Theater reviews and previews

Posted in Uncategorized

This is my last post

I’m sad to announce that I will be taking a hiatus from reviewing theater for an undetermined amount of time. When I began my website, my husband’s days off were Friday and Saturday. His schedule has since changed, and he now works Friday nights, Saturday nights, and Sundays. Unfortunately, this has left me with the challenge of finding childcare if I want to go out. Simply put, there are not enough volunteers to keep up with the load of theater openings, and I won’t make commitments that I have to continually back out of. It hurts my heart to give up going to shows, but compromises have to be made when you are part of a family. I will greatly miss the wonderful experiences live theater has afforded me.

Advertisements
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Patrick Ball: “Come Dance with Me in Ireland: A Pilgrimage to Yeats Country”

Patrick Ball

Patrick Ball is a master of weaving stories. Between his Irish characterizations and Celtic harp music, he submerges his audience into another world. Saturday’s show “Come Dance with Me in Ireland: A Pilgrimage to Yeats Country” was no exception. Framed around a Yeats tour in Ireland, Ball interjects copious amounts of Yeats’ poetry into his story. His main characters, Ellie and Jim, are an elderly couple originally from Ireland and now back to seek inspiration from the same sources as Yeats did. Jim, who has started to become a little befuddled in the mind, only seems able to communicate through poetry now. But he always finds verses that are apropos to any setting or situation and Ball communicates the sentiment in his fine Irish lilt.

While not my favorite of Ball’s impressive repertoire, this is an appropriate addition that pays homage to arguably Ireland’s most favorite poet. Ball is a regular at Storytelling Arts of Indiana, and any chance to see him live on stage is an experience not to be missed. www.patrickball.com.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 9/13

Phoenix Theatre: The Legend of Georgia McBride

The King has left the building—but the Queens are here to stay! Slip into a sequined Stiletto, and get ready to shimmy and shake with humor and heart in this charming romp.

  • Sept. 13-Oct. 6, Thursdays at 7 p.m.; Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $25-$44
  • www.phoenixtheatre.org

Phoenix Theatre: An Evening with Lillian Baxter

An Evening with Lillian Baxter is the 1974 comedy cabaret memoir of Hollywood’s favorite has-been, Lillian Baxter. In this whirlwind one-act, Lillian chronicles her career from MGM to television to obscurity as she ponders love and a life shared with seven gay ex-husbands. The Great American Songbook never had so much fun!

Open Indy Showcase: Molly Brennan

Chicago’s queen of mischief and mayhem alongside some Indy favorites including Beverly Roche, Lukas Schooler, Bethany Bak, Michelle Buchanan, Lauren Curry, Ryan Mullins, and Georgeanna Smith Wade.

Storytelling Arts of Indiana: Indy Story Slam “Neighborhood Stories”

Fans of The Moth Radio Hour and similar spoken-word events all over the country can share their stories here at home or just come to listen and support other members of our growing storytelling community. Story Slams offer a platform to tellers of all levels, to preserve local oral history, in a casual and encouraging environment.  

  • Sept. 19;  Biergarten hours are 5:30-9 p.m.; Indy Story Slam starts at 6 p.m.
  • Garfield Park Conservatory,
  • Free

Fonseca Theatre Company: Rice and Beans Festival

FTC’s inaugural event will have food, music, and activities the whole family can enjoy! The Rice and Beans festival is a passion project of founder Bryan Fonseca, and Rice and Beans is meant to reflect the theater’s mission through culinary delights. Food samples, bounce house for kids, music, and hula hoops! Confirmed bands include Tim Brickley and the Bleeding Hearts as well as Bill Myers and the Trash Collectors. Plus, there will be guided tours of the nearly completed Fonseca Theater.

 Storytelling Arts of Indiana: “Comedy with Jen Kober”

SAI has partnered with Butler Arts Center to offer you half off a ticket to see “Comedy with Jen Kober. You can see her original blend of stand-up, storytelling, and improvised rock-n-roll comedy. Kober was the 2017 winner of NPR’s Snap Judgement Comedic Performance of the Year for her “Girl Scout Cookie Caper” story that went viral. Use the promo code “FUNNY.”

Writer’s Block

Writer’s Block is a funny comedy about two writers stuck in a writer’s retreat studio together. Add an overbearing retreat manager and a swiftly approaching deadline and you get a wonderfully delightful romantic comedy.

Mud Creek Players: Steel Magnolias

A beloved stage play by American writer Robert Harling, it is a comedy-drama about the bond among a multi-generational group of southern belles in northwest Louisiana. As the title suggests, the play celebrates the notion that while southern women may appear as delicate as magnolias on the outside, on the inside they are, at the core, as tough as steel.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Indiana Repertory Theatre: “12 Angry Men”

Indiana Repertory Theatre”s “12 Angry Men”

What could potentially be a static and tedious production is instead a dynamic, enthralling courtroom drama thanks to director James Still and 12 excellent actors. Set in the jury room, one brave juror declares “not guilty,” going against the rest of his peers. Heated debates and even a brawl break out over the next 90 minutes as the lone juror does the job the defense attorney should have and digs deeper into the prosecution’s often-faulty arguments.

Underlying the case is the fact that the defendant is “other.” It’s never outright stated, but you can infer that he is probably black, given the play is set in 1957. Sadly, this prejudice holds true today, making the play just as current as it was when it was first produced.

Seth Andrew Bridges, Scot Greenwell, Craig Spidle, Henry Woronicz, Demetrios Troy, Casey Hoekstra, Michael Stewart Allen, Mark Goetzinger, Robert Ierardi, Patrick Clear, and Charles Goad create distinct, dynamic characters that work with and against each other to create realistic, emotional, and spirited interactions.

Still keeps his actors in motion instead of having them sit still throughout, and the table is set on a turntable, so we aren’t always faced with the backs of half the actors’ heads. Instead, we can catch facial expressions and gestures that emphasize the dialogue.

While there is no intermission, the time flies by because the cast keeps you invested in the process of evaluation and their individual philosophical musings.

This is a top-notch opening for the theater’s 48th season.

  • Dates and times vary
  • Check the website for special events related to the show
  • Tickets start at $25
  • Irtlive.com

https://www.facebook.com/irtlive/videos/909022882803949/

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Indianapolis Men’s Chorus: “Journey to Hell” (IndyFringe 19)

Hell yes.

Journey To HellThe IMC rock the hell out of the District Theatre with their program dedicated to the dark side. Starting off with black robes and Latin chanting sets the mood for the homage to all things scary. Their energetic choreography exhibits their incredible stamina. Sometimes the musicians override the vocalists, a pet peeve of mine, but it wasn’t enough to make this a must-see-or-die show. Just some of the songs include “Renegade,”a Journey Mega Mix, “Devil Inside,” “Hell’s Bells,” “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream,” “Hope It Gives You Hell,” and so many more. Don’t overlook this one!

  • Friday, Aug. 23, 10:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, Aug. 24, 9 p.m.
  • Sunday, Aug. 25, 1:30 p.m.
  • indyfringe.org
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Footlose” (IndyFringe 2019)

Take Footloose and add improv. Audience members contribute blind lines from movies and dance moves to buckets, and as the story progresses, the actors pick from the appropriate bucket. Hilarity ensues. Be creative, please. The night I went there were multiple “I don’t give a damn” and “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” The cast went with it, though, no matter what they were given. If you are a fan of the movie, you won’t want to miss this.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Uindy Theatre Company: “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind” (IndyFringe 19)

Twenty-four mini plays in 48 minutes. Timed. If they can’t do it, you get free pizza! On your table is a menu of play choices, and the audience gets to shout out which play they want to see next. Some are a few seconds, some are about two minutes. Some are brilliant, and each one has a comedic element. Highlights are “Poultry-geist,” “How to War,” “These Things Are True,” “Memorial Day,” “and Honesty.” Beware No. 8, Sudden Death and Resurrection.” Kudos to Katie Carter, Destiny Heugel, Morgan Jackson, and especially Clayton Rardon for having to wear a dildo on his head because of “stage direction.”

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Is Your Brain Still Cooking?” (IndyFringe 19)

Is your brain still cookingWelcome to the Nursing Home Channel, where octogenarians remember useless information in the game show Is Your Brain Still Cooking? Jim Banta as the game show host is a bit frazzled, as he just happened to land the gig as host. He’s unprepared, especially when his two contestants arrive. Edmund (Dan Flahive) is covered in Post-It notes because he can’t recall even the simplest of everyday things, but ask him about something 50 years ago and he can go into minute detail. The other contestant, Roby Flo (Case Jacobus) is well-centered in the now. But her past profession, porn star, keeps her mind otherwise occupied. This is a funny of slightly long program. All three cast members nail their characters, and the jokes go beyond just the gross and old.

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“The Phantom of Fountain Square” (IndyFringe 2019)

Phantom in Fountain Square PRINT (1)Poor Fountain Square. The revitalization that never was. In this story, a couple, Samantha (Kerra D. Wagener) and Danny (Thom Johnson) have bought a space in The Square to open a restaurant. But the gremlins of Fountain Square strike, removing electrical components and even pooping on the counter. The only person not bothered by the ghostly presence is Katie (Jacquiline Rae), their daughter.

This is a musical without much music, and sitting on the right side of the audience, the vocals were often overpowered by the music. Similarly, a small screen showing old photos of Fountain Square is placed to the far left, making it hard for us on the right to see.

Owen Harp as the Phantom is downright goofy in his exaggerated movements, all long, sweeping arms and long strides inside a large black cloak. His monkey companion is downright disturbing.

Rae is a natural on stage, however. I hope to see her again in the future.

  • Saturday, Aug. 24, 10:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, Aug. 25, 4:30 p.m.

 

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: interviews

Carmel High School: “And then They Came for Me” (IndyFringe 2019)

The 15th annual Indianapolis Fringe Festival continues into its second week, including the offering from Carmel High School, And Then They Came for Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank. The play combines the the stories of Anne Frank and survivors Ed Silverberg and Eva Schloss.

Maggie Cassidy, a theater teacher and director at CHS for 12 years and this show’s director, has been a part of Fringe for 14 years. “I love to direct Fringe plays because they are intimate and artistic. It isn’t about glitz and glamour; it is about true and beautiful storytelling,” she says.

“The story of the Holocaust is one that should continue to be told,” she adds. “I love to do plays based on historic events/true stories. I love to research that event, time period and its people. I thought this play was beautiful and heart wrenching. The play is a combination of two real survivors sharing their stories on video and actors recreating the events on stage.”

The actors are made up of seniors, juniors and one sophomore from CHS. “I think it is a wonderful experience for the students. They get a chance to perform for a wider audience. We cast the show at the end of the 2018–2019 school year, but have only been in rehearsal for three weeks. I think it gives them a truer experience of what professional theater is like. It gives the kids and the theater program at CHS really great exposure,” she says.

“We often do something heavy, almost always a drama, almost always something based on real events, always a small cast, and almost always something that provides a message for the audience. I think that we must often remind our young people and our audience about the events that took place under Hitler in WWII. Survivor Eva Schloss says, ‘I fear greatly that the lessons of the past will be forgotten, if only because we all tend to push aside what is unpleasant. Therefore it seems to me very important that the surviving witnesses should continue to testify.’ Survivor Ed Silverberg says, ‘It is, after all, the next generation that must keep alive the knowledge of this dark episode in human history, so that it may never be repeated.”

The show runs Aug. 16–18 and Aug. 20, 24, and 25. For tickets and more information, go to www.indyfringe.org.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

aMUSEd (IndyFringe 2019)

amusedNikki’s apartment is haunted by a Muse. A very unwelcome one. He’s stuck on this plane until he fulfills his promise to his last companion: find someone to finish their last story. Nikki won’t budge because this apartment is supposed to be a haven for her to escape her own pain. An odd couple indeed.

Kyle Dorsch and Megan Ann Jacobs take the acting over the top a little, but overall they give us a sweet and funny story.

  • Thursday, Aug. 22, 6 p.m.
  • Saturday, Aug. 24, 4:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, Aug. 25, 3 p.m.
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Emerging Artist Theatre: “The Cookie Dough Show” (IndyFringe 2019)

Cookie dough show 300_0Thank you, Paige Scott, for making my night. (As opposed to the Diet Coke going up my nose in Is Your Brain Still Cooking? See seperate review.) Paige on a toy piano singing the song “Not in Nottingham” from Disney’s 1973 classic Robin Hood was one of the best experiences of my life. I know every. single. word of that song. Using the Robin Hood theme as a segue into a Kevin Costner homage, Paige also serenaded us with Bryan Adams’ “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You.” Besides Paige’s musical prowess, the show is a mishmash of half laughs and some more serious scenes. A little girl wants to kill Santa. Then there is a series of awkward retail exchanges, a somber set where a daughter runs into her estranged father, and a sweet scene about a pregnant Army wife. Billed as a “variety” show, The Cookie Dough Show seemed a little too schizophrenic in its widely varied vignettes, but it has its high points. Like the plinking of tiny piano keys. tumblr_ml2dn9giLJ1rkx03vo1_400

  • Saturday, Aug. 17, 9 p.m.
  • Sunday, Aug. 18, 3 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Aug. 20, 9 p.m.
  • Thursday, Aug. 22, 7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, Aug. 25, 7:30 p.m.
  • ComedySportz
  • www.indyfringe.org
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Be Out Loud Theatre (BOLT): “The Only Thing Worse You Could’ve Told Me” (IndyFringe 2019)

swinfordYou do not need to be gay or a man to appreciate this show. As a straight woman with many gay friends, I loved it.

Written by Dan Bulter (Frazier), the show looks at what it means to be a gay man. Michael Swinford’s masterful characterization and colorful inflection make these vignettes both serious and seriously funny. He is so energetic and expressive that you are right there with him when “Leslie” falls for a man dying of AIDS, or when 10-year-old Tommy asks his friend what fucking is. Watch as a guy reacts to his best friend coming out, which is followed by one of the weirdest conversations ever. The commentary on just what is the “gay community” is a conversation starter. Do they speak for all gay people? Should they?

This is a must-see on your Fringe list for its entertainment value and its depth.

  • Saturday, Aug. 17, 6 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Aug. 21, 6 p.m.
  • Thursday, Aug. 22, 9 p.m.
  • Friday, Aug. 23, 7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, Aug. 25, 4:30 p.m.
  • The District Theatre
  • www.indyfringe.org
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Approxima Productions: “Vinny the Pooh” (IndyFringe 2019)

It’s Mafia Pooh!

They all had to grow up eventually, so why not make their family a Family? Sniglet and Pooh had a deal go south, and The Boss, Franga, isn’t going to be happy. Sniglet (Kelsey VanVoorst) has a filthy mouth and anger issues — and an eclectic sex drive. Of course, Christa MaBobbin (Morgan Morton) is the one who has been screwing toads. Franga (Carrie Ann Schlatter) keeps her furry puppet Little Schmoo in a golden belly pouch, which the unintelligible Jowl (Joshua C. Ramsey) seems to be into. Eyesore (Clay Mabbit) may have his tail’s ribbon tattooed to his neck, but now he’s managed to lose an eye. And Stagger (John Kern) appears with visual conformation of his bouncy goodness <sniff>. As for Vinny (Steve Kruze), he seems to be the only one who hasn’t degraded into mafia madness with his honey snacks and rumbly tummy. Not to mention those shorts and dress shoes he’s rockin’. (Speaking of, VanVoorst’s boots are awesome.)

Director Christine Kruze has quite the handful of characters (they have a violence supervisor), and the group gets its weirdness on. The cast knows it Pooh, but Jowl, Sniglet, and Stagger ham it up the most for a giggly romp through the 50 Hectare Forest.

Sunday, Aug. 18, 6 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 21, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 23, 10:30 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 24, 7:30 p.m.
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Ubrella” (IndyFringe 2019)

Ubrella (not a type-o) is a one-woman show about Ginger Thimlar’s observations on life and its perception. It’s almost stream of consciousness in that it jumps subjects or repeats itself. Such as, Ginger lets us know several times that she hates technology. Vehemently. The way she see it, tech has destroyed our communication skills and social interaction. She also exhibits quite a bit of bitterness having never used her vocalist/fine art/film direction degree. Then she moves on to her estranged father and her eventual malaise for Indianapolis. Where she is at any given time is nebulous. Sometimes she seems to be at work, sometimes on the bus, and sometimes no place in particular at all — just monologuing. In the background are the noises of a city, which come and go at random.

Her entire show is read straight from a script in a binder, often sitting or else shambling around the stool. There is little or no eye contact and expression. Instead, it resembles a first table read for a new play. This production is nowhere near ready for a stage.

  • Saturday, Aug. 17, 10:30 p.m.
  • Monday, Aug. 19, 9 p.m.
  • Friday, Aug. 23, 9 p.m.
  • Saturday, Aug. 24, 6 p.m.
  • Sunday, Aug 25, 1:30 p.m.
  • $15 adults / $12 seniors (over 65), students (with ID), and children
  • Indianapolis Firefighters Museum
  • www.indyfringe.org

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Openings for the weekend of 8/15

FringeFest, ya’ll

That’s the big deal for the next two weeks. I just got back from the preview night, where performers were given two minutes each to hawk their shows. Not everyone participated, but of those who did, here are my “promising” picks:

  • Beyond Ballet
  • Lady Lives
  • Fallen from the Toy Box
  • The Madwomen’s Late-Night Cabaret
  • The Adventures of Crazy Jane and Red-Haired Annie
  • and one other I didn’t catch the name of about being transgender

Sixty-seven show at $15 bucks a pop. Go to http://www.indyfringe.org.

