would see crotch-grabbing on an IRT stage.)

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Indiana Repertory Theatre: “Romeo and Juliet.” Photo by Zack Rosing,

Aaron Kirby is the angst-ridden Romeo, and Sophia Macías is the childish Juliet, complete with foot stomping. Their characterizations emphasize that the two were just teenagers—Juliet a mere thirteen and Romeo not much more than that. Woronicz’s choice harkens back to the target audience.

Millicent Wright is a pleasure as the fussy, funny, and lovable Nurse for Juliet. (And really, when is Wright not great?) Ashley Dillard’s Benvolio gives the character a multidimensional personality. Rounding out the cast are Ryan Artzberger as Friar Laurence, Logan Moore in multiple roles, including Tybalt, Robert Neal as Lord Capulet, and Jeremy Fisher in multiple roles. Saturday afternoon, Chelsea Anderson stepped into the role of Lady Capulet in lieu of Constance Macy, and Anderson did the role proud.

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Indiana Repertory Theatre: “Romeo and Juliet.” Photo by Zack Rosing,

Charles Pasternak, who also plays multiple roles, is getting his own little paragraph here. Pasternak’s hyperactive, raunchy Mercutio steals every. single. scene. he is in. You can’t help looking at him. He demands your attention. He’s a foul-mouthed comedy show of one.

All of this is contained within a minimalist environment designed by Eric Barker. Most intriguing is the backdrop. Examine it closely. It appears to be bleeding. A foreshadowing of things to come?

  • Through March 4
  • Tickets $25-$60
  • Save $10 when you book tickets using promo code VERONA1. Valid through Feb. 10 on individual seats priced $35 and higher.
  • Post-Show Discussions immediately following each performance
  • Valentine’s Day: This special one-time offer includes two tickets, two beverages of your choice (each valued up to $7), and sweet treats from DeBrand Fine Chocolates  for only $60. To book this deal, contact the IRT Ticket Office at 317-635-5252 or book online using promo code RJLOVE.
  • irtlive.com
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Carmel Community Players: “Other Desert Cities” (4 stars)

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Camel Community Players: “Other Desert Cities”

Jon Robin Baitz’s Other Desert Cities delves into family dynamics that are often left lying. But eventually, these issues tend to surface even with the most careful of burials. Here, estranged daughter Brooke returns to her family home after having published a successful novel several years ago, but nothing else was forthcoming. At least, that’s what her family thinks. In fact, she has drafted a tell-all memoir about her uber-right-wing mother and father and about her older brother’s suicide, a death that left her scarred.

The Christmas “celebration,” set in 2004, includes her mother, Polly, her father, Lyman, her other brother, Trip, and her aunt, Silda. As soon as Brooke arrives, the verbal sparring begins. The script is packed with details about these characters, and sometimes it feels as if you are watching a particularly volatile tennis match.

What initially drew me to the production is the inclusion of two of Indianapolis’s best-known veteran actors: Ronn Johnstone, as Lyman, and Miki Mathioudakis, as Silda. Johnstone doesn’t get to exercise his acting chops much because his on-stage wife, Vickie Cornelius, as Polly, controls (or tries to) her family with the proverbial iron fist. Lyman often buckles under Polly’s arrogance, which is peppered with egotistical name-dropping. They accentuate each other’s character’s weaknesses (but few strengths).

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Carmel Community Players: “Other Desert Cities”

Mathioudakis is, of course, awesome as the eccentric, drunk Silda. She brings much-needed levity to often-tense scenes. Silda sloshes through the family’s imminent implosion without even a nod to propriety. Mathioudakis waves off her sister and brother in-law easily. She’s the cool aunt to Trip and Brooke, a supporter that their mother is incapable of being, even if her idiosyncrasy leaves irritation and exasperation in its wake, respectively.

Opening night, Shannon Samson, as Brooke, took a while to settle into her role, but once she did, the intensity of her character’s emotions pour through However, she sometimes comes off as a whiny, peevish teenager instead of the well-educated, passionate woman she insists she is. Jeremy Tuterow, as Trip, plays a supporting role most of the time. His character is also a disappointment to the family matriarch; he produces a B-grade reality TV show. Tuterow’s Trip tries to lighten the mood; he’s the playful youngest. But often his character just wants to keep the hell out of it. There’s not much depth there, but he does try to defend his sister.

Director Jim Lamonte has brought together a cast that feeds off each other to reveal the deeply emotional and dysfunctional structure of the family. At first, it can be hard to keep up because the audience is bombarded with a lot of information. But hang in there. It will pay off in the end.

  • Through Feb. 11, 7:30 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Sundays
  • $16; $14 seniors and students
  • carmelplayers.org
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 1/26

Carmel Community Players: Other Desert Cities

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Carmel Community Players: “Other Desert Cities”

The play’s events occur around Christmas Eve 2004, when the family of Polly and Lyman Wyeth gather in Palm Springs, California. Their daughter Brooke Wyeth returns home after six years in New York writing magazine pieces. Polly’s sister Silda is also visiting, out of a time spent in rehab. Polly and Lyman are Republicans, while Silda is a liberal who has fallen into alcoholism. The sisters co-wrote a series of MGM comedies in the 1960s but have since become estranged, chiefly due to Silda’s resenting Polly for shifting social worldviews over time. Brooke announces and presents to her family a memoir recounting a pivotal and tragic event in the family’s history. During the course of the story, Brooke experiences bitter conflict between her yearning for independent understanding and reliance and her parents’ doting yet secretive motives towards her. During this, she also comes to terms with her family’s sorrowing frustration in dealing with her post-divorce depressive episode.

  • Preview Thursday, Jan. 25′ official opening night Friday, Jan. 26 at 7:30 p.m. Through Feb. 11, 7:30 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Sundays
  •  $16; $14 seniors and students
  • carmelplayers.org

Buck Creek Players: The Rink

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Buck Creek Players: “The Rink.” Photo by photoGary.net.

The Indianapolis premiere of the musical from the composers of Chicago and Cabaret. This innovative musical is set on the ragged fringe of the New York show-biz world. Anna Antonelli’s roller rink is about to be demolished, and with it Anna’s sour memories of her husband and her painfully shy daughter Angel. The rink becomes an arena in which mother and daughter examine their personal journey through past, present, and future as real-life mother/daughter duo Georgeanna Teipen and Miranda Nehrig star in the roles originated by Chita Rivera and Liza Minnelli in the original Broadway production.

  • Jan. 26-Feb. 11, Friday-Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
  • $20; $18 students and seniors
  • Recommended for ages 13+
  • www.buckcreekplayers.com

Indiana Repertory Theatre: Romeo and Juliet

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“Romeo and Juliet” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre

IRT presents a contemporary staging of Shakespeare’s beloved classic. This timeless and timely tale of young love struggling to survive amid old hatreds is as vibrant as ever, speaking boldly across the centuries to the divided world we live in today.

  • Jan. 27-March 4
  • Tickets $25-$60
  • Save $10 when you book tickets using promo code VERONA1. Valid through Feb. 10 on individual seats priced $35 and higher.
  • Opening night Jan. 27 at 7 p.m.: Immediately following the performance, join cast, staff, and patrons in the lobby for appetizers and a celebratory champagne toast. Afterwards, join IRT staff on stage to explore the set and connect with the artisans who bring it to life.
  • Post-Show Discussion Jan. 27-March 4: Immediately following each performance. Join IRT staff and cast for a post-show discussion that covers a variety of interesting topics including Shakespeare, history of the IRT, the production’s design elements, and more.  Post-show discussions typically last for 20 minutes.
  • Valentine’s Day: This special one-time offer includes two tickets, two beverages of your choice (each valued up to $7), and sweet treats from DeBrand Fine Chocolates  for only $60. To book this deal, contact the IRT Ticket Office at 317-635-5252 or book online using promo code RJLOVE.
  • irtlive.com

Actors Theatre of Indiana: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

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Actors Theatre of Indiana: “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”

The show centers on a fictional middle school spelling bee where six quirky adolescents compete in the Bee, run by three equally quirky grown-ups. The 2005 Broadway production was nominated for six Tony Awards, winning two, including Best Book.

  • Feb. 2-18, Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. (discounted ticket rate of $25), Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $45; $39 for seniors; $20 for students
  • The Studio Theater
  • ATIstage.org

Storytelling Arts of Indiana: “That This Nation Might Live: The Civil War Letters of Captain David Beem”

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Storytelling Arts of Indiana:n D. Paul Thomas

A Sharing Hoosier History Through Stories premiere told by D. Paul Thomas The premiere of the story commissioned by Storytelling Arts of Indiana and the Indiana Historical Society ties in with the You Are There 1863: Letter Home from Gettysburg so come early and experience the exhibit before the story at 8 p.m.

Drawing from the 192 letters that Captain David Enoch Beem of the 14th Indiana Volunteer Regiment sent home to his wife, Mahala, in Spencer, Indiana, D. Paul Thomas brings Captain Beem’s story to life in a stirring, one-person performance. While giving us a stunning, first-hand account of some of the greatest battles of the Civil War, Mr. Thomas reveals both the triumphs and misfortunes of Captain Beem’s life – a life of extraordinary courage, faith and steadfast duty to one’s country.

  • Friday, Jan. 26, 8 p.m.
  • Indiana History Center
  • $15 in advance; $20 at the door
  • Reception immediately following the story with D. Paul Thomas
  • http://storytellingarts.org/

Longshot Theater: The 24-Hour Playhouse

A show in which several ten-minute plays are written, rehearsed, and then performed for you all within 24 hours. Actors submit a photo of themselves in a costume of their choosing with one prop of their choosing. Photos of the actors are randomly distributed to each writer at 8 p.m. on Friday. Each writer has 12 hours to write a ten-minute play. Actors and directors then rehearse from 8 a.m. Saturday up until show time at 8 p.m.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Indiana Repertory Theatre: “A Raisin in the Sun” (5 stars)

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Indiana Repertory Theatre: “A Raisin in the Sun.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun is considered an American classic, but it was also groundbreaking when it opened on Broadway in 1959. It was the first play produced on Broadway that was written by a black woman (and Hansberry was the youngest at 29); it also was the first with a black director. Sidney Poitier was cast as Walter, a role that helped push his career forward. Even with the potential for controversy, in 1960 the play was nominated for four Tony Awards. Then in 1961, a film version was released featuring its original Broadway cast, including Poitier, and Hansberry wrote the screenplay. This was the first of many adaptations.

The story is about the Younger family that lives in a tiny, dilapidated tenement on the South Side of Chicago. Three generations live in the two-room, no-bathroom apartment: the family’s matriarch, Lena (Kim Staunton), her son Walter Lee (Chiké Johnson), his wife Ruth (Dorcas Sowunmi), Walter’s sister Beneatha (Stori Ayers), and Walter and Ruth’s young son Travis (Lex Lumpkin). Lena receives $10,000 from her recently deceased husband’s life insurance policy. She and Ruth want to use the money for practical purposes, such as paying for Beneatha’s college, creating an account at the bank, or buying a house (this last one becomes pivotal later). Walter Lee is belligerent and unwavering in his insistence that they use the money to invest in a liquor store that two of his buddies are going in on.

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Indiana Repertory Theatre: “A Raisin in the Sun.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

Staunton’s transformation into the elderly, old-fashioned Lena is completely convincing. She is the picture of a grandma who can walk the line between doting and stern. Sowunmi is also superlative as the weary Ruth. She carries the weight and worry of her family’s well-being like a mantel. She has no time for dreams, unlike her overenthusiastic, self-centered, and self-assured husband. Johnson’s Walter Lee is jovial but obviously irresponsible, and he doesn’t accept being told “no.” Johnson has his character occasionally slip into mental overload in Walter’s inability to handle real life.

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Indiana Repertory Theatre: “A Raisin in the Sun.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

Ayers is a source of much entertainment in her brassy, sassy character Beneatha. At turns superior and insecure, Ayers’s Beneatha also walks a line between a self-confident adult and a college kid who is still trying to “find” herself. Her back-and-forth with her brother hits all the aspects of aggravating siblings. But for all her bluster, Beneatha is too easily influenced by her beaus: the rich, mainstreaming, but emotionally cool George Murchison (Jordan Bellow) and the charmingly sweet, warm, thoroughly African man from Nigeria with a beautiful accent, Joseph Asagai (Elisha Lawson).

Director Timothy Douglas molds the characters into a realistic, relatable unit. While the play does include reflections on race relations, the comradery we feel with the people on stage makes these messages so much more personal. No matter what race, anyone can understand the kind of dynamics and dreams presented here.

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Indiana Repertory Theatre: “A Raisin in the Sun.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

Scenic Designer Tony Cisek takes all this action and encases it in a set that is stunning in its disrepair—tattered ceiling, peeling paint, scratch-and-dent appliances. The many stairwells behind the Youngers’ apartment create the claustrophobic feeling of too many people squeezed into sub-standard housing. It hardly seems possible that so much could happen in a space so small.

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Phoenix Theatre: “Halftime with Don” (5 stars)

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“Halftime with Don” at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Zach Rosing.

Professional football and its players are big money (see: Colts). But many fans don’t acknowledge the repercussions of the profession. In Halftime with Don, written by Ken Weitzman and part of a rolling world premiere in the National New Play Network, ex player Don is riddled with permanent damage, including extensive spinal degradation and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a condition that occurs after a large number of head injuries and can contribute to dementia and mood swings. (However, CTE, in real life, can only be diagnosed via autopsy. It can be suspected though. See: https://concussionfoundation.org/CTE-resources/what-is-CTE.)

Weitzman uses Don’s condition to set a dual story: one of fan hero worship and one of family. Don (Bill Simmons) has estranged himself from his single, pregnant (adult) daughter Stephanie (Lauren Briggeman). Don has made himself a recluse, even scaring off his home nurses. In an attempt to break this isolation, Stephanie takes the opportunity to sic one of his fans, Ed (Michael Hosp) onto Don when Ed’s wife, Sarah (Chelsea Anderson), who is also pregnant, contacts Stephanie about Ed getting to meet his life-long obsession.

Simmons is funny and tragic in turns. His demeanor can snap from friendly in his insistence to partake of Pringles and Gatorade to brutal, angry, and raw regarding realities about his condition. Simmons, per usual, is exceptional, creating a completely believable character in all his moods and shuffling around with a walker.

Hosp comes across as gawed—gawky and awed simultaneously. His initial reactions to meeting Don are flustered disbelief and gratitude, but as his relationship with Don evolves, he begins to exude a non-threatening confidence and loyalty in his friend, eventually giving Don exactly what he needs to ground himself. Plus, Hosp’s reaction to Xanex is great. Cake—a natural bonding tool.

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“Halftime with Don” at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Zach Rosing.

Stephanie strikes up an unlikely friendship with Sarah that begins with the ridiculous, new-agey description of birth as the unfurling of a rose, a concept Sarah was subjected to during a birthing class. (Yeah, my friend and I groaned. A lot. Thankfully, the two women thought it was stupid too.) Briggeman is abrasive and blunt in contrast to Anderson’s more demure character. The two work well together, bouncing off each other’s character personality to bring out the best in them both.

