Theater reviews

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 12/14

IndyFringe: Merry Fringe-mas Holiday Cabaret

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IndyFringe: “Merry Fringe-mas Holiday Cabaret”

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

Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre: Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

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

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

IndyFringe: Christmas Through the Ages

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

IndyFringe: Conductor Cody’s Christmas Express

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

Twas the Night Before … presented by Candlelight Theatre

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

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

Openings for the weekend of 12/8

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

NoExit Performance: Drosselmeyer’s XXX-Mas Cabaret

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m Too Fat For This Show

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

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

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

Defiance Comedy: The North Wing: A Holiday Musical

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

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

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

Freetown Village Celebrates Christmas

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“Freetown Village Celebrates Christmas”

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 12/1

It’s a Wonderful Life — The Radio Play

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

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

Buck Creek Players

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

Carmel Community Players

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

Messages Untold: Odds of Oz

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

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

Nickel Plate Players: Coming Home: A  Christmas Cabaret

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

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

Defiance Comedy: The North Wing: An Original Christmas Musical

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

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

Carmel Community Players: Holiday Cabaret

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

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

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

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Storytelling Arts of Indiana: Sheila Kay Adams

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

 

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

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

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Footlite Musicals: “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”

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

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

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

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Footlite Musicals: “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 11/24

 

 

The anti-holiday show:

Footlite Musicals: The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

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“The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” at Footlite Musicals

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Broadway Across America: A Christmas Story: The Musical

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Civic Theatre ticket sale

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 11/17

Mud Creek Players: Dashing through the Snow

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“Dashing through the Snow” at Mud Creek Players

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

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

The Lawrence Players: The Old Man and the Sea

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

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

Indiana Repertory Theatre: A Christmas Carol

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

IndyFringe: The Gift

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

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

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

Ashton Wolf Productions: Broadway and Beyond

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

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: interviews, Indianapolis theater: previews

The MD Writer’s “The Gift” at IndyFringe

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Author, playwright, and cardiologist Dr. Louis Janeira

This story was originally commissioned by NUVO Newsweekly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 11/10

Stage Door Productions: Bill W and Dr. Bob

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

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

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

Khaos Company Theatre: The Duchess of Malfi

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

The IndyStar Storytellers Project: Food & Family

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

Q Artistry: The Chronicles of Yarnia, A Rap Musical

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

 

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“1984” by NoExit Productions (3 stars)

1984

Feel the love.

The love of Big Brother.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Approxima Productions: “In the Family Way”

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

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Approxima Productions: “In the Family Way”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 11/3

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

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

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

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

Approxima Productions: In the Family Way

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Approxima Productions: “In the Family Way”

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

Epilogue Players: Tribute

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Epilogue Players: “Tribute”

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

NoExit: 1984

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

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

Storytelling Arts of Indiana: Liza Hyatt

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Storytelling Arts of Indiana: Liza Hyatt

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

Jewish Community Center: The Juniper Tree

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Barbecue” at the Phoenix Theatre (4.5 stars)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The exceptionally talented cast:

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

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

Openings for the weekend of 10/27

Barbecue at the Phoenix Theatre

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“Barbecue” at the Phoenix Theatre

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

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

I’m back!

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: interviews

The Cat theater, Enhancing the Neighborhood

This article originally appeared in NUVO Newsweekly.

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The Cat theater in the Carmel Arts & Design District

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

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

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Fat Turtle Theatre Company’s “Glengarry Glen Ross”

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for 10/6-20

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

Oct. 6

Fat Turtle Theatre Company: Glengarry Glen Ross

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

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

Beef & Boards: Ghost, The Musical

You know what this is …

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

Pre-Enact Indy at Monon 16

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

 

Oct. 12

Civic Theatre: Annie

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

Center Stage Productions: The Secret Garden

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

Carmel Community Players: Hide and Seek

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

The Candlelight Theatre Company: Victorian Villains

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

Broadway Across Indianapolis: Finding Neverland

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

 

Oct. 20

IndyFringe: Bard Fest

A collection of Shakespearean tales, all with a twist.

Indiana Repertory Theatre: The Originalist

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

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Nuts” at Buck Creek Players (4 stars)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Openings for the weekend of 9/29

Nuts at Buck Creek Players

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

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

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

Storytelling Arts of Indiana: Don White

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Don White

Storyteller and folksinger

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

The Shape of Things at Khaos Company Theatre

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“Infinity” at Khaos Theatre Company

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

Storefront Theatre: Infinity at IndyFringe

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

Lafferty’s Wake at Westfield Playhouse

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

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

“Sister Act” at Footlite Musicals (4 stars)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Fun Home” at the Phoenix Theatre

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

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

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

And I wish there had been an intermission.

OK, enough nitpicking.

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 9/22

 

Fun Home at the Phoenix Theatre

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“Fun Home” at the Phoenix Theatre

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

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

Storytelling Arts of Indiana: Fairy Tales for Grownups

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 Sister Act at Footlite Musicals

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

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

KaidyDid Productions with Indiana Performing Arts CentreMemphis: The Musical

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

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good stuff here. Highly recommended.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 9/15

La Cage aux Folles at Actors Theatre of Indiana

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

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

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

 

Curse of an Aching Heart at Mud Creek Players

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

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

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

The Comedy Magic of Oscar Munoz

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Oscar Munoz at IndyFringe

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

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

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

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

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

Openings for the weekend of 9/8

Celebrate James Still’s 20th Season as Playwright-in-Residence at the Indiana Repertory Theatre

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James Still, playwright-in-residence at the IRT

A yearlong celebration of his work at the IRT. This evening will feature readings from Looking Over the President’s Shoulder and Appoggiatura, tours of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time set, drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and much more!

  • James Still Celebration Kickoff
  • September 12, 6 p.m.
  • Free
  • Indiana Repertory Theatre
  • E-mail ticketoffice @irtlive.com to RSVP

Fringe Against Hate

A partnership with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Fringe brings you an opportunity to learn how to Make a World of Difference. Sunday, Sept. 10, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Free, but registration is requested.

  • No Place for Hate ® Zone – 10:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Indy Eleven Theatre: The small theater will host informational booths, activities for younger children, story tellers, crafts, child-friendly programming, puppets, magic, and a special visit by the FBI.
  • Responding to Bullying – 10:00 a.m., Main Theater: ADL Education Professionals will discuss definitions of bullying, its impact on individual students and school communities, and what educators and families can do to prevent its escalation. Attendees will come away from the session with tools for preventing and intervening in bullying incidents.
  • Hate Crimes 101 – 11:30 a.m., Main Theater: ADL’s Civil Rights Professionals will discuss the impact of Indiana being one of only 5 states in our country without a hate crimes law, and why it is important that Indiana enact such a law. We will explore the issue of hate crimes in America – including discussing the unique nature and impact of hate crimes, the way in which hate crime laws operate, myths and facts about the issue, and the distinction between hate crimes and bias incidents.
  • Addressing Gender Bias in the Early-Childhood and Elementary-School Years – 1:00 p.m., Main Theater: We will focus on gender bias and its impact on individuals, schools, and communities. Participants will be given tools to engage in conversations around gender bias, gender identification, and transgender issues to create environments that are welcoming to all students and colleagues.
  • Confronting Anti-Semitism: From Words to Action – 2:30 p.m., Main Theater: Allison Rosenfeld, ADL Assistant Regional Director, will focus on empowering and equipping communities with constructive and effective strategies for responding to persistent anti-Semitic stereotypes and incidents while fostering critical thinking and creative thought among participants.
  • Building an Ally – For Students and Groups of All Ages – 4:00 p.m., Main Theater: Join A World of Difference Institute facilitators, who will provide participants with an opportunity to understand and reflect on what it means to stand up and advocate for others. Participants will work together to develop the skills to confront bias and bullying in their schools and communities through a hands-on, creative activity for people of all ages.

Belles: The Reunion at Epilogue Players

This show continues the family drama of six sisters. In the sequel to Belles, the sisters are back on the phone 25 years later for another Mama-caused crisis-filled weekend. Will they ever meet in person?

Drag at IndyFringe

Presented by NoExit and IndyFringe.

  • Broadway Drag Sept. 8, 10 p.m.
  • Creatures of the Night Sept. 15, 10 p.m.
  • $8. Cash bar (beer & wine)
  • www.indyfringe.org

Nuts at Buck Creek Players ticket discount

Through Sept. 17 ONLY: Purchase any quantity of tickets to any performance of Nuts by Tom Topor (BCP) using the Buck Creek Players secure online ticketing system, and receive 25% off of each seat! No limit. Just enter the coupon code of BELLEVUE at checkout, and you will see the discount after you click on “Apply.” Cannot be combined with any other discount offer (group rates, etc.). Visit http://www.buckcreekplayers.com/what-is-playing.html to get your tickets!

Storytelling Arts of Indiana: Forest Story Night (aka Jabberwocky)

Jabberwocky is a monthly night of storytelling hosted by Storytelling Arts of Indiana and IndyFringe. September’s theme is “Lost and Found in the Forest,” presented by IFA. Hunker down for 7-15 minute stories by five forest voices. Consider sharing your own 3-5 minute “lost-and-found” forest story during the open mike portion of the evening. Event includes snacks and a cash bar.

PRESENTERS:

  • Rae Schnapp

STORY: Both deep humiliation and great pride factor in to an adventure of being locked out of his van while on a scientific field study in Morgan-Monroe State Forest in the middle of the night.

ABOUT RAE: Rae Schnaap, Ph.D., is conservation director for the Indiana Forest Alliance and is also the Wabash Riverkeeper.

  • Clarke Kahlo

STORY: What happens when a tree-hugger (Clarke) and a lumberman (his friend) travel together in an RV.

ABOUT CLARKE: Clarke Kahlo is a retired man with time on his hands for storytelling, troublemaking, and canoeing. He’s a lifelong resident of Indianapolis, a former city planner and environmental advocate for the past two decades who enjoys participating in land use/zoning battles where our natural heritage or livability is threatened by commercial over-reach. He blogs at www.heartoftheriver.wordpr ess.com.

  • Carrie Tauscher

STORY: How her childhood in the “North woods” of Wisconsin made her so passionate about exposing children to trees and forests.

ABOUT CARRIE: Carrie is a certified arborist and serves as the State Community and Urban Forestry Coordinator at the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

  • Chuck Turner

STORY: He loses and finds humself in the forest, against all odds, over and over.

ABOUT CHUCK: Chuck Turner heads the conservation committee for the Indianapolis Hiking Club.

  • Glory-June Greiff

STORY: How the spirits of two loved ones helped her find her way in the forest.

ABOUT GLORY-JUNE: A native of the rolling moraine of northern Indiana, Glory-June Greiff is a historian, environmental and preservation activist, and woodsprite. She lives in a tiny urban forest—a certified backyard wildlife habitat—in downtown Indianapolis.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe: “The Gab” produced by Zack & Zack (4.5 stars)

I got to go to another Fringe show thanks to the generosity of Zach Rosing! And I got to LAUGH! Yay!

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The Gab is the brainchild of Zach Rosing (producer) and Zack Neiditch (director/playwright), known as Zach & Zack in theater circles; they also gifted audiences with The Great Bike Race at 2014’s IndyFringe and brought an extended version of that show to Theatre on the Square.

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“The Gab” at IndyFringe

The Gab is a morning talk show that’s already eyeing the chopping block. Because of issues on set, today is the first time the show will have no studio audience, but it is still being broadcast live. Poor stage manager Maureen (Devan Mathias) is so stressed she’s vibrating, and her assistant Alex (Chad Woodward) is suffering for it. Things get increasingly tenser as each host takes her place on stage: Dee (Jenni White), Jackie (Vickie Cornelius Phipps), Nadine (Nathalie Cruz), Brianne (Betsy Norton), and Angela (Ericka Barker). The chat show-cum-cat fight subsequently deteriorates with each segment. These women know how to stir some shit, and Maureen and Alex, with no help from The Gab’s director Jim (Rosing), who is safely ensconced in his own God-box, are left scrambling to keep these off-the-leash divas, and the show, going.

The show is packed with laughs at the expense of these crazy women (and one gay assistant who keeps talking about makeup sex). Low verbal blows and physical smack downs keep it rolling until the cameras cut off for the final time. Lots of silly fun makes it worth catching before Fringe wraps on Sunday.

But WTF with the last five seconds?

  • Saturday, Aug. 26, 6 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 27, 3 p.m.
  • $15 cash at the door, or go online or to the Firefighters Museum if you want to use a card
  • www.indyfringe.org
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings (and events) for the weekend of 8/25

New shows opening at IndyFringe

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“The Secret of Castle Alphabet” at IndyFringe

Starting tonight, the Indianapolis Fringe Festival has even more shows in its roster.

  • Secret of Castle Alphabet: A must see for the kids in the family
  • Hedy!: Hitting Indy’s festival after a fabulous run in Ireland. “Best Actress” Galway Fringe

And under Music & Dance

  • Dudesical
  • Red Couch
  • Haul & Oatz
  • Pervy Prancing: A Dirty Dancing Improv Spectacular
  • IndyScape

TONIGHT: The Crowning of the First-Ever Miss IndyFringe!

Drag queens compete for the title in front of celebrity guest judges in categories such as Q&A, Fringe-wear, and talent. All proceeds benefit IndyFringe. Bring your dollars to tip the girls! The contestant with the most tips gets bonus points. Audience participation is encouraged!

Phoenix Theatre fundraisers

Brad Hinshaw and Friends

A stand-up comedy event! Eight of the best local comics under one roof for one night only. Mixed with the classic Phoenix style of no-holds-barred fun, this night is one not to miss. All proceeds benefit the Phoenix Theatre operations budget so they can bring us more productions just the way we love to see them.

  • Saturday, Aug 26. 8 p.m.
  • $15
  • Wheeler Arts Center, 1035 Sanders St.

Mathew Street: A Beatles Celebration

A rocking evening with the most beloved music of our time. All proceeds benefit the Phoenix Theatre’s operating fund. Appropriate for all ages.

  • Thursday, Aug. 31, 7:30 p.m.
  • $20
  • Phoenix Theatre

Tickets for both events can be bought here.

Buck Creek Players’ Ice Cream Social

Enjoy some pie, ice cream, and other desserts and get to know other members and supporters of BCP. There is no cost to attend this event, so stop by to enjoy everyone’s company and enjoy some summertime treats. Catch up with some old friends, make some new ones, or come learn more about BCP. Following the social will be a short membership meeting and kickoff of the play-reading committee for the 2018-2019 season. Not a member? Interested in possibly becoming a member? Stop by for more information and to pay your membership fee.

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe: “Showehead” produced by Formerly Fuckboy (2 stars)

Note: This was the only Fringe show I attended due to ticketing issues. Yeah, I am disappointed. I was really looking forward to doing some serious Fringe coverage this year.

Warning: potentially very offensive content follows

 

UntitledThis is a serious what-the-fuck show. Normally, I am all for that. This one, however, manages to be tedious, even in its festival-abbreviated runtime of less than an hour. The jokes have a repetitive nature, and you have to wonder if the whole thing was drug-inspired—and not in a good Muppet Show kind of way.

Ironically, or not, drug use plays a prominent part in the story of a Stepford “housewife” dragged into the underbelly of organized crime by her husband and a degenerate Jesus. Yes, if you have issues with unabashed blasphemy, stop reading now. At one point, Jesus snorts coke off the back of a flasher who has a rubber chicken dick. Plus, there’s the stupefying creepy sex scene where Charlotte (said housewife) is almost raped by a mafia muscle wearing a diaper, in which lube and a phone are stashed. This seems intriguingly funny on paper, but the reality doesn’t live up.

So why give the show any stars at all? Because the cast wholeheartedly throws themselves into the fuckery taking place on stage. Their enthusiasm and willingness in this experience takes precedence in my overall rating. They seem to be genuinely reveling their roles, and even made me laugh several times. But by the end, it just wasn’t enough.

Please don’t let this lackluster review turn you off of the rest of the festival. In the past, I have seen shows here that surpassed any expectations of even fully staged productions. I have faith there is some seriously amazing stuff happening.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 8/18

It’s hard to believe that there is anything opening this weekend outside of the Fringe Festival, but yes, a few brave souls have things happening. So, gorge yourself at Fringe and then see what else you might want to take in as well.

2017 Indy Fringe Festival: Eleven Days, Eight Stages, 72 Shows on Mass Ave

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Presented by EclecticPond Theatre Company at IndyFringe

There are entirely too many events and shows to cut and paste here, so to make it easier on all of us, go here to see the complete program offerings. My favorite from last year, Drankspeare,  is returning this year, so, yeah, go see that one for sure. I almost peed my pants last year.

Garfield Shakespeare in the Park: Antony and Cleopatra

After the events of Julius Caesar, three rulers take control of Rome — Octavius Caesar, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, and Mark Antony. Mark Antony spends most of his time in the company of the beautiful and powerful Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra. Sextus Pompey threatens war against the Roman Empire, prompting Antony to return home to negotiate peace. Passion, jealousy, and intrigue follow Antony and Cleopatra through Rome and Egypt, leading to a tragic and timeless end for both. Join us as we stage this epic tale of romance and war spanning empires featuring two of Shakespeare’s most iconic characters — Antony and Cleopatra.

  • Fridays and Saturdays August 18-Sept. 2 at 8 p.m.
  • Admission is free, and donations are welcome.
  • MacAllister Amphitheater at Garfield Park
  • http://gscindy.com/

Beef & Boards: West Side Story

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Beef & Boards

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is transported to New York City, as two young idealistic lovers struggle to survive in a world of hate, violence, and prejudice. Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s score includes “I Feel Pretty,” “Maria,” and “Tonight.”

StageWorthy Productions: The Outgoing Tide

The Indianapolis premiere of an award-winning drama. In a summer cottage on Chesapeake Bay, Gunner has hatched an unorthodox plan to secure his family’s future but meets with resistance from his wife (Peg) and son (Jack), who have plans of their own. As winter approaches, the three must quickly find common ground and come to an understanding … before the tide goes out. A touching family drama sprinkled with surprising humor and powerful emotion, and a poignant play about illness, death, and personal choice.

  • August 18-27, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $12, with a limited number of upgrade seats available at the door for an additional $2
  • Broadway United Methodist Church, 609 East 29th Street
  • 317-750-6454: leave your name, phone number, date of performance, and number of tickets needed. Cash or checks only. Walk-ins are also welcomed.
  • Rated PG-13 for adult language and themes.

The Improbable Fiction Theatre Company and Nickel Plate Arts: Much Ado About Nothing

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The Improbable Fiction Theatre Company and Nickel Plate Players “Much Ado About Nothing”

The IFTC’s inaugural production takes Shakespeare’s romantic comedy and sets it in post- Civil War Missouri City.