Garfield Shakespeare Company: As You Like It

For something completely different: Break out your leg warmers and your mix tapes and head over to Garfield Park for one of Shakespeare’s most celebrated plays with a new, bodacious twist. Its the 1980s, and the Forest of Arden is home to the raddest summer camp around. But trouble abounds as two brothers fight over control of the camp, young counselors disguise themselves for love, and the campers are left to fend for themselves. Enjoy beer from Garfield Brewery on the lawn of the beautiful MacAllister Stage as Garfield Shakespeare Company takes it to the max with a totally tubular production of As You Like It.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Monument Theatre Company: “1984”

Michael Gene Sullivan’s stage adaption of 1984 loses the tedium and ups the tension of what is now considered a prescient novel. Monument Theatre Company takes this new look at the novel and embraces how it’s been pared down: matching uniforms, sparse setting and props, multipurpose actors. His leaves your uninhibited focus on Winston Smith (Nathan Thomas).

The entire story is told from the infamous Room 101 where Smith is being held. As O’Brien (Michael R. Tingley) forces Smith to confess his story from beginning to end — and you must be precise — many of the scenes are reenacted. Four “party members” (Riley Leonard, Raven Newbolt, Kim Egan, and Deont’a Stark) are interrogators as well as actors in Smith’s flashbacks.

Monument really delved into the darkness inherent in this book and brought it out in concise and emotionally tactile ways. You can feel as well as see the despair, the hate, the desire, the psychosis. And when the rat cage comes out, the anticipation is bone breaking. Thomas’s Smith is a depleted man in the beginning, but then we see how someone can reach a whole new plane of desperation. He is ably backed by the other five cast members (six if you count Karen Sternberg as the telescreen announcer) who take on various roles and personas.

Director David Ian Lee with Monument’s cast and crew have created the best presentation of 1984 I have seen. Sadly, its second weekend will likely be eclipses by Fringe. So, if you want to avoid the madhouse of Mass Ave this weekend, go west instead.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 8/9

Monument Theatre Company: 1984

George Orwell’s classic tale as you’ve never seen it before. Don’t miss your opportunity to catch some of the most thrilling theater in Indianapolis.

  • Aug. 9-18, Fridays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m.
  • $15
  • Indy Convergence
  • Tickets here

Footlite Musicals: Bring It On!

Nominated for the Tony Award for Best Musical, this musical is about the cutthroat world of competitive cheerleading meeting the fierce rivalries of high school politics and romance. Bitingly relevant, sprinkled with sass and inspired by the hit film of the same name, “Bring It On” takes audiences on a high-flying journey that is filled with the complexities of friendships, jealousy, betrayal and forgiveness. This Young Artists Production is performed by actors ages 13 through 18.

Save on Indiana Repertory Theatre’s Twelve Angry Men

Save $10 off the first two weeks of Twelve Angry Men using promo code TWELVE1. Offer valid on performances
Sept. 4-15 when you book by Aug. 23.
Valid on individual tickets priced $35 and higher. Other exclusions may apply. irtlive.com.

Save on Phoenix Theatre’s Georgia McBride

Early Bird Special on Aug. 23rd! Tickets only $28 with code DRAG. phoenixtheatre.org.

IndyFringe Fundraiser

Fringe has a fundraising challenge: a match for $7,500. IndyFringe wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for frequent Fringers and volunteers who have continued to play a major role in the festival, welcoming audiences and artists in true IndyFringe style. August marks 15 years of IndyFringe. Did you know 80 percent of the box office is returned to performers? Over the past 15 years, IndyFringe has returned over $1.6 million to festival performers and small theater companies in Indianapolis. To keep doing this, they need your support! Your tax-deductible contribution supports creative expression. A theater community that welcomes everyone. Diversity in the arts and audiences. Accessible theater for all. Giving is easy in one of several ways: online at http://www.indyfringe.org/donate-indyfringe; mail IndyFringe P.O. Box 44121 Indianapolis, IN 46244; or in person the next time you come to the theaters.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Summer Stock Stage: “Into the Woods”

Summer Stock Stage’s “Into the Woods”

Last weekend, Summer Stock Stage presented another show that proves this program is for the best of the best in the Indianapolis-area student theater community — and the theater community at large. Their Into the Woods, a musical hodgepodge of fairy tales, was absolutely delightful.

  • Produced by founder Emily Ristine Holloway
  • Directed by longtime local theater staple Constance Macy
  • Scenic design by longtime accomplished artist Kyle Ragsdale
  • Sound design by wunderkind Zach Rosing
  • The witch’s (Julia Murphy, Brownsburg High School) tongue-tying spiel about her greens, and then just being an overall diva, including her performance of “Last Midnight.”
  • A most excellent rendition in find comedic form of “Agony” by Cinderella’s Prince (Jacob Crow, Purdue University) and Rapunzel’s Prince (Nate Schlabach, Bishop Chatard High School).
  • And overall superlative performances by Amelia Wray (Little Red Riding Hood), Elly Burke (Jack’s Mom, North Central High School), Michael Krauter (Jack, Herron High School grad), Abby Anderson (Baker’s wife, University of Michigan), and Cora Lucas (Cinderella, Carmel High School).

Congratulations to the entire cast and crew for closing out SSS’s season with yet another resounding success.

“Agony” from SSS’s “Into the Woods”
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Carmel Community Players: “Failure to Zig Zag”

This is not a glowing review. I state this because a few weeks ago I received a comment that stated it was rude to talk about the script more than the actors. However, this was an avoidance tactic. I was unimpressed with the show, and the script was weak to boot, so I put a lot of the blame on the script. I don’t like ripping actors apart, especially when it’s a volunteer situation.

So to begin with, the script of Failure to Zig Zag is not particularly riveting. It’s the story post the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. (If you don’t know that story, just move on to something else.) What is different about this particular tragedy is that the captain, Charles McVay III, was court martialed, something that had never happened in the history of the Navy. The fact is, the Navy was looking for a scapegoat for many mistakes it had made. There are many well-done documentaries out there that examine this case.

The cast showcases a large range of talent, but together their presentation as a whole is short of dynamic. It actually resembles an actual court proceeding, which is good for believability but bad for entertainment value. Many of the actors are stilted and seem uncomfortable. While the audience was enthusiastic come the end of the play, I found it odd because I could hear many loud sighs and yawns throughout the show. My eyes glazed over a couple times.

If you are a hardcore follower of the USS Indianapolis, I doubt you will find anything enlightening here. If you are a novice, I doubt you’ll leave feeling entertained — more like you just sat through a history lecture.

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 7/19

Carmel Community Players: Failure to Zig Zag: The Story of the USS Indianapolis

Neither the captain of the USS Indianapolis, McVay, nor his crew were told the cargo they had delivered in Tinian contained the essential components for the atomic bomb to be dropped in Hiroshima. Having completed its top-secret mission, the ship was sunk by a Japanese submarine. The crew languished in shark-infested waters while Naval authorities logged the ship safe in port. The Navy’s coverup and attempt to make McVay a scapegoat led to a national scandal.

  • July 19-28, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $14-$16
  • The Cat
  • www.carmelplayers.org

Fat Turtle Theatre Company: Go Be Joan

Go Be Joan is a selected script from The Incubator project that Fat Turtle Theatre Company runs every year to find the best scripts from local writers in the Indianapolis area. It is a heart-warming show about a woman named Joan who lost her husband a couple years ago and has since been a shut-in. Travel through the story as Joan works with her family to learn how to live again.

  • July 18-28, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $20; $25 at the door; $20 student/military
  • Theater at the Fort
  • Tickets here

Phoenix Theatre: The Brain Thief by Tom Horan public reading

Playwright-in-Residence Tom Horan’s latest script is equal parts comical, endearing, bizarre, and fascinating. In short, exactly what Horan delivers in all of his work. One brain’s wit comes to life — comes back to life? Who’s to say — when one misguided thief takes it for a spin. A commentary on youth, danger, loss, love, and loneliness, The Brain Thief is a brain warp like no other. This is a free reading. Please call the box office at 317-635-7529 to reserve a spot.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Summer Stock Stage: “Thoroughly Modern Millie”

Summer Stock Stage’s Eclipse’s “Thoroughly Modern Millie”

Summer Stock Stage has proven again that a “young adult” production can be on par — or even surpass — traditional volunteer theaters and even on occasion an Equity house.

Their production of the 1920s-based Thoroughly Modern Millie last weekend was thoroughly spot on — acting, vocals, and in-sync choreography were superlative.

Standouts were Cynthia Kauffman (Syracuse University) as Millie, Abby Anderson (University of Michigan) as Muzzy, Christian Barda (North Central High School) as Ching Ho, Faye Coy (Herron High School) as Bun Foo, Jack Ducat (Carmel High School) as Jimmy Smith, Eva Scherrer (Ohio State University) as Mrs. Meers, and Samantha Shelton (Herron High School) as Miss Dorothy

A huge ensemble and a live orchestra backed up the principals with energetic support.

Catch Summer Stock Stage’s next production, Into the Woods, opening July 25. Summerstockstage.com.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 6/27

Summer Stock Stage’s Eclipse: Thoroughly Modern Millie

Summer Stock Stage’s Eclipse’s “Thoroughly Modern Millie”

Forget about the boy when a small town girl searches for a new life in the bright lights of 1920s New York City. The winner of six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie is based on the 1967 Academy Award-winning film. Thoroughly Modern Millie takes you back to the height of the Jazz Age in New York City, when “moderns,” including a flapper named Millie Dillmount, were bobbing their hair, raising their hemlines, entering the workforce and rewriting the rules of love. This high-spirited musical romp is a delightful valentine to the long-standing spirit of New York City and the people who seek to discover themselves there. Set in New York City in 1922, Thoroughly Modern Millie  tells the story of young Millie Dillmount from Kansas, who comes to New York in search of a new life for herself. Her grand plan is to find a job as a secretary for a wealthy man and then marry him. However, her plan goes completely awry. The owner of her dingy hotel kidnaps young girls to sell to the Far East, her wealthy boss is slow in proposing marriage, and the man she actually falls in love with doesn’t have a dime to his name … or so he tells her.

  • Friday-Saturday, June 28-29, 7 p.m. and Sunday, June 30, 2 p.m.
  • $20
  • Indiana Repertory Theatre
  • summerstockstage.com

The 7th Artistry: Hansel and Gretel

The 7th Artistry’s “Hansel and Gretel”

They say history repeats itself and that it runs in the family. Evelyn has never had a perfect life and neither have Hansel and Gretel. Together they enter the world of temptations, but can it be that easy to escape your addictions and more importantly your past? Join them on this extravagant tale set in a 1920s speakeasy during prohibition. *Note: loud noises, gunshots, sensitive subject material, strong language, and strong aromas are used in this production. Each adult ticket comes with a signature cocktail created by 8th Day Distillery and light snacks. Student tickets come with a soft drink and light snacks.

  • Friday-Saturday, June 28-29, 8 p.m. and Sunday, June 30, 4 p.m.
  • $25; $20 students
  • Circle City Industrial Complex
  • Tickets here

Parker Nolen: Not Exactly Paris

Parker Nolen

Featuring the music of Elvis, Blondie, Peter Cincotti, Michael Leonard, and others, Not Exactly Paris is an evening of jazz and storytelling. Described as “funny and touching” by the DC Cabaret Network, the audience is guided on a personal yet universal journey of love and loss. Originally from Indianapolis, he is a classically-trained singer and for the last 30 years has performed with orchestras and chorales in concert halls across North America, notably Carnegie Hall (Mozart Requiem) and Davies Symphony Hall (Britten’s War Requiem).

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Phoenix Theatre: “White City Murder”

Amanda Hummer and Ben Asaykwee in “White City Murder”

Ben Asaykwee is leaving an indelible tint of the macabre on the Phoenix Theatre’s Basile Theatre, first with his Cabaret Poe and now with White City Murders.

Much like Cabaret Poe, White City Murders has jaunty musical numbers with twisty lyrics. The music itself is unusual, as the instrumentation is Asaykwee and Amanda Hummer’s vocalizations that are recorded, layered, and played back to accompany a number.

The setting is the Chicago World’s Fair and the protagonist, the infamous H.H. Holmes. Asaykwee and Hummer are all too happy to extoll the merits of being a showman and a serial killer. Bits of Holmes are revealed as we also learn about the Fair itself and many of the people who visited it.

And there are dance breaks. And tomfoolery. And, of course, murder.

Asaykwee’s trademark smirk and glint in his eye—you know the one, as if he is about to do something bad that’s really funny—are on display. Hummer is more earthy to Asaykwee’s ethereal, creating a complementary and wholly entertaining set of strange.

  • Extended through July 14, Thursdays–Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $24–$37
  • www.phoenixtheatre.org

 

https://www.facebook.com/indyfirebird/videos/456059394967833/

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 6/14

Catholic Boy Blues

James’ recurring migraines lead him to therapy. Beginning a journaling practice, he soon realizes his journey of discovery might force him to deal with a childhood trauma he didn’t know he had repressed. Playwright Norbert Krapf, former Indiana poet laureate, is the author of 12 poetry collections, including Catholic Boy Blues: A Poet’s Journal and the recent The Return of Sunshine about his Colombian-German-American grandson, age four, as well as the prose memoir Shrinking the Monster: Healing the Wounds of Our Abuse.

  • June 14-15, 7:30 p.m. and June 16, 4 p.m.
  • $20; $15 seniors; $12 students
  • IndyFringe
  • www.indyfringe.org

Phoenix Theatre: White City Murder

Murder! Mischief! Comedy! Original music highlights this hilarious and terrifying tale of infamous murder at the 1893 World’s Fair. It’s Ben Asaykwee. It’s hysterical. What more could you ask for?

Indy Shakes Traveling Troupe: Much Ado About Nothing

Spying, double-crosses, cover-ups, mistaken identities! Shakespeare’s adventure play takes place in the Forest of Arden. Things are not quite what they seem. Let’s see if you can figure out who’s who, what’s what, and why in this hilarious journey through the woods.

Debbie Nelson & In Full Transition Band

Debbie Nelson & In Full Transition

Nelson & In Full Transition Band bring excitement, dynamics, and dimension to the blues with their passion for performing. Winners of last year’s Naptown Blues Challenge, this band will soon be on your must-see list.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Summer Stock Stage’s Eclipse: “Violet”

Summer Stock Stage’s Eclipse: “Violet.” Photo by Michael Camp.

Summer Stock Stage has proven again that its program molds amazing performers. While SSS is geared toward middle- and high-school students, its professional arm, Eclipse, continues to fill stages with some top-notch talent, this time in Violet.

Leads Elizabeth Hutson (Violet), Leah Broderick (Young Violet), Mark Maxwell (Flick), and John Collins (Monty) bring vigor and some sass to this musical set in the South about a young woman traveling to a faith healer in the hopes of having a grossly disfiguring scar removed from her face. It’s a story of personal awakening and self-reliance.

I had rows of stars next to musical numbers that stood out, so I’m just going to make the sweeping statement that everyone is noteworthy, and, as I’ve said in previous Eclipse reviews, the show rivals any professional productions here in town.

Director/producer/SSS founder Emily Ristine Holloway is on a roll. Let’s keep it going this summer.

  • Through June 15; various times and dates
  • $20 opening weekend; $30 thereafter
  • Phoenix Theatre
  • summerstockstage.com

Check out the video for “On My Way” here.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Buck Creek Players: “Disaster: The Musical”

Buck Creek Players’ “Disaster: The Musical”

You have to work for it, but when Disaster: The Musical hits a good gag, it makes the wait worth it, all while cleverly inserting songs from the ‘70s.

The setup is the opening of a new floating casino. Chad (Scott A. Fleshood) is hoping to meet some “Hot Stuff” and so he accompanies his pal Scott (Jamison Hemmert) to the opening as a server. Professor Ted Scheider (Joe Wagner) is looking for “hot stuff” in the water; as a disaster professional, he has predicted a series of natural disasters heretofore unheard of. Marianne (Allie Buchanan), a reporter, is there to get the scoop on owner Tony Del Vecchio (Corey Yeaman), who allegedly cut some safety corners to save some money. Sister Mary Downy stands as a single protestor with a one-note guitar, letting everyone know they are going to hell, even though she is “Torn Between Two Lovers,” God and a new Hawaii 5-0-themed slot machine, herself. Shirley and Maury Summers (Laura Duvall-Whitson and Michael Davis) are the decades-long married couple still in love and off to celebrate his retirement; but Maury doesn’t know his wife is terminal with a grocery list of bizarre symptoms, like inappropriate pelvic thrusts. Levora Verona, a washed up disco star, shows up at the pier avoiding her cab fare; this is her last chance to win back some of her faded fortune. Already onboard, Jackie (Jessica Crum Hawkins), a lounge singer, also has her life on the line. She tells her twins Ben and Lisa (Ava Lusby) that if all goes well tonight, Tony might “possibly” ask her to marry him.

And there are piranha puppets. Oh the piranha puppets.

There are genuinely funny or ew, or “oh hell” moments here, such as a particularly good piece with Jackie and her “kids,” where Ava gets to play the Susan-Sharron-Parent-Trap shtick with the aid of some fake hands. And did I mention the piranhas?

The B-grade special effects are an apt reflection of the source material as Disaster is meant to be a spoof of all 1970s disaster movies. As I said, there’s down time between good sight gags, but when they come up, they are worth it. The dedicated cast and crew with director D. Scott Robinson put their all into this goofy farce.

  • Through June 16, Fridays–Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $20; $18 for students (through college) and senior citizens (aged 62 or older)
  • http://www.buckcreekplayers.com

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 5/31

seeyouthereSummer Stock Stage’s Eclipse: Violet

Based on the short story “The Ugliest Pilgrim” by Doris Betts. It tells the story of a young disfigured woman who embarks on a journey by bus from her farm in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, all the way to Tulsa, Oklahoma, in order to be healed.

  • May 30-June 15; various times and dates
  • $20 opening weekend; $30 thereafter
  • Phoenix Theatre
  •  summerstockstage.com

 

At IndyFringe:

Fan Me, Lord!: In the 1950s, Chicago native Patricia Wilson visits home to share her big news after studying abroad in London. Little did she know her entire world will flip upside down as the beans spill about family secrets. Can she face the challenges and keep her “new-found self-confidence”?