The staging for the show, which is in the Phoenix Theatre’s smaller black-box theater, is neat. Set designer Daniel Uhde created two areas, in opposite corners of the (kinda) square theater, one for Stephanie’s house and one for Don’s house. Director Bryan Fonseca was a bit nostalgic as this is the last production he will direct in this space. (The opening of the Phoenix’s new building is imminent.)

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 1/12

Phoenix Theatre: Halftime with Don

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Phoenix Theatre: “Halftime with Don.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

What happens when you meet your childhood hero?  Ed Ryan is about to find out — if his hero remembers to show up. Because of traumatic brain injuries, retired NFL great Don Devers relies on Post-It notes to offset his damaged memory. With the help of Don’s daughter and Ed’s wife, both pregnant and plotting from the sidelines, a game plan forms that might bring Don out of isolation to reclaim his life.

  • Jan. 12-Feb. 4, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. ($33) and Sundays at 2 p.m. ($27) 
  • ​Producer party: Jan. 12: After the performance on Friday of opening weekend, the Phoenix will host a producer party. Food and Sun King beer will be provided.
  • www.phoenixtheatre.org

Plus:

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Indiana Repertory Theatre: A Raisin in the Sun

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Indiana Repertory Theatre: “A Raisin in the Sun”

Witness three generations of the Younger family fight for their future while navigating a world shaped by an oppressive past. A Raisin in the Sun was the first Broadway play to be written by a black woman, and the first with a black director. This powerful story of redemption and hope returns to the IRT stage for the first time in over two decades.

  • Jan. 12-Feb. 3
  • $25-$60
  • www.irtlive.com
  • Friday, Jan. 12, 7:30 p.m. Join the IRT for opening night and experience the theater like you never have before! Immediately following this performance join cast, staff, and patrons in the lobby for appetizers and a celebratory champagne toast. Afterwards, explore the set and connect with the artisans who bring the set to life.
  • Sunday, Jan. 14, 2:00 p.m. Join IRT staff and cast immediately after the performance for a post-show discussion that covers a variety of interesting topics related to the show. Post-show discussions typically last for 20 minutes.
  • Tuesday, Jan. 16, 7:30 p.m. Pay what you choose to see this performance during the annual community night event! Meet + Greet 6:30-7 p.m. Pre-show chat at 6:50 p.m.
  • Thursday, Jan. 18, 2 p.m. Coffee, tea and cookies can be enjoyed before this matinee performance. Doors open at 1 p.m.
  • Friday, Jan. 19, 7:30 p.m. Immediately following this performance, join IRT staff for an explorative and informative backstage tour. Tours typically last 30 minutes.
  • Sunday, Jan. 21, 2:00 p.m. | IRTea Talk & ASL/AD. This Sunday matinee post-show discussion is paired with tea and cookies and takes place immediately following the performance. Post-show discussions typically last for 20 minutes.
  • Tuesday, Jan. 23, 6:30 p.m. Join the IRT for a happy hour event: Enjoy complimentary appetizers from the Happy Hour series sponsor Weber Grill. New Day Craft, Hotel Tango, Taxman Brewing Co., TwoDEEP, and St. Joseph Brewery will also be on site for patrons to sample local libations. Half-price drinks will be available throughout the performance. Happy hour starts at 5:30 p.m.

Plus:

Play reading of A Long Bridge Over Deep Waters Jan. 18, 5:30 p.m. at Central Library. Join the IRT as it continues its season-long celebration of IRT Playwright-in-Residence James Still’s 20th season with a reading of selections from A Long Bridge over Deep Waters. Actors and community members will read curated portions of the play, followed by discussion. Community members who wish to read roles can sign up as they enter the event. To RSVP visit or contact the IRT Ticket Office at 317-635-5252.

Left-Hander in London — The Earthquake

Catch the wickedly witty LGBTQ advocate, author, songwriter and international performer JJ Marie Gufreda as she does a special performance of her one-woman show.

Storytelling Arts of Indiana: Eglamore and Cristobel: A Medieval Love Story told by Dolores Hydock

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Storytelling Arts of Indiana: “Eglamore and Cristobel: A Medieval Love Story” by Dolores Hydock

Romeo and Juliet. Tristan and Iseult. Antony and Cleopatra. Bonnie and Clyde. Some people are just made for each other. How they got together and how it all worked out…well, that’s what love stories are all about. This love story that’s been around for hundreds of years is the hauntingly beautiful medieval tale of star-crossed lovers Eglamore and Cristobel. Theirs is the story of a cruel father, three dangerous tasks, a fateful journey, and a love that will not be denied. The random winds of fate conspire to keep them apart. Will they lose each other forever? Or will love conquer all? The medieval music trio of PanHarmonium will accompany Dolores during the telling of Eglamore and Cristobel.

Dolores Hydock’s vivacious style fills the stage with what one reviewer called “a Swirl of characters and a cascade of lovely language.” Her funny, affectionate stories about family fireworks, food fads, true love, turnip greens, and other peculiarities of everyday life are full of wit and energy, and her award-winning adaptations of oral histories, medieval adventures, and traditional tales make the magic of other lives and other  times come alive.

Before Dolores takes the stage, Sally Perkins will share a story. Sally is a past recipient of the Frank Basile Emerging Stories fellowship and the J.J. Reneaux Grant from the National Storytelling Network.

  • Jan. 13, 7:00 p.m.
  • $20; $25 at the door; $15 for high school and college students with valid ID
  • Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History  Center
  • storytellingarts.org

Zach and Zach’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch dates added

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“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” at Epilogue Players theater presented by Zach and Zack. Photo by Zach Rosing.

Performances have been added Friday, Jan. 19 and Saturday, Jan. 20.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Footlite Musicals: “Brooklyn: The Musical” (4 stars)

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Footlite Musicals: “Brooklyn: The Musical”

Brooklyn: The Musical is a rather obscure show that opened on Broadway in 2004. Information on it is scarce, and the soundtrack even more so. Which is a shame. The numbers are poignant and dynamic. The script is flawed, but it’s still a good story with great music.

Set on a street corner near the Brooklyn Bridge, a group of street performers who call themselves the City Weeds tell a “sidewalk fairytale” about a tragic love story. A Parisian woman and an American man enjoy a fleeting but passionate relationship. The man, Taylor, leaves, promising to return to France for Faith, but he never does. Unbeknown to him, he also left behind their unborn daughter, whom Faith names Brooklyn in remembrance of her lost love. While Brooklyn is still a small girl, Faith commits suicide, leaving Brooklyn’s upbringing to a convent. As an adult, Brooklyn, who is an up-and-coming singer, searches for her father, hoping he will recognize her through his “Unfinished Lullaby.” But the young Parisian is confronted by Paradice, an established performer who feels Brooklyn is a threat to her career.

And I will stop there. I already gave you a good piece of the plot.

But another element of the story makes it even more interesting. Mark Schoenfeld, who co-wrote Brooklyn, experienced homelessness himself. When a friend from his past, Barri McPherson, found him singing on the street, she invited him to stay with her and her family, and the two collaborated to create Brooklyn, including songs based on Schoenfeld’s experiences.

Footlite Musicals has done an impressive job of transforming the theater for the show. After you pass through the side door leading to the stage, which is set up cabaret style, you are immersed in the set—you continue down a darkened ally with panhandlers, graffiti, and even a dog. The stage’s main set is a suburb accomplishment, designed by Stephen Matters, mimicking an inner-city sidewalk against a warehouse-like building. In the spirit of street performers, the imaginative costumes and props consist of cast-offs and trash. One of Curt Pickard’s most ingenious designs is a headpiece for Paradice made from potato chip bags. The live band is tucked away on the side with an open guitar case for donations.

Individually, not every single note from the singers may be perfect, but overall the effect is moving and powerful. Full-cast numbers are some of the strongest I have heard on the Footlite stage. (Sadly, the endemic sound issues are still present, and occasionally, the singers drown out narrative.)

Shelbi Berry as Brooklyn has the sweet face and demeanor, with a voice to match, of a girl not looking for super stardom, just her father. Her nemesis, Paradice, played by Kendra Randle, on the other hand, is the epitome of a sassy, sexy, diva star. Stevie Jones is smooth as the Street Singer. Donny Torres as Taylor exhibits his character’s broken emotions, and Paige Brown as Faith has an especially pretty duet with Berry called “Once Upon a Time.”

Director Kathleen Clarke Horrigan was passionate about bringing this show to Indianapolis, and her determination and persistence paid off, for audiences and for the production.

From Footlite: Homelessness is a growing problem in Indianapolis. In 2016, a staggering 12,055 individuals experienced homelessness in Indy…and that number continues to grow. In an effort to raise awareness about this epidemic, Brooklyn: The Musical has partnered with The Coalition for Homelessness Intervention & Prevention in Indianapolis. CHIP Indianapolis’s goal is to make homelessness rare, short-lived and recoverable. Visit chipindy.org to make a donation or learn how you can volunteer or make a donation during a Brooklyn performance.

  • Jan. 11-14 and 18-21; Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.; Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $23; 17 and under $15; special discount pricing ($10) applies for the first Sunday and both Thursday performances.
  • footlite.org

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Zach and Zack: “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” (4.5 stars)

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Zach & Zack’s “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

Tim Hunt puts all kinds of sugar in his Hedwig bowl.

Zach and Zack—Zach Rosing (producer) and Zack Neiditch (director)—have, once again, created a domineering piece of stagecraft that brings out a show’s strengths, character intimacy, and dark humor. With a show such as Hedwig and the Angry Inch, with a script and book that contains these elements in and of itself, you’d think it would be easy. But no. In fact, if the music or the performers were not fully invested in it, the show would come off as a bad parody of transvestites and/or drag queens. Instead, the cast and crew here create a singular experience that sweeps away any of that nonsense to create a story full of pain, humor, and personal growth combined with immersive rock songs punctuated by Hedwig’s—sometimes throwing shade, sometimes raunchy, sometimes comical—kiki.

Hunt werks through what must be a grueling 90 minutes, as he is always the center, minus one number, “The Long Grift,” that Yitzhak (Kate Homan) picks up after one of Hedwig’s (many) diva tantrums. But he never falters, never shrugs off a single note, and he serves his expressive and energetic physicality throughout. While “Sugar Daddy” is more Neil Patrick Harris than John Cameron Mitchell, his renditions of each song are impeccable. Hunt’s portrayal of Hedwig blends prima donna and broken soul.

Homan, though mostly silent in her interactions with Hedwig, brings out the character’s frustration and hurt at his wife’s “bye Felicia” attitude toward him in her articulate mannerisms and facial expressions, even as his obvious devotion and caretaking bleed insight into his heart. While Homan’s voice doesn’t carry the same weight as Hunt’s, her character was, before Hedwig, after all, a lip-synching drag queen, a different kind of performer.

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Zach & Zack: “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

The Gordian duo is backed by their band, Jacob Stensberg (also the music director), Matt Day, Steven Byroad, and Andrew McAfee. Outrageously for-the-gods costumes are thanks to Beck Jones, and the flawlessly beated face of Hunt is by Danile Klingler, who also designed the hair.

A truly remarkable transformation of the Epilogue Playhouse, with an industrial feel—dark, graffiti-smeared walls and a cascade of multicolored lights (Matthew Ford Cunningham and Rosing) that set the mood for each song or irrational tirade from Hedwig.

  • Friday, Jan. 12, 9 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 13, 7:30 and 10:30 p.m.; Thursday, Jan. 11, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Jan. 14, 7 p.m.
  • $30
  • Epilogue Players theater
  • zachandzack.vbotickets.com/events

Read my interview with Zach and Zack here.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 1/5/18

Footlite Musicals: Brooklyn the Musical

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Footlite Musicals: “Brooklyn the Musical”

An Indiana premiere, Brooklyn is a story within a story. On the outside, you have a group of soulful homeless street performers living under a bridge in the famed New York borough who share a story from their lives. Then there is the story they tell — a wondrous fairy tale of a young girl searching for fame and the father she never knew. Together, these stories create a show that is both touching and inspiring, drawing the audience into a live theater experience to remember. This will be a cabaret-style production, with the audience seated on stage for an intimate, immersive experience. Footlite has proudly partnered with the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention. Together, Brooklyn and CHIP hope to raise awareness about the Indianapolis homelessness epidemic. CHIP mobilizes, advocates, and empowers community collaboration toward ending homelessness and fosters an effective system of homelessness prevention and intervention in the greater Indianapolis area. Visit chipindy.com for more information.

  • Jan. 5-7, 11-14 and 18-21; Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.; Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $23; 17 and under $15; special discount pricing ($10) applies for the first Sunday and both Thursday performances.
  • footlite.org

Zach & Zack: Hedwig and the Angry Inch

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Zach & Zack’s “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

More than a woman or a man, legendary rock goddess Hedwig Schmidt is coming to turn Indianapolis on its head with her husband Yitzhak and her band, The Angry Inch. In Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the “internationally ignored song stylist” tells her tale of a botched sex change operation and her journey over the Berlin Wall. Along the way, she’s learned a thing or two about life.

Check out my interview with Zach & Zack here.

  • Friday, Jan. 5 (sold out) and 12, 9 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 6 and 13, 7:30 and 10:30 p.m.; Thursday, Jan. 11, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Jan. 14, 7 p.m.
  • $30
  • Epilogue Players theater
  • zachandzack.vbotickets.com/events

IndyFringe: Holiday Hangover Party

A 2018 theater-season kick-off party. Performer previews from local theater companies and artists.

  • Sunday, Jan. 7, 7 p.m.
  • Complimentary Sun King Beer and nibbles from Mass Ave restaurants.
  • $10; adults only
  • indyfringe.org

And I missed this one last week …

Beef & Boards: Greater Tuna

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“Greater Tuna” at Beef & Boards

This sidesplitting comedy takes place in Tuna, the third-smallest town in Texas. Get ready to laugh as all 20 of its wacky residents are played by Eddie Curry and Jeff Stockberger!

Posted in Indianapolis theater: interviews, Indianapolis theater: previews

“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” presented by Zach and Zack

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“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” at Epilogue Players theater presented by Zach and Zack. Photo by Zach Rosing.

Portions of this story can also be found at www.nuvo.net.

Zach Rosing and Zack Neiditch, together or collectively, have gifted Indianapolis stages with shows such as Mad Mad Hercules, The Gab at IndyFringe, and The Great Bike Race. Now they are bringing a gender-fluid rock-and-roll musical to an unassuming venue. Zach and Zack are staging Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Epilogue Players theater.

Hansel Schmidt is a young man living in East Berlin who craves Western culture. He meets an American soldier, Luther, who will take Hansel back to the States with him if they marry, which leads to Hansel’s transition to Hedwig in a botched sex-change operation. One year later, Luther leaves Hedwig and the Berlin Wall comes down. Hedwig later thinks she has found love again in the teenaged Tommy Speck. However, Tommy steals her songs and moves on to be a successful rock star. Now Hedwig is tailing Tommy’s tour by booking B-grade venues in the same cities. Her story is told through song in her current cathartic performance.