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 8/10

Carmel Community Players: Driving Miss Daisy

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Carmel Community Players: “Driving Miss Daisy”

“What transforms us? Who are the people who have affected us most deeply? What do you do when you are faced with an idea or perspective so new to you that you’re forever changed by it? These moments in life when the world gets larger suddenly, or clearer, or richer, are gifts. Unexpected gifts.” —Driving Miss Daisy

Fringe Festival Performer Preview Party

Kick off #Fringe17 with two-minute previews of shows featuring more than 70 shows from local, national, and international performers. Special guests Mayor Joe Hogsett, Miss Indiana, and City Councilors Jeff Miller and Zach Adamson. Be the first to get your Collector “Fringe 17 Button” and pick up a copy of the Festival Program, and get a “sneak peek” of what local, national and international performers re bringing to the stage in 2017.

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“You Never Know” presented by Amalgamated Stage Productions and Vince Accetturo (2 stars)

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“You Never Know” by Amalgamated Stage Productions

Known as a “flop” when it was first produced in 1938, Cole Porter’s You Never Know has been dusted off and is being staged by Amalgamated Stage Productions and Vince Accetturo. According to the program, “Amalgamated is drawn to those old things that have lost their luster or fallen out of favor.” However, this “lost musical” may have been better left missing. It lacks the charm and musical strength of Porter’s other works, such as the most notable and well-loved Kiss Me Kate and Anything Goes.

This staging is presented in the small confines of a new performance space in Carmel, The Cat. (For more on The Cat, check out Lou Harry’s story. Also, be forewarned that it’s kind of hard to find because it is set back from the road and there’s a bunch of construction. Google Maps was not my friend.) It’s a lovely space, but for a musical such as this, its setting is too intimate. The show (whose plot is ridiculous) really needs that fourth wall firmly in place to reinforce the audience’s suspension of disbelief, something that cannot be achieved in this setting. Plus, any kind of dance numbers are awkward because of the space restrictions, and for the kind of dancing indicative of a show from this time period, a more traditional separation of actors and audience behooves both.

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“You Never Know” by Amalgamated Stage Productions

Under director Will Wood, the cast is solid if not mind-blowing. Darrin Gowan is playboy Baron Ferdinand, who swaps roles for the night with his manservant, Gaston, played by the above-mentioned Accetturo. Perry Accetturo portrays Ida, a starlet and the Baron’s most regular bedpartner, but he really prefers Madame Baltin, played by Brooke Bucher. Madame Baltin’s maid, Maria, played by Brittany Bucher, pretends to be a lady when Gaston’s wrong phone number lands her in the Baron’s apartment with a smitten Gaston. Worth noting is that Brittany Bucher is only seventeen, something I discovered only after checking her bio because of her very pretty voice.

A nice touch is the introductory remarks from Hugh Hefner’s Penthouse playing on the stage’s TV. But the single funniest element of the show is choreographer Anne Martin’s non-verbal and absolutely hilarious depiction of Elsie the housekeeper. Her little stint on a coffee table was the show’s highlight.

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“You Never Know” by Amalgamated Stage Productions
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 8/4

Since I was remiss in my updates last week, I will start with shows that have opened already but are continuing this weekend and then add what’s opening this weekend …

Catalyst Repertory and No Holds Bard: Eugene Ionesco’s Rhinoceros

945349-250The rarely produced play is about Berenger, who lives a very normal life. He’s a little messy. He’s sometimes late for work. He drinks too much. And everyone he knows is becoming a rhinoceros. At first the phenomenon doesn’t seem to be too much of a problem, but when his best friend Jean transforms right before his eyes, Berenger begins to worry. Soon he finds himself holed up as though he were in a zombie movie. Only with rhinoceroses. Ionesco wrote this play in response to the political zealotry he witnessed all around himself in Europe during the middle of the twentieth century. When surrounded by extremism and hatred, one of humanity’s strongest weapons in defense of civility and decency is, naturally, comedy. It is not a stretch to see the prescience of a piece about normal people transforming into rampaging beasts. Therein lies the heart of the play; it’s not necessarily poking fun at the absurdity of political organizations; it’s poking fun at how easy it is for people to believe in them. In the year 2017, we find ourselves blindly stampeding along with the rest of the herd. Maybe it’s time to take a moment to step out for a little while and laugh at it.

Noblesville Cultural Arts Commission Shakespeare in the Park: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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Noblesville Shakespeare in the Park

The Noblesville Cultural Arts Commission presents its 25th annual production of Shakespeare in the Park this summer – the longest running production in central Indiana.  The performances will be in the new amphitheater at the First Merchants Pavilion at Federal Hill Commons.  To celebrate this, there will be a new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which was the first play done by the group a quarter century ago.

Asante Children’s Theatre and Conner Prairie: Light: Douglass Returns

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Asante Children’s Theatre at Conner Prairie

The play, written by Indiana playwright Celeste Williams, was inspired by the historic return to Indiana by prominent American abolitionist, writer, and speaker Frederick Douglass. The play came about after Williams, a former Indianapolis Star journalist, wrote a non-fiction piece in 2014 about Douglass for an area arts journal. That article recounted an appearance by Douglass in Pendleton, Ind., in 1843, when he was severely beaten as he attempted to give a speech against slavery. That incident of violence contrasted with the reception Douglass received in 1880 — some 37 years later — at a political rally in Noblesville, Ind.

 

Jett Theatrical Productions: Behind the Scenes

This is JTP’s first written, produced, and directed show and part of the first of a two-year summer-series production. Behind the Scenes is a present-day play narrated through the personal eyes of one character by the name of Miles. Miles is an interesting individual who serves as the middle child in his family. Often times, he struggles. He struggles with understanding his family and their lack of communication, equality, acceptance, and more. This family learns various forms of resiliency, whether that’s at church, home, or at work. They also find ways to function financially without impacting the family as a whole. How will Miles and his family overcome their personal challenges? Will Miles forever live his life silenced while feeling distraught? What is truly behind the scenes?

Ricks-Weil Theatre Company: Annie

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Ricks-Weil Theatre Company: “Annie”

So, I don’t think this one needs a synopsis …

Amalgamated Stage Productions and Vince Accetturo: You Never Know: Cole Porter’s Lost Musical

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Amalgamated Stage Productions and Vince Accetturo: “You Never Know: Cole Porter’s Lost Musical.” Photo by Olive Branch Photography.

Maria, maid to Mme. Baltin, impersonates her mistress while carrying out an assignation with the Baron de Romer’s valet, Gaston, whom she believes to be the Baron himself. The Baron discovers the pair, but, being a good sport, he assumes the role of his servant in order to assist Gaston in his romantic pursuit. When Mme. Baltin discovers her maid’s deceit, she is less of a good sport and exposes the masquerade. All ends happily, though, as the foursome sup by candlelight.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

MIA this week

Sorry, y’all, I’ve been remiss this week. I haven’t felt well for the past several days. So I’m hermitting at home this week. Next week, regularly scheduled programming will return.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Human Rites” at the Phoenix Theatre (5 stars)

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“Human Rites” at the Phoenix Theatre

Alan is a tenured cultural psychology professor. When one of his undergraduate classes submits a letter of complaint about a paper of his destined for publication, which he shared with them during a class, the dean, Michaela, challenges her former lover because she uncompromisingly rejects his research on female circumcision being performed in Africa. She dismisses his work as being credible, stating that he, as an American white male, could not reliably procure this information and claiming that the intangible nature of his field cannot provide actual facts.

His findings show that the majority of the women having the procedure embrace it as sacred because it is an initiation into the empowering women’s secret society of Bondo. They feel they are claiming their bodies’ femininity, and it forms bonds of sisterhood among them. Michaela also accuses Alan of stealing her similar research idea and of fetishizing black women. However, her own vitriol seems to be moored more in her own anger as a woman scorned (even ten years later) and in her own cultural superiority complex. Michaela has arranged to have the study repeated, headed up by a highly recommended graduate student at the university, who is from Sierra Leone, Lydia—a young black woman.

Rob Johansen, as Alan, and Milicent Wright, as Michaela, are both well-known, accomplished presences on Indianapolis stages, and they do not disappoint here. Under guest director Lavina Jadhwani, their body language, facial expressions, and line delivery create a realistic portrayal of a couple at odds both personally and professionally. Given their shared history, Johansen’s initial awkwardness and Michaela’s cold reception of him make their elevating, heated confrontational debate more personal.

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“Human Rites” at the Phoenix Theatre

They are joined on stage by Paeton Chavis, as Lydia, who is also a force on stage. Her character holds her own, chin high, when faced with her educational “superiors.” In this role, she exudes the passion and strength of conviction that is often most evident in a younger generation. She also adopts a lilting accent to reiterate her character’s heritage. (Whether it is authentic or not, I cannot say, not being a student of African language, but dialect coach Chelsea Anderson pulled a musical cadence from Chavis.)

The show’s uses the hot-button issue of female circumcision, but through this, it also takes to task people’s inherent if subconscious belief of their own culture’s superiority. While the show is intense, there are brief moments of levity to break up the swirling rush of intellectual discourse. The emotionally charged verbal sparring can be overwhelming, but the inclusion of these breathers deters mental overload in preparation for the next onslaught of academic and personally fueled arguments.

Phoenix’s lower stage is moved almost to the center of the room, designed by Bernie Killian, allowing audiences an even closer and immersive experience.

Seth Rozin’s new play is based on actual accounts, not just speculation, which expands the play’s purpose, challenging audiences to examine their own emotional reactions and cultural prejudices.

The show is ninety minutes with no intermission, so get your drinks and cookie bars before it starts.

For an interesting read on the subject, check out https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/04/female-genital-mutilation-cutting-anthropologist/389640/.

  • Through August 13, Thursdays at 7  p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., $27; Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., $33
  • www.phoenixtheare.org
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 7/21

World premiere of Human Rites at the Phoenix Theatre

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“Human Rites” at the Phoenix Theatre

Old wounds split open as former lovers tackle new relationship dynamics amid boiling controversy. Michaela, now dean of Alan’s university years after their affair, challenges the claim that his paper is “based on actual, reputable, methodical research” by accusing him of sexualizing black women for personal gain. Alan, a white man, scrambles to defend his findings while fighting a re-surging lust for the couple’s passionate connection. The new play is written by Seth Rozin.

  • July 20-August 13, Thursdays at 7  p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., $27; Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., $33. Tickets for July 20-23 are only $20 each.
    Producer party Friday, July 21 with complimentary food and Sun King beer directly following the performance
  • www.phoenixtheare.org

Eclectic Pond presents J. Eyre: A New Musical Adaptation at Grove Haus

18891906_1592925297408625_8855291697296667917_oBased on Charlotte Bronte’s epic novel, J. Eyre tells the story from a contemporary set of eyes. Told by six women and one man, be swept away by this new musical and on to the mysterious grounds of Thornfield Hall. You may find love there, but you may find something else…

Riot: A Comedy Variety Show at Theatre on the Square

A monthly 90-minute non-stop Riot of talented improv comedy troupes and variety acts, both local and from out of town, bring to the stage an unexpected mixture of joy and happiness. From the team that brought you the show Up Yours Indianapolis and the improvised comedy troupe Fleece Academy comes an evening of entertainment you’ll be talking about for its uniqueness and audacity. Every Riot show is a fundraiser for Theatre on the Square with 100% of ticket prices and concession sales kept by the theater.

  • Saturday, July 22 at 9 p.m.
  • $5
  • tots.org

Nickel Plate Players present Ten Pin Alli at Theatre at the Fort

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“Tin Pin Allie” presented by Nickel Plate Players. Photo courtesy of Amy Lancaster Frederick.

This “Girl Power” musical is about ace bowler extraordinaire, Bernie Bostock, who has been killed in a motor cycle crash. His girlfriend, Alli (they call her Ten Pin Alli because she is an amazing bowler too), is the only one who can replace him if the men’s team is going to win the city-wide tournament this year. One problem: no girls allowed on the men’s team. So, she disguises herself as a man. The rest is history …

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 7/7

And How Does My Garden Grow? written by Rita Kohn

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“How Does My Garden Grow” by Rita Kohn

From  directors Angela Jackson-Brown and Ashya Thomas:
This play is about a group of young teens who are struggling to find their way in the world. They are runaways. They are abused. They are pushed outside of the margin, BUT they are not broken. They have heart, they have humor, and they have a drive to succeed. This play will make you cry and smile as you see their journey. Rita wrote this play 17 years ago, and it is STILL relevant today. In the words of Rita, “All these years later and we are still struggling with the same issues.”

  • July 8, 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; July 9, 2:30 p.m.; July 14, 7:30 p.m.; July 15, 4:30 p.m.
  • $13
  • Indy Eleven Theatre
  • Click here for tickets

Ring of Fire at Beef & Boards

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“Ring of Fire” at Beef & Boards

This unique show has been inspired by Johnny Cash’s legendary, iconic songbook and covers everything from love and faith, struggle and success, rowdiness and redemption, and home and family. Famous songs include “I Walk The Line,” “A Boy Named Sue,” and of course the title tune, all celebrating the Man in Black.

 

PARADE2017 presented by NoExit Performance

The event is part of Garfield Park Arts Center-Indy Parks and Recreation “Pack the Parks Day.” PARADE2017 is a cumulative, outdoor performance inspired by dance history, community resistance, and the joyful pageantry of American parades. In 1917, the Ballets Russes premiered Parade (1917), a collaboration between Leonide Massine, Pablo Picasso, Eric Satie, and Jean Cocteau, a critique of modernity and the uncouth American. One hundred years later, PARADE2017 revisits this collaboration, marching through one hundred years of artistic history and asking if moving forward is always progress?

Belles at Epilogue Players

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“Belles” at Epilogue Players

Belles is told in “two acts and forty-five phone calls.” It visits six Southern sisters who, over the course of an autumn weekend, seek to bridge the physical and emotional distance between them via the telephone and in the process come to terms with their shattered family history.

On Broadway presented by Indiana Performing Arts Initiative

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“On Broadway” by the Indiana Performing Arts Initiative. Photo by http://www.photography.net.

The show is a cabaret-style musical review featuring some of American musical theater’s most popular songs. The review features selections from Broadway classics such as Chicago, Phantom of the Opera, Cabaret, Pippin and Les Miserables as well as current Broadway hits such as Wicked, Hamilton, Book of Mormon and Waitress.

This summer-stock musical theater training program is under the umbrella of local non-profit theater organization Claude McNeal Productions. In 2016, Claude McNeal Productions launched the inaugural season of its IPAI as an expanded performing arts training program. True to its mission of placing students alongside working theater professionals, the program had over fifty participants from local high schools and area college working to further develop their skills in the performing arts.

  • July 7-16, Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m.; Sunday, July 9 at 4:30 p.m.; and  Sunday, July 16 at 2:30 p.m.
  • Herron High School, Russell Hall
  • $5 for all Herron High School faculty, staff or students; $8 for children 6 to 18 and all area college students (I.D. required); $12 for adults.
  • http://www.theipai.com or call 317-340-4258

Big Fish, a Young Adult Production, at Footlite Musicals

The show features performers aged 18-25. Every man wants to be a hero to his son. Big Fish is the heart-warming musical about a dying man’s efforts to justify an ordinary life. A father tells his life story as a tailored fairy tale. His young son believes the mythic, larger than life stories until time goes by and the boy grows up to question whether or not he’s being led on. The adult son refuses to buy into his dad’s self-glorifying tall tales until the tear-jerking finale when he recognizes his father truly lived a big life.

  • July 7-23, Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, 2:30 p.m.
  • $23; $15 youth
  • www.footlite.org

 

 

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Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Richard III” presented by First Folio and Catalyst Repertory (5 stars)

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“Richard III” presented by First Folio and Catalyst Repertory. Photo by Gary Nelson.

First Folio Productions and Catalyst Repertory collaborated to present Shakespeare’s story about one of England’s most devious villains, Richard III. And oh, what a deliciously bloodthirsty production it is!

Richard, who was killed in 1485, orchestrated the death of anyone who stood in his way to take the English throne. His hatefulness even drove him to killing children, contracting to have his two young nephews murdered in cold blood.

While not as misshapen as he is written in Shakespeare’s play, Richard was afflicted with scoliosis, which likely caused him to be minimally hunchbacked. This could have added to his “discontent,” a benign word to describe his sly viciousness, but in no way could justify it.

The play was adapted by Ben Power, Glenn L. Dobbs (who also directed), and Casey Ross, intriguingly bookending the production with the discovery of Richard’s remains in 2012 in Leicester, England.

What makes this production so riveting is Matt Anderson’s superlative performance. He masterfully embodies the eerie monarch in such a way that makes your skin crawl. The evil seeps off his character to pool into a noxious flood at the audience’s feet. From cunning conspirator, to simpering pretender, to paranoid madman, Anderson manifests them all. And while there is a large, and good, cast, the focal point is always Anderson. Not to slight anyone else, but he simply owns the stage.

Atmospheric costumes (Linda Schomhorst) help set the mood, as does sound designer Brian G. Hartz’s modern selections.

Everyone does an excellent job of maneuvering the Early Modern English that literature students bemoan. It’s easy to understand the dialogue (and monologues), so don’t feel as if you need to read the Cliffs Notes before seeing the show. And while Shakespearean productions are notorious for being long, don’t worry; this one is only a little over two hours. Totally worth it.

For a quick video about the discovery of Richard III’s remains, you can check out this video on YouTube.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“The Hunchback of Notre Dame: A New Musical” presented by Bobdirex (4 stars)

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“The Hunchback of Notre Dame” presented by Bobdirex

Bobdirex, the vehicle for Bob Harbin, producer and director, has taken on the ambitious project of The Hunchback of Notre Dame: A New Musical, a haunting success.

Thank the gods that Victor Hugo won’t have to roll in his grave quite as much, given the saccharine Disnification of the 1996 animated movie. Instead, I was pleased to find that not only is much of the music that made the original soundtrack, one of the most under-appreciated Disney works, included in the stage musical, but also the dark aspects that are only hinted at in the animated version (for obvious reasons) are further addressed on stage.

AND NO GOAT.

I’m assuming that most people know the basic plot of the story, so I’m going to skip it and move right into the show’s presentation.

In addition to the traditional commentary, expertly delivered by Keith Potts as Clopin, the king of the Gypsies (who also has a strong singing voice), the performance also includes spoken choral narration—always an engrossing element in productions. And speaking of all things choral, the large choir gives the production the necessary weight for many of the numbers (even if they sometimes overpower the principle singers), and their Entr’acte is absolutely beautiful.

Jacob Butler makes an excellent Quasimodo, conveying the tentativeness and insecurity that this man has been smothered by all his life. A couple times, he struggles with a high note, but his rendition out “Out There” is still arresting with all the emotions behind this song.

Shelbi Armstrong as Esmeralda is a knockout. Not only does the girl know how to shimmy, but her powerful and lovely singing voice is on excellent exhibit, most notably in “Someday,” a duet with the also talented Logan Moore as Phoebus, and “God Help the Outcasts.” She can also cop an attitude and then become a caring friend whenever the need arises.