Big Beautiful Women of Broadway (BBWOB): Actor/singer James Solomon Benn presents his 75-minute cabaret show featuring songs sung by or made famous by the women of Broadway.

seeyouthereBuck Creek Players: Disaster: The Musical

“Hustle” back to the 1970s for the Indianapolis premiere of Disaster: The Musical. It’s 1979, and New York’s hottest A-listers are lining up for the opening of a floating casino and discotheque. What begins as a night of boogie fever quickly changes to panic as the ship succumbs to earthquakes, tidal waves, and so much more! As the night turns into day, everyone struggles to survive and, quite possibly, repair the love that they’ve lost … or at least escape the killer rats. Disaster: The Musical features some of the most unforgettable songs of the 1970s. “Knock on Wood,” “Hooked on a Feeling,” “Sky High,” “I Am Woman,” and “Hot Stuff” are just a few of the scintillating hits in this hilarious musical comedy which played to Broadway audiences in 2012.

  • May 31-June 16, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $20; $18 for students (through college and senior citizens (aged 62 or older)
  • http://www.buckcreekplayers.com

PLUS:

Bidding Begins Friday, May 31, for The Rocky Horror Show 2019 BCP PLay-A-Part Fundraiser. Play the role of your dreams! All roles in the Play-A-Part Fundraisers are “won” through an online silent auction with no required auditions! Veteran performers join first-timers to give classic musicals a comedic twist.

Magic Thread Cabaret: “Bill Book: It’s a Most Unusual Day”

Veteran Indy theater artist Bill Book headlines an eclectic, 90-minute program of his favorite classic, pop, swing, comedy, and country songs, weaved together with personal memories and stories of love, laughter, friendship and family.

  • Friday, May 31-Saturday, June 1 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, June 2 at 4 p.m.
  • The Cat, 254 Veterans Way in Carmel
  • $30 general admission/$25 seniors/$20 students with valid ID
  • magicthreadcabaret.com
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

LAFFShows: “Fly You Fools!”

Butt-chin?

I never realized that Aragorn has a butt-chin. Now, that’s all I see when I look at Viggo Mortensen.

Fly You Fools is a shot-by-shot parody of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings. As with the other LAFFShows, Hold on to Your Butts and Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes, it helps tremulously if you have a sound grip of the source material. Thankfully, I can almost recite it myself, so when there was an intentional deviation for effect, I got it.

Unfortunately, not a lot of comedic opportunities were gleaned from LOTR. It takes quite a while for the actual parodying to get started beyond the physical representations of Middle Earth history and hobbits, but THE EYE is mimed brilliantly.

Jim Banta, Pat Mullen, Christian Condra, and foley artist Olivia Schaperjohn are all-in even if the jokes aren’t. There are, of course, some laugh-worthy nuggets though, such as Arwyn’s raging river represented by a squirt bottle and Galadriel’s fear of becoming Beyonce. And why didn’t they all just fly to Mordor on Eagles anyway? Huh.

Alas, of the LAFF trio, this one falls short a few, comparatively.

  • Through June 8, 8 and 10 p.m. every Friday and Saturday
  • $15
  • The District Theatre

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Footlite Musicals: “Children of Eden”

childreneden
Mitchell Hammersley, Allen Sledge, and Nina Stilabower in Footlite Musicals’ “Children of Eden”

If you’re OK with biblical source material being altered, then continue. If you are a Bible purist, look away.

The first thing you need to know about the musical Children of Eden is that the playwrights took a few key parts of the Adam and Eve story, Cain and Abel, and the story of Noah’s Ark and replaced them with something more dramatic. The depiction of Eve is even more misogynistic than in the Bible, and Noah’s son, Japhath, is wifeless at embarkment. Instead, she is replaced by a forbidden servant girl, whom he stows away.

By intermission, I was pretty pissed by the depiction of Eve. I am no Bible-thumper — hell, I’m not even Christian — but I was flabbergasted by the changes. By the end of the show, I was disappointed that the idea of accepting someone for who they are was glossed over. Noah had to remove the mark of Cain from the servant girl for her to be part of the clan even though she was the one that stopped two of Noah’s sons from committing Cain’s sin. The overarching theme of the show is family dynamics, but, meh.

However, this mini-rant has nothing to do with the show’s production values. As for that, all I can say is that the cast is competent if inconsistent. Some of the performers have exceptional moments, including Mitchell Hammerersley, Nina Stilabower, Keane Maddock, and, the best of all, Yasmin Schancer. Stilabower ends the show with a high note, literally, as does the ensemble. But just as often cast members miss notes that are just out of their range.

Set designer (and director) Lauren Johnson’s background is nice, and Chris Grady’ s costuming is OK.

Footlite has produced musicals in the past that blew me away. Sadly, this isn’t one of them.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

The Phoenix Theatre: “The Children”

The Phoenix Theatre’s “The Children”

The Children: cerebral with punchlines. While it questions one’s willingness to sacrifice their life for another’s, it also contains tidbits like “I don’t need the blood of virgins [to stay young]. I do yoga.”

A nuclear meltdown has affected the town that Hazel (Donna Steele) and her husband Robin (Charles Goad) live in — a reactor where they both worked. Now, they are living in a small cottage on the outskirts of the affected area. Out of the blue, an old co-worker they haven’t seen in 38 years, Rose (Diane Kondrat), appears. There is some weird blood between the three of them, who are now all in their 60s. Rose’s ulterior motive for her visit is eventually brought to the fore, however: Groups of scientists are fixing the reactor at great peril to themselves due to the radioactive contamination. These are people in their 30s, many with families. Rose wants to recruit the older generation to replace the young ones, but in doing so, those in their retirement years would forfeit the remainder of their lives.

So the question again: Would you lay down the rest of your years to allow the next generation to survive? Most people would immediately say yes, but when actually confronted with the reality, it’s not such an easy choice.

The relationships of the three are intricate and intriguing. They are fleshed out in their faults, especially the passive aggressive banter between Rose and Hazel.

Bill Simmons brings the trio into a tight group that plays remarkably well off each other. There’s no denying the friction inside the bond they share. This is some excellent acting in a compelling play. Highly recommended.

Posted in Uncategorized

Indiana Repertory Theatre: “You Can’t Take It with You”

cant2
The IRT’s “You Can’t Take It with You.” Photos by Zach Rosing.

You Can’t Take It with You is, quite literally, a laugh-out-loud comedy worth every cent of the ticket price. To call this family eccentric doesn’t even begin to describe this bizarre cast of characters who eat cornflakes and tomatoes for dinner. As I was watching each character’s quirks unfold I was reminded of the family in the cartoon Meet the Robinsons, with Alice Sycamore (Janyce Caraballo), the “normal” one, being in a position similar to Marilyn in The Munsters but without the self-loathing.

cant3
Milicent Wright in IRT’s “You Can’t Take It with You.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

Set in the 1930s, there are some things that a woman isn’t inclined to do, such as write saucy plays, which is exactly what Penny Sycamore (Milicent Wright) does while eating candy from a skull-turned-candy dish. Her daughter, Essie (Mehry Eslaminia), is a simple girl, a wanna-be ballerina who dances (badly) instead of walks and is the source of the homemade candy, which her printing press obsessed husband, Ed (Carlos Medina Maldonado), delivers for her. The happy Aunt Rheba (Brianna Milan) is pretty normal and goes with the flow, though her accordion-playing boyfriend Donald (Adam Tran) lives in the house with her (scandal?). Paul Sycamore (James Leaming), the father, runs his fireworks business out of the basement (BOOM!) with the help of Mr. De Pinna (Ansley Valentine), who is also game to model in a toga for Penny’s (bad) painting. The patriarch of the family, Martin Vanderhof (Robert Elliott), most often referred to simply as “Grandpa,” takes all this in stride, as if nothing here is unusual. Of course, 30 odd years ago he spontaneously left his job on Wall Street and never looked back.

cant4
Joey Collins and Brianna Milan in IRT’s “You Can’t Take It with You.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

And yes, they all live in the same house, along with a tank of snakes (though admittedly it’s not clear if Mr. De Pinna lives there, but he is always there nonetheless).

The one non-resident is Boris Kolenkhov (Joey Collins), Essie’s dance instructor, though he is treated as family. He is a Russian caricature, pushing his exaggerated affectations for maximum effect. Friday night his toupee fell off during one of his salutation bows. I don’t know if it was intentional, but if not, keep it.

Everything is a typical day for them until Alice’s fiancé, the wealthy Tony Kirby (Aaron Kirby), who is also her boss, shows up with his family a day early for a dinner party meant for the two families to meet. Mr. Kirby (David Lively) and Mrs. Kirby (Carmen Roman), decked out in formal wear, stand amid the chaos. They, being the upper crust, are very reserved, proper, and completely befuddled by the scene in front of them, which includes a passed out actress (Molly Garner) disguised under a blanket as part of a divan and the Grand Duchess Olga of Russia (Jan Lucas), who works at a child’s restaurant and is currently making blintzes in the kitchen between her shifts.

cant5
Janyce Caraballo and Aaron Kirby in IRT’s “You Can’t Take It with You.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

Peter Amster has directed a great comedy, one of the best I have seen, with a cast that milks every last bit of comedic potential from their characters. I wasn’t kidding when I called it a laugh-out-loud comedy, and I assure you, you will find yourself doubled over a few times too.

Note must be taken of scenic designer Linda Buchanan’s absolutely gorgeous, mouth-watering period set. My companion and I both wanted to pick it up and replace our living rooms with it. It’s the first impression you get when you walk in the theater, a good one, and the show lives up to that initial impression with this high-quality production.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Civic Theatre: “Newsies”

newsies
Civic Theatre’s “Newsies”

Newsies, the Disney film turned stage musical, is a riot of exquisite choreography. The show was inspired by the New York City newsboys’ strike of 1899, and the adaptation captures the spirit of the boys’ (and girls’) determination to be paid a fair wage. It won four Tony Awards in 2012 for Alan Menken’s score and Christopher Gattelli’s choreography. Music director Brent Marty and choreographer Anne Beck make this community theater production just as musically and visually exciting.

Ensemble numbers are powerful explosions of these two elements, given heft by a huge cast showcasing both singing and dancing abilities. Director Susan Fleenor molded the cast into a cohesive unit.

Given the large cast, I won’t reprint the playbill here, but some names must be included in their outstanding performances, including leads Jake Letts as union leader Jack Kelley, his friend Crutchie played by David Cunningham, Ani Arzumanian as Jack’s love interest Katherine, and Steve Kruze as newspaper mogul Joseph Pulitzer.

The downside, except for the audio booms Saturday night? The plot is somewhat boring. I sometimes found myself glazing over between musical numbers. But if you are a fan of the movie, this will be a fulfilling retelling for you.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 4/26

The Phoenix Theatre: The Childrenseeyouthere

thechildren
The Phoenix Theatre’s “The Children”

Lucy Kirkwood’s award-winning new play begins as a bold comedy between a long-married couple and their intrepid friend from days gone by. In this explosive drama, three scientists are forced to rethink their life choices as educated elites, and the two women, in particular, are challenged to confront their responsibilities to themselves, their children, and the earth itself.

Ending this season’s Trail Talks series is an interactive theater night with longtime Phoenix artist Diane Kondrat (who is also in The Children) exploring end-of-life issues, April 30 at 6 p.m. The night also features Artistic Director Bill Simmons, Suzanne Fleenor, Kelsey Miller from The Christians, and A.K. Murtadha from Barbecue.

Storytelling Arts of Indiana: Andy Offutt Irwin telling “Love at 85” 

irwin
Andy Offutt Irwin

Bang, zoom, pop…Andy Offutt Irwin makes incredible noises with his mouth to add pizazz to his stories. Irwin is equal parts mischievous schoolboy and the Marx Brothers, peppered with a touch of the Southern balladeer. His story is about his 85-year-old aunt, Marguerite Van Camp, who graduated from medical school and started dating again. Put simply, it’s about adventure.

Ed. note: I have seen this guy perform before, and he is hi-lar-i-ous. I even have one of his CDs. Marguerite is a handful.

  • Saturday, April 27, 7 p.m.
  • $20
  • Indiana History Center 
  • Tickets here

Carmel Community Players: A Streetcar Named Desire

Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning 1947 play tells the story of a Southern belle, Blanche DuBois, who, after encountering a series of personal losses, leaves her aristocratic background, seeking refuge with her sister and brother-in-law 
in a dilapidated New Orleans tenement. The play reveals to the very depths the character of Blanche du Bois, a woman whose life has been undermined by her romantic illusions, which lead her to reject—so far as possible—the realities of life with which she is faced and which she consistently ignores. The pressure brought to bear upon her by her sister, with whom she goes to live in New Orleans, intensified by the earthy and extremely “normal” young husband of the latter, leads to a revelation of her tragic self-delusion and, in the end, to madness.

  • April 26-May 5, Fridays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and  Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $14-$16
  • The Cat
  • www.carmelplayers.org

Civic Theatre: Disney’s Newsiesseeyouthere

Set in turn-of-the century New York City, Newsies is the rousing tale of Jack Kelly, a charismatic newsboy and leader of a band of teenaged “newsies.” When titans of publishing raise distribution prices at the newsboys’ expense, Jack rallies newsies from across the city to strike against the unfair conditions and fight for what’s right!

seeyouthere

Indiana Repertory Theatre: You Can’t Take It with You

takeitwithyou
Indiana Repertory Theatre’s “You Can’t Take It with You”

The iconic madcap comedy written by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman explores the importance of finding happiness in the everyday, featuring eccentric characters who unapologetically pursue joy by playing the xylophone, dancing, making candy, throwing darts, and more. You Can’t Take It with You proves that money isn’t everything, especially when love and joy—whether found through relationships or hobbies—are involved. Last produced at the IRT in 1982, the Pulitzer Prize-winning show’s appeal comes from not only its hilarious cast of characters but also how its meaning changes as society changes.

Actors Theatre of Indiana: Forbidden Broadway

A musical parody of all things Broadway! In this long-running Off-Broadway hit musical, Broadway’s greatest musical legends meet Broadway’s greatest satirist in this hilarious, loving, and endlessly entertaining tribute to some of the theater’s greatest stars and songwriters. This cannon of witty and oftentimes brilliant parodies is a time capsule of the American Theater. Journey through more than 20 Broadway shows and spend the evening with the casts of The Little Mermaid, Newsies, Matilda, The Book of Mormon, The Lion King, Wicked, Mamma Mia, Hairspray, Les Miserables and so many more.

 

10-Minute New Play Festival

Six brand new playwrights with six unique voices. Five mothers with problems, forgotten boyfriends, fervent wishes and a magic tree. A lot can happen in ten minutes! 

Mrs. Pete’s Café by Mitch Vogel: Two friends enter a nearly empty, greasy diner on the Texas Gulf coast. One of them thinks their frumpy waitress might be a Hollywood babe, or is she?
 
Tree’s Company by John P. Gallo: A heartbroken woman on a mystical journey is stumped by an unforeseen obstacle—a radical environmentalist blocking the path back to her love.
 
Good Life Guarantee by Russell Menyhart. An exhausted mom, a mysterious visitor with a tantalizing offer…when you have a chance to transform your life, do you take it?
 
Can You Hear Me Now? by Nicole Amsler. Three generations of women relate to each other around their comic misunderstanding of the #metoo movement and their cellphones. 
 
Mothers and Daughters by Robin Lyster. A stressful morning leads to an unexpected conversation between two generations of women.
 
A Play on Words by Sam Hill. Powered through poetry, this play within a play follows young troubled lives, souls that are hoping to make their dreams come true

Clean Plate Club by Andrew Black. A woman at the local mall finds that her shopping trip is interrupted by a long-forgotten (and rather surreal) memory from the past.

  • April 26-27 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 28 at 4 p.m.
  • IndyFringe theater
  • $15 adults / $12 seniors/students
  • www.indyfringe.org

Extension

The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes has been extended through May 12.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 4/19

Mud Creek Players: Jesus Christ Superstar

The beloved, classic rock opera was first brought to the American stage in 1971 by Broadway and film musical legends Andrew Lloyd Webber (Cats, Phantom of the Opera) and Tim Rice (Evita, The Lion King). The highly acclaimed musical follows the last seven days in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Told mostly from the troubled perspectives of Judas Iscariot and Mary Magdalene, J.C.S. employs a timeless rock and roll score to examine one of the most important stories in the history of mankind.

Epilogue Players: The Unexpected Guest

A mystery by Agatha Christie. Lost in the fog, a stranger seeks refuge in a nearby house only to find a man shot dead and his wife standing over him with a smoking gun. But the womans dazed confession is anything but convincing.

  • April 18-28, Thursday-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.
  • $15; $13 seniors 65+ and students 18 & under; $10 Thursdays
  • http://www.epilogueplayers.com
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe LAFFShows: “The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes”

goldengirls
“Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes”

The new IndyFringe series LAFFShows aims to spoof. First, there was Hold on to Your Butts, which took Jurassic Park to task. Now, it’s The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes.

There’s a reason these episodes are lost, as Sophia pulling dildos out of her purse or Blanche’s beau popping out of the bedroom wearing a mesh onesie and giant codpiece would not make it onto TV — even cable — in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

There are two episodes split by an audience participation spot of “Guess that Girl,” where two people are chosen to vie for Golden Girls prizes. Brush up on your trivia — these aren’t throwaway questions. The skits are anchored in dick jokes, and some of it seems a little forced, but when it’s funny, it’s outrageous stuff.

Pat Mullen really takes the ubiquitous cheesecake in this show, vamping up the Southern belle Blanche. Donning Golden Girl drag alongside him are Jim Banta as Rose and Dave Ruark as Dorothy, with Olivia Schaperjohn as Sophia and Christian Condra as a very revealing, very enthusiastic multipurpose male.