Hedwig has been produced twice in Indianapolis, at the Phoenix Theatre in 2002 and at Footlitte Musicals in 2014, which coincided with the Tony-Award-winning revival starring Neil Patrick Harris. It was also made into a film in 2001.

What is it about Hedwig that drew the two of you into producing it?

Neiditch: I’m a big fan of the show just in general. We’d been discussing doing the show, and the opportunity came to be able to do it in this great space, so we just jumped!

Rosing: I’m always interested in revisiting past projects to see how they can be made bigger and better. I was fortunate enough to produce the show (along with director Paige Scott) at Footlite Musicals in 2014, just a few steps from where Zack and I are doing it this time! This was pre-Broadway revival, and the show hadn’t been seen in Indy since the Phoenix Theatre production around 2002. It’s definitely one of those shows with a cult following, and the 2014 production sold out the entire run. I’m hoping audiences will return for this newest production!

I’m also interested in shows that can attract a non-theater crowd. We’ve definitely been targeting the Rocky Horror folks to come see what Hedwig is all about! Each new experience makes it more likely they’ll branch out and try something else.

Casting can be tricky when you need people who are not only good actors or singers, but good actors and singers … who can also play musical instruments. Was that a challenge during the auditions? Is everyone playing his or her own instrument?

Neiditch: So thankfully, Hedwig isn’t required to play her own instruments. Phew. That would probably complicate casting to the point of insanity! The big challenge is finding actors who can handle the demands of a rock-heavy show, which is way different from a typical musical. We had some great people come in, so thankfully we had some selection to choose from!

What was it about Tim Hunt that made you see him as Hedwig?

Neiditch: Tim Hunt is so fantastic! I’ve worked with Tim in the past and I’ve always cast him as buttoned-up nerds, which is the total opposite of real-life Tim. So I was excited to cast him in something on the way other end of the spectrum.

The Epilogue theater isn’t known to house these kinds of shows. How are you working around staging and, especially, sound?

Neiditch: I actually really wanted to do it in Epilogue! The show was birthed in tiny punk clubs in New York, and this space gives us that intimate feeling the show would have had there. We’re really trying to lean in to the intimate staging and attempting to turn Epilogue into a dingy punk bar. It’s been a fun challenge!

Rosing: We’re very thankful to the fine folks at Epilogue for letting us take over their space for a few weeks! I’m pretty certain most of the people who will attend have never been in this space. It’s going to be intimate—only 50 seats per night. It’s going to be bright and colorful—assuming I can find enough outlets! And it’s going to be loud. Sound is one of my various little hobbies, and being a nomadic theater company often requires supplying all your own equipment. We’re thrilled to bring a rock concert experience to an unexpected venue.

Hedwig is a flamboyant dresser. How are costumes being approached?

Neiditch: Costumes are being handled by Beck Jones, who is a total wunderkind. I was able to give some very basic wants and needs, and he took that and ran so far with it. Even his sketches are art!

Same question, but with makeup.

Neiditch: Daniel Klingler is a regular go-to for Zach and I, so he and I have a language already. He’s a real pro, and along with Andrew Elliot, we’ve been able to give a look that’s both traditional, expected Hedwig, and something totally new all at once.

Got any funny rehearsal stories yet?

Neiditch: When dealing with a show of this nature and subject matter so touchy, there’s been many jokes cracked that I highly doubt are publishable …

How did two Zach/ks meet?

Neiditch: I met Zack when I was freshly home from college and got a part in The Rocky Horror Show at Footlite. Rocky seems to have been quite important to our relationship!

Rosing: That was a summer of three back-to-back-to-back productions. It wasn’t until I moved from the burbs to the Near Northside about a year later that we really became close friends. It’s easier when you live three minutes away from each other.

What are your “day jobs”?

Neiditch: I work as an actor at The Children’s Museum. But I promise those two worlds stay VERY VERY separate!

Rosing: I’ve actually never had a “real” day job … I’ve always been a freelancer, even in high school. I own a video and media production company. Most of my time involves filming or photographing events around the city and doing sound/video design work.

What brought you into theater?

Neiditch: My mom and I were actually walking the dog past Footlite Musicals when I was about six years old, and they happened to be having auditions for Fiddler on the Roof. My mom kind of threw me in there, and the rest was history!

Rosing: I knew nothing about theater, at all, until a friend referred me to some people at Footlite in 2004. I used to be the media director for a church in Whitestown and quickly discovered all the various talents I was fine-tuning there translated quite well to the stage. It’s been crazy to watch how things have evolved in my life since then!

What compelled you to form your own company?

Neiditch: We did our first show together and it worked well. And then another that worked well, and it just kept on going! So finally, we just decided to put a name on it.

Rosing: Like Zack said, we work well together. We both do work for other companies, but I feel our talents complement each other very well without overlapping. It lets us both focus on what we do best without too much conflict. We don’t approach it with the mindset of having to fill a season. For now, we do interesting stuff when the time is right and there’s a space to be in!

What show was the most fulfilling/best experience?

Neiditch: So many! Though I think both productions of The Great Bike Race were probably most fulfilling to me. I think that show really encapsulated what we do best as a team.

Rosing: I love any time I can push the envelope and exceed expectations with video elements. It’s what I’ve been interested in since I was a kid. Having an actor on video sing along in real time with a live band is a pretty cool thing.

What’s coming up in the future?

Neiditch: Well, my boyfriend and I just moved into our new house! So I’ll be acting like an actual adult for a while! If anyone has a job for me though, let me know! Officially, my next project will be the return of Rocky Horror to the Athenaeum in October 2018! It always makes me very excited no matter how many times we do it.

Rosing: I’m always looking for more sound design projects—it’s nice to step in and do one thing and not have to worry about all the other moving pieces! My schedule has a way of filling up without me having to worry about it too much.

If you had a bottomless well of cash, what would you do theater/show-wise?

Neiditch: Well, that’s the dream, isn’t it? I think every young director’s answer would immediately be “MY OWN THEATER!” And, well, that’ll be my answer too. I would love to have a place where Zach and I could do all the theater we want to do and pull off all the crazy things I’ve been imagining. I think we could do a pretty good job! Maybe if something opens up sometime soon …

Rosing: I’m in love with The Wild Party. It’s on a list of shows I just don’t think could make a profit in Indy, even if (especially if) done well. If only I didn’t have to be concerned with things paying for themselves!

  • Friday, Jan. 5 (sold out) and 12, 9 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 6 and 13, 7:30 and 10:30 p.m.; Thursday, Jan. 11, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Jan. 14, 7 p.m.
  • Tickets are $30.
  • zachandzack.vbotickets.com/events
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Looking back at 2017

Note: Parts of this article can also be found at www.nuvo.net.

2017 has been an exciting year in the local theater community. New faces, familiar faces, new spaces, and a slew of fantastic shows—from tear inducing, to cerebrally challenging, to rib cracking—have made this year’s journey in stories exceptional. Indianapolis’s theater scene is thriving, so go ahead and chew off a piece of it. 2018 looks to be even better. New and improved locations and innovative productions—from both established and new companies—are only the beginning. Below is just a tiny glimpse of what has kept audiences engaged and involved this past year.

2017 News Bits

Theatre on the Square renovations

No, folks, the Mass Ave theater isn’t closed forever! It’s just undergoing much-needed renovations and repairs. In August, TOTS announced that it is partnering with the Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF) and other community partners to update the venue. The work is underway, the most recent being structural. The theater is slated to re-open early in 2018.

The Phoenix Theatre’s brand-new home is almost done

This has been a much-anticipated, multi-million-dollar investment, the planning of which began back in 2016. The move has been backed by a rainbow of donors, only a few of which include the Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation, Frank and Katrina Basile, the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation, and Lilly Endowment. (They still need more! Any contribution is helpful, so go to www.phoenixtheatre.org for a multitude of ways to donate any amount.) Demolition of the old Auto Vault building, located at the intersection of North Illinois Street and South Walnut Street downtown, began in February 2017 with a groundbreaking ceremony on May 2. The new building promises to increase the quality of shows and experiences for all involved. The 20,000-square-foot new building will be the first new freestanding theater built in Indianapolis in the last 100 years. Spaces include a proscenium theater and a configurable black-box theater. New amenities include a grand lobby that opens onto the Indianapolis Cultural Trail and, perhaps best of all for those of us familiar with the current Chatham Arch location, free parking. The new location will open in April 2018 with expanded programming.

The Cat opened in Carmel

The Cat, the newest theater/multipurpose venue in Carmel, took over the old live-music venue The Warehouse in February of this year, and its first performance was in May. The theater has seven resident theater companies, including five brand-new ones, and rents out the space for others performers. The theater’s focus is to serve the greater Indianapolis area.

My favorite hysterically funny moments of 2017

Please remember, I cannot see each and every show staged in Indianapolis. These are my personal faves from this year.

NoExit Performance in association with Zach Rosing Productions: Mad Mad Hercules

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“Mad Mad Hercules” from NoExit Performance and Zach Rosing Productions

My frequent theater companion Katrina commented, “The number of shows we’ve been to where people either end up in their underwear or doing weird things with puppets is AMAZING.” And Mad Mad Hercules not only added to that list, in both respects, but also has the distinction of being the funniest effing thing I have seen in years. YEARS. Local playwright Bennett Ayres crafted one of the filthiest scripts I know of in a way that approached a work of art. The crass and degradation was no holds barred, unapologetic, and a thing of beauty.

 Indiana Repertory Theatre: Boeing Boeing

Elizabeth Ledo in “Boeing Boeing” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre

The show is full of excruciatingly funny lines, most of which were delivered by housekeeper Berthe, played by Elizabeth Ledo (who in looks and attitude reminded me of Edna from The Incredibles), and the show’s standout, Chris Klopatek. Klopatek, as the nerdy, nervous, clumsy Robert, stole every single scene he was in. But Ledo was right behind him, delivering her character’s own brand of snarky shtick. Greta Wohlrabe, as the “aggressive German” Gretchen, was absolutely endearing and sidesplitting in turns from one second to another.

Theatre on the Square: The Great Bike Race

“The Great Bike Race” at Theatre on the Square

Writer-director Zack Neiditch expanded the 40-minute IndyFringe version. Overall, its comedic ride was well worth taking. It’s a story about bicyclists racing the Tour de France in 1904, but I assure you, this wasn’t the stage version of a historical documentary. The show was full of dirty tricks and sexual innuendo. Plus, there was a stuffed cat a la the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog. And a cow. And an angry mob of French hicks. The stage was full of crazy-funny insanity. And ah-maze-balls victory dances.

IndyFringe: The Gab produced by Zach & Zack

“The Gab” at IndyFringe

Chat show-cum-cat fight The Gab features a gaggle of crazy women (and one gay assistant who keeps talking about makeup sex). These women know how to stir some sh*t. The show was packed with laughs, low verbal blows, and physical smack downs that kept it rolling until the cameras cut off for the final time. Lots of silly fun.

Phoenix Theatre: A Very Phoenix Xmas 12: Up to Snow Good

The Phoenix Theatre: “A Very Phoenix Xmas 12.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

I lost all coherent thought when the cast did “Les Miserabelves.” I think I got disruptive because I was in the back cackling so much. CACKLING. At one point, I think my BFF who was with me was considering CPR. I can’t even explain the experience; it was something you had to witness for yourself.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Civic Theatre: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (4.5 stars)

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Civic Theatre’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” Photos by Zach Rosing.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat has been a Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre Christmas staple for many years now, but Civic does it so gosh-darned well that it’s a treat each time. The infectiously upbeat and flashy show with random comedic props keeps me, and scores of audience members, entertained. (The poop emoji is priceless.)

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Civic Theatre’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” Photos by Zach Rosing.

Jacob Butler as Joseph is a hook for this production. He was an excellent Quasimodo in Bobdirex’ s The Hunchback of Notre Dame: A New Musical in June/July, but he’s superlative here. His characterization and enthusiasm are endearing, with a voice that rings out clearly through the theater like crystal. It isn’t hard to see why Potiphar’s wife has the hots for him. Butler’s “Close Every Door to Me” is simply captivating.

Katie Stark is equally compelling as the Narrator. She gives her character a playful, almost mischievous flare in her taxing role, as she is called upon in one capacity or another continuously. Her melodic voice effortless guides us through the story.

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Civic Theatre’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” Photos by Zach Rosing.

The cast, of course, is massive, so handing out individual kudos would be reprinting the program because everyone gives 100 percent in this performance. The energy levels are astounding (Red Bull runs?), and nary a misstep or sour note was displayed. (However, there were three painful mike screeches Friday. Because I do hold the Civic to high standards, I took off half a star for this reason.)

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Civic Theatre’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” Photos by Zach Rosing.

The only other actor I will dote on is Logan Rivera as Asher and Pharaoh. Rivera’s rendition of The King, complete with impressive hip rolls, is spot-on. Between his pelvis and the S&M outfits on Potiphar’s women, the show almost gets downright racy.

Exceptional numbers from Joseph’s family include “One More Angel” and “Those Canaan Days,” both of which also highlight the work of choreographer Anne Nicole Beck. The gorgeous costuming by Adrienne Conces is continuously on display, and Ryan Koharchik’s scenic and lighting design bedazzle the settings with a little fun.

The closing numbers are a sensory cacophony with the lights, colors, movement, and infallible before-mentioned energy, closing out the show with a true spectacle. Though standing ovations are often overused, in this case, I was happy to stand with the crowd. Director Michael J. Lasley and his cast and crew deserved it.

  • Dec. 15-Jan. 7, Thursday-Saturday at 7 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday at 2 p.m.
  • An inclusive performance, which helps make the experience accessible for audience members with sensory differences, is Saturday, Jan. 6 at 2 p.m.
  • $31.50-$49.50
  • http://civictheatre.org
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Civic Theatre’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” Photos by Zach Rosing.
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 12/14

IndyFringe: Merry Fringe-mas Holiday Cabaret

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IndyFringe: “Merry Fringe-mas Holiday Cabaret”

A Fringe holiday spectacular. Two nights; two different shows! From Dickens to What the Dickens?! Opera, ballet, storytelling, and a drag queen.

Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre: Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Told entirely through song with the help of a main character Narrator, the family musical is about the trials and triumphs of Israel’s favorite son, Joseph, who is sold into slavery by his jealous brothers but uses his intelligence and wit along with his ability to interpret dreams to advance and become the right hand man of Pharaoh himself.

  • Dec. 15-Jan. 7, Thursday-Saturday at 7 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday at 2 p.m.
  • An inclusive performance, which helps make the experience accessible for audience members with sensory differences, is Saturday, Jan. 6 at 2 p.m.
  • $31.50-$49.50
  • http://civictheatre.org

IndyFringe: Christmas Through the Ages

The Hysterically Historical Holiday Musical was is a fun-filled family journey through the history of the holiday season and all of its music and traditions. Julie Lyn Barber stars alongside Dave Ruark and 10-year-old Sage Murrell in this fast-paced collection of humorous and endearing stories and music ranging from early chants to medieval, renaissance, baroque, classical, romantic, Victorian, and contemporary. A warm and light-hearted show for the whole family.