Bill Book as Dom Claude Frollo is good in his authoritative position, though I found him a too unaggressive in his exploitation of Quasimodo and his carnal attraction to Esmeralda. I was hoping for more of a villain. (You can check out the Disney version of “Hellfire” here.)

The riot of colors used in costuming (Peachy Keen Costuming) and smoky effects are set well against the black stage, which is only adorned with a large rose window and minimal props. The Gargoyles (Curtis Peters, Matt Rohrer, and April Armstrong-Thomas) are amusing, but their costumes, while elaborate, are a little off-putting, as their googly-eyes and the breastplate on Armstrong-Thomas are a little strange. The lighting (Matthew Ford Cunningham) set a particularly ominous mood.

Nitpicking aside, I still find the production more than worthy of accolades.

  • Continues through July 7-9
  • $25 with discounts available for seniors and students
  • Marian University Theatre, 3200 Cold Spring Road
  • 317-280-0805, bobdirex.com
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 6/30

First Folio Productions and Catalyst Repertory present Shakespeare’s Richard III at the Indy Fringe Theatre

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First Folio Productions and Catalyst Repertory’s “Richard the III”

Richard, also called the duke of Gloucester, and eventually crowned King Richard III, was deformed in body and twisted in mind. Richard is both the central character and the villain of the play. He is evil, corrupt, sadistic, and manipulative, and he will stop at nothing to become king. His intelligence, political brilliance, and dazzling use of language keep the audience fascinated — and his subjects and rivals under his thumb.

 

The Golem of Havana at the Phoenix Theatre Second Sunday “Meet the Playwrights”

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“The Golem of Havana” at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Ed Stewart.

After  the Sunday, July 2, 2 p.m. performance, a lively discussion with all three of the authors. Hear stories, ask questions, and learn more about the creation of this new musical.

JCC Night is July 1: All tickets sold for the performance benefit the Jewish Community Center of Indianapolis.

See the review of The Golem of Havana

Gruff! at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum

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“Gruff!” at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum

A new family musical … with goats! All the goats in the junkyard know the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff … or do they? In this interactive and puppet-filled musical, a young goat leaves the junkyard for the first time and stumbles into the fantastical land of the trolls. There, she learns about the wonder of the natural world, and a new adventure begins, in which trolls and goats learn to live and play together.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“The Golem of Havana” at the Phoenix Theatre (5 stars)

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Lydia Burke in “The Golem of Havana” at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Ed Stewart.

Since ancient times, storytelling has been a part of the universal human instinct to explain, record, and pass on truths. It helps us learn from our past, survive our present, and evaluate our possible futures. Stories—even the sad ones—connect us with our shared humanity as well as our particular origins.

I admit that I don’t know much about Cuba during the 1950s revolution, but the situations in The Golem of Havana are similar to other historical events, making it easy to pick up on what’s happening. Political unrest is certainly not unknown throughout the world. Besides, this isn’t so much a story about a historical event as it is about the everyday people who are forced to live their lives in reaction to what they are powerless to control.

Given the magic of storytelling, it is natural that Rebecca (played by Lydia Burke), a girl from a Hungarian-Jewish family, would find an outlet in creating her own comic book, titled The Golem of Havana, where she can shape her characters’ lives. In case you are unfamiliar with a golem, it is part of the Jewish mythology, a roughly human-like, single-minded creature created from clay and animated via a charm or parchment placed in its mouth by a rabbi. They were made to be protectors of persecuted Jews. Rebecca pulls from this Jewish folklore for her stories, consciously or subconsciously looking for a savior in the face of the tension of her adopted country’s impending rebellion, her beloved father’s financial stress (Pinchas, a struggling tailor played by Eric J. Olson), and her mother’s (Yutka, played by Lori Ecker) lingering pain over a sister lost to her long ago by the Nazis.

In Rebecca’s desperation to help alleviate her family’s worries, she is introduced to the deity of the family’s Cuban maid, Maria (Teneh B.C. Karimu): Yemaya, who has a particular fondness for watermelons as offerings. What follows is a beautiful, sincere chant to the goddess, their duet reverently asking for her intercession. Maria has her own troubles. Her son, Teo (Ray Hutchins), has joined the rebels, and his fate is uncertain.

The family’s contact with Cuba’s government comes in the form of Pinchas’s best customer, Arturo (Carlos Medina Maldonado), who runs a hefty tab with the tailor. Arturo is sympathetic to the family—but only to a certain degree.

Additional characters are taken on by Wheeler Castaneda, Betsy Norton, Rob Johansen, and Paul Nicely.

Rebecca’s enthusiasm about her comic-book character adds a touch of the whimsical to the serious subject matter that dominates the musical. Her innocence among the surrounding turmoil—perfectly embodied by her abruptly kissing and then immediately jumping away from Teo—reminds us of simple humanity in the unsure awkwardness of this teenage girl.

Director Bryan Fonseca has pulled together all the separate elements of a show and crafted a work of art—the often haunting music that blends Cuban and Jewish influences (musical direction by Karimu and performed by a live ensemble perched above the action), the orange-yellow sets, the elegant lighting, the excellent performances, all meld to create an immersive effect.

While the entire cast is top notch, my personal favorites are Burke, who conveys Rebecca’s endearing personality through her skillful portrayal and through her absolutely lovely voice, and Olson’s Pinchas, a remarkably likable, compelling, and sympathetic character.

OK, so the illustrations of the golem look like Baymax from Big Hero Six (whom I love anyway), but the use of Rebecca’s drawings, projected to a screen on stage, enlivens Rebecca’s journal writing. It is an intriguing way to include necessary exposition.

Rebecca says that stories matter, and the statement belies her years, because in the end, we are all stories, and these stories help us navigate the confusing, exciting, tragic aspects of our lives.

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Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 6/23

The Golem of Havana at the Phoenix Theatre

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“The Golem of Havana” at the Phoenix Theatre

Welcome to 1950s Havana. It’s the brink of the Cuban Revolution, and Rebecca, a young Jewish girl and aspiring artist, uses her illustrations to envision a champion for Cuba. Drawn from the stories of her homeland, her artwork finds hope in the Golem, a legendary protector of the Jewish people. Her family has only just begun to find their first fragile grasp on prosperity and is now faced with a difficult decision: holding onto their security or protecting an injured revolutionary. Blending the music and traditions of two worlds, The Golem of Havana weaves a story of hope, family, and sacrifice.

  • June 22-July 16, Thursdays at 7 p.m.; Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $22-$35
  • CHEAPSEATS WEEKEND June 22-26: all tickets only $20
  • PRODUCER PARTY Friday, June 23: food and drink directly following the performance. Complimentary food provide by Saffron Cafe. Beer provided by Sun King Brewery.
  • Purchase your tickets to see the July 1 performance of The Golem of Havana and support the Jewish Community Center of Indianapolis.
  • www.phoenixtheatre.org

The Hunchback of Notre Dame: A New Musical at Marian University Theatre

HunchPosteOLBOBDIREX, under the direction of Bob Harbin, presents the Indiana premiere. The musical is based on the original Victor Hugo novel with the Menken/Swartz Academy Award-nominated score from the Disney feature film. What makes a monster and what makes a man is the theme of this family friendly show with themes of love, acceptance and being a hero.

  • June 23-24, 29-30, July 1, 7-8 at 7:30 p.m. and July 2 and 9 at 3 p.m.
  • $25 with discounts available for seniors and students. Reserved seating.
  • Marian University Theatre, 3200 Cold Spring Road, Indianapolis. Free parking and wheelchair accessible.
  • 317-280-0825 or
  • www.bobdirex.com

The Princess and the Pea presented by The 7th Artistry

18620766_1428424760557312_9102827348340673330_oThe people of France are demanding change. The patricians of France want nothing more than to immerse themselves ever deeper in the lavish parties they’ve always known. What could be more powerful than wealth? What could ever trump the extravagance of endless delight? The doors open every night for the wealthy, but tonight, revolution waits on the stoop.

  • June 23-July 1, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
  • $15; students: $12
  • Only 40 people seated per show.
  • Note this is a site-specific piece and the audience and actors will be moving around during the performance.
    Circle City Industrial Complex, 1125 Brookside Ave, Indianapolis
  • http://www.7artistry.com

13: The Musical at Carmel Community Players (young artists production)

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“13: The Musical” at Carmel Community Players

Evan Goldman is about to turn thirteen, and he can’t wait. His life seems full of possibilities — that is, until his parents get divorced, and he is forced to move with his mom from big-city New York to podunk Appleton, Indiana. If Evan can’t get the coolest kids to come to his bar mitzvah, how is he going to survive the school year, not to mention the rest of his life? As Evan navigates the world of cool kids and nerds, jocks and cheerleaders, first kisses and heartbreak, he comes to understand “What it Means to Be a Friend.”

  • June 23-July 2, 7:30 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays
  • $18 adults, $16 seniors (62+) and students
  • Rated PG-13
  • http://www.carmelplayers.org

Triangle, a co-production by Q Artistry & Young Actors Theatre

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“Triangle” by Q Artistry and YAT

Triangle explores the labor movement, specifically of the garment district in New York City, in the early 1900s with a cast of 15 actors portraying actual people in history. From the progress made by the forming of unions to the people (mostly women) taking to the streets on strike to change unsafe and unfair working conditions, the piece then blends into one of the worst workplace disasters in history allowing viewers to witness the fire firsthand. The project also doubles as a theater education and mentor experience as the cast includes not only members of the Indy professional acting community, but also teens who attained the roles through an open audition. Throughout the rehearsal process and performances, the teens work closely with the professional cast and learn alongside them.

  • Due to the graphic nature of this moment in history, this play is not recommended for viewers 12 and under.
  • June 24, 12:30, 3 and 5 p.m.; June 25, 2 and 5 p.m.
  • $10-$15
  • Propylæum, 1410 North Delaware Street #2, Indianapolis
  • qartistry.org and yatkids.org
civic
http://civictheatre.org/jr-civic-fundraiser/

 

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 6/16

19105678_1552210294848949_7602764245296168594_n“Another Man’s Slingbacks” at Khaos Company Theatre

“Killer” Kerrgian, the homophobic quarterback of the Lincoln High football team, is magically transformed into a homosexual during homecoming week, when a passing fairy godmother grants a gay classmate’s vengeful wish. The football star gets to learn what life is like on the other side of the pom-poms; and Ricky, the gay student, learns a few lessons about manliness as well.​

  • June 16-24, Fridays-Saturdays, 7 p.m.
    Pay What You Want Night June 23
  • $18
  • www.kctindy.com

The Exceptionals at StageWorthy Productions

The Encore Award-winning, non-profit, volunteer community theater will stage the Indiana premiere of The Exceptionals by Bob Clyman. Where do you draw the line between eugenics and the desire of every parent to give his or her child the best possible start? If the answer seems pretty simple, just ask Gwen, Allie, and Tom, three parents whose children were conceived at a prestigious fertilization program, specializing in donors with IQs over 180. It is now five years later, and the parents of these exceptional children are discovering that the answer is anything but simple.

  • June 16-25, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • All seats are $12
  • The Broadway United Methodist Church, 609 E. 29th St., Indianapolis.
  • www.stageworthy.org, 317-750-6454
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Bonnie & Clyde: The Musical” at Buck Creek Players (4.5 stars)

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“Bonnie & Clyde” at Buck Creek Players

The first glimpse you get at Bonnie & Clyde: The Musical is of the couple riddled with bullets, dead in their car. While it takes some liberties with the actual details, the gruesome point is clear: theirs was a story fated to have a solemn, bloody ending.

But from there, the show steps back to how it all ended that way. This isn’t a shoot-‘em-up story (though of course it’s in there), but a love story—romantic love and familial love, and what one will do for said love.

Annie Miller as Bonnie and Joseph D. Massingale as Clyde lead up a massive cast under the direction of D. Scott Robinson. And every actor on stage more than holds up his or her own. The talent that has been accumulated for this production is impressive.

Not only do Miller and Massingale create sympathetic characters, but the musical numbers put their exceptional vocal talents on display as well. (A side note: the show’s music is by Frank Wildhorn of Jekyll & Hyde.) But others get center stage as well: Jonathan D. Krouse as Bonnie’s love-struck friend Ted has a memorable duet with Massingale, and Miranda Nehrig as Blanche, Clyde’s sister in law, is a hoot singing about her husband going back to jail.

This is an exceptional piece of stagecraft. My only nitpicking is that the spotlights smooth out and Massingale remembers to unsnap his holster before trying to pull out his gun.

  • June 9-25, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $20 ($18 for children, students, and senior citizens)
  • www.buckcreekplayers.com
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“The Great Bike Race” at Theatre on the Square (4.5 stars)

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“The Great Bike Race” at Theatre on the Square

I didn’t get to see The Great Bike Race when it was featured at the 2014 FringeFestival, but I’m almost glad because I went into the show not knowing what to expect. In fact, I thought the premise sounded kind of boring: a story about bicyclists racing the Tour de France in 1904.

Holy crap was I wrong!

Writer-director Zack Neiditch expanded the 40-minute Fringe version into just shy of 90 minutes. While some areas in the extended cut move too slow, overall its comedic ride is well worth taking.

The “cleverly anachronistic” (a phrase the actors instructed reviewers to use in describing the show) follows 16-year-old Henri Cornet (Frankie Bolda), an honorable cyclist among a pack of cheaters. The worst of them, and vicious rivals, are the aggressive hot-air-bag Hippolyte Acoutrier (Paige Scott) and the sneaky and subtle Maurice Garin (Ben Asaykwee).

Other contestants include Jean-Baptiste DuFortunac (Carrie Bennett Fedor) and Llucien Portier (Evan Wallace), who discover their man-love during the race. Many of the male characters are actually taken on by women, but Sonia Goldberg as Alois Catteau is an actress who is pretending to be a man who is a woman. (Get all that?) Josh Ramsey portrays multiple racer roles, all from different nationalities, in a tongue-tying, kilt-swishing, mustache-drooping hot mess. (I love the “Scottish surprise.”) Jean Dargasse (John Kern) actually hops a train to get to the finish line faster, and Gustave Drioul (Craig Kemp) just keeps his geriatric character pedaling.

I assure you, this isn’t the stage version of a historical documentary. The show is full of, dirty trick and sexual innuendo, and it even boasts a few musical numbers (Asaykwee, woot woot!). Plus, there is a stuffed cat a la the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog. And a cow. And an angry mob of French hicks. The stage is full of crazy-funny insanity.

And ah-maze-balls victory dances.

  • Through June 24, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 5 p.m.
  • $25 ($20 for student, senior, or military).
  • zrpevents.vbotickets.com to purchase online or visit www.tots.org to learn more

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Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 6/9

Theatre on the Square: The Great Bike Race

 

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“The Great Bike Race” at Theatre on the Square

The Great Bike Race, one of the top sellers of the 2014 IndyFringe Festival, returns to Theatre on the Square in a new full-length production. The Great Bike Race tells of the disastrous running of the second annual Tour de France. In 1904, France’s greatest cyclists met and then preceded to cheat, lie, and sabotage their way through the historic race. Check out a preview here.

 

  • June 9-24, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 5 p.m.
  • $25 ($20 for student, senior, or military). IndyPride pricing specials for the Saturday, June 10 performance: all tickets are BOGO, as well as special $10 industry pricing for Indianapolis-area theater professionals.
  • zrpevents.vbotickets.com to purchase online or visit www.tots.org to learn more

 

Bonnie & Clyde at Buck Creek Players

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“Bonnie & Clyde” at Buck Creek Players

The new musical by Frank Wildhorn, Don Black, and Ivan Menchell. At the height of the Great Depression, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow went from two small-town nobodies in West Texas to two of America’s favorite folk heroes, and the Texas law enforcement’s worst nightmares. Fearless, shameless, and alluring, the Tony-nominated show (from Jekyll & Hyde‘s Frank Wildhorn) is the electrifying story of love, adventure, and crime that captured the attention of an entire country.

 

  • June 9-25, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $20 ($18 for children, students, and senior citizens)
  • www.buckcreekplayers.com

 

And don’t forget …

Khaos Company Theatre’s “Much Ado About Something” IndieGogo fundraiser continues through July 22. The goal is to raise $30,000 by midnight on July 22. These funds will be used to cover expansion costs, including rent, maintenance, set-design, costumes and general up-keep of the theater for the next year. The theater will accept any donation but has some incentives for those who donate more. Some prizes include KCT T-shirts, KCT mugs, tickets to KCT’s production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, KCT 2017 season passes, A Cast-Talk Back after the performance of Much Ado About Nothing, and a masquerade festival. The summer masquerade festival includes local artist booths, local musicians, local food trucks, masquerade mask contest (bring your own!), face painting, silent auction, and more.
Go to https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/much-ado-about-something for the full campaign description and to donate to the cause.

Sunday, June 11 is the Tony Awards. Kevin Spacey (meh) is the host for this year’s event. Performances include the casts of Bandstand, Come From Away, Dear Evan Hansen, Falsettos, Groundhog Day: The Musical, Hello, Dolly!, Miss Saigon, War Paint, and Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, along with additional performances by The Radio City Rockettes and Tony Award winners Cynthia Erivo and Leslie Odom Jr. (meh). The show will be broadcast live from Radio City Music Hall in New York City, on CBS from 8-11 p.m. (ET/PT time delay). You can also watch the Tony Awards online with CBS All Access. More info at cbs.com/all-access, www.tonyawards.com.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 6/2

So, not much going on in the theaters lately, with last weekend being Memorial Day, and a lot of theaters are in audition/rehearsal mode right now. But a lot of this summer’s weekends are packed with shows, so hang in there.

18881803_10211258770678325_5876668310318407324_nIn the meantime, you can get your fix at Main Street Productions’ Don’t Hug Me, We’re Married. Clara and Gunner Johnson are the owners of “the Bunyan” in Bunyan Bay, Minnesota. They’ve been married “a long time” and the romance has left their marriage. Clara would like to get it back. Gunner tries to convince his wife that he’s a good husband. Bernice gets engaged to Aarvid and Gunner’s twin sister comes to town looking for a husband. Will there be a wedding? Will there be a divorce? What could possibly go wrong – after all, this is Bunyan Bay and anything can happen!

  • June 2-18
  • $15 Adult (18+ yrs); $13 Senior (62+ yrs) or student with ID admission; FREE for Active Military and Vets with ID
  • www.westfieldplayhouse.org or call (317) 402-3341
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Hir” at the Phoenix Theatre (3.5 stars)

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

Hir is the story of a family that is prime for group counseling. The first thing you lock eyes on when the show begins is the father, Arnold. He is in a nightgown, diaper, and John Wayne Gacy-like makeup. Well, that was creepy. He is almost nonverbal and suffering the aftereffects of a stroke. His wife keeps him well-drugged (including estrogen) to make him more manageable. She uses a squirt bottle to keep his hands off his own penis.