Next up in the LAFF series is Fly You Fools!, a Lord of the Rings rip-off, May 3-25.

  • April 5-27, Fridays and Saturdays, 8 and 10 p.m.
  • $15
  • The District Theatre
  • www.indyfringe.org

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Indiana Repertory Theatre: “Amber Waves”

 

Playwright in residence James Still’s Amber Waves focuses on the dwindling lifestyle of family farming. What makes this a beautiful portrait of Heartland culture, given the tense circumstances around this family’s life, is that they do it for love. With corporate farming being the primary supplier of so many foodstuffs, love of the land is what keeps many of these farms alive even while so many other family farms collapse around them.

Lisa Rothe’s cast, Jordan Pecar, Mary Bacon, Torsten Hillhouse, William Brosnahan, Riley Iaria, and Charles Dumas play out the regular lives of regular people that tell a story many of us would never be privy to. Reading about the decline of family farming is much different from witnessing the stress and sacrifice needed to keep seed in the ground.

Musicians Tim Grimm and Rachel Eddy accompany the performance with a melodic soundtrack that evokes the “amber waves” of the Indiana countryside. These seemingly simple songs are as evocative as the characters onstage.

Amber Waves returns to the IRT after premiering in 2000, launching the IRT’s Indiana Series. Since then, Still has contributed seven plays to the series.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 4/5

Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes

goldengirls
“Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes”

An original parody of the beloved TV show. These gender-bending Girls find themselves in situations never before seen on television — that’s why they’re lost episodes! Written by David Cerda and Shade Murray and originally performed by Mr. Cerda and Hell in a Handbag Productions, the show features all of the beloved sitcom characters, including the forthright Dorothy, the sweet airheaded Rose, the lusty Blanche, and the sharp-tongued Sophia. In these “never before seen episodes,” they band together as Rose struggles with a debilitating malady and Blanche dates a younger man. The production also features The Golden Girls trivia and games to help fully embrace the Miami experience.

Indiana Repertory Theatre: Amber Waves

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 Wilber, with generous helpings of courage, love, and humor. Check the website for special programming for this play. which was written by playwright in residence James Still.

Beef & Boards: 42nd Street

A celebration of Broadway, Times Square, and the people who make the magic of musical theater, and winner of the Tony Award for Best Musical. Aspiring chorus girl Peggy Sawyer comes to the big city from Allentown Pennsylvania, and soon lands her first big job in the ensemble of a glitzy new Broadway show. But just before opening night, the leading lady breaks her ankle. Will Peggy be able to step in and become a star? The score is chock full of Broadway standards, including “You’re Getting To Be a Habit with Me,” “Dames,” “We’re In the Money,” “Lullaby of Broadway,” “Shuffle Off to Buffalo,” and “42nd Street.”

Make Me A Perfect –Asperger’s– Match

Max has Asperger’s. So does Victoria. They “met” on an online dating service for persons on the autism spectrum. A (mostly) cheerful Max asks the (always) overwhelmed Victoria for a date at the only place he feels comfortable, the break room at the McDonald’s where he works. Will they hit it off or just eat fries?

After the play, Autism professionals will lead a panel discussion about Asperger’s and autism. Audience members are encouraged to ask questions and take home informational brochures provided by panel members.

In late 2016, playwright Garret Mathews discovered at age 64 he had Asperger’s —
a high functioning form of autism. “It was truly one of life’s “Aha” moments. When I finally found out why I’ve always been different, it was like unbuttoning a cement overcoat. Now I understand why I think this, why I avoid that. I’m one of Asperger’s lucky ones. I can write. I earned a living penning the metro column for the Evansville Courier & Press.” The way I see it, if I don’t use my words to reach out to others with Asperger’s (and their loved ones), I’m the worst slacker on the planet. So I blog on the subject (medium.com/an-aspie-comes-out-of-the-closet). And I wrote this play (that’s mostly a comedy) loosely based on some Aspie folks I’ve met over the last three years. If Make Me an –Asperger’s– Match can contribute — even peripherally — to just one person having a similar “Aha” understanding about autism, my tale about the dating misadventures of Max and Victoria will be worthwhile.”

  • Saturday, April 6, 4:30 and 7 p.m.; Sunday, April 7, 2:30 and 5 p.m.
  • $15 adults / $12 seniors and students
  • IndyFringe
  • www.indyfringe.org

Footlite’s Got Talent

Footlite’s Got Talent is a family friendly variety show competition presented by Entr’acte. This event is a fundraiser to support Entr’acte’s continuing efforts to raise money for the purchase of a Macbook to be used by the all-volunteer orchestras. Come be entertained as local performers showcase their vocal, dance, and instrumental talents! Join the fun by donating to vote for your favorite act!

Extension

Lady Day by the Fonseca Theatre company has been extended through May 4.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Storytelling Arts of Indiana: “Silence: The Adventures of a Medieval Warrior Woman” told by Dolores Hydock 

silence
Dolores Hydock in “Silence: The Adventures of a Medieval Warrior Woman”

Dolores Hydock crafts a vivid tale that examines gender fluidity before there was vocabulary for such a thing. Based on the 13th century poem “The Roman de Silence,” the story is about a girl raised to be a boy during a time when women had no rights and they were destined to live their lives over a sewing needle. Hydock takes on the narrator figure of a stooped old woman of the time relating the tale to her listeners. Her performance is as mesmerizing as the story. She is accompanied by PanHarmonium, a trio that specializes in early music. Their haunting tunes enhance the performance and bring the production to a deeper submersion.

This performance was March 23. Catch Andy Offit Erwin, whom I’ve seen perform and is hilarious, April 27.

storytellingarts.org

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Civic Theatre: “The Importance of Being Ernest”

ernest5
Carrie A. Schlatter, Sabrina Duprey, Ethan Mathias, and Bradford Reilly in Civic’s “The Importance of Being Ernest.”

Michael J. Lasley and Parrish Williams have trimmed the Oscar Wilde play The Importance of Being Ernest into a fast-paced romp through Victorian England. All of Wilde’s sharp wit is intact, and Lasley, who directs, inserts some quirkiness into the already silly-fun show.

ernest3
Matt Anderson, Carrie A. Schlatter, and Sabrina Duprey in Civic’s “The Importance of Being Ernest”

To sum up, John Worthing is in love with Gwendolen Fairfax, who thinks his name is Ernest. To facilitate his comings and goings as he pleases, he is Ernest in London, but at his country home, he is John and has a fictional roguish brother Ernest. Gwendolen is adamant that the name Ernest is key to her love, so John is faced with procuring a hasty name change. John’s friend Algernon Moncrieff thinks marriage is a worthless institution and can’t understand why John is pursuing it. When “Algie” finds out that John has an 18-year-old ward in the country, he decides to investigate as John’s brother Ernest. There he meets Cecily Cardew and immediately decides he must marry her. However, Cecily has similar ideas regarding the name Ernest as Gwendolyn does, and so he too is faced with an imminent name change. There’s more, but this gets you started.

If all of this seems ridiculous, that’s because it’s supposed to be. The show’s subtitle is “A Trivial Comedy for Serious People.” But Wilde’s writing is so astute, and Lasley’s pacing keeps us focused on the language.

ernest6
Ethan Mathias and Bradford Reilly in Civic’s “The Importance of Being Ernest”

Matt Anderson as Lane/Merriman, Bradford Reilly as Algernon, Ethan Mathias as John, Vickie Cornelius Phipps as Lady Bracknell, Carrie A. Schlatter as Gwendolyn, Sabrina Duprey as Cecily, Miki Mathioudakis as Miss Prism, and Craig Kemp as the Rev. Chasubtle. The cast is perfectly competent in their roles. During scene changes, Anderson directs the actors in moving set pieces by ringing a bell and he bops along to jazzed-up pop songs. A little stroke of brilliance there. Cornelius Phipps presents a supercilious Lady Bracknell, and Schlatter, as Bracknell’s daughter, is as entitled as a young lady of wealth would be. Duprey is a lovely if spacy Cecily.

Reilly is a quandary, however. He crosses the line from fop to effeminate in his affectations. Given his performance, it would not be a stretch to think he is in love with John and jealous of Gwendolyn, hence his anti-marriage attitude. His pursuit of Cecily could be a way of getting John’s attention. Given the ending, this could be a very hellish outcome for him. Wouldn’t that be a twist on the play? And was it really necessary for him to talk with his mouth full of cucumber sandwich?

Quibble aside, this is an excellent period piece for modern audiences.

  • March 22-April 6, Wednesdays-Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $43
  • civictheatre.org

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 3/22

seeyouthereCivic Theatre: The Importance of Being Ernest

ernest
Civic Theatre’s “The Importance of Being Ernest”

Although the play was written near the end of the 19th century, the message is still valid: a person’s name and heritage mean little; it’s what you make of yourself that counts. Two charming young ladies — sophisticated Gwendolen from the city and naive Cecily from the country — are in love with Earnest Worthing. But there is no such person as Earnest Worthing. Gwendolen thinks Jack is Earnest, and Cecily thinks Algy is Earnest. Each girl swears that she could never love a man who wasn’t named Earnest. In the midst of all this confusion comes Lady Bracknell, who doesn’t like the idea of anybody loving anybody. It sounds like a big mess, but Oscar Wilde unwinds this knotty affair into one of the favorite comedies of English literature.

  • March 22-April 6, Wednesdays-Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $43
  • civictheatre.org

Garfield Shakespeare Company: Henry IV

Henry IV continues the tale of Henry Bolingbroke, crowned king with the help of the Percy family in Richard II. The Percies feel that their efforts and loyalty have not been recognized by the newly minted King Henry IV and seek revenge. The York family, in an ages-old feud with the Lancasters who now have the royal seat, also work to topple the king.

The Garfield Park Arts Center Main Gallery will be turned into a traditional English tavern. Friday and Saturday performances will even feature locally brewed beers provided by the Garfield Brewery.

seeyouthereStorytelling Arts of Indiana: “Silence: The Adventures of a Medieval Warrior Woman” told by Dolores Hydock 

silence
Dolores Hydock

Originally written in the 13th century, “The Roman de Silence” is finally recovering its voice after more than 700 years of, well, silence. The very existence of the manuscript containing the poem was unknown to the scholarly world until 1911, when it was discovered in the manor of a British nobleman in a box marked “Old papers — No value,” together with letters from Henry VIII and other documents. The poem was edited for the first time in the 1960s and translated from original Old French into English in 1992. The author, Heldris of Cornwall, is otherwise unknown. In fact, this is probably a pseudonym, and it’s not clear if it was a man or a woman.
 
Hydock adapted the scholarly translation into a story for 21st century listeners and created the “crone” narrator. The musicians of PanHarmonium selected, arranged, and interpreted a wide range of early music to provide a musical setting and themes. “In her reliably remarkable style, Hydock tells a painful, poignant, humorous, and hopeful story of a girl raised as a boy for the sake of property rights,” wrote one reviewer of the piece. “Talk about theater of the mind — Hydock creates a whole countryside using nothing but her voice, a heavy drape, and a walking staff.”

  • Saturday, March 23, 7-9 p.m. 
  • Eugene & Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center
  • $20
  • storytellingarts.org

Stage to Screen Catered Cabaret: A Lil’ Bit of Country

country
Stage To Screen’s “A Lil’ Bit of Country”

A boot-scootin’, family friendly dinner and a show!

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Indiana Repertory Theatre: “A Doll’s House Part 2”

dollhouse
Tracy Michelle Arnold and Nathan Hosner in the IRT’s “A Doll’s House Part 2”

The slam heard ’round the world in 1879 is now followed up by a simple knock on that same door. Fifteen years after Nora snubbed social convention by leaving her husband and three young children, she is back on that doorstep seeking a divorce that never happened, which has left in her an awkward legal situation.

While A Doll’s House Part 2 by Lucas Hnath, which was recently on Broadway, is touted as being able to stand alone from its precursor, A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen, I am hesitant to say that’s 100 percent true. Torvald is too easy to forgive, too sympathetic in this setting without knowing how he treated Nora in the original. One other small quibble: The modern playwright uses language and phrasing that we do instead of maintaining the language of the play’s time period. Hearing someone from the early 1900s say they are “pissed” can be confusing because normally that would mean drunk. So, it made my brain stumble when a fuck would fly.

Otherwise, the play is extremely engaging, quick and funny and hard and sad and angry and so, so many more emotions all at once because there is so much going on here. Both Nora and her husband Torvald have their newfound places in society on the line, and then there is the onslaught of feeling when confronting the family you abandoned and the wife and mother who abandoned you. Part 2 could stand alongside the original regarding its commentary on family, society, and awareness of the self.

IRT playwright in residence James Still directs Tracy Michelle Arnold as Nora, Nathan Hosner as Torvald, Kim Staunton as Anne Marie, and Becca Brown as Emmy. And what a ride. It’s tangled and messy, both domestically and morally, making Nora’s the perfect cautionary tale against getting married in the first place.

Still uses the word “engaging” in his program notes, and that is the perfect way to describe the entire production. No matter who is on stage, they are engaging in quick-fire succession — ideas, feelings, hostilities, forgiveness, determination, defeat. The stage is so full of engagements that the spare set feels ready to burst. The cast does an exemplary job of keeping up with it all and making it funny just when you need a break from the drama.

Highly recommended regardless of my small nitpicks.

  • Through April 7, various dates and times
  • $25+
  • IRTlive.com

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Fonseca Theatre Company: “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill”

ladyday
Monica Cantrell as Billie Holiday in the Fonseca Theatre Company’s “Lady Day”

1957. Segregation is still in full swing, but Billie Holiday isn’t letting patrol officers dampen her “blues feeling with a jazz beat.” Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill recreates Holiday’s last concert, which was held in a small bar much like The Linebacker, giving the audience a fully immersive experience, complete with a cameo by a tiny little ball of white fluff.

Monica Cantrell’s blues staging engulfs you in her sultry performance that combines vocals and body language. As Holiday lets the music drive her song set, she inserts anecdotes about life while her accompanist, Jimmy Powers (Jon Stombaugh), remains mostly silent.

This is a concert-driven piece of theater that does, of course, include the iconic “God Bless the Child.” The intermission splits the show at an odd place, and the show itself seems to end abruptly, but any Holiday or blues lover in general will find this to be a smooth way to spend an evening.

  • Through April 7, various dates and times
  • $25 or $15 for Near West residents. Individual tickets are $30 for the April 7 performance, which includes a special tribute and reception to commemorate Billie Holiday’s birthday. The special price does not impact Flex Pass holders.
  • The Linebacker, 2631 W. Michigan on the same block as Indy Convergence
  • All audience members must be 21 or older.
  • fonsecatheatre.org

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Openings for the weekend of 3/15

Fonseca Theater Company: Lady Day

ladyday
Monica Cantrell as Billie Holiday in the Fonseca Theatre Company’s “Lady Day”

1959. A seedy bar in Philadelphia. You’re about to witness one of Billie Holiday’s last performances, given four months before her death. More than a dozen powerful musical numbers are interlaced with salty, often humorous reminiscences to project a dynamic portrait of the lady. As she shares the ups and downs of what it meant to be a powerful woman of color in 1950s America, you can’t help but fall in love with the iconic Lady Day. Lady Day will be a truly unique production, lending even more weight to an already powerful script because it will be held at the Linebacker for a site-specific experience.

  • Through April 7, various dates and times
  • $25 or $15 for Near West residents. Individual tickets are $30 for the April 7 performance, which includes a special tribute and reception to commemorate Billie Holiday’s birthday. The special price does not impact Flex Pass holders.
  • The Linebacker, 2631 W. Michigan on the same block as Indy Convergence
  • All audience members must be 21 or older.
  • Tickets here

Indiana Repertory Theatre: A Doll’s House 2

The Indiana premiere of one of the most produced shows across the country by Lucas Hnath. Straight from Broadway, this is a scaldingly funny and deadly serious exploration of divorce, family, and lost love. The inspiration for Hnath’s work is Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 A Doll’s House, a revered, controversial, and groundbreaking play focused on feminism, marriage, and societal expectations — themes which continue in Part 2 and are still relevant today, 140 years after the original was written. Ibsen’s version ends with the “slam heard around the world” as the main character Nora leaves behind her domestic life in pursuit of identity and independence, and A Doll’s House 2 starts with a knock at that same door 15 years later. What happens throughout the play is a fierce and funny five-round boxing match as the characters explore and engage their feelings and each other during an unexpected reunion. The production does not require its original to exist wholly on its own.

  • Through April 7, varios dates and times
  • $25+
  • IRTlive.com

Also at the IRT, more weekday and weekend performances of Elephant & Piggie’s “We Are in a Play!” have been added through March 31.

Discount for Beef & Boards’ 42nd Street

42nd

Footlite’s Got Talent

This is a family friendly variety show competition presented by Entr’acte on Sunday, April 7 at 2:30 p.m.. This event is a fundraiser to support Entr’acte’s continuing efforts to raise money for the purchase of a MacBook to be used by the all volunteer orchestras. Come be entertained as local performers showcase their vocal, dance, and instrumental talents. Join the fun by donating to vote for your favorite act. Interested in performing? Register by March 22.

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

LAFFShows: “Hold on to Your Butts”

butts
Jim Banta and Pat Mullen in “Hold on to Your Butts”

Before I say anything else, you need to know that in order to get the most out of the show, you have to be a fan of Jurassic Park (the first one). If you aren’t, most of what’s happening onstage will leap right over your head. That being said, I am a dino-sized fan of all the films (and books), to the point that I can recite right along with the actors the chunks of dialogue lifted from the film for this show.

butts1
Jim Banta and Pat Mullen in “Hold on to Your Butts”

The parody takes Jurassic Park and condenses it into a one-hour marathon with two actors (Jim Banta and Pat Mullen) and a sound artist (foley Olivia Schaperjohn). Banta and Mullen take on all the characters, including the dinosaurs and even props, and you haven’t seen prehistoric comedy until you’ve seen a strap-on traffic cone used as a T. rex tail. The use of an umbrella to represent a Dilophosaurus is also brilliantly apropos. And the actors run (often literally) with it.