IndyFringe: Conductor Cody’s Christmas Express

A holiday-themed show geared specifically toward young children involving the train conductor character Conductor Cody. Audiences will go on a magical train adventure to the North Pole, with magic routines themed to trains and Christmas happening along the way, culminating with Santa Claus appearing by magic. After the show, there will be plenty of time for pictures/gift requests with Santa.  The show is “disability friendly.”

Twas the Night Before … presented by Candlelight Theatre

A heartwarming interactive theater experience for all ages in the historic Harrison mansion, visiting holiday figures from tradition and folklore, as well as new jolly friends. Guests will travel from room to room enjoying performances throughout the National Historic Landmark home of President Benjamin Harrison, including up and down a flight of narrow stairs (elevator assistance is available). Guests will view scenes standing. The evening’s performance lasts approximately 60 minutes.

  • Dec 15-17
  • Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site
  • $14.95-$17.95
  • Tickets
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 12/8

Apologies. I am late with the first and second event. They opened tonight (Thursday), but you have another chance to see them!

NoExit Performance: Drosselmeyer’s XXX-Mas Cabaret

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NoExit Performance: “Drosselmeyer’s XXX-Mas Cabaret”

Cozy up with NoExit Performance’s Wolfgang Drosselmeyer (Ryan Mullins) while he shacks up at the White Rabbit Cabaret to cram more holiday shebang into one crazy night than you ever thought possible. Joined by a slew of local and fictional guests, celebrate both time-honored customs and mildly offensive rip-offs. Belly up to the bar and enjoy a crazy concoction of magic, puppetry, (possibly topless) dancing, and all the things that remind us of what’s most important this time of year: SELF GRATIFICATION.

  • Dec. 7-8 at 7:30 p.m.
  • $20; $15 for student, senior, and artist
  • White Rabbit Cabaret
  • Tickets

Actors Theatre of Indiana: Completely Christmas, Memories, Mistletoe & Manger Included

Don Farrell and MaryJayne Waddell return to the Studio Theater stage with new songs to tickle your funny bone and warm your hearts as you celebrate the 2017 Christmas season!

  • Dec. 7-9 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 10 at 2 p.m.
  • $35; $20 students
  • The Studio Theater
  • http://atistage.org/

I’m Too Fat For This Show

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“I’m Too Fat For This Show” at IndyFringe

In this shockingly hilarious and brutally honest solo performance, actor/writer Kate Huffman (Fresh Off the Boat) guides audiences through two decades of living with an OCD-instilled eating disorder that requires her to live by a strict set of rules and rituals rooted in numbers and eternal body hatred. Charm, wit, and self-deprecation entice the audience through the journey of a young girl who stumbles upon a life-long, nihilistic imaginary friend. Huffman utilizes biting precision and enchanting levity with every character she presents along her embattled journey. The show takes one woman’s struggle and turns it into a universal comedy that not only connects audiences to their shared common core of human suffering but enlightens them with the science behind developmental brain chemistry. It presents an opportunity for all people with obsessions, neuroticism, or overwhelmingly negative self-talk to laugh at themselves.

  • Friday Dec 8-9 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 10 at 4 and 7 p.m.
  • $15; $12 students/seniors
  • IndyFringe
  • Tickets

Defiance Comedy: The North Wing: A Holiday Musical

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Defiance Comedy: “The North Wing: A Holiday Musical”

Cutthroat advisers get their personal lives hopelessly tangled up with professional duties as they try to conduct the business of running a holiday. Meet the major behind-the-scenes players who support the big guy and do whatever it takes to make Christmas happen.

  • Fridays and Saturdays, Dec. 8-16 at 8 p.m.
  • $15 online; $20 at door
  • IndyFringe
  • Tickets

Freetown Village Celebrates Christmas

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“Freetown Village Celebrates Christmas”

The year is 1870 and the residents are getting ready to celebrate Christmas … or are they? As the Christmas holiday has gained in popularity in recent years, some of the townspeople are not so eager to embrace the new commercialized influences to their traditional celebration. Will the Christmas planning committee be able to reconcile the differences and raise money for the festivities? The show promises to inspire as it explores the significance of family and cultural traditions during this holiday season. Set in an African American community, the play celebrates the richness of community, the spirit of giving, and the preservation of family traditions.

  • Dec. 9 at 2 and 7 p.m.
  • $12 advance; $15 at the door
  • Scott UMC, 2153 Dr. Andrew J. Brown Ave.
  • www.freetownvillage.org

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas buy one ticket and get one free!

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 12/1

It’s a Wonderful Life — The Radio Play

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Buck Creek Players: “It’s a Wonderful Life — The Radio Play.” Photo by photoGary.net.

This beloved American holiday classic comes to captivating life as a live 1940s radio broadcast. With the help of an ensemble that brings a few dozen characters to the stage, the journey of idealistic George Bailey unfolds as he considers ending his life one fateful Christmas Eve.

Buck Creek Players

  • Dec. 1-17, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $18; $16 students and seniors (ages 62 and up)
  • www.buckcreekplayers.com

Carmel Community Players

  • Dec. 1-17, Fridays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, Dec. 10 and 17 at 2:30 p.m.
  • $15; $12 students/seniors
  • The Cat
  • Tickets

Messages Untold: Odds of Oz

A fairy tale with a twist. The land has been cured by the one trusted to protect it. Is there no one left to save Oz from being destroyed. Maybe it’s time the legend of Oz come to an end. This is the apocalypse!

  • Dec. 1-2 at 5 and 7 p.m.; Dec. 3 at 5 p.m.
  • $12; $10 students/seniors
  • IndyFringe building
  • Tickets

Nickel Plate Players: Coming Home: A  Christmas Cabaret

A melancholy, down-on-his-luck songwriter is on his own for Christmas and unable to spend it with family. He attempts to write a spirited Christmas song in an effort to recover from a difficult year but can’t find the words, the will, the hook or the melody. Through interaction with his close friends he learns that home is where the heart is and ultimately finds the inspiration to write the song “Coming Home,” a heartfelt tribute that reveals his true feelings and desires: to be with his family during the holidays. The brand-new Christmas song, “Coming Home,” written by Barbara F. Cullen, co-founder and co-artistic director of Fleur De Lis Theatricals in Louisville, KY, will be the highlight of the evening in this touching and poignant holiday tale that includes classic Christmas songs and timeless melodies from the holiday season.

  • Dec. 1-3, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
  • $20; seniors and students $18; veterans: $15
  • Theatre on the Fort
  • Tickets

Defiance Comedy: The North Wing: An Original Christmas Musical

From the creators and actors who brought you the Haul & Oatz: Time Traveling Detectives series and Spaceship to Nowhere. Cutthroat advisers get their personal lives hopelessly tangled up with professional duties as they try to conduct the business of running a holiday. Meet the behind-the-scenes players who support the big guy, and do whatever it takes to make Christmas happen.

  • Dec. 1-16, Friday-Saturday at 8 p.m.
  • $15 online/$20 at door
  • 16+ up
  • IndyFringe building
  • Tickets

Carmel Community Players: Holiday Cabaret

A new holiday tradition that is a season bonus production with songs of the season by local singers, dancers, and other acts to put you in the holiday mood.

  • Dec. 1-3, Friday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
  • $10
  • Carmel Community Playhouse
  • www.carmelplayers.org

Storytelling Arts of Indiana: “Come Go Home with Me” told by Sheila Kay Adams

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Storytelling Arts of Indiana: Sheila Kay Adams

Sheila is a seventh-generation ballad singer, storyteller, and claw hammer banjo player from the mountains of North Carolina. Storyteller Lou Ann Homan will kick-off the evening with one of her signature stories. Lou Ann travels the state for Arts for Learning and is an adjunct professor at Trine University.

 

  • Saturday, Dec. 2, 7-9 p.m. Come as early as 6:30 p.m.to enjoy the cash bar and the Festival of Trees (80 decorated trees) before the start of the show.
  • $20/advance, $25/door; $15 with high school or college ID.
  •  www.storytellingarts.org

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Footlite Musicals: “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” (3.5 stars)

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Footlite Musicals: “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”

The 1978 Broadway musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas along with its 1982 film adaptation starring Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton made known the story of the infamous Texan “Chicken Ranch.” Yes, this show is actually inspired by a true story, though sensationalized for public consumption. Regardless, it’s a fascinating fact of history that the brothel stayed in business from 1905 to 1973.

Footlite Musicals with director Jim Thorp do the show proud. The huge singing and dancing cast (thanks to vocal director Rick Barber and musical director Will Scharfenberger) fills up the stage with realistic scenic design (Fred Margison, Rich Baker, Therese Burns, and Thorp) and dazzling costumes (designed by Jeff Farley) for that big, powerful musical feel, and the production maintains its high-energy appeal to the end.

Lead Julie Powers is stunning in both her portrayal of Miss Mona and her musical numbers, most notably the closer, “Bus from Amarillo.” She is supported by equally arresting performances by “Twenty-Four Hours of Lovin’” by Eryn Bowser as Jewel, “Doatsey Mae” by Jennifer Kaufmann, and “Hard Candy Christmas” led by Abby Okerson as Angel (ubiquitous sound issues aside). Fun-to-watch ensemble numbers include “20 Fans” and “The Aggie Song.” A surprising addition to the kudos is the engaging narrator (normally a relatively flat part) played by Rick Barber. The live orchestra on stage and in costume is a nice touch.

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Footlite Musicals: “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”

Mike Bauerle as takes on the combustible Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd well, against the effectively nosy Melvin P. Thorpe played by Todd Hammer. Jim Nelms as the Texas governor gets in there with a convincing political “Sidestep.”

This is just a fun, upbeat, (mostly) feel-good show that is consistently entertaining. Some technical issues, off notes, and occasional fumble aside, this is a nice alternative to the overwhelming number of holiday shows on stage around town.

  • Nov. 24-Dec. 10, Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $23; youth (17 and under) $15. The first Sunday matinee and all Thursday performances are only $10 each.
  • www.footlite.org
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Phoenix Theatre: “A Very Phoenix Xmas 12: Up to Snow Good” (4.5 stars)

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“A Very Phoenix Xmas 12” at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Zach Rosing.

Phoenix Theatre’s Very Phoenix Xmas shows are always a grab bag of songs and skits. You go in relatively blind, not knowing just what you are going to get. I am happy to report that this year’s version, Very Phoenix Xmas 12: Up to Snow Good, has both hysterical and sentimental moments.

While my favorites by far are always the funny stuff, I can’t begrudge a little sentimentality around the season. But just a little.

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“A Very Phoenix Xmas 12” at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Zach Rosing.

This time around, the last year the show will be performed in the theater’s current building, includes a mix of Very Phoenix Xmas past and present framed by characters from the North Pole University. Who are adorable. Jean Arnold, Paul Collier Hansen, Rob Johansen, Carlos Medina Maldonado, Devan Mathias, Gail Payne, and Nathan Roberts take on sixteen scenes plus the North Pole interludes.

The requisite feel-good holiday numbers include “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” to open the show, as well as “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” including interpretive dance and a painfully blinding backlight, a lovely “Hard Candy Christmas” (ironically, Footlite Musicals opened Best Little Whorehouse in Texas the same weekend), “Wonderful Christmastime” with pretty paper lanterns, a gorgeous mash up of “The Hallelujah Chorus” and “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen (excellent vocals by Paul Collier Hansen and backed up by the ladies of the cast), and closing with “Some Day at Christmas.”

OK, so now on to my favorite part. I believe this has been featured in a previous Phoenix Xmas incarnation, but I lost all coherent thought when the cast did “Les Miserabelves.” One of the funniest effing things I have ever seen. I think I got disruptive because I was in the back cackling so much. CACKLING. At one point, I think my BFF who was with me was considering CPR. I can’t even explain the experience; it is something you have to witness for yourself.

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“A Very Phoenix Xmas 12” at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Zach Rosing.

Of the other skits, you get treated to candy cane machine guns, a Peanuts pity party with a cameo from the creepy twins in The Shining, a chorus of equally disquieting animal puppets being begged to not eat the baby Jesus, a furious Tweeting Trump (complete with Cheetos tie), a dead Santa a la Weekend at Bernie’s, mal-proportioned elves (more creepiness), a romp through a black-and-white film noir parody, an eye-opening look at just how messed up the Rudolph claymation movie really is, the “Tacobel Canon,” and some very impressive aerial silk acrobatics by Rob Johansen.

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“A Very Phoenix Xmas 12” at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Zach Rosing.

Overall, Bryan Fonseca and Thomas Horan  crafted a show that is a nice balance between traditional and campy material, much more entertaining than your run-of-the-mill holiday show. (And no, I won’t call it a “Christmas show” even if you pull out a semi-automatic candy cane on me.)

 

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 11/24

 

 

The anti-holiday show:

Footlite Musicals: The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

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“The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” at Footlite Musicals

An exuberant and bawdy musical comedy based on the true story of a legendary Texas brothel known as the Chicken Ranch, which operated from the 1840s to 1973. Protected by a friendly sheriff and frequented by politicians, football teams, and others, girls came from all over to work and make a little extra money there. However, when a crusading Houston radio commentator and his conservative audience exposed the ranch, it was forced to close down forever. The show weaves elements of country music and a story full of stereotypes that pulls at the heartstrings from a time gone by.

  • Nov. 24-Dec. 10, Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $23; youth (17 and under) $15. The first Sunday matinee and all Thursday performances are only $10 each.
  • www.footlite.org

 

Actors Theatre of Indiana: A Year with Frog and Toad: The Musical

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Actors Theatre of Indiana presents “A Year with Frog and Toad: The Musical”

True to the heart of the book series, the show is a story of a friendship that endures four fun-filled seasons. It bubbles with beautiful melody and wit, making it an inventive, exuberant, and enchanting musical for ages 4 to 104!

  • Nov. 25-26, 1 and 4:30 p.m.
  • $25; student seats (18 and under) $17.50
  • atistage.org

Broadway Across America: A Christmas Story: The Musical

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Broadway Across America: “A Christmas Story: The Musical”

You know what this is about. THE LAMP. ~LGM

  • Nov. 28 to Dec. 3
  • $28-$98; Family Night offer: 1/2 Off tickets Tuesday and Wednesday nights (in some sections) Nov. 28-29. Use code: FAMILY.
  •  Old National Centre
  • http://bit.ly/2hSgsW8

Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre: 25th Anniversary A Beef & Boards Christmas

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Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre: “25th Anniversary: A Beef & Boards Christmas”

Filled with holiday cheer, A Beef & Boards Christmas is a perfect musical outing for the entire family. After this year’s production, the show is going on a hiatus. Join Santa and his friends for one more spirited holiday production before the show wraps up indefinitely.

Phoenix Theatre: A Very Phoenix Xmas 12: Up to Snow Good

There is never any telling what will happen in these variety shows. Be prepared. ~LGM

 

Civic Theatre ticket sale

Black Friday through Cyber Monday, get a free ticket to Sense and Sensibility when you buy two or more tickets to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 11/17

Mud Creek Players: Dashing through the Snow

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“Dashing through the Snow” at Mud Creek Players

It’s four days before Christmas in the tiny town of Tinsel, Texas, and a colorful parade of eccentric guests arrive at the Snowflake Inn to deck the halls with holiday hilarity. For one last time, see the Futrelle sisters from Fayro along with some new and wonderfully funny additions to this laugh-out-loud Christmas comedy. You’ll swear this family-friendly show is more fun than a joy ride in a one horse open sleigh.