Since his stroke, his wife, Paige, has fallen off the manic deep end and is exacting her revenge for the physical abuse she and her children suffered, using the opportunity to reject her husband’s prior commands, such as keeping a clean house and not working, and humiliates him with glee. Her anti-establishment rants include some great images—florescent foods like Cheetos are part of the blame for the country’s ills.

Their son Isaac has just arrived home from the army after being dishonorably discharged for drug use. He served in mortuary affairs, retrieving, collecting, and sorting body parts, so he likely has PTSD too. The blender is a vomit trigger.

Finally, there is Max, Isaac’s younger sibling. Max used to be Maxine and now insists on being referred to by the pronouns “ze” (he/she) and “hir” (him/her). Ze is very aggressive about hir transitional status and seeks companionship through online groups. Max shares most characteristics with any other angsty teenager with anger issues toward hir parents—but with a better vocabulary. Paige latches onto Max’s transition firmly, riding Max’s metaphorical coattails into a more interesting word. She revels in this new diversion and is able to speak in alphabet soup in her excitement. She even homeschools Max, which includes (again) creepy, therapeutic shadow puppet shows that reenact the family’s years of abuse at the hands of Arnold.

While Paige wholeheartedly embraces Max’s transition, she uses Arnold’s wardrobe as part of Arnold’s punishment. That’s a brain twister right there when you begin to contemplate the social statements being made.

Needless to say, Isaac, in his current condition, does not know what to think about his very changed family. In his desire to reinstate normalcy, for theirs and his own benefit, he goes into a cleaning frenzy after having been ordered not to by Paige. He instructs Max to “command the dust” and orders Arnold and Max through how to make a bed military-style—though they do a piss-poor job.

Brad Griffith (Arnold) manages to be both comedic and pitiable at the same time. You laugh but then feel a little guilty about it. But then you think of his past behavior and don’t feel as guilty. Some humor is needed to counter this dark story.

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

Jen Johansen (Paige) gets one of my favorite phrases in that she chews through the scenery, even if that scenery seems to be chewed upon already. (The family’s home is trashed.) While Isaac is the recovering drug addict, you would think his mother was the one hopped up on meth. Johansen must be exhausted by the end of the show by Paige’s hyperactivity and non-stop self-justification.

Ben Schuetz (Issac) has the wild eyes and tense mannerisms of both a drug addict jonsing for a hit as well as a soldier in the clutches of PTSD. You could bounce a coin off his physical and psychological tension.

And Ariel Laukins (Max) … well, ze just wants to run away from it all. In the end, Laukins’s character’s posturing dissolves into just the pain of a kid who is trapped in a damaged family.

While none of the characters contains much actual depth, the show, under the direction of Mark Routhier, uses the in-your-face, exaggerated characterization technique to challenge the audience on many different levels.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Catalyst Repertory: “Feral Boy” (4 stars)

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“Feral Boy.” Photo by Gary Nelson.

I don’t know if I will ever look at my happily domesticated and beloved kitties the same.

Cats have enthralled humans for centuries (think Egypt), and they have been “domesticated” for up to 12,000 years. Yet, they stand apart from the other most domesticated pet, dogs, in a way that you have to respect. While dogs will kowtow to their owners, cats push their own agendas unapologetically.

Catalyst Repertory’s production of Feral Boy, the latest from local playwright Bennett Ayres (Mad, Mad Hercules), follows Corbett, a disillusioned frat boy funded by Mommy’s sugar-daddy’s bank account. Newly graduated from college, he is frustrated by the assumptions of his friends and family that he will pursue his future that has been laid before him — a mainstream path of mind-numbing professions (his being Internet advertising). You know something odd is happening from the start when Corbett reflects on how mating cats sound as if they are killing each other, and he shows distracting interest in a feral colony of cats next to his dorm rental. The cats’ independence and lifestyle enthrall him. Corbett becomes engrossed in feline behavior and spends late nights stalking the cats and doing research on Wikipedia (which, as most people know, is just a font of accurate information).

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“Feral Boy.” Photo by Gary Nelson.

The show is a study of how people seek a place to fit in but want something meaningful in their lives, and suffer from a lack of connection — how easy it is to be attracted to a cult-like mentality, whether it’s a gang, religious group, or something similar

Pat Mullen delivers Corbett’s fascination with the cats in a naive, anarchic way. He is a sheltered adult now who is still a little boy going mad, rebelling against society’s expectations in a floundering, blind way. He slowly falls feral himself by ignoring responsibility, not bathing, not working, squatting in his girlfriend’s apartment, and expecting her to provide for him. Almost like an owned cat might — minus the no bathing. Girlfriend Betsy, a convenience-store clerk (Patty Blanchfield), is persistent in her coaxing of Corbett, first affectionately then with a little tough love, but she finally realizes that his mind is deteriorating.

Cats are voiced in a way that you find yourself focusing on the puppets, not their handlers (if you’ve seen Avenue Q, you know what I mean). The cats are creepy, disturbing, both in attitude and in their facelessness. Patrick Weigand’s creations scream otherness. Mafia flare is reflected in Matt Anderson as Striper, the leader; Dane Rogers as Orangey, the enforcer; and Audrey Stonerock as the powerless Calico, Corbett’s love (think West Side Story). They make these fantastical creatures feel real in personality, voice acting, and movement. The colony’s influence even leads Corbett into his own ruthless actions of torture for information and vengeance.

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“Feral Boy.” Photo by Gary Nelson.

The shallowness of Cornett’s previous human relationships is set up by the conversation of his frat brothers, Matt Walls and Donovan Whitney, who argue over the correct categorization of potential bedmates. Corbett begins distancing himself from them as well as from the worried yet tentative approaches by his mother (Sarah Holland Froehlke) and landlord (voiced by Jim Tillett), who seem to progressively infer that something is just not right with Corbett. Dennis Forkel plays Crane, a homeowner with a large aquarium, which Corbett raids to bring tribute to his feline ladylove. In his increasing delirium, Corbett even reaches out to a cat-themed magazine, only to get entwined in a voicemail tree from hell (voiced by Jolene Moffatt).

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“Feral Boy.” Photo by Gary Nelson.

Under the direction of Zach Stonerock, the characters and staging reflect the dark angle of the script that occasional reveals a nimble hand with words, such as describing the indentations left by furniture in carpet as miniature crop circles — a vivid comparison. Projections of cat silhouettes against the back wall invigorate the sparse, black-box environment. However, the play is too long, with no intermission (and hot — be prepared for no AC to speak of in the theater). Some sequences drag. Tightened up and with some workshopping, though, the script could become an even more engaging, compelling work.

 

 

  • May 18-28, Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 5 p.m.
  • Wheeler Arts Center
  • $15
  • For this production, Catalyst Rep will house theme nights in tandem with sponsor the LongShot Theatre.
  • Feral Boy is recommended for ages 16 (strong language, adult situations, implied animal abuse, and sexual content) and up. However, see the flyer for lots of family fun in conjunction with the show’s run.
  • http://www.brownpapertickets.com

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Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 5/18

Beef & Boards: Shrek, The Musical

shrekThe Tony Award winning musical based on the Oscar winning DreamWorks Animation film about an Ogre who finds himself on a life-changing journey alongside a wisecracking Donkey and a feisty princess who resists her rescue. As Beef & Boards’ 2017 Family Show, Shrek, The Musical features $10 discounts off tickets for all kids ages 3-15.

  • May 18-July 2
  • $42.50-$62.50 (All tickets include dinner buffet, plus coffee, tea or lemonade. Full bar service and gourmet desserts are available at additional cost.)
  • beefandboards.com

Phoenix Theatre: HIR

hirWhen Isaac is dishonorably discharged for a drug addiction, he comes home only to find nothing is how he left it. Liberated from the oppression of her marriage, Isaac’s mother leads a crusade against the patriarchy alongside his sister, who is now a trans male anarchist and uses the pronouns “ze” and “hir.” Meanwhile, his abusive father has become ill and downs estrogen pills against his will. An Alice-in-Wonderland look at the traditional family, Hir flips the script on gender power dynamics … but does destroying the past really free you from it?

  • May 18-June 18, Thursdays, 7 p.m. $27; Friday-Saturdays, 8 p.m. $33; Sundays, 2 p.m. $27
  • CheapSeats weekend May 18-21: All tickets for this show will be only $20 on opening weekend.
  • Producer Party May 19: After the performance on Friday of opening weekend, the Phoenix will host a Producer Party. Food and Sun King beer will be provided.
  • Second Sunday May 28: The Second Sunday discussion will take place immediately following the performance.  Come join cast and designers for a lively Q&A and gain a unique perspective of the show.
  • http://www.phoenixtheatre.org

Play reading: West Wildwood Ave or Rita From Across the Street

Constance Macy, Robert Neal, Nina Samaan, and Paeton Chavis will participate in the first public reading of Lou Harry‘s latest play. West Wildwood Ave or Rita from Across the Street concerns Mark, who sold his boardwalk business to take care of his troubled brother, and Donna, who is summering at the shore with her teen daughter while her husband works during the week back in Philadelphia. A lot can happen over two porches during a single summer.

  • The public is welcome to attend this free reading.
  • Wednesday, May 24 at 6 p.m.
  • Lilly Hall 328, Butler University

Khaos Company Theatre: 2017 Dionysia New Play Festival

khaosKhaos Company Theatre ensemble presents five-page excerpts from plays (as far away as Nigeria this year) in the fourth annual international play festival! Audience participants cast their votes, buy additional votes, and help determine what winning excerpt will be fully produced in the 2018 season.

 

Catalyst Repertory: Feral Boy

feralflyerThe world premiere of Feral Boy by Bennett Ayres. May is Catalyst‘s guest artist month. Local writer Bennett Ayres ‘s new show is staged with direction by Zach Stonerock. Feral Boy is the story of Corbett, a recent college graduate, who finds purpose and direction through his friendship with a group of feral cats. But as his attempt to join the cats becomes an obsession, Corbett discovers that total freedom requires extreme sacrifice. Features original, hand-crafted puppets by Indy’s Patrick Weigand. For this production, Catalyst Rep will house theme nights in tandem with sponsors the LongShot Theatre. Feral Boy is recommended for ages 16 (strong language, adult situations, implied animal abuse, and sexual content). However, see the flyer for lots of family fun in conjunction with the show’s run.

We’re Still Here: Stories of the Flint Water Crisis

flintWe’re Still Here is a 45-minute play written based on interviews with more than 40 residents of Flint, Michigan, about the impact of the water crisis. The play features excerpts from those interviews, performed in a one-woman show with the residents’ own words. The evening will begin with recorded poetry readings from Flint resident TaJuana Stokes, followed by the live performance by Sarah Janssen. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 5/12

My apologies for being MIA last weekend. My metaphorical plate was piled too high, and I was sorely in need of a weekend to do normal stuff. Sadly, I didn’t think to look ahead, as there are far fewer shows opening this weekend. C’est la vie.

So, to start off with, I have to make mention of an event at a venue that I would not normally frequent (only because I lack the social skills required to take up space at a bar/club — not to mention that you can’t smoke in bars/clubs, and HOW THE HELL DO YOU DRINK ALCOHOL AND NOT SMOKE?!

(OK, OK, vape. I hate these hookah-like ecigs. If anyone has budget-friendly suggestions for a reliable cig-a-like, message me. I was persuaded to give up the Vuses because they were even more expensive than real cigarettes (oh how I miss ye), and half the refill cartridges were duds. Now I feel like I’m smoking a leaky cell phone. OK, rant over.)

Pink Droyd at The Vogue (I have mad love for Pink Floyd.)

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Pink Droyd

Their live performances were both aurally astounding and visually brilliant.  Today Pink Droyd, a tribute to Pink Floyd, brings the look, feel, and sound of those shows to audiences around the country.  Their show is both accurate to the Pink Floyd music and visually stunning with their robotic, intelligent light show, digital video accompaniment (including the Pink Floyd traditional circular video screen), and amazing laser show.

Pink Droyd brings to life the music of Pink Floyd by including theatrical performances of some of Pink Floyd’s most memorable songs.  From building “The Wall” to visiting “The Dark Side of the Moon,” Pink Droyd spans the Pink Floyd catalog including the most memorable hits and some beloved obscure tracks.

With a combined Pink Floyd tribute band experience of over 50 years this all-star cast brings the music and experience of Pink Floyd to audiences at a time when the appreciation of Pink Floyd has never been greater!

OnyxFest: A Celebration of African American Playwrights at IndyFringe

onyxEstablished in 2011, OnxyFest is striving to become, in the words of the late playwright August Wilson, a festival that “informs its viewers of the human condition and its power to heal.” OnyxFest is determined to be the vehicle to promote and expose avid theater-goers to the voices and talent of new and emerging African American playwrights.

OnyxFest is Indianapolis’s first and only theatre festival dedicated to the stories of African American playwrights. IndyFringe developed OnyxFest in response to the lack of diversity both on stage and in audiences of Indianapolis’s theaters. IndyFringe actively embraces diversity in the Indianapolis theater scene and began working with African American playwrights to change the Indianapolis theatrical landscape.

Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus Live! at Schrott Center for the Arts

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“Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus Live!”

This Off-Broadway hit comedy is a one-man fusion of theater and stand-up, and is a lighthearted theatrical comedy based on the New York Times #1 best-selling book of the last decade by John Gray. Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus LIVE! is more than just the book. This hysterical show will have couples elbowing each other all evening as they see themselves on stage. Sexy and fast paced, this show is definitely for adults, but will leave audiences laughing and giggling.

 

One performance left: Riverdance: The 20th Anniversary World Tour at Clowes Hall

The international Irish dance phenomenon is back by popular demand in Riverdance: The 20th Anniversary World Tour. Drawing on Irish traditions, the combined talents of the performers propel Irish dancing and music into the present day, capturing the imagination of audiences across all ages and cultures in an innovative and exciting blend of dance, music, and song. Of all the performances to emerge from Ireland — in rock, music, theater,and film — nothing has carried the energy, the sensuality and the spectacle of Riverdance.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Beyond the Rainbow” at Actors Theatre of Indiana (5 stars)

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“Beyond the Rainbow” at Actors Theatre of Indiana. Photo by Zach Rosing.

It’s 1961, and Judy Garland is onstage for her Carnegie Hall comeback concert. As if she is seeing her life pass before her, memories of pivotal events take shape around her. She is not the only one on stage during that concert—her ghosts are playing supporting roles. At this moment, she is 38; in only nine years, she will succumb to a barbiturate overdose at the age of 47.

Just as Judy Garland’s life had been punctuated by demands, Beyond the Rainbow uses Garland’s showstoppers as ellipses, setting off the scenes when Garland’s life changed—most often, without her making the decision.

Katy Gentry, as the adult Garland, is magnificent in sound and situation. While completely in control musically, her commentary allows the audience just a vague sensation of Garland’s emotional tumult. As we see through scene after scene, Garland is broken inside, the victim of too many people trying to dictate her life. But she is the consummate performer. The show must go on.

Equally stunning is Annie Yokom as Judy from late teens to late 20s. Yokom has the added benefit of getting to showcase her acting skills in more traditional storytelling as she interacts with supporting cast members (Grace Sell, Dave Ruark, and Roger Ortman, who demonstrate their own superlative finesse by portraying many different yet distinct characters). Yokom reflects the maturing Judy in a striking way, and the audience sees what a firecracker Judy was at that age.

Anjali Rooney portrays Young Judy, and she is adorable for the relatively short time she is onstage.

The setup in the black-box theater is brilliant. Gentry is front and center, as a concert performer would be, while flashbacks have their own space to develop around her—unless they come in for a more personal look … or conversation. The backdrop is a mesh screen, allowing a muted view of the spectacularly talented onstage band (John Bronston, Greg Gegogeine, Steve Stickler, and Greg Wolff) as well as some dreamlike sequences of the show.

Don Farrell has directed another show to add to Actors Theater of Indiana’s recent roster of hits.

  • April 28-May 14; Wednesday-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $43; seniors $37; students $20 (with valid student I.D.); Wednesdays all seats are $25
  • http://atistage.org/

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Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Motherf*cker with the Hat” at Theatre on the Square (4 stars)

mfkrThe Hat. It’s a silent, benign character. Rather dapper even, though unremarkable in color and style. There it sits, unobtrusively keeping company with the neat lines of cocaine on the cheap coffee table. It’s easy to overlook—eyes glide over it without registering its presence. At first. It sits its silent vigil, until, finally, its existence is noted. Then its silence takes on a malicious, gloating hue. Suddenly, The Hat isn’t so banal. It’s cock-sure, giving you the eye fuck because you were stupid enough to dismiss it before. Now you know better, motherfucking ass hat.

The premise of Stephen Adly Guirgis’s The Motherfucker with the Hat may seem about as deep as that hat, but, like the hat, what lies underneath is what matters. The show explores hypocrisy and moral irregularities within the mindset of addicts.

Jackie (Eric Reiberg), who has recently been released from prison, comes home to his sweetheart Veronica (Carrie Schlatter) with the celebratory news that he has landed a job. After much rejoicing (yea!), Jackie is effectively cockblocked by … The Hat. Reiberg goes feral, using his canine-like sense of smell to root out the scents of “Aqua Velva” on the pillows and “dick” on the bedsheets. Creative cursing ensues, as do promises of eating pie (you can take that however you like).

In homage of the play’s topic, you could actually make a drinking game out of its first ten minutes. Take a shot every time “fuck” is used. Most of which come from Schlatter, alone on stage, speaking to her mother on the phone. In her exaggerated New Yawkr accent, she doles out advice concerning her mom’s boyfriend, whom she calls a “fuckin’ big-time loser with a head like an actual fuckin’ fish.” “Ma,” Veronica says, “when you see him tonight, take a moment. Take a breath. Take a real good look and just ask yourself, in all honesty, do I wanna fuck him or fry him up with a little adobo and paprika?” Veronica/Schlatter is a multitasker: she cleans, talks on the phone, and snorts coke all at the same time. Efficient.

Poor Jackie never stood a chance: “I swear to God, being in love with Veronica, it’s like feeding your balls to Godzilla every morning. Every morning you go, ‘Yo, Zilla, these shits are very delicate so please chew softly,’ and every morning, the motherfucker just goes crunch!” Reiberg’s Jackie is trying so hard you can see him vibrate. He’s wants to stay on the up-and-up with his parole and his commitment to AA. So in times like these, who do you call? YOUR SPONSOR! (And someone who can loan you a gun to shoot the offending Hat …)

Jackie’s sponsor, Ralph, played by Ben Rose, has rechanneled his addictive tendencies toward healthy food and “nutritional beverages,” as well as other pastimes such as surfing and foreign languages. He’s like the AA Buddha. It’s all cool—you’d think he swapped Jim Beam for Mary Jane—and he self-righteously spews AA rhetoric like a Christian playing Bible challenge. Ralph’s wife, Victoria, played by Chelsea Anderson, is also in recovery but gives his AA preaching the mental middle finger because she is over her husband.