Over-the-top impressions, crazy props, and the frenetic pace make for a show as deadpan as a living dinosaur. Best of the best are impressions of the intense park keeper Muldoon and the skeevy Ian Malcolm, who sounds like a high Dory. (Why WAS Malcolm’s shirt undone like some ‘70s gigolo?) Banta and Mullen look like a couple of nutters up there, and it’s awesome.

butts4Using a foley artist was cool at first, but after a while, it gets grating, like those creaky doors opening and closing. Personally, I would cut back on that. Not that it subtracted from this fangirl’s fun. As Samuel Jackson says in the movie, “Hold on to your butts.” This is going to be an unpredictable ride.

This is the first troupe to perform the show since Recent Cutbacks premiered it. It’s also part of the LAFFShows series, which includes The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes and Fly You Fools, a Lord of the Rings parody.

butts2
Jim Banta and Pat Mullen in “Hold on to Your Butts”

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Fat Turtle Theatre Company: “Letters Sent”

letterssent
Becky Lee Meacham, Lexy Weixel, and Victoria Kortz in Fat Turtle Theatre Company’s “Letters Sent”

Letters Sent explores the aftermath of a suicide attempt and its effects on friends and family. Claire (Lexy Weixel), a young adult living on her own, sent out nine confessional letters before slashing open her arm. Somehow, her mother received her letter in the mail soon enough to find her daughter still alive and got her to the hospital in time to save her life. Now, Claire is living in her mother’s home while she recovers from the attempt and undergoes therapy, both talk and pharmaceutical.

Anyone who has dealt with major depressive disorder with suicidal tendencies, either in themselves or loved ones, will recognize Claire’s emotions (anger, frustration, failure, worthlessness, fatigue, isolation) and erratic behavior (lashing out, mood swings) as they are pretty textbook. As are her mother’s emotions (Kathryn Comer Paton): frustration, helplessness, overprotectiveness, anger, hurt, and betrayal.

With Becky Lee Meacham, Joe Barsanti, and Victoria Kortz as Claire’s friends; Wendy Brown as her therapist; and Doug Powers as her father, the show, directed by Brandi Underwood, doesn’t broach anything new or have any revelatory moments. It feels long and drawn out. The characters aren’t particularly interesting or individualistic so there’s little to invest in them.

This is the world premiere of Letters Sent by Janice Hibbard, and I feel it needs to be kicked back to workshopping for character development and story arc.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Footlite Musicals: “Singin’ in the Rain”

singin
Footlite Musicals’ “Singin’ in the Rain.” photogary.net

For me, the best part about Singin’ in the Rain is the real rain onstage for the titular song. And at Footlite, the first row is a sprinkle zone, so heads up. Another important element is the tap dancing. Let me tell you something: Tapping is hard. So I bet choreographer Trish Roberds had her hands full getting all these volunteer performers in sync. But she did, and they did, and it was super impressive. Juddson Updike as Cosmo Brown and Grant Russel as Don Lockwood have some great moves in “Moses Supposes.”

As for the leads, Sydney Norwalk is beautiful as love interest Kathy Selden, and Updike combines slapstick humor with his solid vocal numbers. Unfortunately, Russel is flat at times, but his overall performance makes up for a few missed notes. And in a one-off performance, Russell Watson gives a stunning performance of “Beautiful Girl.”

Costume designer Curt Pickard outdid himself with the chorus girls’ costumes, and he the cast in general gave off the 1920s vibe.

Kathleen Clarke Horrigan directs this classic in such a way that any fan will be thrilled with the production.

  • Through March 17, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $15-$25
  • footlite.org

https://www.facebook.com/Footlite/videos/1155357184630711/

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

District Theater: “Yank: A WWII Love Story”

yank2
District Theater’s “Yank: A WWII Love Story” photo by Gary Nelson

It’s hard to believe that in the past, being gay in the Army could land you three years of hard labor. This boggles my mind. How does that aspect of your life affect your ability to do your duty? If the government drafted you, they should be glad you are there anyway. But instead of just making you kill people, which is heinous enough, they also harshly punished anyone suspected of homosexual activity. This is ironic because their justification for their treatment of gay people was that homosexuality was a mental illness. So I suppose they though hard labor would cure you. In 1982, gay people were official banned from the military, and any currently serving were discharged. This remained in effect until 1993, with the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which forced gay service people into the closet. Finally, in 2011, homosexuality was no longer registered as a crime.

Yank: The Musical is set during World War II. Stuart (Jonathan Krouse) is starting basic training, and he keeps a journal, which he plans to publish once the war is over. Stuart is immediately drawn to one of the men in his squad, Mitch (Tanner Brunson). But Stuart is confused and awkward. He doesn’t really understand or acknowledge the feelings he has. Mitch takes a shine to Stuart as well, and semi-innocently flirts with him in a nebulous sort of way. Until the kiss. And things go downhill from there. Stuart is given an out by joining up with Yank Magazine under the guidance of Artie (D. Scott Robinson), who shows him the ins and outs (so to speak) of being gay in the military.

yank
District Theatre: “Yank: A WWII Love Story.” photo by Gary Nelson

This is a superlative show in its acting, singing, and emoting. You are sincerely invested in the fates of these young men — even the auxiliary characters. From funny to heart wrenching, the show runs the gamut, and the musical numbers are iconic. The production is engrossing, and the performances are standing ovation worthy.

Brunson has a dreamy voice that is reminiscent of 1940s crooners, whereas Krouse’s equally talented chords sing to us in a much more mellow way that reflects his personality. A personality that we see grow from an introverted klutz to a man assured of his worth in the world. That’s some serious character growth.

Authentic historical slides take the place of a backdrop, which I found to be much more effective, reminding us that this is more than just a story — the war was a real, catastrophic event.

Under director Tim Spradlin, Krouse, Brunson, Robinson, Jessica Hawkins (as literally Every Woman), Isaac Becker, Dominic Piedmonte, Scott Fleshood, Joshua Cox, Bryant Mehay, Jerry Beasley, Lance Gray, and Kevin Bell, with vocal director John Phillips and a live orchestra, have created a show that will take you back in time. It’s a love story that reminds us where we’ve been, where we are, and that we still have a ways to go.

  • Through March 24, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m.
  • $25 general admission; $20 seniors & students; $15 for active & retired military (with ID)
  • www.indyfringe.org/theatre-show/yank

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Phoenix Theatre: “The Hotel Nepenthe”

nepthene
Ben Asaykwee in Phoenix Theatre’s “The Hotel Nepenthe”

The phrase “dream state” is used in the program notes to describe The Hotel Nepenthe, and there is not a more accurate descriptor. The show could have come straight from playwright John Kuntz’s Chantix- or Valium-induced lucid dreams.

Fourteen scenes are staged using four actors: Ben Asaykwee, Jolene Mintink Moffatt, Betsy Norton, and Scott Van Wye. From hard-to-find dead babies, to whore(r) stories, to the purple human pincushion, to burial with Eggo waffles, eccentricity abounds. Oh, and the statement that smoking menthols is like sucking on a candy cane’s ass. Or how one minute you’re making goo-goo eyes and the next you are fucking a camel.

Eccentricities.

With Bill Simmons at the helm, the production celebrates dark and/or grotesque humor but also puts the audience on edge. All four actors seamlessly transition from character to character, giving each one just what he or she needs to make them real.

And there is a through line if you squint.

This is a challenging show. It’s not for everybody. You will leave either blown away or confused as hell. Decide how far you will let your mind take you.

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 3/1

District Theatre: Yank! — A WWII Love Story

yank
District Theatre: “Yank! — A WWII Love Story”

This plushly scored piece by brothers Joseph and David Zellnik is an unabashed throwback to the golden era of Broadway, in which the creators have attempted to imagine “the show that Rodgers and Hammerstein never wrote.” Indeed, it’s the show that no classic Broadway team could possibly have written, as it deals with the subject of gay men in the US army at a time when the penalty was three years in military prison.

Once in modern San Francisco a young man found a diary of 60 years old in a junk shop. Having read it, he discovered that it were the personal notes made by a soldier in 1943. When the young farmer Stu, living in the Midwest, was 18 years old, he received a summons to the army. In training camp, located in the Texas, young recruits learnt martial weapons that they had to know during the military service in the battles in the Pacific. For Stu, it was very hard to stay in colleagues’ circle, as he hid from them his homosexuality. For a young man, it became even more difficult to stay in the camp, when he had the urge to brave Mitch. Falling in love with a comrade, Stu did not know how to tell him about his feelings. Mitch also realized his awakened sexual desire for men, but he resisted, remembering girlfriends back home. 

When recruits fulfilled training military skills, they were put on a train and sent to the west coast of the country. Taking advantage of the moment, Stu confessed Mitch of his feelings and kissed him. Soon it turned out that a colleague was experiencing response cravings to this young man. Caught in the midst of battle, many soldiers lost their hearts. The same emotion came to Stu, who was terrified after seeing the massacre. Soon the young man met with a reporter-gay from Yank Magazine. Artie got the young man assigned to him as a photographer. Getting rid Stu of the nightmare of fighting and fear of death, he also alienated him from partner Mitch. Under the guidance of an experienced homosexual, young man discovered the secret gay world, which existed in the army. Stu trusted all new experiences to his diary. Only after many months, he was able to be reunited with a former lover. When a young man’s notebook with personal records fell into the wrong hands, it has caused detrimental effects for the pair. Stu had to endure not only the battle with the enemies of his country, but also with colleagues. 

  • March 1-24, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m.
  • $25 general admission; $20 seniors & students; $15 for active & retired military (with ID)
  • www.indyfringe.org/theatre-show/yank

Footlite Musicals: Singin’ in the Rain

singin
Footlite Musicals’ “Singin’ in the Rain.” photo by photogary.net

This show is faithfully adapted by Broadway legends Betty Comden and Adolph Green from their original award-winning screenplay. The must-see classic musical is filled with every memorable moment from the film, including extraordinary dance numbers, a downpour of unforgettable songs, and a real rain shower.

  • March 1-17, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $15-$25
  • footlite.org

https://www.facebook.com/Footlite/videos/1155357184630711/

Phoenix Theatre: The Hotel Nepenthe

nepthene
Ben Asaykwee in Phoenix Theatre’s “The Hotel Nepenthe”

A gruesome murder, a fatal accident, and a missing infant—anything can happen at Hotel Nepenthe, a locale straight out of the film noir of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Four actors portray nineteen characters in this poignant dark comedy that oscillates between absurdity and deeply emotional honesty. Warning: This show has strong adult content and situations.

https://www.facebook.com/indyfirebird/videos/624633921290875/

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Indiana Repertory Theatre: “Elephant and Piggie’s ‘We Are in a Play!’”

elephant2
Carlos Medina Maldonado and Devan Mathias in the IRT’s “Elephant and Piggie’s ‘We Are in a Play'”

Elephant and Piggie’s “We Are in a Play!” is an adorable musical adaptation of the books by Mo Willems featuring the titular characters. (Sorry, no Pigeon here.) Devan Mathias as Piggie and Carlos Medina Maldonado as Gerald the elephant bring the characters to life in this romp through a day in the life, with Brianna Milan, Tiffany Gilliam, and Jaddy Ciucci backing them up as The Squirrelles in an impressive showing. Director Benjamin Hanna keeps the focus squarely on the target audience of ages 3 to 8 (though my 9-year-old loved it) in the fifth installment of the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s Exploring Stages program.

Kids and their adults can sit on the floor with their coloring book program or opt for chairs if the storytime seating threatens grow-ups’ joints or backs. The crazy adventures are milked for kid-centric silliness, and the children are engrossed from the start. From a mom’s point of view, I thought the storyline was a bit off centered, but my son wanted to go again after it was over. No higher recommendation is possible, especially from my little wiggler.

  • The show is approximately 75 minutes, including pre- and post-show activities.  
  • Through March 24, various times
  • $8+
  • www.irtlive.com

 

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Carmel Community Players: “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change”

iluvu
Christian Condra and Brenna Whitaker in Carmel Community Players’ “I Love You, “You’re Perfect, Now Change”

Oh, this crazy little thing called love.

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change is a series of stand-alone musical numbers covering relationships from the first date to widow(er) funeral pickups — and all the exploits that come in between. Dee Timi directs Libby Buck, Christian Condra, Jonathan Scoble, and Brenna Whitaker, with musical director Sandy Baetzhold, through what can only be described as the comedic, awkward, embarrassing, and exhausting pitfalls of relationships and marriage.

However, don’t assume this is a family musical. It’s often blatantly sexual, and one number is devoted to sex itself. Sing it. “We’re married, and we’re gonna have sex.” That excitement that comes when the kids are in bed (for now), the laundry is done (for now), and the house is picked up (for now), and Mommy and Daddy are gonna do it.

There are some tender moments, such as “Shouldn’t I Be Less in Love with You,” in which Scoble sings about his enduring love for his wife, and there is an intense monologue by Whitaker, “The Very First Dating Video by Rose Ritz,” in which she ends up relating the intense hurt she suffered in her divorce.

Men seem to be the butt of the jokes more often than women are, and the females of the cast outdo the male ones vocally, especially in a note-takingly beautiful “I Will Be Loved Tonight” by Buck. But the guys make up for it in their sheer determination to take every potential gag as far as possible — and then take it one step more.

iluvu2
Brenna Whitaker and Libby Buck in Carmel Community Players’ “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change”

Pitch perfect or not, this is a show worth seeing — especially with a date.

  • Through March 10, Fridays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $18-$20
  • The Cat theater
  • www.carmelplayers.org
     
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 2/22

Black & 25 in America

Jeremy Gillett
Jeremy Gillett

Los Angeles-based actor Jeremy Gillett will staging his one-man show. Black & 25 explores difficult issues through the life stories of several African-American characters in their mid-20s, people like Big Man, the high school football standout who couldn’t escape gang life; Joshua Thomas Northington III, a conservative, preppy black man who struggles with privilege; and Marcy, a bi-racial woman who has to carefully navigate two cultures while keeping her sanity. Through these narratives and more, Gillett gives his audience insight to what it is like to be a young, black adult in the first decades of the United States in the 21st century.

Carmel Community Players: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change

This celebration of the mating game takes on the truths and myths behind that contemporary conundrum known as “the relationship.” Act I explores the journey from dating and waiting to love and marriage, and Act II reveals the agonies and triumphs of in-laws and newborns, trips in the family car, and pick-up techniques of the geriatric set. This hilarious musical revue pays tribute to those who have loved and lost, to those who have fallen on their face at the portal of romance, to those who have dared to ask, “Say, what are you doing Saturday night?”

  • Feb, 22-March 10, Fridays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $18-$20
  • The Cat theater
  • www.carmelplayers.org

IndyFringe: Winter Magic Showcase 

This is a unique event, designed to bring back to the stage amazing, live magic shows and present the world’s top magicians in an intimate, close-up setting where you can’t miss a trick! Hosted by Kevin Burke, the Magic Showcase features Murray SawChuck, Gazzo , Steve Daly, and Michael Kent.

  • Feb. 21-24, 7 p.m.
  • Reserve a table for two or four at $30 per person, or general admission seating is $25 adults/$20 senior/$15 students.
  • http://www.indyfringe.org

University of Indianapolis: Her Lies, His Secrets Part 2

A suspense thriller written by D.P. DeMarco.

  • Saturday, Feb. 23 at 6 p.m.
  • $20-$33
  • Ruth Lilly Performance Hall
  • demarcoplays.com 

 

Indiana Repertory Theatre: Elephant & Piggie’s “We Are in a Play!”

elephant
Artwork by Kyle Ragsdale

The award-winning children’s author Mo Willems scripted this Exploring Stages production.  It’s 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.  The show is approximately 75 minutes, including pre- and post-show activities.  

Storytelling Arts of Indiana: Timeless: The Story of the Town Clock Church told by Celestine Bloomfield

celesteThe saga of the restoration of a historically black church in New Albany, Indiana. Bloomfield researched and shaped this new story, choosing to tell it through the eyes of the church’s female congregants, strong women of faith who took on the impossible and prevailed. Built in 1852, the Second Baptist needed hundreds of thousands of dollars of repairs in 2013, when a group of people first started meeting to figure out how to salvage the building. They overcame enormous obstacles to fully restore their beloved church to its former glory, including its majestic steeple that can be seen from anywhere in town, hence the nickname “Town Clock Church.” That steeple was said to be a “beacon of hope” for runaway slaves before the Civil War and the church a way station on the Underground Railroad.   

  • Feb. 24, 4-5:15 p.m.
  • $15 in advance, $20 at the door
  • Indiana Landmarks Center
  • storytellingarts.org

North Central High School: Winter One Acts

Lockdown by Douglas Craven.  In a dark classroom, eight students sit in an “official lockdown,” not knowing if it’s just a drill or an actual emergency. When a hysterical younger girl bolts from the room and the teacher follows, the remaining students are left alone to decide if it’s safer to stay or run.

The Yellow Boat by David Saar. The story of The Yellow Boat is a glorious affirmation of a child’s life and the strength and courage of all children. This dramatization is based on the true story of David and Sonja Saar’s son, Benjamin, who was born with congenital hemophilia and died in 1987 at the age of 8 of AIDS-related complications. A uniquely gifted visual artist, Benjamin’s buoyant imagination transformed his physical and emotional pain into a blaze of colors and shapes in his fanciful drawings and paintings. A Scandinavian folk song tells of three little boats: “One was blue, one was red and one was yellow as the sun. They sailed far out to sea. The blue one returned to the harbor. The red one sailed home, too. But the yellow boat sailed up to the sun.” Benjamin always concluded his bedtime ritual by saying, “Mom, you can be the red boat or the blue boat, but I am the yellow boat.” Benjamin’s remarkable voyage continues to touch audiences around the world.