  • Nov. 17-Dec. 2, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sunday, Nov 26, 2:30 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 2,  2:30 p.m.
  • $13-$15
  • www.mudcreekplayers.org

The Lawrence Players: The Old Man and the Sea

A world premiere based on the novel written by Ernest Hemingway. Through music, mime, and puppetry, the audience will be taken through the trials, tribulations, and triumph the “old man” faced.

  • Saturday, Nov. 18 at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 19 at 2:30 p.m.; Friday, Nov. 24 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 25 at 07:30 p.m.
  • Theatre at the Fort
  • $15; discounts available for students, seniors, military, and veterans
  • artsforlawrence.org

Indiana Repertory Theatre: A Christmas Carol

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“A Christmas Carol” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre
  • Nov. 18-Dec. 24
  • $25-$35
  • Various special events are scheduled throughout the run. Check the website for details.
  • Scrooge Gives Back Friday, Nov. 17: If Scrooge can give back this holiday season, so can you! Roll up your sleeve, purchase a new toy for a local child or donate non-perishable items to the food pantry and receive one free ticket to *select A Christmas Carol performances. Donors can also receive 25% off four additional tickets. Donations of food and toys can be received from 11 a.m.-7 p.m., while the blood drive is from 3-7 p.m.  This event is in partnership with Indiana Blood Center, Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana Inc. and Toys for Tots. Participating A Christmas Carol performances are 11/18 at 3 p.m., 11/24 at 5 p.m., 11/25 at 3 and 7 p.m., and 11/26 at 2 p.m. Sign up to donate: blood:bit.ly/2gBigi4
  • www.irtlive.com

IndyFringe: The Gift

The Gift logoA mysterious gift of foresight is imposed on Eleanor. The secret to unraveling its mystery, Eleanor realizes, is embedded in her mother’s newfound visions of the future.

Check out my interview with the author, Dr. Louis Janeira, here.

  • Nov. 17-26, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m.
  • $15; seniors/students $12
  • www.indyfringe.org

Ashton Wolf Productions: Broadway and Beyond

Enjoy an evening of your favorite Broadway tunes.  This evening of magic features Jessica Hawkins (nominated for a local Emmy) and Ashton Wolf (Drama-Logue Award Winner).

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: interviews, Indianapolis theater: previews

The MD Writer’s “The Gift” at IndyFringe

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Author, playwright, and cardiologist Dr. Louis Janeira

This story was originally commissioned by NUVO Newsweekly

Tedious commutes are too common in many large cities. You can never get that hour or so of your life back. But when faced with three to four hours of total drive time between home in Zionsville and work in Terre Haute, Dr. Louis Janeira, a cardiologist at the Providence Medical Group, looked at it as an opportunity instead of a loss. He hired a driver and decided to spend his “me” time in the car doing something he loves—writing. Lucky for him, he can manage it without the threat of motion sickness. “I’ve never had that problem. I’m lucky that way.”

Using the pen name Dr. L. Jan Eira, and also known as “The MD Writer,” Janeira has created numerous mystery/thriller shorts, novels, and plays, one of which, The Gift, will be staged this weekend at the IndyFringe-Indy Eleven Theatre. This is the second production of the play; the premiere was at the Community Theatre of Terre Haute in June, which played to sold-out audiences.

The Gift explores suicide, assisted suicide, euthanasia, cancer, hallucinations, and mental disease. It is a story about a girl, Eleanor, who is mysteriously “gifted” with foresight. Eleanor believes this phenomenon is linked to her mother’s own visions of the future. Eleanor must determine what is truth and what is imagination in her mother’s mind because if she fails, it will lead to her death.

The show is coming full circle in its IndyFringe staging. “I wrote a 10-minute play called The Final Word for the Short Play Festival at IndyFringe in 2016. It was loved by all. I decided to write a full-length play around it,” Janeira says. This time, the play will be under the direction of Jan Jamison. “I respect and admire [her],” he says. “She recently won five Encores for her direction and work on Indy stages. I picked her because of how I admire her talents.” That admiration extends to handing over the helm of the production completely. “I purposely have not interfered at all with the director as I trust totally in her talent and ability to put a successful run on stage. I’m excited to see the end result.”

A common mantra in writing is to “write what you know,” and Janeira has done just that with all of his works. “Being a medical doctor, writing with medical undertones comes natural and easy for me. I feel I am uniquely positioned for that purpose. I would not say my writing influences my work as a cardiologist,” he says, which is good news for his patients, as many of his fictions include suspicious deaths, “but I definitely think my artistic work is heavily influenced by my medical practice. Certain cases and patients provide me fodder for my playwriting.”

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Dr. L. Jan Eira, and also known as “The MD Writer”

Janeira has been a longtime supporter of the arts, and through his ingenuity of using that commute downtime as a creative outlet, he can now take an active role in the theater scene. After a case of writer’s block with his young adult books, The Traveler Series about time-traveling teens, he decided to shake things up and take some playwriting courses. “I love theater and have been a huge consumer most of my adult life. My first play ever was Annie, which I saw on Broadway in 1975. I’ve been mesmerized by staged arts ever since. I mostly admire the works of Lin Manuel Miranda and Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber.”

His own playwriting debut was The Ambush, a medical murder mystery, which played on stage in Carmel in 2015. Following that, The Final Word and Stop Crying! were staged at the IndyFringe theater in 2015 and 2016, respectively. The Curse of Count Dicky, Secrets of the Heart, and The Final Word were staged at 4th Street Theater in Chesterton, Indiana, in 2016 and 2017. “My short play, Secret of the Heart, was staged off off Broadway in 2016. That was my proudest moment,” he says. In the future, “I’m planning to stage Critical Recall and The Freshman that Could in 2018. The Casualty will hopefully be staged in 2018 or 2019. Theaters in Terre Haute, Brazil, Green Castle, and others are looking at several of my pieces and hopefully will give me the honor of a production in 2018. Also, Chesterton, Indiana, will hopefully produce one of my plays in 2018.”

While his subject matter may seem dark, his writing is actually cathartic. He says in his blog, “I do it because it brings me peace. It relaxes me. It puts me in a different world, one where patients don’t die despite my best efforts to help them, where the people I advise actually follow my every guidance and counsel. Not the place where I work, where these things don’t always happen.”

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Bill W. and Dr. Bob” by Stage Door Productions (3 stars)

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“Bill W. and Dr. Bob” by Stage Door Productions

Bill W. and Dr. Bob is a starkly human look into not only the individual’s ramifications of being an alcoholic but also the extensive, painful toll it takes on his or her family, in this play through the two AA founders’ wives and associates.

Through their own trial and error and witnessing others’ recovery attempts, William Wilson and Dr. Robert Smith learned that treating alcoholism from only a disease or only a spiritual perspective isn’t enough. What the alcoholic really needs is someone who is intimately aware of what the other is going through. As is stated in the play, “Drunks need other drunks, not God.”

Stage Door Productions and The Indiana Addictions Coalition are presenting this 2007 off-Broadway show detailing the two men’s laborious journey toward sobriety set in the 1920s and ’30s

With snatches of dark humor inserted into the men’s struggle, the hopeful message shines through: we can find the strength within ourselves to ask for help and trust others to help us. Wilson and Smith threw themselves selflessly into the task of fine-tuning and passing on their philosophy that AA works.

Kevin Caraher as Bill W. portrays a man beaten down by his addiction and failures. Slumped shoulders and a sour attitude dominate his inebriated state in contrast to Dan Flahive’s Dr. Bob, who is a boisterous, funny, happy drunk. As Caraher’s character works toward finding an effective treatment, he exhibits almost obsessive behavior in his pursuit, leaving his wife, Lois, behind when he moves in with Dr. Bob. Kathy Pataluch as Lois shows the wife’s strength but also anger toward her husband’s condition and then preoccupation—and veritable abandonment of responsibility. Adrienne Reiswerg as Dr. Bob’s wife, Anne, is also a contrast, in that unlike Lois, she takes no initiative of her own, turning first toward her faith to save her husband and then putting similar faith in her husband to heal himself through his fledgling program. While Pataluch portrays grit, Reiswerg is more demur.

Rounding out the cast are LisaMarie Smith and Robert Webster Jr., who each play multiple characters in a very impressive display of individuality.

Under the direction of Dan Scharbrough, the show’s pace does drag at times. Caraher’s character often feels one-dimensional instead of portraying an evolution. His stature, mannerisms, and speech don’t synch with his self-growth.

Overall, this sobering (sorry, could not pass that up, even if it’s in poor taste) staging still captures the conflicts and deep emotions associated with anyone who is affected by addiction, whether it is themselves or loved ones, as well as the tedious road these men bravely forged for those who come after them.

  • Nov. 9-19, Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $20; $15 seniors & students
  • IndyFringe building
  • www.indyfringe.org

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 11/10

Stage Door Productions: Bill W and Dr. Bob

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Stage Door Productions: “Bill W and Dr. Bob”

Bill W and Dr. Bob is a powerful docudrama about the two iconic men that founded the Alcoholics Anonymous movement in 1935. The play is educational, inspirational, and very humorous at times.

  • Nov. 9-19, Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $20; $15 seniors & students
  • IndyFringe building
  • www.indyfringe.org

Khaos Company Theatre: The Duchess of Malfi

Duchess of MalfiJohn Webster was a contemporary of Shakespeare’s who wrote one of the most haunting and disturbing plays in the English language. The Duchess of Malfi is the true story of Giovanna d’Aragona, a widowed Duchess of the 16th century who was horrifically persecuted by her brothers, one of them a Cardinal, for marrying for love.

The IndyStar Storytellers Project: Food & Family

Storytellers_imageIn a season of giving thanks, eating, cooking, and talking about food are the ingredients to connect family, friends and strangers alike. Hear professional chefs, foodies, and other share their stories from the kitchen and beyond.

Q Artistry: The Chronicles of Yarnia, A Rap Musical

This is a wild, hilarious parody romp of the classic children’s tale through the wardrobe using parodies of classic hip hop and rap tracks to guide the way through the frozen adventure.

 

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“1984” by NoExit Productions (3 stars)

1984

Feel the love.

The love of Big Brother.

NoExit Performance’s production of the dystopian novel 1984 by George Orwell and adapted by Matthew Dunster is just as chilling a warning—the bleak possibility of complete control of a populace brainwashed into believing what they are told—now as it was when it was published in 1949. I do suggest having read the novel before seeing the show. If nothing else, Google it to get the gist of the plot, characters, and vocabulary. Otherwise, it could be hard to keep up.

The production is an immersive experience in an industrial warehouse space. Be ready to declare your devotion to the Party after you pay your tithe to Big Brother. After that, when they are ready for you, you will be moved from the initial holding area. Trust Big Brother; trust the Party. The omnipresent Eye of Sauron, I mean, Big Brother is watching you.

The large cast works together to create as realistic an experience as possible. Ryan Ruckman as main character Winston Smith portrays the ideologically fumbling man through hunched shoulders and a despondent expression. He manages to remain stoic and befuddled at the same time until he cracks in the second half. In contrast, Georgeanna Smith Wade as Julia is vivacious. Her joy is simple. She isn’t trying to make a political statement; she just embraces her opportunities—indulging in such things as the black market and sex—and then casually changes faces and goes back to her role as a member of the Junior Anti-Sex League.

Dave Ruark as O’Brien has a coolly intense demeanor as both rebel and, later, as sadist. Adam Crowe as Charrington impressively morphs from a sweet, grandfather figure to an intimidating thoughtcrime enforcer.

While the implementation of a mobile audience helps break up the monotony of what is, regardless of how you present it, an intense story, it can be tiresome and a little confusing for the spectators. However, Ministry agents will flag you down if you go astray. Limited seating is available at each setting (barring the first), so you might find yourself observing from the sidelines occasionally. In some cases, the scenes are short and you are on the move quickly, which is jarring. At one point, I was really glad I had leggings on under my skirt because I found myself straddling a bench and oscillating between locations, choosing to stay put for a shorter migration. That was MY spot, dammit. Centering the seats to limit the amount of scrambling would be helpful.

I like the idea, but some of the logistics are clunky. Set designer Andrew Darr and director Ryan Mullins are headed in the right direction. The path to get there just needs some refinement.

  • November 3-18
  • $25; student/senior $18; Industry Night (Nov. 9) $12.50
  • Ministry Headquarters, 1336 E. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46202
  • There is limited parking in an adjacent lot and additional street parking on Oriental Street
  • www.noexitperformance.org
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“In the Family Way” by Approxima Productions (4 stars)

It’s always exciting to get to see a double premiere. I’ve unabashedly championed the small, independent theaters in my 19 years of covering local shows. So the introduction of a new troupe performing a new play is especially anticipatory.

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Approxima Productions: “In the Family Way”

Approxima Productions made its debut last weekend with the staging of In the Family Way, written and directed by Christine Kruze. Set in 1988, Marc and Andrew, a longtime couple, want to adopt a child. Given the time period, when same-sex couples had even fewer—if any—rights than they do now, they keep hitting brick walls. Andrew is more stoic about the situation—and his overall demeanor—than Marc is, who is flighty and lives every emotion without a filter. Marc also is a recovering addict. Their relationship is rocky due to the stress of obtaining a child and their individual approaches and feelings toward the matter—a struggle that a couple of any sexual persuasion is familiar with. Reluctantly, Andrew agrees to approach his sister, Lainie, a divorcee with two kids of her own, to act as surrogate.

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Approxima Productions: “In the Family Way”

The relationships between Andrew and his sister, and Marc and Lainie (who were good friends in college), are heartwarming. Lainie is bold and isn’t the type to sugarcoat anything, and both men appreciate her candor and her love. Though brassy, Lainie’s maternal side is forefront when it comes to her brother.

Josh Ramsey, as Andrew, has quickly become one of my favorite local actors. (Incidentally, he appeared in Civic Theatre’s 2015 The Game’s Afoot with Christine Kruse—both of who shined—and in Theatre on the Square’s 2016 Crumble with Clay Mabbitt, which I awarded four and a half stars.) In this show, just as every other I have seen him in, he carries his character consistently and meticulously. While Andrew is emotionally constipated in ways, Ramsey allows his character’s façade to fade just a smidgen with Lainie, making him more sympathetic to the audience.

Really though, Andrew needs little audience sympathy with a partner as emotionally immature as Marc. Clay Mabbitt’s Marc is a drama queen, and he is irresponsible—but love can sometimes blind us to our loved ones’ weaknesses. Again, excellent consistency—including an Irish accent—and spot-on believability. (I actually had a friend whose personality is a dead ringer for Marc, and I immediately saw him in Marc’s character.) At one point, Marc comments that pregnancy isn’t too big of an inconvenience, and a few of us breeders in the audience snickered (OK, I admit I may have made an unladylike noise).