The proverbial voice of reason is Jackie’s cousin, Julio, played by Ian Cruz, an effeminate Puerto Rican spitfire and the only well-adjusted character in the show. He reflects the virtues missing in the others: loyalty and self-worth. Julio isn’t afraid to call bullshit. When confronted by Jackie, Julio dresses him down before stating, “Take the empanadas and leave the gun”—so much more than Jackie deserves. The diminutive health freak is the strongest of them all. He’s also funny (another multitasker), allowing the audience to come down from tense situations for a moment and catch their collective breaths. Julio is serious about going “Van Damme” on the Motherfucker with the Hat. He has the ferocity of a pissed off Chihuahua. While the entire cast fuses under Gari L. Williams’s tight direction, Cruz deserves a triple-snap award for his layered performance. Cruz’s Julio is so much more than an auxiliary character. His reactions and motivations are deeper. I want him to be my new gay best friend.

  • April 28-May 13; Friday-Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m.
  • $25/$20 for students/seniors/military.
  • www.tots.org
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 4/28

Theatre on the Square opens “MF*er with the Hat”

mfkrStruggling with addiction, love, friendship and the responsibilities of being an adult are at the center of MF*er With The Hat.

Jackie, a petty drug dealer just out of prison, is trying to stay clean. He is still in love with his childhood sweetheart, Veronica, who is addicted to cocaine and alcohol. His sponsor in AA is Ralph D., who has his own somewhat misguided and comedic interpretation of “the big book.” Ralph’s wife, Victoria, is bitter about her marriage and has the hots for Jackie. Jackie has a code of behavior that his cousin, Julio, a stand-up guy, is eager to help him enforce.

As complications around addiction and recovery ensue, we see each character’s true colors emerge in humorous and heartbreaking fashion.

  • April 28-May 13; Friday-Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m.
  • $25/$20 for students/seniors/military.
  • Use coupon code HAT to get 25% off tickets for opening weekend
  • www.tots.org

Actors Theatre of Indiana opens “Beyond the Rainbow”

The time is April 23, 1961, when a 38-year old Judy Garland performed at Carnegie Hall in what the New York Times called “the concert of the century.” Set both on the stage of Carnegie Hall and in Garland’s mind, Beyond the Rainbow simultaneously treats its audience to the famed concert while telling the life story of one of Hollywood’s most unforgettable icons: a portrait of a child actor turned star who captivated the nation with her spectacular talent and tumultuous life. Featuring 24 of her hit songs including “The Man That Got Away,” “That’s Entertainment,” and “Get Happy” … just to name a few.

  • April 28-May 14; Wednesday-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • $43; seniors $37; students $20 (with valid student I.D.); Wednesdays all seats are $25
  • http://atistage.org/

petrerpanBidding is open for Buck Creek Players’ Play-a-Part fundraiser: “Peter Pan”

All roles in this popular Broadway musical will be auctioned off to the highest bidder in an online silent auction. Roles begin at just $25, and there is no audition necessary! Just have the money in the bank and the availability of approximately five weeks to rehearse and perform the role of your dreams! http://www.buckcreekplayers.com.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“The Open Hand” at the Phoenix Theatre (4 stars)

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“The Open Hand” at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Joe Konz

Allison (Leah Brenner) hates presents. She has an strict no-present policy. So when a stranger (Charles Goad), graciously picks up her $80 restaurant bill after she finds her wallet is missing, she becomes obsessed. Why would he do such a thing? What does he want? Her obsession with this act becomes almost psychotic, leading her to invite him to what turns out to be a very interesting and cathartic dinner party (a gathering of friends, NOT a birthday celebration, even though it is on her birthday).

The Open Hand is a reflection, if an exaggerated one, of society’s inability to just accept a gift and say “thank you” without questioning motives or keeping a tally of IOUs.

Two young yuppie couples—Allison (who appears directionless to begin with) and her fiance Jack (Jay Hemphill) and their friends Todd (Jeremy Fisher) and Freya (Julie Mauro)—are at crossroads in their lives. Jack, a chef, is working toward opening his own restaurant. Todd, a car salesman, is having issues at his job, and his sommelier wife is on the brink of getting a posh job.

Comedic elements of the couples’ interaction belie the deep ribbon of mistrust and doubt that runs under the surface of them. Each of the four actors exemplifies his or her character’s distinct outer personas before letting loose with what they really feel—though it takes liberal amounts of alcohol for those inner demons to emerge. Among the mortifying debacle that is the dinner party, Goad remains the calm, beneficent anchor that no one can figure out. His continuous, sincere generosity baffles them, angers them, confounds them.

The cast, under the direction of Dale McFadden, and crew deliver an entertaining and thought-provoking story that keeps the serious and the silly well-balanced. (Love the revolving stage for scene changes too!)

  • Phoenix Theatre
  • Through May 14; Thursdays at 7 p.m. ($27), Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. ($33), andn Sundays at 2 p.m. ($27)
  • This weekend is Second Sunday: a discussion with cast members and complimentary beer from Sun King Brewery after the show.
  • http://www.phoenixtheatre.org

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

NoExit Performance in association with Zach Rosing Productions: “Mad Mad Hercules” 4.5 stars

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

The best way to begin this review is with a comment from my frequent theater companion Katrina about the shows we’ve seen over the past six months or so: “The number of shows we’ve been to where people either end up in their underwear or doing weird things with puppets is AMAZING.” And Mad Mad Hercules has not only added to that list, in both respects, but also has the distinction of being the funniest effing thing I have seen in years. YEARS. I never thought anything would top the unexpected stuffed animal orgy in Bat Boy, but this does. Over and over and over.

Local playwright Bennett Ayres has crafted one of the filthiest scripts I know of in a way that approaches a work of art. The crass and degradation is no holds barred, unapologetic, and a thing of beauty. I desperately wanted to write down some of the most inspired lines, but I was too busy trying not to cackle, cry, and pee myself all at the same time. My long-time friend, husband of Kat, and chauffer Paul said as we relayed some of our experience on the way home, laughing hysterically all over again, “I haven’t heard you laugh that hard in years, Miss Lisa.”

Needless to say, if you are easily offended, move down the avenue. Or, if you want to give it a try, there is a moment when the chorus pauses to give the conservative audience members an opt-out. However, if you don’t mind wallowing in the dirt for about ninety minutes, this is one of the best low-brow shows you can spend money on. I am actually considering if I can squeeze another performance into my schedule.

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“Mad Mad Hercules”

Presented by NoExit Performance in association with Zach Rosing Productions, the show can get away with the sort of fuck-you humor that really only the smaller theater companies can indulge. And thank the gods for them. I love the unlicked cubs that can be found in these companies (they make it worth slogging through other less successful outings).

So, as readers have probably inferred, the story is about the twelve labors of Hercules, a penance for killing his wife and children, which he claims was a product of a fit of madness laid upon him by his step-mother Hera. His exasperated father Zeus won’t intervene. So Hercules is assigned his tasks by King Eurystheus, whom Hercules glories in trading grade-school insults with.

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Under the direction of Zach Neiditch, the cast takes the bull by the balls (Hercules sees nothing wrong with bestiality—it’s OK, calm down, we don’t see it first-hand) and rips into their roles with relish. Providing narrative is a Greek chorus, made up of Matthew Altman, Carrie Bennett Fedor, and Devan Mathias, a gossipy group that snipes at each other while providing commentary and filling in the blanks for the audience. Ryan Ruckman plays Hercules, a whiney, narcissistic drunk full of ennui who, during his first meeting with the closeted Iolaos, Nathan Thomas, a servant who will accompany Hercules on his quests, expects a hand job as if he’s asking Iolaos for a wrench. Ruckman’s Hercules reminds me of Peter Quill from Guardians of the Galaxy in some ways. He plays tough, but under the wine skin and bravado, he finds the capability of something more . . . but it doesn’t dial down his raunchy that much. Ruckman is incredible, as is Thomas, his nervous but stalwart voice of reason with an adorable dirty dance.

Josiah McCruiston plays the sniffy, effeminate Eurystheus, the foil for Hercules, as a combination of self-important power with no self-confidence. Tony Armstrong as Zeus is the picture of the fed-up patriarch as Hercules rails against his evil but sexy step-mom Hera, Dena Toler, who seems to have a particular affinity for Trisha Yearwood. Finally, Beverly Roche is a riot as the sex-driven-Amazonian-queen-with-a-perpetual-yeast-infection Hippolyta.

The self-proclaimed low-budget props are actually quite impressive (as is the lighting), but, sadly, none of the puppets have sex (though I was poised for it during one shadow puppet scene).

The show lags about three-quarters of the way through, sort of like a Monty Python movie. I only took off that half star for it. However, it picks back up during the conversation about the consequences of dehydration due to copious copulation.

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If you go, it might help to read a bit about the beings/things involved in Hercules’s trials. (Not much. Something like Wikipedia would do.) It’s not necessary, but it might help gloss over some of the events that aren’t portrayed visually. But even if you don’t, don’t let it stop you. While the show isn’t the “Disneyfication” of the tale, as the director points out, it still plays fast and loose with the originals. In a good way.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 4/21

Carmel Community Players opens the musical Blood Brothers

Mrs. Johnstone is working as a cleaner for Mrs. Lyons when she becomes pregnant with twins. The financial burden of two children is too much for her, and Mrs. Lyons is longing for a child of her own, so Mrs. Johnstome keeps Mickey and gives the other boy, Edward, to Mrs. Lyons. Though the blood brothers are never told they are related and others try their best to keep them apart, their paths do cross later in life and all hell breaks loose.

Phoenix Theatre opens The Open Hand

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“The Open Hand” at the Phoenix Theatre. Photo by Joe Konz

Allison does not accept gifts. Not even on her birthday. Not even from her fiancé. But when she finds herself without a wallet and unable to pay for a rather expensive lunch, she is forced to accept a stranger’s generosity. With quirky storytelling and eccentric characters, this dark, urban comedy follows Allison as she goes to bizarre lengths to repay his kindness.

 

  • April 20-May 14, Thursdays at 7 p.m. ($27), Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. ($33), andn Sundays at 2 p.m. ($27)
  • CHEAPSEATS WEEKEND April 20-23. All tickets for this show will be only $20 on opening weekend.  This special sale price is made possible thanks to the generosity of Frank and Katrina Basile.
  • PRODUCER PARTY April 21. After the performance on Friday of opening weekend, the Phoenix will host a Producer Party. Food and Sun King beer will be provided.
  • SECOND SUNDAY April 30. The Second Sunday discussion will take place immediately following the performance.  Come join cast and designers for a lively Q&A and gain a unique perspective of the show.
  • http://www.phoenixtheatre.org

NoExit Performance and Zach Rosing Productions opens Mad Mad Hercules by Bennett Ayres

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“Mad Mad Hercules” at NoExit. Photo by Zach Rosing

Get ready for a raucous, raunchy, Rated-R ride through Greek mythology’s most famous Hero tale! Though, this hero isn’t exactly the guy you remember. Directed by Zack Neiditch from a new original script by local playwright Bennett Ayres, Mad Mad Hercules is a raucous, raunchy, Rated-R ride through Greek mythology’s most famous Hero tale. Though, this hero isn’t exactly the guy you remember. Join Hercules and his companion Iolaos as they battle all the monsters Greece has to throw, if only they could stop battling each other …

Mud Creek Players opens Picasso at the Lapin Agile

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“Picasso at the Lapin Agile” at Mud Creek Players. Photo by Colman Love Photography

The play features the characters of Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso, who meet at a bar called the Lapin Agile (French: “Nimble Rabbit”) in Montmartre, Paris. It is set on October 8, 1904, and both men are on the verge of disclosing amazing ideas (Einstein will publish his special theory of relativity in 1905 and Picasso will paint “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” in 1907). At the Lapin Agile, they have a lengthy debate about the value of genius and talent, while interacting with a host of other characters.

Khaos Company Theatre opens Lunacy, A Play Play for our Times

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“Lunacy: A Play for Our Times” at Khaos Company Theatre

Last year’s winning play of the 2016 Dionysia New Play Competio by Joe Reese. Zeus and Diana come to our modern world to explore the dating scene.

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“City of Conversation” at Theatre on the Square (3.5 stars)

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“City of Conversation” at Theatre on the Square

City of Conversation is a chronicle of the rise of polarization of our political parties—something we are feeling more than ever these days. It begins in 1979 during the time of “Georgetown dinners”—an acceptable social gathering where politicians of both parties hammered out legislation in a more friendly way than on the Senate floor.

The story is set at the home of Hester (played by Nan Macy) and her sister Jean (played by Forba Shepherd). Hester is a longtime supporter of liberal legislation, and unapologetically maintains an affair with Sen. Chandler Harris (played by Doug Powers). On the evening of the first scene, Hester is about to entertain Sen. George Mallonee (David Mosedale) and his wife Carolyn (Anna Lee). She is surprised by the arrival of her (adult) son Colin (Carey Shea) and his fiancée Anna (Emily Bohn). Hester, probably seeing herself in the young Anna, bears her fangs behind her son’s back when Anna appears a little too conniving. However, this evening, pieces have been put in place that will change Hester, Anna, and Colin—a forewarning of what will happen soon for politics in general. Anna choses to stay with the men during post-dinner brandy, and her own fledgling fangs begin to take a bite out of Hester’s comfy political influence.

There is some excellent acting here. As Hester, Macy is at her best during the second act. Where before she was the consummate hostess providing the sanctuary of a non-partisan meeting space, by 1987 she is more of a powerhouse herself, even in her convictions. Before, her manic smiles were for social lubrication, but later her own grit comes forward in her sincere desire to recapture the protections and liberties that had been won before the Reagan era began. By 1987, Colin and Anna have morphed into staunch Reagan Republican power players, much to the horror of the far left liberal Hester.

Emily Bohn as Anna also undergoes change. When she first met Hester, she was still just a girl with strong ideas on how to change the world. But she evolves into a far-right cutthroat willing to do the unthinkable by actually using her son as blackmail when she thinks Hester could influence the appointment of Robert Bork, a judge that is deeply important for the Regan regime. Bohn begins with a coquettish flair and ends up as an insecure tyrant even if she is still flush with her own sense of power.

Shea as Colin is also undergoes a transformation. Where before he was a fresh-faced college grad sporting a poncho, mane of long hair, and idealistic plans, he wilts under his overachieving wife, the tug between family and political party, and the uncertainty of his own job within that party. Finally, Shea gets to portray his character’s grown son, Ethan, who is reunited with his grandmother the night of Obama’s inauguration, his husband at his side (Bradley Lowe) (that must have rankled the ’rents). Shea’s distinction between what could be called three characters (young Colin, middle-age Collin, and adult Ethan) is quite well done.

If you aren’t a political animal (and I am not), the show could go over your head (I can barely remember Reagan—most of the references to movers and shakers left me in complete oblivion). But, it is a skilled production.

Through April 29, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 5 p.m.

Tickets $25; $20 students and seniors

http://www.tots.org

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“M*A*S*H” at Buck Creek Players (2 stars)

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Kurt F. Clemenz (left) and Ryan Powell in “M*A*S*H” at Buck Creek Players. Photo by photoGary.net

For those who love the well-known TV series M*A*S*H, you may be interested to know that as well as a movie, there is also a stage version. However, the play is, according to my husband, decidedly off cannon. For this reason, he was a little disappointed. I, though, was disappointed because the show itself isn’t funny and completely lacks any of the more series subject matter surrounding the Korean War. In addition, the stereotyping of Koreans and the USSO blondes are distressing.

In a series of short skits, with a flimsy at best plot line that could have been removed, you meet characters such as Hawkeye Pierce, Duke Forrest, Col. Blake, Maj. Burns, Trapper John, Maj. “Hot Lips” Houlihan, and many more. It’s a huge cast.

Sadly, only Ryan Powell as Hawkeye has a good performance. He looks much more at ease on stage than the others do, and he pulls off the only couple of scenes that evoke real laughter. Also, the Buck Creek Players’ stage is well turned out with set design by Lea Viney.

  • March 3-April 9; 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, with 2:30 p.m. matinees on Sunday
  • $18 for adults and $16 for students and senior citizens
  • http://www.buckcreekplayers.com
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Miranda” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre (3 stars)

 

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“Miranda” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre. Photo by Zach Rosing

The strongest aspect of James Still’s most recent play at the Indiana Repertory Theatre, Miranda, is the outstanding talent of the cast and crew. Through the actors, under the direction of Henry Godinez, the characters are portrayed as stronger than they were written. Also, the blocking—something that has been niggling at me lately—is done exceptionally well; characters move naturally, even on the relatively smaller IRT upperstage.

The title character (Jennifer Coombs) is an undercover CIA agent, which audiences can’t grasp until after the vague opening scene. She infiltrates a city in the Arab country of Yemen, posing as an outreach worker, coaching teens in Shakespeare (?). Her real purpose, under the supervision of senior agent Reed (Torrey Hanson), is to coax (and bribe) intel on al-Qaeda via a Yemeni female physician, Dr. Al-Agbhari (Arya Daire). Both agents are under the thumb of higher-up Lauren (Mary Beth Fisher), who calls the final shots. Miranda’s cover is slight at best, as only one student, Shahid (Ninos Baba), ever shows up to participate in the program.

Coombs effectively conveys the rocked emotional state of a woman who has made a mistake—a big one—but who perseveres anyway, anxious to prove to herself and her boss that she is still in the game. Reed’s almost paternal tough-love oversight of her helps bolster her through her first assignment post-disaster. They are coworkers, but it’s obvious that they genuinely care about each other too.

Daire is in excellent form, portraying the anxiety of a female professional practicing in the poorest Middle Eastern country, which is being ravaged in a civil war. She is torn among her loyalty and much needed service to her all-female clientele, her love and hope for her country, and her passion to protect her family.

Shahid’s character is that of a MacGuffin; he uses the themes of Othello to emphasize that things aren’t always what they seem, just in case the audience forgot. However, Baba gives Shahid exceptional emotional investment in his study of Othello, and his delivery of his character’s comments on it let the audience know that Shahid is intelligent and thoughtful, not just regurgitating Cliffs Notes. Baba gives Shahid personality and conviction that might not otherwise be seen.

Though short, Fisher’s appearances on stage are nonetheless compelling. She embodies the efficiency and confidence a woman in her position would have (and need).

The story arc can be confusing; often characters’ motivations aren’t revealed soon enough but also because Arabic is sprinkled liberally throughout the play and not often translated. The study of Othello, specifically Iago, also a character with a hidden agenda, roots “I am not what I am” as the through line for the plot, touching each character in his or her own individual way, even ones not present. The metaphoric implications are laid on too thick, IMHO.