Lose Not Thy Head by Gary Rodgers. The Viscountess is in a funk. She’s lost her passion for her job as lead executioner. This may or may not help the next victim.
Joan has been sentenced to lose her head for impersonating her famous brother William Shakespeare. He’s disappeared with all his earnings and Joan has been trying to finish his latest play about Henry VIII. Joan pleads for her life, Death waits for Joan to die, a severed Head says beheading isn’t so bad, a Sigmund Freud-type doctor tries to convince everyone that you can’t sew a head back on a body, and then things get weird. If you like Shakespeare, Monty Python, a little love, a little death, a lot of laughs and lunch at the pub, you must read Lose Not Thy Head!

PUNpocalypse: A Pun/Dad Joke Competition

Are YOU the punniest person in Indianapolis? Put those terrible dad jokes to the test and compete for fabulous prizes! Sign up in advance required to compete, or 15 minutes before the competition if spots are still available. There will be three rounds to challenge your pun-based skills, judges to keep you in line, and opportunities for the audience to win prizes for puns in between rounds. If you don’t wanna compete just sit back and watch the puns fly!

  • Feb. 25, 7:30-9 p.m.
  • To register, click here. Spectator admission is free.
  • Books & Brews on Mass Ave
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Mud Creek Players: “Almost, Maine”

almostmain4
Kyrsten Lyster and Matt Hartzburg and Mud Creek Players’ “Almost, Maine”

Though Almost, Maine is a series of short love stories, Mud Creek’s production is not sappy. Instead, it’s (mostly) embarrassingly funny — embarrassing, that is, for the characters on stage who find themselves in awkward or just odd situations. Said situations include a literally broken heart, a literal shoe drop, ironing board as a literally potential lethal weapon, literally falling in love, and literal sacks of love. Among all this comedy there are some poignant moments, such as the dashing of hope, but even these vignettes are done elegantly so that they don’t feel like a Lifetime snippet.

almostmain3
Mason Odle and Jennifer Poynter in Mud Creek Players’ “Almost, Maine”

The name, Almost, Maine, comes from the small community the play is set in. Nine couples have unusual interactions under the Northern Lights one Friday night. Could be something supernatural? Could be just plain silly playwriting.

Andrea Odle directs a multipurpose cast that does spot-on jobs for each of their various characters: Matt Hartzburg, Jackson Stollings, Kyrsten Lyster, Mason Odle, Lexi Odle, and Jennifer Poynter are all consistently on point, taking each scene quite seriously regardless of the circumstances, making the weird seem normal somehow.

almostmaine
Jackson Stollings and Lexi Odle in Mud Creek Players’ “Almost, Maine”

Don’t let the love story theme deter you. This show is hilarious and well worth the trip through BFE to get to the little barn theater.

  • Through March 2, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. plus Sunday, Feb. 24 at 2:30 p.m.
  • $15 evenings; $13 matinees
  • www.mudcreekplayers.org
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 2/15

Mud Creek Players: Almost, Maine

almostmaine
Jackson Stollings and Lexi Odle in Mud Creek Players’ “Almost, Maine”

Welcome to Almost, Maine, a town that’s so far north, it’s almost not in the United States — it’s almost in Canada. And it almost doesn’t exist because its residents never got around to getting organized. So it’s just … Almost. One cold, clear Friday night in the middle of winter, while the northern lights hover in the sky above, Almost’s residents find themselves falling in and out of love in the strangest ways. Knees are bruised. Hearts are broken. Love is lost, found, and confounded. And life for the people of Almost, Maine, will never be the same. Almost, Maine: It’s love. But not quite.

  • Feb. 14, 7:30 p.m. Pay What You Want Night. Feb. 15-March 2, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. plus Sunday, Feb. 24 at 2:30 p.m.
  • $15 evenings; $13 matinees
  • www.mudcreekplayers.org

Epilogue Players: Wait Until Dark

Frederick Knott’s thriller is the story of Susy Hendrix, a recently blinded housewife who unwittingly possesses a doll filled with illicit drugs. Harry Roat, a brutal and sophisticated criminal, coerces two small-time thugs into helping him con Susy into giving up the doll. A battle of wits ensues as Susy and the young girl upstairs launch a counterplot against the thieves. The drama plays on the themes of darkness and light as Susy navigates through her sightless world, and the crooks signal each other with light through the Venetian blinds. Note: Many dates are sold out already. Make reservations ASAP.

  • Feb. 14-24, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $12-$15
  • Tickets

 

Indiana Repertory Theatre: Elephant and Piggie’s We Are in a Play!

 For the IRT’s fifth year of its Exploring Stages program, the theater will produce its first-ever musical in this youth-serving series based on the book by award-winning children’s illustrator and author Mo Willems. The show is for children ages 3-8 years old and their families. This daytime production features storytime seating where children and adults can sit on the floor, in addition to chair options along the back or side of the theater. There will be pre- and post-show activities for an experience totaling 75 minutes.

Beef & Boards: The Cat in the Hat

From the moment his tall, red-and-white-striped hat appears around the door, Sally and her brother know that The Cat in the Hat is the funniest, most mischievous cat that they have ever met. With the trickiest of tricks and the craziest of ideas, he turns a rainy afternoon into an amazing adventure! 

  • Feb. 15-March 2, Fridays at 10 a.m. and Saturdays at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. 
  • $17
  • www.beefandboards.com

Stage To Screen Studios: Them Girls

Iconic musical selections from The Supremes, The Pointer Sisters, and Diana Summers. This is a catered cabaret events, and reservations must be made in advance.

 

Timeless V-day Cabaret

timeless

IRT’s Celebrity Radio Show

The event will feature Tony Kanaan, Chris Ballard, Tom Griswold, and more. The evening includes a silent auction and live entertainment on the IRT’s OneAmerica Mainstage, along with food and drink.

IRT’s Celebrity Radio Show 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 handcrafted script presented as a 1940s radio program with live sound effects, audience participation, and community VIPs dressed in costumes. This year’s theme is The Bridges of Marion County: Detour Ahead! Tickets include complimentary valet parking, drinks, and hors d’oeuvres. Proceeds from the night will go toward helping the IRT put world-class theater on its stages. 

  • Friday, Feb. 15. Reception begins at 6:30 p.m. with show starting at 8 p.m.
  • $175
  •  www.irtlive.com

Ticket Sales

Save $10 off the first two weeks of the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s A Doll’s House, Part 2 using promo code HOUSE1. Offer valid on performances March 12-24 when you book by Feb. 24. www.irtlive.com.

Early Bird Sale for the Phoenix Theatre’s The Hotel Nepenthe Friday, Feb. 15. Use promo code HAT BOX. www.phoenixtheatre.org.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Civic Theatre: “To Kill a Mockingbird”

mockingbird2
Steve Kruze in Civic Theatre’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

As reclusive as Boo Radley is, To Kill a Mockingbird is as ubiquitous, being a favorite among theater-goers and school groups alike. Civic Theatre’s rendition is the quintessential live production, with all the heart that goes into Harper Lee’s classic story.

The adult Jean Louise (Michelle Wafford) narrates the story about her father Atticus’s (Steve Kruze) trial defense of a black man, Tom Robinson (Antoine Demmings), back when she was a little girl called Scout (Bridget Bingham) in 1935. She, her brother Jem (Dalyn Stewart), and out-of-town friend Dill (Ben Boyce) had been especially speculating on the hermit Boo Radley (Colby Rison) since his brother Nathan (also played by Rison) had returned to take care of him, and Scout had been finding small gifts in the knot of a tree that separated their property.

mockingbord3
Bridget Bingham in Civic Theatre’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

That summer, Scout and Jem, and by extension Dill, learn a lot about the nature of people — the unseen things that make people more than a one-dimensional caricature — and what it means to do the right thing.

The large cast does a lovely job of bringing the townspeople of Maycomb, Alabama, to life. The children are charming, and Kruze effectively conveys both the fortitude and weariness of a man besieged by honor.

Emily Rogge Tzucker directs a show that brings the life-changing events home for the audience. The show is both shrewd and sympathetic as it reveals the best and worst of humanity.

  • Through Feb. 23, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7 p.m. (except the last Saturday at 5 p.m.) and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $43; $25 students
  • http://civictheatre.org

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Catalyst Repertory: “Arcadefire! The Redemption of Billy Mitchell”

The Man, the Myth, the Tie

billy
The real Billy Mitchell at Tappers Arcade Bar before the 2018 Fringe premiere of “Arcadefire!”

Just being “Billy Mitchell” is a job.

It’s the tie.

Those star-spangled monstrosities that are part of his persona’s costume are also the on-and-off switch for Billy the Video Game Player of the Century versus Billy the normal if nerdy 53-year-old husband, father, and restaurant owner. At Thursday night’s final dress rehearsal of Arcadefire! The Redemption of Billy Mitchell, I think the tie loosened up some, but I don’t think it ever really left that phantom-noose-like position around his neck. After the show, a few people retired to Tappers Arcade Bar. Even though my companion and I arrived at least 30 minutes before Billy and set up camp next to the Donkey Kong machine, the 6-and-a-half-foot Billy managed to elude me and bee-lined to the game cabinet.

While not on par with Just Jared celebs, Billy still has a, granted small, retinue to keep track of things like Twitch feeds and costuming, not to mention appearances and such. His right-hand man Neil Hernandez dresses up as Mario. It’s adorable. And not long after Billy got going on the pixelated apeman at Tappers, there was Neil with the camera to capture each of Billy’s moves. I think I got in the way of that. Sorry not sorry. As I said at the time, it’s a game. It seems to me that it’s not a lot of fun anymore.

But that’s the job of being Billy Mitchell, Video Game Player of the Century.

Billy is affable regardless of his reputation for being kind of an asshole. The first time I met him was at the Sunday afternoon 2018 IndyFringe Festival weekend premiere of Casey Ross’s Arcadefire! At the time, I didn’t know what a Billy Mitchell was. All I knew was that the show was written by Casey, which put it on my to-see list, and that it was a musical about video games. As I moved forward in the queue to enter the theater, I saw a giant man with long dark hair wearing a white suit and an American flag tie who was standing at the entrance greeting the audience. I didn’t think too much of this anomaly. It was the Fringe, after all. Crazy shit happens. When it was my turn to enter, Billy shook my hand and he and his fellow greeter (Walter Day) said some flattering things to me, and then I was on my way. As I was leaving, Billy took my hand again and paid me another compliment. And that was that.

So I thought.

And I had STILL not put two and two together because I am, occasionally, an idiot.

As I sat in the Firefighters Union Hall lobby waiting for my next show, I Googled Billy Mitchell to verify if this was a real person. And that’s when I discovered that the flirtatious snowdrift was, in fact, the real Billy Mitchell. And here he came again, even taller now that I was seated. (I’m just shy of 5-foot-2.) My first response: “Are you really Billy Mitchell?” So he pulled out his driver’s license to verify that yes, he was in fact the real Billy Mitchell. We chatted for a few minutes, a conversation in which he admitted to being an unapologetic flirt, and later he came back over to give me a few of the trading cards that Day had designed for the event that was to take place later that night at Tappers.

All this struck me as funny. So I had to text one of my best friends who happens to have enough knowledge about 1980s pop culture that he could rival the Recordkeeper in Ready Player One. (This happens to be the same person who accompanied me to the show Thursday, my fellow journalist and best friend of 20-odd years, Paul Pogue.)

Me: Do you know who Billy Mitchell of Donkey Kong fame is? I think he was [censored].

<radio silence>

Paul: I think you broke my husband.

Yeah, that was from his wife, another best friend of mine, Katrina, responding because Paul was on the floor laughing, with tears running down his face.

Billy is more than happy, eager even to talk to you — he is very fan-centric — so long as you focus on positivity … and you aren’t a journalist. Billy is notorious for his hatred of journalists because he doesn’t think there are any real ones left. Which is funny since 1) I am a journalist, and 2) he did an interview with these guys this week. Sure, they aren’t Variety, but still. However, on Thursday, Billy and I kept up running conversations before the show and afterward at Tappers, before everyone was booted for the night. He was fun to talk to, as was Neil and some of Billy’s other friends who had come out in support of the show. I got some interesting insights, and I had fun. I should have been recording.

I think Billy’s reticence towards journalists stems from his perfectionism. It’s the old mantra, if you’re going to do something, do it right. Go big or go home. I think that attitude is what led him to competitive video game playing in the first place. Who knew that he’d still be chasing those ghosts —both pixelated and metaphorical — 30-odd years later?

Arcadefire!

arcade4
Andy Sturm and Luke McConnell (seated) in Catalyst Repertory’s “Arcadefire!”

This isn’t the first show that is based on Billy. When Casey began working on the it, there were four others in existence, including a musical, Fistful of Quarters, based on the documentary of the same name. This is also the docu-drama that her now-boyfriend attempted to stump her with, and it was her initial inspiration for the show. She and her boyfriend are both documentary buffs, and he was trying to find one she hadn’t seen. Well, she had seen it, but that was OK. She was looking for material to craft a new show for the 2018 Fringe, and it fit. After that, she became “Billy’s Indiana stalker.”

Then again, this isn’t Billy’s first brush with actors slash directors since he was in movies such as King of Kong: Fistful of Quarters and Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade. Here, Casey has taken the basic premise of events surrounding the accusations that Billy cheated to achieve his record-breaking scores and turned it into a campy musical. Does Billy see himself up there on stage? No, he says. Not the comedy.

arcade2
Kayla Lee and Anthony Nathan in Catalyst Repertory’s “Arcadefire!”

But the comedy is what the audience comes for — if you aren’t just coming to see Billy himself (back for the show’s second premiere) during opening weekend and partaking in the video game extravaganzas that are planned.

This production is an extended version of the short Fringe Festival offering. It’s the 1980s — the heyday for cabinet video games. Billy Mitchell (Luke McConnell, original) is the King of Kong, holding the world record for the highest score in Donkey Kong. His self-described “nemesis,” Steve Wiebe (Anthony Nathan, original), is obsessed with beating Billy. Fast forward a few decades. Steve remains obsessed, and his long-suffering wife (Kayla Lee, original) is on the edge. Brian (Andy Sturm), who always came in second to Billy’s scores, informs him that he is being accused of cheating and stripped of his titles. To redeem his gaming reputation, Billy holds a Kong Off and brings in his old gaming referee, Walter (Craig Kemp). Devilry is planned, loyalties are weighed, and priorities are amended.

Unfortunately, the new version feels less cohesive than the original even with expanded storylines and exposition. I love the glimpses we get of Billy’s first meeting with Brian and his early interactions with Walter, but these relationships aren’t further explored. Nor is his transition from pinball to cabinet gaming or the source of his determination. The relationship between Billy and Brian becomes nebulous.

The dynamic I love best is the Wiebes. They have the choicest dialogue, and Nathan is such a fruitcake in the face of Lee’s deadpan delivery.

arcade1
Andy Sturm and Craig Kemp in Catalyst Repertory’s “Arcadefire!”

Ultimately, this show is neither fish nor fowl. The music numbers to acting ratio barely makes it a musical, and so much camp in the face of a very serious McConnell makes us wonder why Nathan is so seriously disturbed, like when he gets his Smeagol on with a quarter. Add to that an intense, emotionally sincere monologue from Sturm in the second half, and the over-the-top elements lose their charm.

What musical numbers are left don’t hold any power. Sadly, a few people in the cast can’t sing, and the choreography still needs a lot of work, as do some scenes, both from a director’s and a writer’s point of view. For example, the scene in Billy’s restaurant feels almost superfluous, and what is the purpose of the dance “Do the Donkey Kong”? And there really, really needs to be a screen for the projections.

Am I saying don’t see the show? No. I am critiquing a work in progress. Plus, there are so many exciting elements to this event. Not only are you witnessing the evolution of a show, but you can also meet the man it is based on. Plus, the event’s venue is the badass 666 historic Irvington Lodge, and the show’s producers have partnered with the new Level Up Gaming Lounge on the first floor for events. The Level Up is a story in itself. It’s a neat little business inside an under-used Irvington building, and it deserves our support after the crazy bullying they received right before opening.

And, at the show, there’s HOT SAUCE.

  • Through Feb. 17, Fridays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $20. This ticket allows you into ONLY the production Arcadefire! This ticket does not include access to extra events and meet & greets.
  • Tickets for Play-Play POPcade Passes are $35. These weekend passes allow you full access to the Level Up Gaming Lounge events and after-parties, as well as your entry for any desired tournaments and meet & greets. Team Scorechasers creator Sid Seattle will moderate fast-paced tournaments, while legendary gamers play and stream … for a good cause!
  • Historic Irvington Lodge
  • Tickets here
  • https://www.facebook.com/events/382834905822051/

billymitchell3

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 2/8

Catalyst Repertory: Arcadefire! [The Redemption of Billy Mitchell]

billy
The real Billy Mitchell at Tappers Arcade Bar before the 2018 Fringe premiere of “Arcadefire!”

This is an upgraded, full-length version of the IndyFringe Festival show from this past summer.

billymitchell
Friday’s lineup of events. Check the website for more throughout the show’s run.

Billy Mitchell, the 1982 Donkey Kong world-record holder and Video Game Player of the Century, had it all until a 2007 cult-classic documentary brought the public gamer back into the public eye. Years after the explosive premiere of King of Kong: Fist Full of Quarters, Billy faces a new challenge — the worst accusation a competitive gamer can face: They’re saying he cheated. When his scores are removed from the record boards and the “MAMEing” begins, it’s up to video gaming’s most polarizing figure to start dodging some barrels. Arcadefire! [The Redemption of Billy Mitchell] is a musical theater and gaming experience unlike any kill screen you’ve witnessed.

billymitchell2
Saturday’s lineup of events. Check the website for more throughout the show’s run.