Character actor Carrie Ann Schlatter as Lainie is the linchpin to the show’s 1980s setting in both look and lifestyle. We see Schlatter’s Lainie shouldering too much responsibility toward her menfolk while being a single mom in a male-dominated profession. Schlatter keeps her strong though and maintains her biting personality (until the end when Laine makes a questionable decision). Schlatter also gets to tear into each man at some point, which makes her character endearing to me. And really funny.

Steve Kruze, as Brent, isn’t as impressive here as he was in Civic’s 2016 Young Frankenstein, where he shined. Mostly he, along with Joshua Kruze in his small part as Paul, looked uncomfortable and stiff.

However, I still consider the show (which is, admittedly, a little long) a success for this fledgling company.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 11/3

Actors Theatre of Indiana: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s A Grand Night for Singing

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Actors Theatre of Indiana: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “A Grand Night for Singing.” Ed Stewart Photography.

Over three decades after the duo’s final collaboration, this show took the Great White Way by storm; it was in fact this new R&H musical that opened the 1994 Broadway season with flair and distinction, garnering wildly enthusiastic notices as well as earning two Tony nominations, including Best Musical! A Grand Night for Singing pays homage to their remarkable body of work in a musical revue featuring over 25 legendary songs including “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair,”  “Honeybun,” and “Kansas City” to name just a few.

  • Nov. 3-19; Wednesdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • The Studio Theater, 4 Center Green, Carmel
  • Talkback series, “UNPLUGGED” features the cast immediately following the Sunday, Nov. 12 performance
  • $45-$43 adults; $39-$37 seniors; $20 students; Wednesdays $25 for all adults
  • atistage.org

Approxima Productions: In the Family Way

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Approxima Productions: “In the Family Way”

The inaugural production of this new company is also the the world premiere for the show! Set in the late 1980s, the show revolves around loving couple Andrew and Marc.  After being together for 10 years, they have decided to adopt a child only to find continual rejection by both the state and private adoption services. After much soul-searching, they beg Andrew’s twin sister Lainie to surrogate for them, with Marc as the biological father.  Lainie, while a successful career woman and mother of two, has made a habit of taking care of  her twin.  Although she is dealing with a painful divorce and has no desire to be pregnant again, she reluctantly agrees.  Issues arise soon after Lainie gets pregnant and set up a domino effect leading each of them to face the difficult reality of determining what they are willing to sacrifice to get what they truly want.

Epilogue Players: Tribute

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Epilogue Players: “Tribute”

An aging entertainer, after finding out he is very ill, tries to repair his relationship with his son. A skillful blend of comedy and pathos.

NoExit: 1984

In the all-too-possible future, cheap entertainment and public displays of hate keep the proles ignorant but content despite a never-ending war, all under the government’s watchful eye. Winston Smith rewrites history for the Ministry of Truth, but when he’s handed a note from a woman he hardly knows that simply says “I love you,” he decides to risk everything in search of the real truth. Can he possibly hold onto what he feels inside? Or will he renounce everything, accept the Party’s reality, and learn to love Big Brother? An immersive performance in a non-traditional venue, audiences will travel through the space, seating options available throughout. Some material may not be suitable for children under 15.

  • November 3-18
  • $25; student/senior $18; Industry Night (Nov. 9) $12.50
  • Ministry Headquarters, 1336 E. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46202
  • There is limited parking in an adjacent lot and additional street parking on Oriental Street
  • www.noexitperformance.org

Storytelling Arts of Indiana: Liza Hyatt

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Storytelling Arts of Indiana: Liza Hyatt

Drawing from family history records, Hyatt creates a story that describes the lives of her Irish immigrant great-great grandmothers for the Frank Basile Emerging Stories premiere. Related to this project is the release of her book, Once, There was a Canal, published by Chatter House Press, 2017. Liza tells the story of her great-great- grandparents Daniel Heffernan and Catherine Meehan on her father’s side using the art of poetry. Once, There was a Canal will be available for purchase immediately following her performance.

Jewish Community Center: The Juniper Tree

Juniper-TreeThis one-woman play performed by Susan Bennett and written by Timothy Taylor is a moving and compelling story delving into the secret pain that is often just under the surface of family relationships. The story is set in Indianapolis, 1968. Three generations of women in a Jewish-American family look back on the first decades of the twentieth century, and struggle with the signs and ghosts of the past. Racism, prejudice, anger, and fear have threatened to destroy them, but bonds can never be broken. The Juniper Tree premiered at IndyFringe Festival 2016. Following the play, the audience is invited to join in a discussion with Bennett and Taylor.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Barbecue” at the Phoenix Theatre (4.5 stars)

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“Barbecue” at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Zach Rosing.

There is only so much I can say about the setup for Barbecue without giving away a pivotal twist to the show. So I will be as vague as possible. For reasons that become obvious to audience members, the cast’s names are not listed with their characters’ names in the program. Thankfully, for the purpose of writing this review at least, they are all fantastic. And hilarious.

The show begins with a set of siblings preparing a faux barbecue party in the hopes of luring their sister, the methamphetamine-and-alcohol-addicted Barbara, known as Zippy Boom for her outrageous behavior while under the influence, in so that they can stage an intervention. Every member of the family suffers from some form of clinical issues (some of whom aren’t even present), but the eldest, Lillie Anne, has decided that Barbara is out of control and most in need of help.

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“Barbecue” at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Zach Rosing.

Marie has a problem with drinking and drugs herself, cradling a bottle of Jack Daniel’s like it’s a sippy cup almost the whole show. Adlean claims her painkiller addiction is justified by her recent breast cancer, and James T. is a big fan of marijuana. Lillie Anne has chosen a new-agey treatment center in Alaska for Barbara, much to the disbelief and amusement of everyone—but it’s also hard to run away in Alaska. However, first, they have to convince Barbara to get on the plane and go.

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“Barbecue” at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Zach Rosing.

Be prepared for some confusion at first. Pay attention and eventually it will all make sense. But in the meantime, enjoy the snark fest that is this bizarre family gathering. (For example, Adlean declares to her Ritalin-infested grandchildren, who are locked in the car, “I will beat you till I see the white meat,” and later, regarding Barbara, “I got cancer in my titty. I ain’t chasin’ her ’round this gotdamned park.”) The creatively foul-mouthed siblings are willing to Taser each other and hold one hostage while she’s assaulted with false, sickly-sweet memories. Go ahead and laugh at all this inappropriate, un-PC, and dark humor. You are safe in the dark theater.

Each scene features a different cast. Family #1 is of the hard-core redneck flavor while family #2 is infused with the spicy attitude often associated with African American stereotypes. Compare and contrast. The unpredictable shifts in the story keep audiences intrigued and even energized to see what happens next. The second half is less entertaining, though it still has its moments and reveals a lot about what is going on, and ends with naked little gold men.

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“Barbecue” at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Zach Rosing.

The exceptionally talented cast:

Joanna Bennett, LaKesha Lorene, Jeffery Martin, Brianna Milan, Abdul-Khaliq Murtadha, Angela R. Plank, Beverly Roche, Chelsey Stauffer, Dena Toler, and Jenni White. Directed, produced, and designer of lighting (whew!) by Bryan Fonseca.

  • Oct. 27-Nov. 19, Thursdays at 7 p.m. ($27); Fridays at 8 p.m. ($27); Saturdays at 8 p.m. ($33); Sundays at 2 p.m. ($27)
  • www.phoenixtheatre.org
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 10/27

Barbecue at the Phoenix Theatre

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“Barbecue” at the Phoenix Theatre

You’ve never seen an intervention like this. The O’Mallery family gathers for barbecuing, dancing, and manipulating. The goal? Trick their out-of-control sister into rehab. But with addictions running rampant and accusations flying in every direction, they are setting a record for the most outrageous intervention ever seen — all before Barbara, the sister in question, even arrives. And of course, there’s the ever-looming threat that Barbara could go “Zippity-Boom.” A tangled web of scheming, deception, and family drama, Barbecue skewers racial preconceptions and dances the razor-thin line between fact and fiction.

  • Oct. 27-Nov. 19, Thursdays at 7 p.m. ($27); Fridays at 8 p.m. ($27); Saturdays at 8 p.m. ($33); Sundays at 2 p.m. ($27)
  • Thursday, Oct. 26 preview night: All tickets $20
  • Friday, Oct. 27 opening night and producers party: All tickets $33. Complimentary King David Dogs and Sun King beer after the show.
  • www.phoenixtheatre.org
Posted in Uncategorized

I’m back!

I’m back in town now, but I am exhausted, so no previews or reviews this week. Next week, I will return to my normal schedule. Thanks for hanging in there!

Posted in Indianapolis theater: interviews

The Cat theater, Enhancing the Neighborhood

This article originally appeared in NUVO Newsweekly.

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The Cat theater in the Carmel Arts & Design District

“People have heard that we aim to be the off-off-Broadway of Carmel. So I think they know that whatever ideas there are, we will give them a shot at making them real,” says Will Wood, the founding artistic director of The Cat, the newest theater/multipurpose venue in Carmel. “We are fortunate in Central Indiana to be a tight-knit group.”

The Cat took up residence in the old live-music venue The Warehouse. Wood took over the space in February of this year, and its first performance was in May: “Side By Side By Sondheim led by the delightful Ellen Kingston for Carmel Theatre Company. CTC, whose history goes back over 25 years, had lost their lease the previous December and had been looking for a new home. We were quite honored that John and June Clair and their board made the decision to become our first of seven resident theater companies.”

Now the venue’s client base has grown significantly. “We have seven resident theater companies, but only two of them existed in any form before we opened. Our model encourages, almost demands, that people who have an idea or a dream come try it out here. The new companies, all formed this year, are Improbable Fiction, Approxima, 4 Way Stop, Indiana Theatre Company, and The Carmel Apprentice Theatre.”

The building is tucked away from the main road in the Carmel Arts & Design District at 254 First Ave. SW. Since the venue opened, its focus has been integrating itself into its natural habitat. “We serve the local arts community. And the term ‘arts community’ is meant in its most liberal term. And the term ‘local’ means just that. We have had several touring acts ask about playing here, and we could easily accept them, but that would send the signal that we are another of the many—and fine—spots open mostly for acts originating somewhere else.

“I sit at my desk sometimes and watch people walk by with their dogs or kids…And they stop and stare at the place. Maybe it’s the neat logo on the front, the bird feeder, the dog dish. Or maybe they’re just looking at this tiny place next to the big five-story office building going up…And they just wonder how we’re going to survive!”

While the venue lies in the “theater” category, it is by no means exclusively a live-theater spot. “As far as artists, we’ve had comedy shows, student recitals, a surprise birthday party, corporate meetings, ribbon cuttings, summer camps, concerts…lots of stuff.” The flexibility of the setup inside, which Wood describes as “cozy,” allows performers a multitude of possibilities. Overall, Wood says, “We attempt to be relatively family-friendly. And not too loud.”

When assessing potential new performers, Wood’s draw is “The look in their eyes. The desire to create something. The hope that this is their chance.” So far, Wood says the best part of running The Cat is “Each time we say, ‘Yes, you can do that here!’ I love the reactions I get. Like ‘Really?’ or ‘You’re kidding, right?’”

Wood himself has had many experiences in the theater. After a break lasting 30 years, he reemerged into the scene in 2009 and since then has assistant directed, directed, or produced nearly 20 theatrical productions in Central Indiana. In 2016, he wanted to direct a Cole Porter musical for CTC, but it lacked a venue. Wood and his wife and business partner, Deborah Wood, discovered the 60-year-old building, signed the lease in February 2017, and fulfilled a life-long dream of having their own theater.

In the future, audiences can expect “Excited performers! Shakespeare, Charlie Brown, Dueling Pianos, a Broadway cabaret, It’s A Wonderful Life, a premiere play, comedy—IndyProv and Dave Dugan…maybe more! We have shows booked all the way through December of 2018, but there’s still room for more!”

If you are interested in using The Cat for your next production, you can contact Wood at willwood@thecattheatre.com, and for more information and a lineup of upcoming shows, go to thecattheatre.com.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Fat Turtle Theatre Company: “Glengarry Glen Ross” (3 stars)

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Fat Turtle Theatre Company’s “Glengarry Glen Ross”

Fat Turtle Productions made a bold choice in its premiere production, Glengarry Glen Ross. The show demands only the most dynamic actors, and while the cast here is good, the show eventually succumbes to its own tedious weight.

David Mamet’s 1984 Pulitzer Prize winner follows four Chicago real estate agents in frenzied attempts to “make the board” no matter what tactics it takes to get there. In typical Mamet mode, the show is talk talk talk, and these men snipe snipe snipe.

As office manager John Williamson, Ryan Reddick consistently gives off a “fuck you” attitude even when Doug Powers as Shelly Levene does an admirable job of ripping into him. His excitement is warranted, as the audience previously saw Powers display his character’s desperation to get a decent lead and get back in the game after a lengthy dry spell. Jeff Maess as George Aaronow also gets to evolve into anger as his initial lost boy countenance, battered by hypotheticals from Luke McConnell as Dave Moss, morphs under pressure.

Tristan Ross as Richard Roma is the most charismatic of the salesmen, and his circular speech is demonstrated on the mousy James Lingk (played by Rex Riddle). Jason Page as Detective Baylen gets to try to strong-arm the men, but in the face of these rash characters, he stands little chance.

Mamet isn’t for everyone, but if you’re a fan of him or the film version of the play, this production, directed by Aaron Cleveland, may be worth checking out.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for 10/6-20

I will be out of town and minus my laptop for a while, so I’m combining what I have so far for the next three weekends. Sorry if I miss anyone!

Oct. 6

Fat Turtle Theatre Company: Glengarry Glen Ross

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“Glengarry Glen Ross” at Fat Turtle Theatre Company. Photo by Brandi Elizabeth Underwood.

This Pulitzer Prize winner took Broadway and London by storm. Here is David Mamet at his very best, writing about small-time, cutthroat real-estate salesmen trying to grind out a living by pushing plots of land on reluctant buyers in a never-ending scramble for their share of the American dream. The play is about angles, about conniving, about devil take the hindmost, where the only things that matter are money and making it. Forget about ethics, even common decency.

Beef & Boards: Ghost, The Musical

You know what this is …

Oh, my love, my darling
I’ve hungered for your touch
A long, lonely time
Time goes by so slowly
And time can do so much
Are you still mine?
I need your love
I need your love
God speed your love to me

Pre-Enact Indy at Monon 16

Harrison Center for the Arts will host the free and open to the public event. A first of its kind, the collaborative preenactment theater event will span three city blocks and envision through interactive performances what a neighborhood OUGHT to be. Alvarez & Klein Productions is participating along with ten other theater companies by presenting Club Monon. There will be three 30-minute shows at 2:30, 3:30 and 4:00 p.m. at The Tinker House Events, located at 1101 E 16th St. (2nd Floor). Come and hear talented vocalists Tiana Williams and Logan Moore, accompanied by Dustin Klein on piano, perform jazz and blues song stylings from the Great American Songbook.