  • March 28 – April 23
  • $25-$75
  • Backstage tour April 6, performance at 7:30 PM
  • IRTea Talk April 9, performance at 2 PM
  • Happy Hour April 11, performance at 6:30 PM
  • Post-show discussion April 15, performance at 1 PM
  • Cookies & Coffee April 13, performance at 2 PM
  • Post-show discussion April 22, performance at 4 PM
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of March 31

Khaos Company Theatre: Alternative Fact Improv Tours

zombieKhaos Company Theatre is fighting back against the de-funding of the arts and is proud to announce the launch of Alternitive Fact Improv Tours: Walking Zombie Tours of the Indianapolis Canal. $1 of each tour will be donated to the ACLU Join your Zombie Tour Guide as you walk the Indianapolis Canal and learn the Canal’s Alternative History. Learn the Plight of the Circle City Zombie Plague during which the government of Indiana, desperate to evacuate their citizens from zombie-ridden Indianapolis, commissioned the construction of the Indianapolis Canal to allow its citizens to escape the city by boat because, as we all know, zombies can’t swim.

Indiana Repertory Theatre: “Miranda”

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Arya Daire and Jennifer Coombs in IRT’s “Miranda.” Photo by Zach Rosing

A CIA operative working in the Middle East goes through a mind-bending existential crisis. Who are her friends? Who is the enemy? And just who is Miranda? The IRT’s award-winning playwright in residence, James Still, brings a psychological riddle set in the world’s most explosive region.

Content Advisory: Recommended for patrons in 11th grade and older. “Miranda” is a psychological drama that contains strong language, references to sexuality, and offstage references to war-like situations.

  • March 28 – April 23
  • $25-$75
  • Backstage tour April 6, performance at 7:30 PM
  • IRTea Talk April 9, performance at 2 PM
  • Happy Hour April 11, performance at 6:30 PM
  • Post-show discussion April 15, performance at 1 PM
  • Cookies & Coffee April 13, performance at 2 PM
  • Post-show discussion April 22, performance at 4 PM
  • http://www.irtlive.com

 

Buck Cree Players: “M*A*S*H”

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“M*A*S*H” at Buck Creek Players

Experience the stage version of the popular book, film, and television series, “M*A*S*H,” by Tim Kelly, adapted from the book by Richard Hooker. Wedged somewhere between the popular television series and the 1970 Oscar-nominated film, the play picks up with Hawkeye and Duke, two of the best chest surgeons in South Korea, joining M*A*S*H, or the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. When the pair’s antics are added to Trapper John and Walt Waldowski’s outrageous pranks, Colonel Blake has his hands full. They decide to wage a campaign to get a young Korean named Ho-Jon to the United States and entered in a good school. The thread of this effort helps tie together the pileup of comic adventures involving other beloved characters.

  • March 3-April 9; 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, with 2:30 p.m. matinees on Sunday
  • $18 for adults and $16 for students and senior citizens
  • http://www.buckcreekplayers.com

Theatre on the Square

Check out “Going … Going … Gone.” Ed has passed away after 40 years in the auction business, and those close to him face the task of selling off his last worldly possessions. How? By having the audience bid on items using fake money they receive when they enter the theater. As a long-form improv show with no script and different actors and props at every performance, “Going … Going … Gone” is never the same show twice! This year, every show will benefit a charity. The April show will benefit Camp Yes, The Center on Education and Lifelong Learning, and the Indiana Resource Center for Autism at Indiana University.

Taylor Martin’s Indy Magic Monthly 9th Anniversary Celebration presents one of the most influential magicians of all time, from Chicago, Eugene Burger. Master Burger has taught and consulted with some of the top magic acts in the world. His writings on magic teach magicians how to turn a trick into magic. And to top it off, Mr. Burger will lecture after the show. His movie, “From Divinity School to Mystery School,” has been reviewed by some of best critics in magic as a revelation. He rarely makes appearances in public shows, as he is in high demand for corporate events. Joining him will be two other great magicians from Chicago. Benjamin Barnes, one of the founders of Magic Chicago, returns with his wonderful brand of mentalism. Magic Chicago is one of the shows that inspired Taylor Martin to create IMM. Luis Carreon also returns after his performance last fall. He is one of the new generation of wizards and can be put in the same company as Francis Menotti and others.\

  • $25 for adults, $20 for under 16 and over 61, and $60 for a family ticket of up to 5 (2 children)
  • Lecture is $15 with show ticket and $20 without
  • April 4, 7 p.m. Lecture to follow at 9 p.m.
  • http://www.tots.org

Ricks-Weil Theatre Company: “Greater Tuna”

tunaThe fictitious town of Tuna (population, 24) is located somewhere in Texas about half-way between San Angelo and Hell. In Tuna, very little has changed since the 1980s, and colorful characters such as Thurston Wheelis, Didi Snavely, Bertha Bumiller, and Petey Fisk will be more than happy to tell you all about it. The play is at once an affectionate commentary on small-town Southern life and attitudes, but also a withering satire of the same.

  • Friday, March 31, 7:30 PM
  • Saturday, April 1, 7:30 PM
  • Saturday, April 8, 7:30 PM
  • Sunday, April 9, 2:30 PM
  • $10
  • Production contains some adult language and sensitive cultural themes
  • Seating is very limited; reserve tickets early by calling 317-477-8689; tickets are CASH OR CHECK ONLY.
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Sex with Strangers” at the Phoenix Theatre (4 stars)

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Brandon Alstott and Angela Plank in Phoenix Theatre’s “Sex with Strangers”

Sex with Strangers opens on Angela Plank as Olivia, a demoralized writer in her late 30s who now supports herself through teaching and is using her spring break to work on a new novel. She is happily ensconced, alone, in an out-of-the-way writers’ retreat house in Michigan, manuscript on lap, wine on the coffee table, and fuzzy socks on—literally and metaphorically—cold feet. Brandon Alstott as Ethan, a hotshot in his late 20s, appears on the doorstep of her safe house, a late check-in due to a blizzard. He’s a modern-day pulp-fiction writer, a blogger-cum-novelist, whose first book, Sex with Strangers, details his year of debauchery, winning him fame and financial booty. While Olivia sees Ethan’s writing as the equivalent of junk food, she is both infuriated and intrigued with his runaway success.

The two represent a gap in literary culture of about 10 years—a gap that many readers can witness in the conflicting views of “J-school” adherents versus the cut-and-paste “news” sites that have become so popular (and lucrative); the difference between a trained writer and a nobody who pounds out misspelled blog entries or fanfiction. The show examines the changing landscapes of writing and publishing (with a brief mention of the role of “professional” critic versus the masses of Internet commenters and planted reviews).

Interestingly, when Olivia, who is a product of more rigorous literary standards, allows herself to explore the new publishing model, she is successful, while the hack Ethan blows it when he tries to be a “real” writer and a respected voice in the literary world. This says something for old-fashioned vetting. While anyone can “write,” not everyone should—yet the Internet and best-seller lists contain a festering stew of glorified wanna-bes.

Plank as Olivia feels unnaturally stiff, but this could be intentional, as her character does come across as having a stick up her butt. Best are her facial expressions in response to some of Ethan’s more infuriating statements. Given the intimate setting in the Phoenix Theatre’s cabaret stage, these kinds of details in a performance add so many nuances to a character. In any case, it comes as a surprise that Olivia’s uptight character would give in to Ethan so quickly—regardless of how smoking hot he is. Alstott as Ethan exudes self-confidence of every kind and demands attention in every way. Yet he is sincere when he describes his goal of producing something of real literary value, and the shedding of the persona “Ethan Strange” after his comeuppance is believable because of those earlier glimpses into his soul.

Director Bill Simmons, Plank, and Alstott created a show that can touch audiences on a personal level but also leaves them thinking about what does happen behind many types of closed doors, including the ones of various forms of media. “Sex with strangers,” after all, is a good metaphor for the intimacy that happens between reader and writer. Whom do you trust? The swaggering nobody or someone who has a few miles on them? At the same time, staunch adherence to tradition can also leave you stagnant.

  • Phoenix Theatre
  • Through April 9
  • Thursday, 7 p.m. $27
  • Friday-Saturday, 8 p.m. $33
  • Sunday, 2 p.m. $27
  • Second Sunday March 26: The discussion will take place immediately following the performance. Come join cast and designers for a lively Q&A and gain a unique perspective of the show!
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of March 17

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“Shakespeare (Abridged)” at Civic Theatre

Civic Theatre opens The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). See 37 plays in 97 minutes! This much-produced, fast-paced, gag-a-second delight deconstructs all 37 of the Bard’s plays — plus the sonnets. Civic Theatre will perform this play in the Studio Theater, a first for Civic. The Studio Theater is a 200-seat, black box theater, just across the lobby from the Tarkington.

  • March 17 – April 1
  • Thursday, Friday, & Saturday @ 7pm
  • Sunday @ 2pm
  • Final Saturday @ 5pm
  • Student Matinees: Tuesdays & Wednesdays @ 10am
  • $35.50; student/senior $24.50
  • Contains some mature, PG-rated material. Shakespearean text contains humor, political intrigue, violence and sexual references. It is bawdy and sophomoric at times, but not profane.

Phoenix Theater opens Sex with Strangers. Ethan and Olivia are strangers staying in a remote bed-and-breakfast, looking for some inspiration for their respective writing: Olivia is working on a novel she refuses to share, and Ethan is working on the screenplay for his bestselling book, Sex with Strangers. The two inexplicably connect and, well, you can guess where that leads. As their connection grows, so does Olivia’s hope for the future of her career…But will the weight of Ethan’s past cripple their relationship? And how will he cope when she earns the success and respect that he’s always dreamed of? Sex with Strangers is an honest and witty look at how love and work mix — or don’t.

  • CheapSeats weekend March 16- 19: All tickets for this show will be only $20 on opening weekend.  This special sale price is made possible thanks to the generosity of Frank and Katrina Basile.
  • Producer Party March 17:  After the performance on Friday of opening weekend, the Phoenix will host a Producer Party. Food and Sun King beer will be provided.
  • Second Sunday: The Second Sunday discussion will take place immediately following the performance.  Come join cast and designers for a lively Q&A and gain a unique perspective of the show!
  • Thursday, 7 p.m. $27
  • Friday-Saturday, 8 p.m. $33
  • Sunday, 2 p.m. $27

Garfield Shakespeare Company opens  Julius Caesar. Prompted by fear, a host of Roman senators conspire to kill Julius Caesar before he can name himself dictator and lord over the common people. Cassius whispers falsehoods into the impressionable ears of Brutus, whose only concern is that the people of Rome will lose their voice under a single emperor. Caesar is slain on the Ides of March on the steps of the capitol. Octavius, Caesar’s nephew, and Mark Antony, Caesar’s closest friend and supporter, move to avenge the death of Rome’s great leader. Mark Antony, Octavius Caesar, and Lepidus from the triumvirate that rules Rome after Julius Caesar’s death.

  • March 17-18, 23-25th at 7:30 p.m.
  • March 19 at 3:00 p.m.
  • Garfield Park Arts Center
  • FREE ADMISSION. Seating may be limited. Call the GPAC at 317.327.7135 to make reservations.
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

DivaFest 2017

The opening weekend of IndyFringe’s DivaFest 2017 was packed with passionate artists producing works that challenge audiences to evaluate their points of view.

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Batshit

  • Written by Brooke Eden
  • Directed by Miranda Swan
  • Performed by Brooke Eden

What is good: Twenty-year-old Eden has both good and bad luck. She suffers from panic disorder and depression. But karma picked up the bill by allowing her to come to terms with her issues now instead of 15 or 20 years later, after they did irreparable damage to her life.

In her one-woman show, Eden confesses to her own “batshit” craziness and to just how low she got before seeking help in college. She tackles the incredibly personal monologue with often self-deprecating humor, reveling in the convoluted events of her life that brought her to this point. Some stories are comical and some are sad, and she can turn a smart phrase. She’s genuine and relatable, and infinitely brave for sharing her story.

What needs work: The performance’s timelines and subjects sometimes feel disjointed. It’s a little rough, but I am betting it’s a work in progress. Also, moving the stool around the stage is distracting and unnecessary. I’d love to see some media added, such as music and photos that pertain to topics.

  • Saturday, March 18, 9 p.m.
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Chelsea Anderson and Adam Tran in rehersal for “Not Yet” at DivaFest

Not Yet

  • Written by Chelsea Anderson
  • Directed by Rob Johansen
  • Performed by Adam Tran and Chelsea Anderson

What is good: The acting and directing. Tran and Anderson give professional-level performances. The incorporation of dance provides lovely symbolism for the coming together and drifting apart of two people in a relationship. The show’s execution from start to finish is spot-on.

What needs work: I have to play devil’s advocate here regarding the script. While I in NO WAY condone Guy’s date rape of Audra while she was passed out, Audra still needs to confront her own issues. As Guy states at the end, Audra is selfish. She says she wants to take the physical part of their relationship slow, but she gives in after five weeks. After allowing them to take that step, she reneges, saying that “it hurts.” First, if sex hurts, get thee to a GYN ASAP. If no physical reason for the pain exists, get thee to a sex therapist. Second, if you set a ground rule, keep it. This applies to every party involved. Audra never tries to have a meaningful, mature conversation with Guy about sex—or even about her expectations of the relationship. If this kind of a conversation is too embarrassing or uncomfortable, grow up.

When Guy date raped her, why didn’t she leave right away instead of letting the relationship continue, allowing her anger to fester, and choosing not to confront Guy? (I can tell you from first-person experience that restraining orders in these situations are not hard to obtain, even though pressing charges can be.) Guy has been rejected in every way a person can be (again, yes, the date rape was unforgivable, but why didn’t she do a thing about it?). And what is Audra’s take-away from all this? We don’t know if she has learned anything or grown because of a guillotined ending.

  • Saturday, March 18, 7:30 p.m.
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Beverly Roche in “Not Yet Dead” at DivaFest

Not Yet Dead

  • Written by Jan White
  • Directed by Ann Marie Elliott
  • Performed by Beverly Roche, Bridget Schlebecker, Nick Barnes, Shannon Samson, Jim Lucas, Craig Rubel, and David Molloy

What is good: A gaggle of friends tries to convince a former movie star to take on new opportunities—and new technology, which causes havoc. White’s message—not letting yourself get complacent in your senior years—transcends all age groups. No matter how old you are, your story is not over.

The banter between Roche as Dana and Schlebecker as her best friend Lana is so natural that it is beautiful, and the actresses convey the ease and comfort of beloved friends. Their words and interaction reflect the love and companionship that sustained their relationship for decades. Plus, lots of funny lines keep the audience laughing.

What needs work: The show has drinking-game potential. Every time the title is used, take a shot. The script is rough around the edges, and the scenes end abruptly. Some of the characters are superfluous, such as the obligatory gay friend and the man next door. (His sister doesn’t have a major role in propelling the plot either, but she is funny. And he does get one of the best jokes in the show, explaining that it’s the Vagina Monologues, not monocles. It’s not eyewear for your vagina.)

  • Sunday March 19, 7:30 p.m.
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Banza Townsend and Brittany Taylor in “On the Pole” at DivaFest

On the Pole

  • Written and produced by Nicole Kearney
  • Directed by Dena Toler
  • Performed by Banza Townsend, Andrea P. Wilson, Chandra Lynch, Brittany Taylor, and Jamaal McCray

What is good: On the Pole examines the circumstances and repercussions for four women who work in a strip club. Each one represents a different perspective: the housemother, who has been in the industry practically her whole life; the teen-age newbie, who sees this as a welcome opportunity to get off the streets; the proud career dancer; and the short-timer, who is saving for college. It’s a fascinating behind-the-scenes of rarely told stories. The catty comments are set to high, and each actress effectively embodies her character’s temperament. But Wilson as Mimi is the most eye-catching; she drips sexuality the entire 60 minutes of the production. Well-curated props add vibrancy to the black-box stage.

What needs work: The characters are depicted with a wide brush, but it’s hard to write effective character development into a short. The ending was a little abrupt; a more resolute conclusion would be satisfying.

  • Friday March 17, p.m.

 

Two additional shows will open this weekend.

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“The Pink Hulk” at DivaFest

The Pink Hulk, written by Valerie David and directed by Padraic Lill, is about Valerie’s battle with breast cancer. Afraid she might lose “the girls,” Valerie decides to takes them out for one last hurrah. The true story follows the triumphant journey of one woman seeking her own “hulk-like” strength to find her superhero within.

  • Friday, March 17, 6 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 18, 6 p.m.
  • Sunday, March 19, 4:30 p.m.

 

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“Hedy” at DivaFest. Photo by Al Foote III.

HEDY! The Life & Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, written by Heather Massie, explores the film star who also invented frequency hopping and spread spectrum technology, which make the world of wireless communication tick.

  • Friday, March 17, 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 18, 4:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, March 19, 6 p.m.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Rock of Ages” at Theatre on the Square (4 stars)

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John Kern and Dave Ruark in “Rock of Ages” at Theatre on the Square. Photo by Zach Rosing.

Rock of Ages is a camp masterpiece. The fist-pumping shots of adrenaline that fueled the hair bands and groupies of the ’80s are lampooned in this amalgamation of every rock-band debauchery, mullet, and obnoxious clothing choice seen in that decade.

What Theatre on the Square’s cast may be lacking in vocal proficiency is made up for in stamina. (Hell, Ty Stover is the director, musical director, scenic designer, and lighting designer.) This is an instance when auto-tune could have come in handy. Everyone seems to have a few notes that he or she just can’t hit. But no matter. This karaoke-level performance is the height of sloppy fun.

The show has a loose storyline, but who cares what it is? This is a jukebox musical after all. And I get to use my favorite phrase: John Kern as Lonny, the narrator, CHEWS THE SCENERY AND SPITS IT BACK OUT. No matter what is happening on-stage, find him, and he will be doing something absurd or crude, but probably both. He makes a gallant effort in the vocal department.

Dave Ruark, who plays the nightclub owner Dennis, a washed-up ex-hippie who did way too many drugs back in the day, does an admirable job of stumbling through the club in a vague haze. Bar-hand and superstar wanna-be Drew, played by Davey Pelsue, has his best turn in “I Wanna Rock,” and his love interest, Sherrie, played by Sarah Hoffman, has a pretty little voice.

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Davey Peluse and Sarah Hoffman in “Rock of Ages” at Theatre on the Square. Photo by Zach Rosing.

Hannah Boswell has the best voice in the production, which is odd because she has limited stage time as Waitress #1. Paige Scott as the strip-club housemother Justice gives excellent attitude, and Zach Ramsey as Franz is adorable. However, Thomas Cardwell as rock god Stacee Jaxx lacks the role’s sex appeal, and his surfer dialect is gratng.

Unbelievably horrible wigs are appalling to the point that they are comical.

Be forewarned that if you fear glitter (the herpes of the craft world) and/or boobs, don’t sit in the front row.

Overall, the show warranted an extra star for its sheer fun factor, and the bottom line is that you have to be a huge fan of the ’80s to really enjoy it. I’d love to see TOTS do a sing-along night.

  • Through April 1
  • Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 5 p.m.
  • $25 ($20 for students/seniors)
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Boeing Boeing” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre (4.5 stars)

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Greta Wohlrabe and Chris Klopatek in IRT’s “Boeing Boeing.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

Boeing Boeing is a classic French farce from the ’60s, and really, who doesn’t enjoy a little slapstick, even if the characters are a little…culturally dated? Just roll with it. Many stagings, translations, tweaks, and movie adaptations later, Boeing Boeing has made its way to the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s stage under the direction of Laura Gordon, and it’s a hoot.