Level Up, along with Team Scorechasers and Videogamepalooza bring Play-Play POPcade (that’s an Arcadefire! Pop-Up Arcade) experience to Irvington at Level Up Lounge before and after every performance. Gaming contests, celebrity appearances, drinks, food, and the hot sauce will be flowing! The King of Kong, Bil  l Mitchell will return (with friends!) to Indy for opening weekend only! 

  • Feb. 8-17, Fridays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $20. This ticket allows you into ONLY the production Arcadefire! This ticket does not include access to extra events and meet & greets.
  • Tickets for Play-Play POPcade Passes are $35. These weekend passes allow you full access to the Level Up Gaming Lounge events and after-parties, as well as your entry for any desired tournaments and meet & greets. Team Scorechasers creator Sid Seattle will moderate fast-paced tournaments, while legendary gamers play and stream … for a good cause! (Find out more about supported charities through the website link below).
  • Historic Irvington Lodge
  • For a full schedule of events, tournaments, celebrity guests, and available game consoles visit https://uncannycasey.wixsite.com/arcadefiremusical

Civic Theatre: To Kill a Mockingbird

Scout, a young girl in a quiet Southern town, is about to experience dramatic events that will affect the rest of her life. She and her brother, Jem, are being raised by their widowed father, Atticus, and by a strong-minded housekeeper, Calpurnia. Wide-eyed Scout is fascinated with the sensitively revealed people of her small town, but, from the start, there’s a rumble of thunder just under the calm surface of the life there.

  • Feb. 8-23, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7 p.m. (except the last Saturday at 5 p.m.) and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $43; $25 students
  • http://civictheatre.org

Beef & Boards: Grease

Welcome back to 1959 and Rydell High. Greaser Danny and new girl Sandy try to relive the romance of their “Summer Nights” as the rest of the gang sings and dances its way through songs like “Greased Lightnin” and “We Go Together” in this rollicking musical!

Storytelling Arts of Indiana: “Come Sit on My Front Porch” featuring Josh Goforth 

Josh Goforth
Josh Goforth

Goforth was just a boy when he played the fiddle in the 2000 feature film Songcatcher. The movie, starring Aidan Quinn and Emmy Rossum, among other big names, is about a musicologist who stumbled upon the Scots-Irish ballads of Appalachia, beautiful and unadulterated, handed down  through generations of families  secluded by the mountains. The musicologist wants to share this “discovery” with the world but is met with resistance from musicians and singers who want to preserve their proud heritage. These are Josh Goforth’s people. You’ll hear their stories and songs at his show.

And don’t forget about the Indy Story Slam next Tuesday, 7 p.m. at IndyFringe with its theme of “The Agony & Ecstasy of Love.” Whether you’re feeling amorous or alone this Valentine’s, there’s a story for you. 

The Alley Theatre: Picnic

This Pulitzer Prize-winning play takes place on Labor Day Weekend in the joint backyards of two middle-aged widows. Flo Owens lives in one house with her two maturing daughters, Madge and Millie, and a boarder. Helen Potts lives with her elderly and invalid mother. Into this female atmosphere comes a young man whose animal vitality seriously upsets the entire group.

Buck Creek Players’ After the Fair ticket sale

Receive 25% off all tickets to the FINAL WEEKEND of the Indianapolis premiere musical  when using coupon code AFTER online at http://www.buckcreekplayers.com/what-is-playing.html.

 

cinderella

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Actors Theatre of Indiana: “Ruthless: The Musical”

ruthless
Cynthia Collins and Nya Skye Beck in Actors Theatre of Indiana’s “Ruthless: The Musical”

Ruthless: The Musical camps up film noir and spoofs Broadway musicals in an homage to the little homicidal brat in the 1950s film/play/novel The Bad Seed, here known as the 8-year-old wanna-be drama queen Tina Denmark. Tina will just KILL to get the lead in the school play.

Judy Fitzgerald plays Judy Denmark, a dim, stereotypical 1950s housewife who loves her solitary role in life: being “Tina’s mother.” While Fitzgerald is amusing as the clueless mother figure, she gets much more interesting as her past catches up to her and Judy’s buried personality takes over.

The true onstage diva is John Vessels as Sylvia St. Croix, talent agent. Vessels gets the best parts, owning the stage in heels and turbans, acting superior and fabulous, and he belts out many of the best musical numbers. While not onstage as often, Cynthia Collins is equally over the top and pounding those vocals as washed-up actress-turned-school-teacher Miss Thorn.

ruthless1
John Vessels in Actors Theatre of Indiana’s “Ruthless: The Musical”

Critiquing kids always leaves me feeling mean spirited — much like theater critic Lita Encore, played by Suzanne Stark with flamboyance and a careless ego. But there’s no avoiding it here since fourth-grader Nya Skye Beck tackles Tina in in all her curly blond, darkly saccharine self. While Beck certainly gets the camp like any good Girl Scout should, vocally I feel she is inconsistent — a sharp here, a flat there. She does tap prettily though.

Laura Sportiello starts as Tina’s nemesis in Act 1, but she gets to strut her stuff in the second half as Judy’s personal assistant. Finally, there’s a guest cameo for each weekend, so check out ATI’s website to see who will storm the door at each performance.

Overall, the show has its moments, but I wasn’t doing the proverbial rolling in the aisles. However, the guy sitting next to me was. Blame the drink (or my lack thereof)? Or am I just being too Lita?

Check out ATI’s Facebook page for lots of preview videos.

  • Through Feb. 17, Wednesdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $20-$45; all tickets $25 on Wednesdays
  • The Studio Theater at the Carmel Performing Arts Center
  • www.ATIStage.org

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Buck Creek Players: “After the Fair”

afterthefair2
Buck Creek Players’ “After the Fair.” Photos by photogary.net.

After the Fair is a little musical based on the Thomas Hardy short story On the Western Circuit. (If you don’t know the name, Hardy’s most well-known work is Tess of the d’Urbervilles, written in 1891.) I’m not a big Hardy fan, even if I was an English major, but After the Fair is sweet and funny if not fast-paced.

Anna (Tara Sorg) is an illiterate maid in the Harnham household. Both she and the lady of the house, Edith (Lori Ecker), feel smothered in their sequestered, humdrum lives, and so Edith, hoping to live vicariously through Anna, allows Anna to go to the fair. Anna meets a man there, playboy Charles (Zachary Hoover), and after a tryst with him the next day, finds herself pregnant and Charles 100 miles away. Before discovering she is pregnant, Anna and Charles had been writing to each other, but since Anna is illiterate, Edith had been the one writing the letters for her. Through these letters, Edith begins to remember what is missing from her life … and her marriage: passion. Charles thinks he has finally fallen in love, and Edith certainly has, but what of Anna and the baby, not to mention the deceit of the letters’ author?

Vocally, I have to say that I felt I caught Ecker and Hoover on a somewhat off day this past Sunday afternoon. (I was having an off day too.) While certainly good, neither rose to the level I have heard from them before. Character-wise, however, they were spot on. Hoover only has to switch on that panty-poofing smile to make you believe he could get a Victorian lass out of her drawers. Ecker takes Edith on a subtle transformation as she reclaims her youth.

Alongside Ecker and Hoover, Sorg holds her own as the dim Anna, as does Scott S. Semester as the narcoleptic Arthur Harnham. A nice touch was the onstage orchestra, something you don’t see  at BCP often.

Directed by D. Scott Robinson with musical director Jill Stewart and period costumes by Cathy Cutshall and set by John Walker, After the Fair is a pleasant diversion, but it’s not something that will stick with you much past the final bow.

  • Through Feb. 10, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $20; $18 for children, students, and senior citizens. Use coupon code LETTER online to get $2 off each seat.
  • www.buckcreekplayers.com  
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Indiana Repertory Theatre: “The Diary of Anne Frank”

annef
The IRT’s “The Diary of Anne Frank.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

Most people are familiar with the story of Anne Frank’s diary, so since the audience already knows how it ends, the challenge for a stage (or film) version becomes the presentation. It’s an opportunity to take some liberties with Anne’s fellow inhabitants of the Annex and make them feel more like real people instead of auxiliary placeholders in Anne’s diary. Of course, the diary itself serves several literary purposes. Not only does it give a first-person account of Jews in hiding during the Holocaust, but it’s also a coming-of-age story of a typical teenage girl. Anne used much of her time—and there was two years’ worth of it—in the Annex writing down her thoughts both for posterity (she hoped to have it published someday) and as practice to become a journalist. Her desire to become a writer created a richer diary than most young girls’ are.

So the playwrights add detail, the director and actors give characters more depth, and the crew creates the atmosphere—all with poetic license. Such as, the real Annex was three levels, which is not conducive to viewing on a stage’s set.

anne2
Ryan Artzberger as Otto Frank in IRT’s “The Diary of Anne Frank.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

This version of The Diary of Anne Frank is the 1955 Tony Award-winning adaptation by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett. After the unedited version of Anne’s diary was released after her father, Otto’s, death in 1989, Wendy Kesselman adapted this adaptation in 1996 to include some of the previously censored material. In the unedited version of the diary, Anne is a little more catty, a little more graphic, but Kesselman uses these elements sparingly. She includes that, as a normal teenager would, Anne starts to become sexually aware and that Anne often viciously disliked her mother.

Directed by the IRT’s artistic director, Janet Allen, the stage becomes full of relatable people. Miranda Troutt starts 13-year-old Anne off as flighty and slightly annoying, occasionally sweet — the definition of a 13-year-old with ADD. But after two years, Troutt lets Anne mellow out a little. The combination of isolation and natural maturation affect Anne’s personality but don’t squash it. Even after 25 months, Anne remains a ray of sun in a crypt-like environment.

annfrank
Miranda Troutt in IRT’s “The Diary of Anne Frank.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

Idiosyncratic details such as Mrs. Van Daan’s (Constance Macy) attachment to her chamber pot, the deadpan way Mr. Dussel (Rob Johansen) states cats give him “ass-ma,” or Mr. Van Daan’s (Robert Neal) crippling shame at being caught snatching food make this production both funny and horrific. By the time the Annex is discovered, you genuinely care about the eight people living there, not just Anne.

Yao Chen’s smart costumes aptly capture the times, and Bill Clarke’s scenic design, with lighting design by Andrew D. Smith, reflects the claustrophobic conditions the two-families-plus-one (and a cat) lived in.

The small world of the Annex on stage is just as rich as Anne’s diary.

  • Jan. 25-Feb. 24, times and dates vary
  • Tickets start at $25
  • Many programs will be presented in conjunction with the show.
  • www.irtlive.com

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 1/25

Fonseca Theatre Company: The Ballad of Klook and Vinette

klook
Fonseca Theatre Company’s “The Ballad of Klook and Vinette

Soulful music and compelling choreography combined with witty and poetic storytelling makes this a mesmerizing theater experience. Tender, funny, and incredibly moving, this contemporary new love story will grab you from the inside out. Klook is a drifter who’s tired of drifting. Vinette is on the run, but she doesn’t know what’s chasing her. Together they make a tentative stab at love … until the past catches up to the future and smacks it in the face.

  • Jan. 25-Feb. 17, Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $25; $20 for students; $15 for Near West residents.
  • Indy Convergence
  • There will be post-show discussions following the Sunday matinees on Jan. 27 and Feb. 10. The panel on Jan. 27 will feature Dan Wakefield and Phyllis Boyd from Groundwork Indy. Dan will be sharing his experiences covering the Emmett Till murder trial and unpack the enduring relevance of this pivotal case. The panel on Feb. 10 will feature guests from the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee, the Indiana Prison Writers Workshop, and PACE Indy, who will help further explore issues in today’s criminal justice system.
  • fonsecatheatre.org

Indy Men’s Chorus: Queen Day

queenday
Indy Men’s Chorus presents an encore of “Queen Day”

(Ed. note: One of my favorite shows at the IndyFringe Festival. Highly recommended.)

This is an encore run back by popular demand. The show blends the hard edge of rock and roll and punk with the drama of musical theater and features the music of Queen and Green Day. The show received rave reviews across sold-out performances during IndyFringe this past summer.

  • Jan. 25-27, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday at 6 p.m. Plus, an additional 9:30 p.m. performance on Saturday is a Sun King Brewery sing-along show with free beer for ticket buyers.
  • $25; seniors and students $20
  • IndyFringe Basile Theatre
  • http://www.indyfringe.org/theatre-show/queen-day-0

Buck Creek Players: After the Fair

afterthefair
Lori Ecker and Tara Sorg in Buck Creek Players’ “After the Fair.” Photo by photogary.net.

The show is an Indianapolis premiere. What happens when a married Victorian British woman writes letters for her illiterate maid and falls in love with the man to whom she is writing? A romantic, literate musicalization of Thomas Hardy’s short story On the Western Circuit, this award-winning four-character musical has played Off-Broadway, London, and various cities throughout the USA. 

  • Jan. 25-Feb. 10, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at with 2:30 p.m.
  • $20; $18 for children, students, and senior citizens
  • www.buckcreekplayers.com

Actors Theatre of Indiana: Ruthless: The Musical

Ruthless is based on the 1956 thriller The Bad Seed. It is an aggressively outrageous musical hit that garnered rave reviews during its long Off-Broadway run. Eight-year-old Tina Denmark knows she was born to play Pippi Longstocking and she will do anything to win the part in her school play. Anything includes murdering the leading lady! This spoof has enough plot twists and multiple identities to fill several old movies … the fun comes from the sheer brazenness!

  • Jan. 25-Feb. 17, Wednesdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $20-$45; all tickets $25 on Wednesdays
  • The Studio Theater at the Carmel Performing Arts Center
  • www.ATIStage.org

Indiana Repertory Theatre: The Diary of Anne Frank

annfrank
The IRT’s “The Diary of Anne Frank”

This stage play is by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett and adapted by Wendy Kesselman. 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 that transcends time and offers hope to today’s world.

  • Jan. 25-Feb. 24, times and dates vary
  • Tickets start at $25
  • Many programs will be presented in conjunction with the show. One notable event is the Community Night honoring The Diary of Anne Frank and International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Special Community Night programming will take place around the Jan. 27, 6 p.m. performance and feature special pricing. There will be a post-show candle lighting ceremony that will feature representatives from a variety of marginalized Indianapolis communities, as well as readings from Anne Frank’s writing. IRT’s Community Night encourages patrons to pay what they choose to enjoy a night of top-quality and thought-provoking live theater. Community Night suggested ticket pricing starts at $10. Patrons who wish to purchase tickets for Community Night can do so by calling the Ticket Office at 317-635-5252.
  • www.irtlive.com

Broadway in Indianapolis: School of Rock

school
“School of Rock”

School of Rock is a New York Times Critics’ Pick. Based on the hit film, this hilarious new musical follows Dewey Finn, a wannabe rock star posing as a substitute teacher who turns a class of straight-A students into a guitar-shredding, bass-slapping, mind-blowing rock band. This high-octane smash features 14 new songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber, all the original songs from the movie, and musical theater’s first-ever kids rock band playing their instruments live on stage. 

Phoenix Theatre: Apples in Winter 

The show has been extended through Feb. 3.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Two in One: Phoenix Theatre’s “Apples in Winter” and the IRT’s “Every Brilliant Thing”

I’m always impressed by one-person shows because of the stamina required of the actor, but also, from the audience’s perspective, the entire performance lays on their shoulders. No pressure, eh? (Of course, anyone who’s ever looked at a program knows that a production is much, much more than just its actors. But they are the focus, regardless.)

apples
Jan Lucas in the Phoenix Theatre’s “Apples in Winter”

In the Phoenix Theatre’s Apples in Winter, Miriam (Jan Lucas) is making an apple pie for her son’s last meal before his sentence of death by lethal injection. Her double entendre isn’t lost in this situation: If you follow the rules, you end up with a good, or at least decent, pie. While Lucas bakes a real pie from scratch, start to finish, we are told stories of her son’s life and her own doting parenting. However, the scourge of drug addiction isn’t examined, and her son’s addiction is only vaguely addressed. Hell, we don’t even know exactly why he is on death row until far into the show. There’s some downtime while we just watch her work or stand contemplatively, and as the play progresses, empathy becomes tedium.

But Lucas sincerely conveys the emotional upheaval of a devoted mother whose unconditional love remains fully intact. Lucas and director Jolene Mentink Moffatt are both longtime presences in the Indianapolis theater community. Both work to make Miriam as interesting as possible, but the confessional setup pulls us in only to let us slowly fade back out.

By the way, you can buy a raffle ticket before the show to win the pie.

brilliant
Marcus Truschinski in IRT’s “Every Brilliant Thing.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

The Indiana Repertory Theatre’s Every Brilliant Thing features a character simply labeled The Man (Marcus Truschinski) and how he responds to his mother’s multiple suicide attempts, the first of which happens when he is 7. In response to this initial attempt, Marcus begins a list of things that make life “brilliant,” like ice cream and water fights, and later in life, falling in love and the prospect of dressing up as a Mexican wrestler.

The list grows, but it doesn’t save his mother — nor does it save him from falling into depression in his adult years. Because the fact is that for those who suffer from major depressive disorder — not just the occasional blues or a hard period in life, such as a divorce — things that make life worth living just … don’t. While the list is a sweet gesture from a 7-year-old and a fun game for college kids, in the end, it falls short of effective. A heavy-duty dose of an SSRI would be more suitable.

Regardless of the dark genesis of the story, the script’s redeeming quality is that it’s more funny than funereal. Even the reenactment of putting his beloved dog to sleep is more silly than it is weepy sentimentality.