 

Oct. 12

Civic Theatre: Annie

Yeah, you know this one too. Meet adoptable pets from the Humane Society of Indianapolis Thursday, Oct. 12, Sunday, Oct. 15 & Sunday, Oct. 22 before show time.

Center Stage Productions: The Secret Garden

I loved this story when I was a kid … Mary Lennox, a sullen and spoiled young orphan, is sent to live with her brooding uncle at gloomy Misselthwaite Manor. Discovering a hidden, neglected garden, Mary plants the seeds of new life for all those drawn into her secret refuge.

Carmel Community Players: Hide and Seek

After 18 years of marriage, Richard and Jennifer Crawford are finally about to become parents and have moved from the city to an old farmhouse, which they are trying to restore before the baby arrives. He still commutes each day, while she stays in the country supervising the shambling handyman and cook who work for them. At first it is mostly the slow pace of restoration that nags them, but a general sense of unease begins to build as the old house seems to be resisting their intrusion. The lights fail, the plumbing malfunctions, a fey neighbor stops by with an odd gift (a prayer book for the burial of the dead), and her poet husband ominously warns Jennifer that she should go back to the city before it is too late. Further complications arise when they are joined by Richard’s ne’er-do-well brother and his fiancée, but it is the silent little girl whom Jennifer claims she has seen swinging in the backyard who brings on the chilling climax of the play, in which the real and the supernatural clash with disturbing and breath-stopping results.

The Candlelight Theatre Company: Victorian Villains

The Harrison Home is unexpectedly beset by a host of the most villainous villains from history. Just when the world thought it was rid of Lizzie Borden, Sweeney Todd, H.H. Holmes and Jack the Ripper, a local team of crime scene investigators have discovered a nefarious plot to bring them back to life! In this frightful performance, guests will partner with their crime scene handler to uncover the sordid tales of the villains. Are you ready to face these fiendish creators of chaos and carnage, so that we can learn from their twisted and tormented minds to protect society as we know it… before it’s too late?! Audiences will travel from room to room enjoying performances throughout the Harrison mansion. Audiences will travel up and down two flights of narrow stairs (elevator assistance is available). Guests will view shorter vignettes standing and longer scenes seated. Each performance lasts approximately 60-75 minutes.

Broadway Across Indianapolis: Finding Neverland

Finding Neverland tells the incredible story behind one of the world’s most beloved characters: Peter Pan. Playwright J.M. Barrie struggles to find inspiration until he meets four young brothers and their beautiful widowed mother. Spellbound by the boys’ enchanting make-believe adventures, he sets out to write a play that will astound London theatergoers. With a little bit of pixie dust and a lot of faith, Barrie takes this monumental leap, leaving his old world behind for Neverland where nothing is impossible and the wonder of childhood lasts forever.

 

Oct. 20

IndyFringe: Bard Fest

A collection of Shakespearean tales, all with a twist.

Indiana Repertory Theatre: The Originalist

Supreme Court justice and conservative icon Antonin Scalia hires a young, liberal, female law clerk and opinions start flying right and left. Every point of view is explored in this thoughtful, witty, open-minded look at one of our most galvanizing national figures.

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Nuts” at Buck Creek Players (4 stars)

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“Nuts” at Buck Creek Players. Photo by photoGary.net.

In 1979, mental health care wasn’t what it is now (heck, it still isn’t that great in a lot of ways). Women especially were still subjected to condescending attitudes regarding the “weaker” sex.

Playwright Tom Torpor, a journalist, based his play on a story he wrote in the 1970s. High-class prostitute Claudia Faith Draper (Jenni White) has been arrested for first-degree manslaughter for killing a client in self-defense. She was transferred to Bellevue Hospital in New York City, and her mother, Rose Kirk (Miki Mathioudakis), and step-father, Arthur Kirk (Tim Latimer), want her to be declared incompetent to stand trial in the hopes that she would be institutionalized. Claudia, however, wants to stand trial, knowing that if found guilty, prison would be far preferable to the years and treatment she would suffer in the hospital.

The play is set in the courtroom in the psychiatric wing of the hospital. Claudia is represented by Aaron Levinsky (Michael Swinford) while “the people” are represented by Franklin MacMillan (Dave Hoffman), with Judge Murdoch (Ed Mobley) presiding over the court. Only one of the two psychiatrists who examined Claudia appears before the court. Dr. Roesnthal (Graham Brinklow) uses “symptoms” from Claudia’s past—a list that contains typical actions of any teenager—and adds them to her current aggressive personality to declare her a paranoid schizophrenic—after spending fifteen minutes with her. However, Claudia is far from mentally ill. She is a smart, strong woman who knows what she wants; and her past has some damned good reasons for her teenage actions.

Saturday night there was still some stumbling over lines, but overall the cast effectively captures the gravitas of the underlying issues behind the play: preconceived notions, societal expectations, treatment of the mentally ill in general, and the lingering effects of incest. Swinford as Levinsky mercilessly cuts into the prosecution’s witnesses, whittling down Hoffman’s MacMillan, and Roesnthal is made to look like the ass he is.

White only gets one good explosive speech, but all the character’s rage and exasperation come through. But the highlight of the show is Latimer as Claudia’s step-dad. Latimer wraps himself in his messed-up character’s personality like a Snuggie. Every movement, every line delivered is 100 percent convincing. Every word from his mouth is carelessly and obliviously offensive, and Latimer pulls it off start to finish.

Director Tim Spradlin and everyone at Buck Creek get mad kudos for taking on such a challenging work.

  • Sept. 29-Oct. 8, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $18; $16 for senior citizens (aged 62 or older)
  • www.buckcreekplayers.com, 317-862-2270
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 9/29

Nuts at Buck Creek Players

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“Nuts” at Buck Creek Players. Photo by photoGary.net.

Nuts has been called the best courtroom melodrama since Witness for the Prosecution and The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, and it inspired the 1987 film starring Barbra Streisand and Richard Dreyfus. Set in a courtroom in New York’s Bellevue Hospital, the story follows the journey of a high-priced call girl incarcerated on a charge for killing a violent “john.”  The state says Claudia Faith Draper is unfit to stand trial. As testimony from experts, physicians, and her parents unfolds, can she prove to the judge that she isn’t “nuts” and stand legally sane at trial for manslaughter?

  • Sept. 29-Oct. 8, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $18; $16 for senior citizens (aged 62 or older)
  • www.buckcreekplayers.com, 317-862-2270

Storytelling Arts of Indiana: Don White

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Don White

Storyteller and folksinger

  • Sept. 29, Don will perform at Sakana, 5252 E 82nd St, Ste 102, Indy 46250. This concert will benefit WITT-FM (91.9). $20 with limited seating.
  • Sept. 30 is a benefit “Tools for School,” a program that provides school supplies for low-income families in Hamilton County. This past July, Tools for School served over 2,200 children with everything from school supplies and backpacks, to new shoes, socks, underwear, and new or gently worn jackets. This show will be held at the Ritz Charles in Carmel. Tickets are $30.

The Shape of Things at Khaos Company Theatre

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“Infinity” at Khaos Theatre Company

Neil LaBute’s 2001 play focuses on the nature of stoicism, art, psychopathy, intimacy, explorations of love, and people’s willingness to do things for love. It is set in a small university town in the American Midwest and centers on the lives of four young students who become emotionally and romantically involved with each other.

Storefront Theatre: Infinity at IndyFringe

How does a new theory of time change everything we know about ourselves? Three brilliant minds — a musician, a mathematician, and a theoretical physicist — smash together like colliding particles in an accelerator. Together they learn that love and time are connected in ways they couldn’t have imagined. Infinity is a shocking, funny, and revelatory play about love, sex, and math by Canadian playwright Hannah Moscovitch with original violin composition by Njo Kong Kie.

Lafferty’s Wake at Westfield Playhouse

The darlin’ wild rover, Charlie Lafferty, is being waked in grand style in his home away from home, the local pub. The audience joins Charlie’s widow, his sweet daughter, bumbling son-in-law, the parish priest, and the savvy innkeeper as they celebrate the life and times of ramblin’, gamblin’ Lafferty. Two hours of sheer fun replete with jokes, jigs, games, stories, and songs including such old favorites as “Molly Malone,” “Whiskey in the Jar,” and “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.”

  • Sept. 29-Oct. 15, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $15; $13 seniors and students; free for active military and vets with ID
  • 317-402-3341 or www.westfieldplayhouse.org
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Sister Act” at Footlite Musicals (4 stars)

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“Sister Act” at Footlite Musicals. Photo Credit: Rick Galloway.

Footlite Musicals has yet another hit with its production of the popular Sister Act, which is based on the 1992 movie starring Whoopi Goldberg.

Morgan Webster as Deloris Van Cartier has the sound and the moves for the Reno singer. Once ensconced in the convent, she is joined by her gaggle of new friends and “sisters,” including the adorable postulate Sister Mary Robert (Bailey Jane Williams, who sings an especially memorable “The Life I Never Led”) and the insidiously happy Sister Mary Patrick (Nina Stilabower), among many others.

Donald Marter (as police officer Eddie), in his unrequired love for Deloris, is a riot in his “I Could Be the Guy,” as is Jonathan Studdard as TJ. Studdard, Daniel Draves, and Josh Vander Missen are another highlight in “Lady in the Long Black Dress.”

Director Paula Phelan and musical director Zak Tschiniak have crafted a real crowd-pleaser.

  • Sept. 21-Oct. 8, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $23; $15 youth. Thursdays and Sundays only $10.
  • www.footlite.org
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre (5 stars)

“There is a tension between everything that I am and everything that might be conventional for an actor. This is the same tension that makes incredible theater. No one wants to see something if it is too comfortable. Every performance should have a tension between what feels easy and what feels risky. When a grand piano is gracefully lowered out of a window by a rope onto a flatbed truck, slowly spinning and dangling, the tension of the rope is what everyone is watching. In theater, the performer is the rope, making the incredible look graceful and easy, making the audience complicit in every thought, every tactical switch. When the rope goes slack, the show is over.”

—Mickey Rowe, from the program for the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

 

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“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre

Mickey Rowe is the first American autistic performer to portray the main character, also autistic, in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. The story begins with a 15-year-old autistic boy named Christopher who is intent on sleuthing out the murderer of his neighbor’s dog. From there, more than just the crime becomes paramount. Christopher discovers secrets about his family and his own strength and courage.

Through Christopher, the audience is granted a small look into what autism looks and feels like. In Christopher’s case, he is in constant sensory overload. As he describes it, while other people just glance at their surroundings, he instinctively catalogues everything, from the number and color of cows in a pasture to the details of a small village. Physical contact is overwhelming, and metaphor and slang are like riddles for the literal-minded boy. Coping with a differently abled child—especially your own—is a confusing and stress-filled journey. Often, these families disintegrate because of it, as is the case with Christopher’s father (Robert Neal as Ed) and mother (Constance Macy as Judy).

Christopher is lucky to have a special teacher at his school, Siobhan (Elizabeth Ledo), to encourage him and guide him with coping mechanisms that ease his interactions with his environment. When things get too hard to handle, Christopher falls back on numbers—a straightforward language that he easily relates to.

Rowe is a consummate actor, having experience in the Seattle Opera, Seattle Children’s Theatre, Seattle Shakespeare Company, Book-It Repertory Theatre, Washington Ensemble Theatre, and more, as well as being the artistic director of Arts on the Waterfront. With movement coordinator Mariel Greenlee, he uses his own love of physical stimulus to fluidly glide through scenic designer Russell Metheny’s translucent rolling screens, which define spaces and locations. (Rowe also has copious circus skills).

The ensemble cast, under the direction of Risa Brainin, revolves around Rowe, who is always central to whatever is happening around him. They all interact seamlessly to create a story with heartache, truth, hope, love, and even humor.

The play’s title is a reference to Sherlock Holmes in the short story “Silver Blaze.” The book garnered several awards, and the play took home the 2015 Tony Award for Best Play.

  • Sept. 19-Oct. 14
  • $20-$75
  • Friday, Sept. 22, performance at 7:30 p.m. Opening Night: Join the IRT for opening night and experience the theater like you never have before! Immediately following this performance join cast, staff, and patrons in the lobby for appetizers and a celebratory champagne toast. Afterwards, explore the set and connect with the artisans who bring the set to life.
  • Saturday, Sep. 30, performance at 1 p.m. Sensory Friendly Performance: IRT will be hosting a sensory friendly performance including a variety of accommodations designed to help patrons with sensory issues experience an IRT performance.
    Saturday, Sept. 30, performance at 5 p.m. Backstage Tour: Immediately following this performance, join IRT staff for an exploratory and informative backstage tour. Tours typically list 30 minutes.
  • Sunday, Oct. 1, performance at 2 p.m. IRTea Talk & ASL/AD: This post-show discussion is paired with tea and cookies and takes place immediately following the performance. Post-show discussions typically last for 20 minutes. Dr. Carl Sundberg, Chief Clinician at the Behavior Analysis Center for Autism and Cecilia Coble, Fishers City Councilor At-Large, are both honored to be on the panel. Dr. Sundberg received his doctorate degree in ABA from Western Michigan University and has over 30 years of experience using behavioral interventions to teach individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities. Ms. Coble, having a daughter with autism, has experience in being a community activist and volunteer in organizations such as the Fisher’s ADA Citizen’s Advisory Task Force.
  • Thursday, Oct. 5, performance at 2 p.m. Cookies & Coffee and Post-Show Discussion: Coffee, tea, and cookies can be enjoyed before this matinee performance. Doors open at 1 p.m. Join IRT staff and cast immediately after the performance for a post-show discussion that covers a variety of interesting topics related to the show. Post-show discussions typically last for 20 minutes.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 10, performance at 6:30 p.m. Happy Hour: Enjoy complimentary appetizers from Happy Hour series sponsor Weber Grill. New Day Craft, Hotel Tango, Taxman Brewing Co., St. Joseph Brewery, TwoDEEP, and Tastings will also be on site for patrons to sample local libations. Half-price drinks will be available throughout the performance.  Happy hour starts at 5:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, Oct. 12, performance at 7:30 p.m. Post-Show Discussion: Join IRT staff and cast immediately after the performance for a post-show discussion that covers a variety of interesting topics related to the show. Post-show discussions typically last for 20 minutes.
  • http://www.irtlive.com
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Fun Home” at the Phoenix Theatre (4 stars)

funhome
“Fun Home” at the Phoenix Theatre

Normally, I shy away from commenting on kids involved in a show. It just seems like a catch-22. However, be prepared because farther down I am going to gush.

Fun Home was adapted from Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir of the same name. Bechdel is the cartoonist behind the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, and her graphic novel explores her journey toward discovering her own sexuality and the complicated relationship between her parents. The show won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and the soundtrack was nominated for the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. I find the accolades most odd because the music seems secondary to the narrative of the show itself, which is not usually the case in a musical. While “Ode to Joy,” er, “Joan,” will always have a new meaning to me, otherwise the songs merely complement the storyline.

“Fun home” is a derivative of “funeral home,” which is attached to the house in which the family lives. Another odd element—this tidbit factors very little in the overall plotline yet captured the title for the show. Add to that the father who works every capacity in the funeral home, teaches high school English, restores the historic home himself, and still finds time to get a little on the side. WTF? Does this man never sleep?