Bernard, played by Matt Schwader, is an American playboy living in Paris. He has collected three “air hostess” fiancées, and by using a system of airline timetables, he keeps them from knowing about each other. The day his old friend Robert, played by Chris Klopatek, shows up for a visit, Bernard’s scheme begins to deteriorate.

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Elizabeth Ledo in IRT’s “Boeing Boeing.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

The show is full of excruciatingly funny lines, most of which are delivered by Bernard’s housekeeper, Berthe, played by Elizabeth Ledo (who in looks and attitude reminds me of Edna from The Incredibles), and the show’s standout, Klopatek. Klopatek, as the nerdy, nervous, clumsy Robert, steals every single scene he is in (which is most of them). But Ledo is right behind him, delivering her character’s own brand of snarky shtick.

Schwader as Bernard is everything a 1960s schmoozer would be: handsome, smooth, arrogant—and hysterically frantic when he finds himself juggling all three women in his flat. Which brings us to the stewardesses. Hillary Clemens gets to be relatively straightforward as cute (but gastronomically challenged) American Gloria, whereas caricatures are carried impressively consistently by Melisa Pereyra as the “angry Italian” Gabriella and Greta Wohlrabe as the “aggressive German” Gretchen. Stereotypes aside, Wohlrabe is absolutely endearing and sidesplitting in turns from one second to another.

The set, designed by Vicki Smith, does ample justice to the IRT’s reputation for elaborate settings. The pacing of some narrative scenes could be sped up, but this is a minor quibble for a show that is such a delightful romp of silliness.

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Chris Klopatek, Hillary Clemens, and Matt Schwader in IRT’s “Boeing Boeing.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

Check out my interview with Hillary Clemens and Matt Schwader!

  • Through April 2
  • $20-$75
  • IRTea Talk | March 19, after the 2 p.m. performance
  • Happy Hour March 21, before the 6:30 p.m. performance
  • Backstage Tour March 24, after the 7:30 p.m. performance
  • Post-show Discussion March 26, after the 2 p.m. performance
  • IRT’s Girls Night Out March 29 at 6 p.m.; production starts at 7:30 p.m.
  • Cookies & Coffee March 30, before the 2 p.m. performance
  • Recommended for patrons 9th grade and older. Boeing Boeing contains references to infidelity and mild sexual innuendo.
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the week/end of March 8

Presented at the Studio Theater at The Center For The Performing Arts

TONIGHT: Actors Theatre of Indiana presents Unscripted, an improvised musical comedy staring Ben Asaykwee, Cynthia Collins, Judy Fitzgerald, Paul Hansen, and Claire Wilcher and emceed by Ellen Kingston with accompaniment by Brent Marty. Full audience participation! You provide the content. The actors provide the laughs. See actors transform onstage into their characters as a story is woven together with help from the audience. Singing, dancing, costume changes, and wigs…all right before your eyes! Plus, the 2017-2018 season will be announced.

 

 

“Boeing Boeing” at the IRT

The Indiana Repertory Theatre‘s production of Boeing Boeing opens this weekend. A swanky Parisian bachelor pad sets the stage for a fun-filled performance where an infidelitous man finds out what can go wrong when he, along with three beautiful stewardesses, are in the right place at the wrong time. Check out the interview with Hillary Clemens and Matt Schwader!

  • March 10-April 2
  • $20-$75
  • Opening night March 10. Come dressed in your best 1960’s outfit and share a toast with the cast after the performance!
  • IRTea Talk | March 19, after the 2 p.m. performance
  • Happy Hour March 21, before the 6:30 p.m. performance
  • Backstage Tour March 24, after the 7:30 p.m. performance
  • Post-show Discussion March 26, after the 2 p.m. performance
  • Cookies & Coffee March 30, before the 2 p.m. performance
  • Recommended for patrons 9th grade and older. Boeing Boeing contains references to infidelity and mild sexual innuendo.

 

DivaFest 2017 from IndyFringe

DivaFest 2017 presented by IndyFringe develops and presents female voices, providing a supportive environment where they can hone their craft and exploring new writers, works, and performing companies, while leaving enough room for established playwrights to foster mentoring relationships. The goal is to grow Indiana as a center for female playwrights and encourage the public to support them by buying tickets, watching shows, and sharing their thoughts with friends in person or on social media. Through the juried process, the best six submitted shows will be presented at the festival.

  • March 10-12 & March 17-19
  • $18; $13 seniors/student
  • IndyFringe Basile Theatre and Indy Eleven Theatre

 

“Rock of Ages” at Theatre on the Square

Theatre on the Square presents Rock of Ages: In 1987 on the Sunset Strip, a small-town girl met a big city rocker — and in LA’s most famous rock club, they fell in love to the greatest songs of the eighties. Rock of Ages is an arena-rock love story told through the mind-blowing, face-melting hits of Journey, Bon Jovi, Poison, and many more.

  • March 10-April 1
  • $25; $20 student/senior

 

 

“Belle” by XYZ

XYZ, a youth theater company led by Grace Cullin and Jaytel Provence, students of Young Actors Theatre, presents Belle. The show follows the story of an orphaned girl and how she copes with the events of her past. Belle will have to learn to let go of what she has lost. Will she learn to move on or hold on to the past and destroy herself?

  • Big Car, 2628 Shelby St, Indianapolis, IN 46203
  • March 9-11, 7 p.m.
  • $12; $9 under 18
  • Recommended for ages 11+

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Anything Goes” at Footlite Musicals (3 stars)

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“Anything Goes” at Footlite Musicals

It’s not unusual for the storyline of a piece of musical theater or a musical film to be merely a slipshod vehicle for what the audience really wants: amazing tunes (most often accompanied by elaborate dance numbers). So it is with works such as Grease, Mamma Mia, Cats, Chess…and pretty much anything pre-1940. As much as I adore Cole Porter, the book of Anything Goes is ridiculous. But oh those songs! One right after another is a little piece of tap-the-foot heaven. “I Get a Kick Out of You.” “You’re the Top,” “It’s De-Lovely,” “Let’s Misbehave,” “Blow, Gabriel, Blow,” and of course the show’s namesake, “Anything Goes.”

Footlite Musicals pours energy to the 1962 version now on stage under the direction of Kathleen Clarke Horrigan, with vocal director John Phillips and choreographer Trish Roberds.

Despite sound system issues and an erratic spotlight, Saturday night’s performance was satisfying on many levels, even if it wasn’t “the top.” Susie Harloff as nightclub singer Reno takes top marks for her star-worthy performance both vocally and in character. Trenton Baker as the star-crossed beau Billy has a clear, lovely voice, but it lacks the power needed for a leading role. He and Emily Schaab, as Bonnie, could split her enthusiasm and projection and both actors would still have full tanks. Sydney Norwalk as Billy’s ladylove Hope accompanies him with her own sweet voice and a classical mixture of demur yet fun-loving demeanor.

Tom Bartley as Moonface Martin makes for a much more loveable buffoon than Ryan Straut as Sir Evelyn Oakleigh. There is no possible suspension of disbelief here because it’s clear Oakleigh is going to end up in Reno’s costume closet, not her pants.

A large chorus of singers and dancers fill in the stage, and the tap numbers are an amazing cardio workout. Gale Sturm’s three-tiered set design captures both the enormity of a ship and the intimacy of a deck in the moonlight. Curt Pickard’s costuming—especially for the ladies—is classy and stunning.

  • Anything Goes continues through March 19. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday: 7:30 p.m.; Sunday: 2:30 p.m.
  • Tickets are $23 (ages 17 and under $15)
  • Discount Days: All Thursday evening performances and opening weekend Sunday matinee are $10.
Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings and continuing shows for the weekend of March 3

Footlite Musicals opens the Cole Porter favorite Anything Goes this weekend. The story showcases madcap antics aboard an ocean liner between New York and London. Billy Crocker is a stowaway in love with heiress Hope Harcourt, who is engaged to Lord Evelyn Oakleigh. Nightclub singer Reno Sweeney and Public Enemy #13 Moonface Martin aid Billy in his quest to win Hope. The musical introduced such songs as “Anything Goes,” “You’re the Top,” and “I Get a Kick Out of You.”

  • March 3-19, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
  • Admission  is $23 for adults and $15 for youth (17 and younger).
  • Discount days (Thursday Evenings and Opening Weekend Sunday Matinee) – all seats are $10
  • Adult members are $15 and youth members are $10. Member tickets are only $5 on Discount Days.

Also check out Footlite’s tap workshop!

anything-goes-tap-workshop

 

"Swan Song" at Epilogue Players. Photo by Duane Mercier.
“Swan Song” at Epilogue Players. Photo by Duane Mercier.

Epilogue Players opens The Swan Song: A Study in Terror by Mike Johnson. The thriller, directed by Bernard Wurger, is a depraved tale of mystery, murder, magic, madness, and hideous revenge. It details the events of a single day from early afternoon to midnight. Olivia returns with her fiancé to the creepy family manor after the funeral of her murdered parents. Miles desperately tries to get her away from the house and the eerie influences of her secretary, her ever-tipsy aunt, a hidebound lawyer, a genuinely scary swami, and a kindly old housekeeper whose nervousness is contagious. Olivia won’t leave until she contacts the spirit of her mother at midnight to learn who committed the ghastly murders.

  • March 3-19, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • Tickets are $12-$15.
  • Reservations are required and can be made online at  or by calling 317-926-3139.

 

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“Move Over, Mrs. Markham” at the University of Indianapolis

Move Over, Mrs. Markham continues at the University of Indianapolis. Move over Mrs. Markham exposes the intricacies and complications that ensue when different sets of hopeful lovers all converge on the bedroom of the Markhams’ supposedly empty flat. The complications and deceptions that follow assure a hectic and hilarious evening.

  • Contains adult humor, language or content that some may find inappropriate.
  • Advanced sale tickets only.
  • March 2-4, dinner at 6:45 p.m., performance at 8:00 p.m.
  • Thrifty Thursday (performance only, no dinner) March 2 at 8:00 p.m. All seats $6
  • General admission: $27/person (includes dinner)
  • http://uindyarts.universitytickets.com/u…/event_listings.asp or call 317-788-3251.

 

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“Four Spirits” at Downey Avenue Christian Church

Downey Avenue Christian Church Performing Arts presents the Midwest premiere production of Four Spirits: The Play by Sena Jeter Naslund and Elaine W. Hughes. It spotlights the 1960s nonviolent protest against the legality of racial segregation. The death of four African-American Sunday-school girls in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing broke the hearts of many black and white Americans, but in its wake came new spiritual resolve to replace prejudice with justice, hate with love, violence with peace, and separation with friendship. Based on Naslund’s critically acclaimed, national best-selling novel, also titled Four Spirits, the suspenseful play reverberates with the courage, commitment, and cooperation needed to create an enlightened and positive community

 

"Stuart Little" at the Indiana Repertory Theatre
“Stuart Little” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre

Stewart Little continues at the Indiana Repertory Theatre. Everyone’s favorite mouse lives a happy life with his human family and his friend Margalo the bird—as long as he can avoid that sinister feline, Snowbell. The beloved children’s book becomes a lively stage event brimming with invention and imagination.

  • Through March 26
  • Children’s storytime seating is $8; adult storytime seating is $15; all chair seating is $20

 

 

"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre
“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat continues at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s show is a rainbow of musical styles that tells the story of Jacob’s favorite son, who receives the gift of a colorful coat that changes his life after it stirs jealousy among his brothers.

  • Through March 26
  • $47.50-$67.50
Posted in Indianapolis theater: interviews, Indianapolis theater: previews

Interview: IRT’s “Boeing Boeing” (long version)

Matt Schwader and Hillary Clemens talk life, love, baby, and the stage

(This is the complete version of this story. Due to space constraints, the one in NUVO had to be shortened.)

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Matt Schwader and Hillary Clemens in the IRT production of “The Great Gatsby”

There’s an old adage about mixing your private life with work (don’t), but for those who see the theater as home, the lines are easy to blur. Matt Schwader’s and Hillary Clemens’s relationship has been inextricably woven into their on-stage careers since they first met in 2010 at a Shakespeare festival in Wisconsin. And now, they are coming full circle in their theatrical parenting foray. After discovering that they were pregnant the morning before the opening night of The Great Gatsby at the Indiana Repertory Theatre (he as Gatsby and she as Daisy) in 2015, the whole family is back at the IRT for its production of Boeing Boeing, opening March 7 (he as Bernard and she as Gloria).

Though branded by the dark circles under their eyes common to all new parents, the couple is upbeat and positive about their first foray into the regional-theater scene since their son was born eight months ago. “We were going to take a year or more off from the theater world, and we probably wouldn’t have taken this [show] if it weren’t for Hillary’s mom,” says Schwader with a smile. “And it’s hard to say no to Janet [Allen, IRT’s executive artistic director] and the Indiana Rep,” he adds, and he and his wife laugh good-naturedly.

Clemens elaborates, “Henry’s with my mother. She’s staying in the room across from ours in our housing, and my stepdad is here for a little bit too. He’ll probably come and go, but she’s here for the duration. Really, it was the only way we could do this. My mom just looked at me and said, ‘I’ll come with you.’ We knew that we would be at home here.”

“It’s just the best place,” Schwader says. “It’s a fun theater. When you come here, people are just so warm and creative and positive—good people.” And when he says it, you know he means it. His lively blue eyes look right at you, and his body language conveys confidence and energy.

Clemens, her husband’s physical opposite—petite, with enormous brown eyes that dominate her face—is just as enthusiastic if more physically calm. Content. “I’ve been spending all of my time with Henry up until this. This is the longest I’ve been away from him. Being home made a real difference for me. I’m lucky that I was able to do that. But it also feels really good to be back at work too.”

Schwader says, “I kind of went back to a day job just to support the family. And then doing things with the Bach Aria Soloists and the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival and a couple of other groups that do like a weekend thing. It’s great, but all I wanna do is be at home,” and they both laugh again.

Everyone knows babies are exhausting, but when your schedules aren’t the typical nine-to-five, it can be even more challenging. “In this career, most of our job starts around noon and then goes later, in general. And then once the show’s in performance, it’s nights and weekend,” Schwader says. “But with a baby, he has no interest in our schedule! So he gets me up every morning. Hillary’s still nursing, so he’ll wake up a couple times at night, expect a little bite to eat, so since she has to do that, as a fair trade off, I get up with him in the morning. Everything’s completely different. Normally in the past, I’d be pretty much memorized before rehearsal started, and it just wasn’t very possible with a baby.

“The thing that’s a big issue with being parents and being a team in a play is time. It’s one thing if you’re in two different shows, where one person has a rehearsal schedule and the other one can be at home with the kids or doing supportive kind of stuff like making lunches, that kind of thing. But when you are both on the same schedule, it’s exhausting. You just want to come home and relax, and there’s no one there who’s picking up the extra weight. And you look at each other like the other person should do it. [both laugh] And then you realize, no, we’re in the same boat. I think that’s the biggest ‘challenge.’ But that’s just life.

Juggling work and their relationship is something the couple already had experience with before baby. But that time apart never marred their bond. The two laugh often and complete each other’s sentences. They have found their balance and made it work.

“We met in 2010, and we reconnected a couple years later. You [Clemens] were in Florida, and I was in Chicago,” Schwader says. “We started out long distance. From e-mails, to Skype, to watching Netflix at the same time,” which make them both laugh again.

Clemens adds, “We spent a lot of our relationship working in different cities and different plays. Right after we got married, we had about two weeks together, and then I came here and did The Game’s Afoot [IRT 2014].”

“And I had been here before in 2006 doing A Christmas Carol. So we both worked here separately.”

“And then we had an amazing year where we worked together.”

“Back to back. We did Romeo and Juliet out at Lake Tahoe where she was Juliet and I was Romeo. And we came here and did The Great Gatsby.”

“And then we went to Seattle and did Christmas Carol together. Then we had the baby, took some time off, and now we’re here! And then this summer, we are going to do Hamlet in Kansas City at the Shakespeare Festival there.”

So what’s it like working with your partner? Schwader says, “Being theatrical and being on stage with a show, I want to say…I’d love to say it’s no different from doing it with anybody else, but there is an element of comfort”

“Trust.”

“And trust.”

“Especially if it’s something romantic. Physical.”

“Exactly. All of that. It’s very easy, and it’s different than working with someone you don’t have that with. But you know, if you’re going through a lovers’ spat in life but have to be happy on stage, we’re professionals. Once we’re in the play, we really are in the play.”

Clemens adds, “We keep joking too that the last time we were here, it was Gatsby, so your [Schwader’s] character was obsessed with mine, and now we’re back and I’m one of three. I get to watch you make out with two other ladies. But I know you’re coming home with me at night. You betta.” [more laughter]

Schwader continues, “I think it [the challenge] is time. I’m up with him [Henry] at 4:30, 5 o’clock in the morning. It’s kind of great because we get a little Henry and Pop time.” So, can you take a nap? “I’ve got to memorize lines and go to the gym, get the house cleaned up, pack our lunches…I’ll be interested to see what happens during the show. I don’t know that we’ll make it back before he goes to bed, and I’ll miss that time.”

Clemens adds, “We also moved to a new place right before we left.” This made their time even more precious.

Schwader says, “In a rehearsal process, normally the time that you’re off rehearsal, you have a lot of homework. Not just memorizing lines, but you’re working on your own.”

“And with a show like this [Boeing Boeing], that’s so physical, gym time isn’t just a luxury. You really have to do it.”

Schwader says, “You have to stay healthy, stay flexible. So trying to find time to do all those things and also not miss out on time with him [Henry], that’s the challenge.”

“And just figuring out how the schedule works. This is our first show back as parents, and just figuring out the timing of everything. I mean, we’re up at 5 a.m.”

And that brings the story back to their baby.

Schwader beings, “We were planning on having the baby. But the story is, actors get things for each other as little opening-night gifts, and we had been sort of lax on that. And in the morning, on the opening night of our show, Hillary comes to me and she’s like, ‘Let’s give each other our gifts now!’ and I was like, “No, we don’t do that!”

Clemens explains, “We still had about four hours of rehearsal to do—”

“Yeah, you do it at the show. But she said, ‘No, we have to do it now.’ Well, I was curmudgeonly about it—”

“He was grouchy, trying to make breakfast—”

“And she said, ‘You go first.’ So I was like, I didn’t want to do it at all, and now you’re making me go first.” This gets another laugh out of Clemens. “So I gave her her gifts, which were some things related to the show, like a daisy necklace, and things like that because she was playing Daisy. And then she gave me my gift, and it’s a little thing that is wrapped up. I open it up, and I pull it out, and it’s a onesie. And we just burst into tears. It was awesome.”

Seriously, how adorable is that!