Beware audience participation, some innocuous, such as shouting out one of the items on the list, some more involved, such as portraying Marcus’s girlfriend. One audience member gets to stick their hand in their sock to make a puppet. And because I am the definition of a shrinking violent, I was terrified when I found myself seated on the stage with four others. But Truschinski is encouraging and good-natured toward his drafted actors.

brilliant2
Marcus Truschinski in IRT’s “Every Brilliant Thing.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

In fact, Truschinski himself (directed by Tim Ocel) is what makes the show recommendable. I already knew Truschinski was a comedian given his antics in The Mystery of Irma Vep: A Penny Dreadful with Rob Johansen at the IRT in 2016. Here he reminds me of Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor, not just in a passing resemblance but also in his excitable and playful mannerisms. His character has personality to work with, and little quirks are written in, such as his penchant for vinyl records.

In the program, artistic director Janet Allan likens the show to storytelling, and she couldn’t have put it better. The intimacy of the setting, interaction with the audience, and Truschinski’s delivery make this crazy train worth the ride.

  • Through Feb. 10
  • $21-$78. Use promo code FRIEND10 and save $10 off each ticket
  • irtlive.com
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

BOLT: “and Tell Sad Stories of the Death of Queens”

and tell sad stories
BOLT (Be Out Loud Theatre) presents “and Tell Sad Stories of the Death of Queens”

The new Be Out Loud Theater (BOLT) premiered with the obscure Tennessee Williams play and Tell Sad Stories of the Death of Queens. And I mean really obscure. Google it. There ain’t much there. According to BOLT, the play (written in 1955) was never staged during Williams’s lifetime due to its themes of homosexuality and transgenderism.

This is a play that deserved to come out of the closet. The storyline is heart wrenching, but it is infused with humor, which the cast runs with merrily. Candy (Lance Gray) (a “queen”) is still hurting over the end of her longtime relationship. Her ex-husband walked out on her for a younger man, and Candy’s self-worth has plummeted. She is desperate for attention, so she brings home a broke, straight, drunken sailor, Karl (Chris Saunders), and basically offers to be his sugar mamma as long as he stays with her — no other strings attached.

Gray makes Candy both lovely and pitiful — like a wilted Southern belle. Candy is no steel magnolia; Gray carries Candy’s vulnerability like a red V emblazoned on her crinoline-lined frocks. Gray’s characterization captures the inflection and delivery needed to emphasize much of the script’s both humor and distress.

Saunders’s Karl is just … an ass, an oaf. Saunders makes it clear just how little Candy thinks of herself if this is the man she chose to bring home.

A loveable gay couple live upstairs. Gossipy and flamboyant, Joe Barsanti and Christian Condra are often comic relief and occasional commentary.

BOLT premiered with a profound play and an arresting production of it. The new company, initiated by longtime thespian Michael Swinford (who also directed the show), was created as an outlet for LGBTQ plays. Swinford summarizes it as “Remember. Honor. Celebrate.” Remembering the past and honoring those who fought the battles that pushed the community to its current status. But it also reminds us that there is still work to be done to insure that progress continues.

  • Jan. 4-20, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Opening night reception Jan. 4. Talkbacks on consecutive Fridays.
  • $25; $20 seniors; $5 discount at door for Indy Pride members with proof of membership. 
  • The District Theatre
  • http://www.indyfringe.org
     
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 1/4

BOLT (Be Out Loud Theatre): and Tell Sad Stories of the Death of Queens by Tennessee Williams

and tell sad stories
BOLT (Be Out Loud Theatre) presents “and Tell Sad Stories of the Death of Queens”

Williams’ play, written in 1955, was ahead of its time. Transgender, aging, homophobia, and survival are all themes in this poetic, at times, brutal play. The script was not produced in Williams’ lifetime, due to his blatant treatment of a subject matter that was not spoken of in the decades before now. Candy Delaney is a successful New Orleans interior decorator and also a drag queen approaching “her” 35th birthday. On the rebound from a 17-year relationship, Candy has picked up a rough sailor, Karl, on whom she lavishes money. On the day of the dreaded birthday, Karl walks out and it’s left to the two queens who live upstairs, Alvin and Jerry, to comfort Candy. 

  • Jan. 4-20, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Opening night reception Jan. 4. Talkbacks on consecutive Fridays.
  • $25; $20 seniors; $5 discount at door for Indy Pride members with proof of membership. 
  • The District Theatre
  • http://www.indyfringe.org

Character House Theatre Company: Doctor Chekhov

A bold new play based on works by the prolific Russian playwright, poet, and author Anton Chekhov. The ensemble is made up of Butler University Theatre students and alumni, many of whom also studied at the prestigious Moscow Art Theatre School, where Anton Chekhov famously served as playwright in residence. Through years of previous projects, this ensemble has developed a unique technique of theater-making, blending Stanislavski’s psychological realism with the newly translated breakthrough theories of Mikhail Butkevich. Now, the company aims to innovate and break ground on new forms of theater-making and presentation. 

EclecticPond Theatre Company: Drankspeare: Romeo & Juliet

(Ed. note: One of my all-time favorite Fringe experiences!) Back by popular demand, Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet … just over an hour … under the influence! More Shakespeare! More drinking! Almost 30% new cast! Brought to you by the not-at-all-serious drunkards of ETC featuring the tipsy talents of Frankie Bolda, Bradford Reilly, Paige Scott, Evan Wallace, Kelsey Van Voorst, Ryan Ruckman, and Marcy Dodson.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 12/21

Happy Winter Solstice! 

Christmas Through the Ages: The Hysterically Historical Holiday Musical

xmas
“Christmas Through the Ages: The Hysterically Historical Holiday Musical”

The show is a fun-filled family journey through the history of the holiday season and all of its music and traditions. Julie Lyn Barber, playwright, and producer, stars alongside Dave Ruark and 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!

  • Friday, Dec. 21, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 22, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday Dec. 23, 4 p.m.
  • $15
  • IndyFringe building
  • http://www.indyfringe.org
Posted in Uncategorized

Update, but no openings

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

Posted in Uncategorized

I’ve been MIA at the theaters

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 11/23

Phoenix Theatre: A Very Phoenix Xmas 13: Merry Superstitions

phoenixxmas
Phoenix Theatre’s “A Very Phoenix Xmas 13”

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

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

Indiana Repertory Theatre: A Christmas Carol 

carol
Indiana Repertory Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol”

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

Special Black Friday Sale

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 11/16

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

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

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

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

Magic Thread Cabaret: Melissa Schott: The Key of Me 

melissa_schott__meta
Magic Thread Cabaret presents Melissa Schott: The Key of Me

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

NoExit/Indianapolis Movement Arts Collective: OPEN Indy

gerry
Gerry Trentham

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

IndyFringe: Stark Naked

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

Marian University Theatre: Urinetown the Musical

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

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

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

SouvenirPhoto (2)
John Phillips and Lori Ecker in “Souvenir”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NoExit: “The Mutilated”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

benrose
From the Fonseca Theatre Company Facebook page: Ben Rose, in the middle between Josh Short as Tru (l) and Chinyelu Mwaafrika as Marquis (r), is the director of our next production “Hooded or Being Black for Dummies.” He has a deep connection with this play having been raised, like the character Marquis, as a trans-racial adoptee. What makes a person black or white has dominated Ben’s thoughts for as long as he can remember. As Marquis invades the life of Tru and his friends and starts injecting slang and black culture into his life it reminds Ben of his own journey joining a Black Fraternity and experiencing what had essentially been lost to him in his formative years. What he loves most about this play is its use of comedy to ease the audience into a number of very crucial conversations that we as a society are struggling with. Ben has been enjoying making his directorial debut working with a cast that has tremendous energy and talent.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 11/9

IndyFringe: Souvenir

SouvenirPhoto (2)
John Phillips and Lori Ecker in “Souvenir”

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

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

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

Fonseca Theatre Company: Hooded, or Being Black for Dummies

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

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

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

NoExit: The Mutilated by Tennessee Williams

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

Stage To Screen Studios Cabaret Series: The Best of Broadway

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

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

Nickel Plate Players: Battle of Mudsock

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

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

Storytelling Arts of Indiana: Indy Story Slam

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 11/2

Storytelling Arts of Indiana

Dr. David Matlack: The Stories in Our Stones

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

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

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

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

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

Epilogue Players Night Out November Fundraiser

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

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

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

The Improbable Fiction Theatre Company: Comedy of Errors

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

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

Khaos Theatre Company: Emerging Artists Theatre New Play Festival

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

IndyFringe: The Inaugural Indiana High School Festival

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

Merrillville High School: Drift

merriville
Merrillville High School’s “Drift”

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

Lawrence Central High School: Interrupting Vanessa

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

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

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

Castle Hill High School: These Shining Lives

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

Roncalli High School: Steel Magnolias 

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

Carmel High School: Failure: A Love Story 

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

University High School: Alice Through the Rabbit Hole

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

Westfield High School: The Actor’s Nightmare 

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

The District Theater: Coping with Autumn staged reading

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

Indiana Repertory Theatre: A Super Secret New Play staged reading

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

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

Zach & Zack: “The Rocky Horror Show”

rocky1
Zach & Zack’s “Rocky Horror Show”

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

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

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

rocky2
Dave Ruark and Joe Doyel in Zach & Zack’s “Rocky Horror Show”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Catalyst Repertory: “Popular Monsters”

popmonsters1
Jamie McNulty and Tom Weingartner in Catalyst Repertory’s “Popular Monsters”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 10/26

Zach & Zack: The Rocky Horror Show

rocky
Zach & Zack present “The Rocky Horror Show”

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

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

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

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

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

Nova Theatre: All the Best, Jack

A play by local actress Chelsea Anderson.

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

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

Catalyst Repertory: Popular Monsters

popmonsters
Catalyst Repertory: “Popular Monsters”

By local journalist and arts enthusiast Lou Harry.

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

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

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

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

Indiana Repertory Theatre: “Pipeline”

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

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

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

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

pipeline2
Cole Taylor in the IRT’s “Pipeline.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

POST-SHOW DISCUSSIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 10/19

Indiana Repertory Theater: Pipeline

Pipeline_300x300_3_16_18
Indiana Repertory Theater: “Pipeline.” Artwork by Kyle Ragsdale.

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

Phenomenal Women

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

Actors Theatre of Indiana’s Fall Barn Bash

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

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

Beef & Boards Children’s Theatre: Rapunzel

rapunze-large
Beef & Boards Children’s Theatre: “Rapunzel”

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

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

Civic Theatre: “Anything Goes”

anythinggoes
Civic Theatre’s “Anything Goes”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 10/12

Storytelling Arts of Indiana: Ghost Stories at Crown Hill

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

The Halloween season has arrived!

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

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

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

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

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

anythonggoes
Civic Theatre’s “Anything Goes”

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

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

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

Stage To Screen Studios: Indiana’s Got Talent

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

Beef & Boards: Man of La Mancha

mancha
“Man of La Mancha” at Beef & Boards

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

Candlelight Theatre: The (White) House of Horror

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Q Artistry and the Phoenix Theatre: “Cabaret Poe”

cabaretpoe2
Georgeanna Smith Wade, Ben Asaykwee, and Jaddy Ciucci in “Cabaret Poe” at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Zach Rosing.

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

You now have Cabaret Poe: The Musical.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out a preview here:

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Indiana Repertory Theatre: “Holmes and Watson”

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

Where is Sherlock?

Well, there seems to be three of him.

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

holmesandwatson4
Torrey Hanson in the IRT’s “Holmes and Watson.” Photo by Alexis Morin.

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

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

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

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

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

holmesandwatson3
.Henry Woronicz and Jennifer Johansen in the IRT’s “Holmes and Watson.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 10/5

poe
Q Artistry’s “Cabaret Poe”

Phoenix Theatre and Q Artistry:

Cabaret Poe

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Buck Creek Players: “37 Postcards”

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

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

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

374
Dave Hoffman in Buck Creek Players’ “37 Postcards.” Photo credit: photogary.net

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

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

And oh, there is bizarre.

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

373
Wendy Brown in Buck Creek Players’ “37 Postcards.” Photo credit: photogary.net

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

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

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

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

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Footlite Musicals: “Brigadoon”

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

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

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

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

brigadoon3
Sydney Norwalk and Charlie Metzger in Footlite Musicals’ “Brigadoon”

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

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

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

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

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

Bard Fest: “The Merchant of Venice”

merchant5
Ryan Ruckman and and Zach Taylor in Bard Fest 2018 “Merchant of Venice”

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

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

I love it when people fuck with Shakespeare.

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

merchant2
Emily Bohn in Bard Fest 2018 “Merchant of Venice”

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

Shakespeare really liked crossdressing.

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

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

MerchantShylock
Ryan Reddick in Bard Fest 2018 “Merchant of Venice”

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

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

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

 

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

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Bard Fest: “Romeo and Juliet”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bard Fest: “Much Ado about Nothing”

muchado2
Steve Kruze and Christine Kruze in “Much Ado about Nothing” at Bard Fest 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Carmel Community Players: “Forever Plaid”

plaids2
Carmel Community Players: “Forever Plaid”

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

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

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

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

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

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

plaid
Carmel Community Players: “Forever Plaid”

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Epilogue Players: “Becoming Dr. Ruth”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phoenix Theatre: “Bright Star”

brightstar
Phoenix Theatre’s “Bright Star”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out a preview here:

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 9/21

Phoenix Theatre: Bright Star

brightstar
Phoenix Theatre’s “Bright Star”

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

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

Epilogue Players: Becoming Dr. Ruth

becoming dr ruth logo
Epilogue Players’ “Becoming Dr. Ruth”

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

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

Carmel Community Players: Forever Plaid

foreverplaid
Darrin Gowan in Carmel Community Players’ “Forever Plaid”

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

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

Actors Theatre of Indiana: A Comedy of Tenors

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

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

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

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

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

judith
Storytelling Arts of Indiana presents Vicki Juditz

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

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

Mud Creek Players: “Exit the Body”

exitthebody
Mud Creek Players’ “Exit the Body”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fonseca Theatre Company: “Building the Wall”

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

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

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

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

buildingwall2
Milicent Wright in the Fonseca Theatre Company’s “Building the Wall”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Openings for the weekend of 9/14

Fonseca Theatre Company:

Building a Wall

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

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

Jollyship the Whiz-bang

 

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

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

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

The McBride Magic Experience

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

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

Mud Creek Players: Exit the Body

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

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

Broadway Across Indianapolis:

The Lion King

lionking
Broadway Across Indianapolis: “The Lion King” indianapolis.broadway.com

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 9/7

America’s Sweethearts

americassweethearts
America’s Sweethearts

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

Storytelling Arts of Indiana: Indy Story Slam

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

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

September Swing Dance WWII-Era Big Band

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

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

StageWorthy Fire Recovery Fund

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

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

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

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

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

www.stageworthy.org

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for 8/31

Butler Theatre Department: We Are Still Tornadoes

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

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

Beef and Boards: Seven Brides For Seven Brothers

seven
Beef and Boards

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

Brooks and Bourke Theatre Company: Harvey

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

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews, Indianapolis theater: reviews

Openings for the weekend of 8/24

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

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

No. 1: Jollyship Whiz-Bang

jollyship2
“Jollyship the Whiz-Bang” at IndyFringe 2018. (Ryan Ruckman, center)

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

And the rest, in no particular order …

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Festival: “Jollyship the Whiz-Bang”

jollyship2
“Jollyship the Whiz-Bang” at IndyFringe 2018. (Ryan Ruckman, center)

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

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

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

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

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

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

So much great fuckery here.

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Festival: “Haunted: Tales Told and True”

laurapacker
Laura Packer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Produced by Niemi and Packer Productions

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

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

This is a confusing play.

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

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

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

Produced by Monument Theatre Company

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

Produced by Catalyst Repertory Theatre

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Produced by Wisdom Tooth Theatre Project

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Festival: “Broadway’s Leading Ladies”

bwladies2
Rayanna Bibbs

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

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

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

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

bwladies
Virginia Vasquez

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

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

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

Yup, this is another one you must see.

Song list:

bwladies3
Shelbi Berry

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

Produced by Magic Thread Cabaret

Check out their “The Schuyler Sisters” from Hamilton: 

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Festival: “Intrusion”

intrusion

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

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

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

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

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

Produced by QK Company Inc.

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Festival: “Betsy Carmichael’s BINGO Palace”

Let there be Bingo.

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

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

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

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

Produced by Betsibu Productions.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Festival: “Puddin Tane”

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

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

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

Produced by Theatre Sleuth of Indianapolis.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Festival: “Paper Swords: A Musical”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Matt Day and Kelsey Tharp.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Festival: “The Globe”

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

Bella’s initial reaction? Dial assassinationstation.gov.

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Festival: “Queen Day”

queenday

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

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

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

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

Just fantastic stuff going on here.

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

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

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

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

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Festival: “They Shall Take Up Serpents”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

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

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

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

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

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

More zombie conflict, please.

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

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 8/17

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

There are, however, a couple alternatives to Fringe.

Garfield Shakespeare Company: The Three Musketeers

Footlite Musicals Young Artists: The Pirates of Penzance

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

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

Phoenix Theatre: “Cry It Out”

cryitout2
Sally Scharbrough and Lauren Briggeman in the Phoenix Theatre’s “Cry It Out.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

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

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

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

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

cryitout4
Sally Scharbrough and Lauren Briggeman in the Phoenix Theatre’s “Cry It Out.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

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

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

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

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

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Buck Creek Players: “The Rainmaker”

rainmaker5
Joe Wagner, Tim Latimer, Matt Spurlock, Jenni White, and Steve Jerk in Buck Creek Players’ “The Rainmaker.” Photo by photoGary.net.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

rainmaker3
Tim Latimer and Jenni White in Buck Creek Player’s “The Rainmaker.” Photo by photoGary.net.

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

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

And of course, there’s Bill Starbuck, aka the rainmaker. Steve Jerk is just enough crazy and radiates the confidence of any good c