And I wish there had been an intermission.

OK, enough nitpicking.

Almost in a Wonder Years sort of way, the adult Alison (Cynthia Collins) guides the audience through her formative years, first as a child (Amelia Wray) and then as a college student (Ivy Moody). Her mother, Helen (Emily Ristine), is a mother of three and an actress. Her father, Bruce (Eric J. Olson), is the manic patriarch I described above and a closeted homosexual.

Olson effectively captures the bi-polar aspects of Bruce. His obsessive tendencies and covert indiscretions clash brilliantly with his moments of fatherly involvement, such as playing “airplane” with his daughter.

As the college-age Alison, Moody does a good job of capturing the mixture of insecurity and enthusiasm of someone fumbling to find her identity. Given the time period (eighties-ish), this would have been daunting.

But—here comes the gush—Wray as the child Alison is nothing short of perfection. She shows none of the tentativeness or self-consciousness that most young performers (and even some adults) do. Spot-on execution, an amazing voice, and locked-in dance moves make her shine. Seriously, this kid needs to be on Broadway. Like, now.

Overall, this is a well-done production under the direction of Suzanne Fleenor with musical direction by Brent Marty. The exploration of repression and freedom from it are conveyed emotionally and humorously by the Phoenix Theatre’s cast and crew.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 9/22

 

Fun Home at the Phoenix Theatre

funhome
“Fun Home” at the Phoenix Theatre

Alison grew up in the wonderfully twisted household of the family funeral home run by her father, a distant parent and closeted gay man. As an adult, she uses her art to re-examine her life and come to terms with her father’s suicide. With storytelling that is darkly funny and characters that are exactly like your family (and nothing like your family), Fun Home takes audiences on an unpredictable journey of love, grief, and acceptance. Winner of five Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

  • Sept. 21-Oct. 22, Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. For Fun Home only, Saturday performance at 5 p.m. have been added. Tickets $27 each.
  • September 21: Preview Night. Tickets $25 each.
  • September 22: Opening Night and Producer Party. Tickets $35 each. Fun, food,
    and complimentary Sun King beer.
  • $35; $25 for ages 21 and under
  • www.phoenixtheatre.org

Storytelling Arts of Indiana: Fairy Tales for Grownups

The kick-off of their 30th season features Mary Gay Ducey. Mary Gay tells fresh versions of fairy tales, family mayhem, and little-known stories from history. From a commission by the Smithsonian, to an appearance on Mister Roger’s Neighborhood as well as a show in San Quentin, Mary Gay has appeared at the National Storytelling Festival and most major festivals throughout the United States. Before Mary Gay takes the stage, Deborah Asante will share a story.  Immediately following the performance, there is an after-party at Chatham Tap on Massachusetts.

  • Saturday, September 23, 7 p.m.
  • $20; $15 students
  • Indiana History Center
  • storytellingarts.org, 317-232-1882

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at Indiana Repertory Theatre

doginnighttime
“The Curious Indecent of the Dog in the Night-Time” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre. Photo by Zach Rosing.

The Tony Award–winning stage version of the best-selling novel. When a teenage math savant investigates a puzzling neighborhood occurrence, he begins an extraordinary journey that takes him places he has never been—and you have never imagined. This staging follows a highly successful Broadway run that resulted in five Tony Awards including Best Play.

 

  • Sept. 19-Oct. 14
  • $20-$75
  • Friday, Sept. 22, performance at 7:30 p.m. Opening Night: Join the IRT for opening night and experience the theater like you never have before! Immediately following this performance join cast, staff, and patrons in the lobby for appetizers and a celebratory champagne toast. Afterwards, explore the set and connect with the artisans who bring the set to life.
  • Saturday, Sep. 30, performance at 1 p.m. Sensory Friendly Performance: IRT will be hosting a sensory friendly performance including a variety of accommodations designed to help patrons with sensory issues experience an IRT performance.
    Saturday, Sept. 30, performance at 5 p.m. Backstage Tour: Immediately following this performance, join IRT staff for an exploratory and informative backstage tour. Tours typically list 30 minutes.
  • Sunday, Oct. 1, performance at 2 p.m. IRTea Talk & ASL/AD: This post-show discussion is paired with tea and cookies and takes place immediately following the performance. Post-show discussions typically last for 20 minutes. Dr. Carl Sundberg, Chief Clinician at the Behavior Analysis Center for Autism and Cecilia Coble, Fishers City Councilor At-Large, are both honored to be on the panel. Dr. Sundberg received his doctorate degree in ABA from Western Michigan University and has over 30 years of experience using behavioral interventions to teach individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities. Ms. Coble, having a daughter with autism, has experience in being a community activist and volunteer in organizations such as the Fisher’s ADA Citizen’s Advisory Task Force.
  • Thursday, Oct. 5, performance at 2 p.m. Cookies & Coffee and Post-Show Discussion: Coffee, tea, and cookies can be enjoyed before this matinee performance. Doors open at 1 p.m. Join IRT staff and cast immediately after the performance for a post-show discussion that covers a variety of interesting topics related to the show. Post-show discussions typically last for 20 minutes.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 10, performance at 6:30 p.m. Happy Hour: Enjoy complimentary appetizers from Happy Hour series sponsor Weber Grill. New Day Craft, Hotel Tango, Taxman Brewing Co., St. Joseph Brewery, TwoDEEP, and Tastings will also be on site for patrons to sample local libations. Half-price drinks will be available throughout the performance.  Happy hour starts at 5:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, Oct. 12, performance at 7:30 p.m. Post-Show Discussion: Join IRT staff and cast immediately after the performance for a post-show discussion that covers a variety of interesting topics related to the show. Post-show discussions typically last for 20 minutes.
  • http://www.irtlive.com

 Sister Act at Footlite Musicals

The hilarious story of Deloris Van Cartier, a disco diva whose life takes a surprising turn when she witnesses a murder. Under protective custody, she is hidden in the one place she won’t be found: a convent. Disguised as a nun and under the suspicious watch of Mother Superior, Deloris helps her fellow sisters find their voices as she unexpectedly rediscovers her own. In keeping with the theme of the show, Footlite will be taking up a special collection. Near the end of the first act, special offering plates will be passed by the actors. All proceeds will be given to The Little Sisters of the Poor and The Julian Center.

  • Sept. 21-Oct. 8, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $23; $15 youth. Thursdays and Sundays only $10.
  • www.footlite.org

KaidyDid Productions with Indiana Performing Arts CentreMemphis: The Musical

Huey Calhoun is an impoverished, illiterate white man in the South during the 1950s. Despite racial statements, he finds his passion in the city’s black night clubs on Beale Street in Memphis, and begins to fall in love with both music and Felicia, the sister of one of the club owners. When his irresponsible personality and protagonist duties to advance the plot land him a DJ gig at a local radio station, he instantly begins to promote black music, earning himself wild popularity with the young crowd and a neat catch phrase, “Hockadoo.” 2010 Best Musical Tony Award winner.

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

“La Cage aux Folles” at Actors Theatre of Indiana (5 stars)

Bill Book as Georges and Don Farrell as Zaza- photo credit - Zach Rosing
Bill Book (left) and Don Farrell in “La Cage aux Folles” at Actors Theatre of Indiana. Photo by Zach Rosing.

The original 1983 Broadway production of La Cage aux Folles is based on the 1973 French play of the same name by Jean Poiret. (The title translates to “the cage of mad women,” but folles is also slang for queens). However, audiences may be more familiar with the American film adaptation, 1996’s The Birdcage, starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. Play or film, the premise is the same: Georges is the manager of a drag-show nightclub in which Albin, his life partner, is the star. Georges’s biological son, Jean-Michel, is engaged, and his fiancée and her parents are coming to meet the prospective in-laws. However, Anne’s parents are freakishly conservative, her father being a spearhead against the kind of entertainment the gay couple runs. Jean-Michel is in a tizzy to cover up his home life and unconventional parents. In this quest, he requests that Albin, who is roaringly effeminate, not participate in the visit. This is disturbing (and offensive) because Albin is the only mother Jean-Michel has ever known. When Jean-Michel’s birth mother blows off the meeting, as she has been wont to do her son’s entire life, Albin steps in, trying to portray the typical mother and wife. Farce ensues.

I have included this rather long synopsis because at Friday night’s performance, a couple different people left at intermission with aghast looks on their faces. Really, people, before you drop that kind of cash you should know what you are getting into. Interestingly, the mostly elderly crowd was not part of the ones offended.

Michael Humphrey, Greg Grimes, Tim Hunt, Kenny Shepard and Don Farrell - photo credit - Zach Rosing
“La Cage aux Folles” at Actors Theatre of Indiana. Photo by Zach Rosing.

The Tony Award-winning musical has a book by Harvey Fierstein (also a Tony winning actor and for the books of Kinky Boots and Torch Song Trilogy) and lyrics and music by Jerry Herman (Hello, Dolly!, Mame). The cast of Actors Theatre of Indiana’s production, under the direction of Larry Raben and musical director Levi Burke, puts on a spectacular show. Leads Bill Book (Georges) and Don Farrell (Albin, stage name ZaZa) are completely entertaining as well as endearingly sweet as a couple. Both execute their numbers powerfully and emotionally. (The show is credit to the acting prowess of Farrell if you remember his awe-inducing main character in ATI’s Sweeny Todd last year. You can’t get more of a 180 character-wise.)

Daniel Klingler as Jacob - photo credit - Zach Rosing
 Daniel Klingler in “La Cage aux Folles” at Actors Theatre of Indiana. Photo by Zach Rosing.

They are backed by their talented cabaret singers and dancers, Greg Grimes, Michael Humphrey, Tim Hunt (excellent high note, by the way), and Kenny Shepard. They create adorable drag queens with fun choreography by Carol Worcel. (The bizarre bird number is hysterical.) Also highly comical and campy are the flamboyant Daniel Klingler as Albin’s “maid,” Jacob, and John Vessels, as Francis, the slightly intimidated but equally gay stage manager. Judy Fitzgerald, as the aggressive Jacqueline, dominates the stage in her short moments on it.

Sean Haynes as Jean-Michel portrays the insecurity of a conflicted youth, and Devan Mathias, as Anne, is his tenderhearted but strong-willed fiancée. The also brief roles of Ken Klingenmeir and MaryJayne Waddell as Anne’s parents, the Dindons, play their roles well and give the audience a good laugh at their expense.

Good stuff here. Highly recommended.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 9/15

La Cage aux Folles at Actors Theatre of Indiana

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“La Cage aux Folles” at Actors Theatre of Indiana. Photo by Jason Gaskins.

Based on the 1973 French play of the same name, the musical focuses on a gay couple: Georges, the manager of a Saint-Tropez nightclub featuring drag entertainment, and Albin, his romantic partner and star attraction, and the farcical adventures that ensue when Georges’s son, Jean-Michel, brings home his fiancée’s ultra-conservative parents to meet them.

  • Sept. 15-Oct. 1, Wednesdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $20-$45
  • The Studio Theater at The Center For The Performing Arts
  • atistage.org or 317-843-3800

 

Curse of an Aching Heart at Mud Creek Players

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“The Curse of an Aching Heart” at Mud Creek Players

Come laugh during this hilarious melodrama, and throw free popcorn at the villains! This modern treatment of an old melodrama will have folks hissing, booing, and applauding. The sweet heroine is Melody Lane, a self-educated and lovely orphan who falls into the hands of scoundrel Windermere Hightower. After Melody and the villain are married, he tells her that he expects her to carry out his criminal schemes. Revolted, she flees, a wife in name only. Several months later she is at the None Such ranch where she falls in love with stalwart Lucius Goodenough. When Windermere appears at the ranch, Melody is appalled. He tries to force his attentions on her and Lucius knocks him down. For revenge, Winderemere steals money and plants it on Lucius. His dirty work is discovered and he is unmasked but he gets away and returns to the ranch disguised as a peddler. And once again the virtuous heroine is rescued by guess who?

  • Opens Thursday, Sept. 14 with a Pay What You Want preview night
  • Sept. 14-Sept. 30
  •  $15 per person; $13 Sunday matinee
  • http://www.mudcreekplayers.org

The Comedy Magic of Oscar Munoz

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Oscar Munoz at IndyFringe

An old-world magic show introduced to comedy. It’s an explosion of magic and satire. Oscar is known for his work within the Texas education system with an emphasis on anti-bullying messages and technique. It’s not just a magic show, it’s a one-of-a-kind experience for everyone in the family.

  • Saturday, Sept. 15, 5:30 p.m. fundraiser for Center for Inquiry
  • Saturday, Sept. 15, 7:30 p.m. fundraiser for  Fringe Against Hate with Anti-Defamation League (ADL)
  • $25
  • IndyFringe theater
  • indyfringe.org

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at Indiana Repertory Theatre

The Tony Award–winning stage version of the best-selling novel. When a teenage math savant investigates a puzzling neighborhood occurrence, he begins an extraordinary journey that takes him places he has never been—and you have never imagined. This staging follows a highly successful Broadway run that resulted in five Tony Awards including Best Play.

  • Sept. 19-Oct. 14
  • $20-$75
  • Friday, Sept. 22, performance at 7:30 p.m. Opening Night: Join the IRT for opening night and experience the theater like you never have before! Immediately following this performance join cast, staff, and patrons in the lobby for appetizers and a celebratory champagne toast. Afterwards, explore the set and connect with the artisans who bring the set to life.
  • Saturday, Sep. 30, performance at 1 p.m. Sensory Friendly Performance: IRT will be hosting a sensory friendly performance including a variety of accommodations designed to help patrons with sensory issues experience an IRT performance.
  • Saturday, Sept. 30, performance at 5 p.m. Backstage Tour: Immediately following this performance, join IRT staff for an exploratory and informative backstage tour. Tours typically list 30 minutes.
  • Sunday, Oct. 1, performance at 2 p.m. IRTea Talk & ASL/AD: This post-show discussion is paired with tea and cookies and takes place immediately following the performance. Post-show discussions typically last for 20 minutes. Dr. Carl Sundberg, Chief Clinician at the Behavior Analysis Center for Autism and Cecilia Coble, Fishers City Councilor At-Large, are both honored to be on the panel. Dr. Sundberg received his doctorate degree in ABA from Western Michigan University and has over 30 years of experience using behavioral interventions to teach individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities. Ms. Coble, having a daughter with autism, has experience in being a community activist and volunteer in organizations such as the Fisher’s ADA Citizen’s Advisory Task Force.
  • Thursday, Oct. 5, performance at 2 p.m. Cookies & Coffee and Post-Show Discussion: Coffee, tea, and cookies can be enjoyed before this matinee performance. Doors open at 1 p.m. Join IRT staff and cast immediately after the performance for a post-show discussion that covers a variety of interesting topics related to the show. Post-show discussions typically last for 20 minutes.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 10, performance at 6:30 p.m. Happy Hour: Enjoy complimentary appetizers from Happy Hour series sponsor Weber Grill. New Day Craft, Hotel Tango, Taxman Brewin