Clemens picks up the story. “We had to go to rehearsal and couldn’t tell anybody. We’d be on stage, to reposition a moment or fix the blocking, and I’d look at Matt and he’d look at me. And his eyes would just fill with tears. And I was like [whispering through gritted teeth], ‘Get it together! They’re going to think something’s wrong!’ We told Nathan [Garrison], the stage manager, pretty much right away because it’s a medical issue. You want to make sure somebody in charge knows what’s going on.”

“And she of course did get horrible morning sickness that whole first trimester. And we were on a rake, which is a triangular stage, and she’s in high heels doing the Charleston.”

Clemens says, “I had a few ‘come off stage, throw up, come back on stage’ moments. And just the level of fatigue early on was really rough early on. And we did end up telling the cast because it hit me so hard that we thought they either are going to think I’m dying or they’re going to be afraid I’m contagious. And also it was good for them to know just in case—”

“Somebody could grab you—”

“If I look like I’m about to keel over, everyone knows to grab me. But it was really kind of wonderful to have this thing that was really special with the cast and crew.”

“And we get to bring him here now, and he can see where he began!” Schwader adds.

Clemens says, “It’s fun when we look at our production photos because they took all the photos, or at least half, during previews, so I was pregnant but didn’t know yet. So I look at all those pictures, and I’m like [in a singsong voice], ‘You’re preg-nant!’ We call them Henry’s first production photos. And there’s a moment in the play too where Gatsby is whispering to Daisy on stage—”

“But the audience doesn’t hear what I’m saying—”

“And there were a couple of nights where he would lean in and just go [whispering], ‘You’re preg-nant!’”

This elicits yet another bout of joy-filled laughter.

Clemens says, “It’s wonderful to come back with something that is so wonderfully silly. And we know when we come home at the end of the night we’re going to be in a great mood, as opposed to like a Shakespearean tragedy. You can’t always leave all of it; it comes with you, it lives in you a little bit. So it’s nice to know that there really isn’t a way to be in a bad mood at the end of this play.”

Schwader agrees. “Especially with this cast and this company. It’s sort of funny because the play’s about these people who sort of live an international lifestyle, and a play like this for anybody is sort of a vacation. You get to forget about anything that’s happening in politics, the world, or whatever else may be troubling you in life, and you can go laugh for a couple hours.”

It’s the 1960s, and swinging bachelor Bernard couldn’t be happier: a flat in Paris and three gorgeous stewardesses all engaged to him without knowing about each other. But Bernard’s perfect life gets bumpy when his friend Robert comes to stay and a new and speedier Boeing jet throws off all of his careful planning. Soon all three stewardesses are in town simultaneously, timid Robert is forgetting which lies to tell to whom, and catastrophe looms.

Boeing Boeing runs at the Indiana Repertory Theatre March 7-April 2.

Tickets are $25-$75.

Recommended for ages 14 and over.

Save $5 on the first two weeks of the show when you book using the promo code JETSETTERS5.

 

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of Feb. 17

Ha, look at me being all responsible and doing this early. Yay me!

theater_masks_silhouetteEver wanted to be on the inside of a theater’s workings? Buck Creek Players is having an annual Dinner and General Membership meeting Sunday, February 26. Dinner is at 6 p.m. with the meeting at 7 p.m. All current Buck Creek Players members and their families are invited. Not a member? Join up here. Donations  are appreciated to help cover the cost of the dinner. RSVP by Friday, February 24th, to reserve your place by e-mailing buckcreekplayers@yahoo.com.

And on to the openings.

Theatre on the Square: “The Money Shot”

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Photography: ZACH ROSING

Poster design: LORI RAFFEL

Neil LaBute’s darkly funny look at all things Hollywood. Steve (Earl Campbell) and Karen (Sarah McGee), screen idols past their peak in desperate need of a hit, have assembled in her Hollywood hills home to discuss a sensitive professional matter with their respective partners. But before they commit their coupling to digital eternity, they want to clear it with Bev (LisaMarie Smith), Karen’s live-in girlfriend, and Missy (Lauren Hall), Steve’s much younger wife. The meeting starts nasty, turns nastier, and is consistently hilarious.

Feb. 17-March 4

$20-$25

Phoenix Theatre: “An Act of God”

In this sinfully funny new play, the Almighty and His devoted Angels answer some of the deepest existential questions to ever plague mankind. He’s returned to set the record straight…and he’s not holding back! The stage play is adapted from Javerbaum’s “The Last Testament: A Memoir By God,” which itself began as “a series of Tweets.”

Feb. 16-March 12

$20-$33

Mud Creek Players: “Rabbit Hole”

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“Rabbit Hole” at Mud Creek Players

“Rabbit Hole” is a Pulitzer Prize-winning, contemporary American drama with a huge heart and good-natured sense of humor. We meet Becca and Howie, a successful, professional couple, some months after the loss of their only child in a terrible accident. While the soul of the story reflects the struggles of a family learning to cope with their loss, it is in the subtle humor of real life that we are invited to explore what it means to be human: to love, to laugh, to lose and to keep on living. Rated PG13.

Feb. 17-March 4

$15 per person; $13 Sunday matinee

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Theatre on the Square presents “Love Letters” and more in February

lovelettersTheatre on the Square has a busy lineup this month. Staged readings of “the world’s most romantic comedy,” “Love Letters” by A. R. Gurney, continue through Valentine’s Day, performed by some of Indy’s most famous theater “couples.”

Tickets are $20. All proceeds go to Theatre on the Square!

TONIGHT: Saturday, February 11 at 8 pm
Scot Greenwell and Zack Neiditch

Sunday, February 12 at 5 pm
Josh Ramsey and Carrie Schlatter

Tuesday, February 14 at 8 pm
Claire Wilcher and Ben Asaykwee

MORE FEBRUARY EVENTS:

INDYPROV
Saturday, February 11 at 8:00 pm

THE MONEY SHOT

Neil LaBute’s darkly funny look at all things Hollywood. Steve (Earl Campbell) and Karen (Sarah McGee), screen idols past their peak in desperate need of a hit, have assembled in her Hollywood hills home to discuss a sensitive professional matter with their respective partners. But before they commit their coupling to digital eternity, they want to clear it with Bev (LisaMarie Smith), Karen’s live-in girlfriend, and Missy (Lauren Hall), Steve’s much younger wife. The meeting starts nasty, turns nastier and is consistently hilarious.

Feb. 17-March 4

ANGEL BURLESQUE’s  Vagina Show – Rejuvinated
Friday and Saturday, February 17 and 18 at 8:00 pm

LIGHT AND SHADOW:  A new musical about Jack the Ripper
Friday, February 24 at 7:00 pm

RIOT COMEDY SHOW
Saturday, February 25 at 9:00 pm

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Carmel Community Players opens “Suite Surrender”

I know this opened last night, but, in the mind-set of better late than never: Carmel Community Players is presenting the comedy “Suite Surrender” by Michael McKeever.

From the press release:

unnamed It’s 1942, and the luxurious Palm Beach Royale Hotel is under siege as two of Hollywood’s biggest divas vie for the same suite. Mistaken identities, overblown egos, double entendres, and one pampered little lap dog round out this fall-down-laughing riot of a comedy. An all-out love note to those wonderful farces of the ’30s and ’40s.

Check out a video preview for Suite Surrender!

Carmel Community Playhouse at Clay Terrace
When : Feb. 10, 11, 12; Feb. 17, 18, 19; and Feb. 24, 25, 26
Show times: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Sundays
Tickets : $16 adults, $14 seniors (62+), $14 students

No service fee charged for purchasing online.

CCP now sells beer & wine at the concession stand!

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

“Rumors” opens at Civic Theatre Feb. 3

Sorry about the late notice! NUVO doesn’t have me covering anything this weekend, but I’m happy to pass on that Neil Simon’s Rumors is opening at the Indianapolis Civic Theatre this weekend!

From the website:

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“Rumors” at Civic Theatre

At a large, tastefully appointed Sneden’s Landing townhouse, the Deputy Mayor of New York has just shot himself. Though only a flesh wound, four couples are about to experience a severe attack of farce. Gathering for their tenth wedding anniversary, the host lies bleeding in the other room, and his wife is nowhere in sight. His lawyer, Ken, and wife, Chris, must get “the story” straight before the other guests arrive. As the confusions and miscommunications mount, the evening spins off into classic farcical hilarity.

February 3- 18, 2017

Showtimes
Thursday, Friday, & Saturday @ 7pm
Sunday @ 2pm
Final Saturday @ 5pm

Tickets are $40.50 and student discounts are available. Tickets can be purchased at civictheatre.org.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Preview for the weekend of Jan. 27, 2017

NUVO doesn’t have me slated for any reviewing this weekend, so instead I am passing on some openings for the weekend.

Actors Theatre of Indiana “It Shoulda Been You.” From their website:

isby_wedding_images-02-2A wild musical comedy with blushing brides, nervous grooms, overbearing moms, unexpected guests, and plenty of crazy twists and turns. In a world where nothing is what it seems, religions collide, Machiavellian plots are revealed, promises broken, secrets exposed, and hope springs from the most unlikely of places. Is it the latest conflict in the Middle East? No, it’s just the Steinberg wedding. The charming, funny and original NEW MUSICAL “It Shoulda Been You” invites you to a wedding day you’ll never forget, where anything that can go wrong does and love pops up in mysterious places. The bride is Jewish. The groom is Catholic. Her mother is a force of nature. His mother is a tempest in a cocktail shaker.
And…when the bride’s ex-boyfriend crashes the party, the perfect wedding starts to unravel faster than you can whistle “Here Comes the Bride!” Plots are hatched, pacts are made, secrets are exposed – and the sister of the bride is left to turn a tangled mess into happily ever after in this musical comedy for anyone with parents.

The show runs Friday, January 27 through Sunday, February 12. Performances are Wednesdays at 7:30pm (discounted ticket rate of $25.00), Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays at 7:30pm, Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2:00pm in The Studio Theater, 4 Center Green, Carmel, IN 46032.

A Talkback series, “UNPLUGGED” (sponsored by Sun King Brewing Company) featuring the cast/artistic staff immediately follows the Sunday, February 5, 2:00pm performance, moderated by FOX 59 personality, Sherman Burdette.  Single ticket prices are $43.00 for adults, $37.00 for seniors, $20.00 for students (with valid student I.D.) and Wednesday evening performances are $25.00 for all adults. Tickets may be purchased online, atistage.org.

Buck Creek Players  “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.” From their press release:

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“You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” at Buck Creek Players

“How can anything go wrong on a day like this?” asks Charlie Brown. The show answers this question and many more, as Lucy, Linus, Sally, Schroeder, Snoopy, and Woodstock  join the fun of “a day in the life of Charlie Brown.” Full of music, humor, and insight, the stage musical tackles childhood’s memorable moments that made Schulz’s Peanuts characters a part of all our lives.

Fridays and Saturdays, January 27, 28; February 3, 4, 10 & 11 at 8 p.m.

Sundays, January 29; February 5 & 12 at 2:30 p.m.

$20 for adults; $18 for children & students (through college); $18 for senior citizens (aged 62 or older); Tickets may be purchased online, www.buckcreekplayers.com.

Indiana Repertory Theatre “The Cay.” From their website:

thecay
“The Cay” at the IRT

Amid the dangers of World War II, a privileged young white boy and a resourceful old black man are marooned on a tiny island in the Caribbean. Adapted from the award-winning children’s novel, “The Cay” tells a story of overcoming both hardship and prejudice, reminding us that friendship has no boundaries.

January 28-February 26; tickets are $25-$35; Tickets may be purchased online, www.irtlive.com.

Opening Night gala 1/28/2017 at 6 PM

Post-Show Discussions
1/28/2017 at 2 PM; 2/3/2017 at 7 PM; 2/4/2017 at 2 PM; 2/4/2017 at 6 PM; 2/10/2017 at 7 PM; 2/11/2017 at 2 PM; 2/11/2017 at 6 PM; 2/18/2017 at 2 PM; 2/18/2017 at 6 PM; 2/25/2017 at 2 PM; 2/25/2017 at 6 PM; and 2/26/2017 at 2 PM

“Calder: The Musical” at the Indyfringe Basile Theatre. From nuvo.net:

calder-the-musicalPresented by Klein and Alvarez LLC. “Calder, The Musical” celebrates the life of American artist Alexander “Sandy” Calder, the inventor of the mobile. An uplifting homage, the original musical brings Calder’s art to life and captures his essence through a whimsical theatrical experience of drama, music, dance, and visual art.

January 27-February 12, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2 pm. $20 adult/$15 senior/student/$12 under 12 years age. Call 317-522-8099 or go to http://www.indyfringe.org/

Continuing this weekend

“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” at the IRT

“How to Use a Knife” at the Phoenix Theatre. From the website:

howtouseaknifeAmidst the chaos of a New York City restaurant, Chef George is trying to turn his life around. As he struggles to stay sober, he must also contend with two spirited Guatemalan line-cooks, a pot-smoking busboy, an eerily quiet African dishwasher, and, of course, hungry patrons. But now immigration authorities are knocking at the door and it becomes apparent to George that his life isn’t the only one he holds in his hands.

Second Sundays returns THIS Sunday,  January 29!  Stay after the performance, have a beer (compliments of Sun King Brewery), and chat with “How to Use a Knife” cast members Rob Johansen and Tommy Lewey.

During the entire run of “How to Use a Knife,” Phoenix Theatre will accept donations of unopened spices at the Box Office for Second Helpings.

Continues through February 12, Thursday, 7 pm and Sunday, 2 pm, $27 and Friday and Saturday, 8 pm, $33. Tickets are available online at www.phoenixtheatre.org.

“Little Shop of Horrors” at Footlite Musicals. From the website:

horrors
“Little Shop of Horrors” at Footlite Musicals

Welcome to Skid Row and Mushnik’s Flower shop where a meek shop clerk named Seymour Krelborn is tired of life in the gutter and dreams of fame, fortune and love. His heart is set on a secret crush with a co-worker, Audrey, who is busy chasing her self-work through the wrong men, especially a sadistic dentist. In his quest for something better, Seymour finds and cares for a strange plant that he names Audrey II. The mysterious plant has devious dreams of its own, and promises Seymour whatever his heart wants if he only ‘feeds the plant’. This hilarious, campy, dark comedy with a science fiction twist is directed by Maria Matters.

Through January 29, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 2:30 pm. Admission is $23 for adults and $15 for youth (17 and younger). Tickets are available online at https://footlitemusicals.wildapricot.org/.

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” at the Indiana Repertory Theater (5 stars)

 

 

Director Skip Greer infuses humor into the show to balance the serious issues put forward by the play, keeping the audience engaged and entertained without feeling overwhelmed or preached to.

Chiké Johnson and Annie Munch in the IRT's "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." Photo by Zach Rosing.
Chiké Johnson and Annie Munch in the IRT’s “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” Photo by Zach Rosing.

***

Most people seem to be more familiar with William Rose’s 1967 screenplay of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner than the 2013 stage adaptation by Todd Kreidler, which is now at the Indiana Repertory Theatre. But the play holds true to the crux of the film: the slow, sometimes even painful evolution of racial relations, the importance of the family unit, and the strength of love.

Upper-middle-class Matt Drayton, played by Craig Spidle, is a vocal proponent of social justice. But when his ideals are challenged in real life, his stance changes abruptly. His 25-year-old daughter Joanna, played by Annie Munch, returns from her medical internship in Hawaii with a surprise: her fiancé, a 36-year-old widower who is a successful, acclaimed, but modest doctor who happens to be black.

If Dr. John Prentice, played by Chiké Johnson, had been white, would the family have reacted differently to their daughter’s whirlwind engagement and her plans to marry when she imminently follows her beau to Germany? Instead, the conflict is completely centered on the fact that the man is black. Each of their families is opposed to the match due to race; both think this will somehow ruin the couple’s lives.

Spidle’s Matt is all tirades, but Brigitt Markusfeld, as Matt’s wife Christina, approaches the role with a calmer attitude, (very) slowly grounding her husband’s bluster. Christina realizes how poorly they are acting when her assistant Hillary, who seems to be a harmless if affectatious woman played by Constance Macy, spews bigotry in her matter-of-fact plan to break up Joanna and John.

But it’s Tille, the Draytons’ black housekeeper, played by Lynda Gravátt, who is initially the most antagonistic toward John; however, she also provides a wealth of laughter (at least for the audience), as does Monsignor Ryan, played by Mark Goetzinger, a jovial, sotted voice of reason.

Munch’s Joanna is a bundle of upbeat, positive energy in contrast to Johnson, whose John exudes a more mature, refined demeanor—and a realistic one. He won’t proceed with the relationship if Joanna’s parents won’t approve it, knowing that their support is crucial to the couple’s life together.

But then Joanna ups the ante by secretly inviting John’s parents to dinner. Both of them are as shocked by the situation as Joanna’s parents are. The audience’s first glimpse of Nora Cole as John’s mother Mary is priceless. The look on her face says it all. John Prentice Sr., played by Cleavant Derricks, is even more biting than Matt is in his onslaughts toward John Jr.

Director Skip Greer infuses humor into the show to balance the serious issues put forward by the play, keeping the audience engaged and entertained without feeling overwhelmed or preached to.

B. Modern’s costume design is spot-on for the times, but most striking is the truly awesome set designed by Robert M. Koharchik. The multilevel, detailed set is possibly his most impressive creation yet.

 

Continues through February 4

Recommended for patrons in ninth grade and older; contains strong language, including racially charged dialogue.

Tickets are $20-$75

IRTEA TALK January 22, performance at 2 PM

HAPPY HOUR January 24, performance at 6:30 PM

POST-SHOW DISCUSSION February 2, performance at 2 PM

COOKIES & COFFEE February 2, performance at 2 PM

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

2016 in (abbreviated) review

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I want to preface this with the acknowledgement that * I did not see every show there was to see in the Indianapolis area this past year. * Not even close. Also, a five-star review may not have landed a show a spot in my favorites list. Instead, a combination of unique, inventive approaches and outstanding work on and off stage (especially on a low budget) with a great script are my criteria. With that said, here are my top picks for 2016.

Musicals

Addams Family at Footlite Musicals

What made it great: across-the-board top-notch staging that featured talent, enthusiasm, and commitment. Ed Trout’s whimsical direction (and spooky scenic design), spot-on costumes by designer Curt Pickard, and other details crafted by behind-the-scenes crew members made this show a massive hit. On stage, leads to chorus did a standout job. Michael Davis and Kathleen Clarke Horrigan created spitting images of Gomez and Morticia (respectively), but the vocal superlatives were the powerful voices of Ivy Bott as Wednesday and Carrie Neal as Lucas’s mother, Alice.

 

Next to Normal at Carmel Community Players

What made it great: director Carlo Nepomuceno’s focus on talent. Georgeanna Teipen (the main character), Russell Watson, Sharmaine Ruth, Kyle Mottinger, Daniel Hellman, and Bradley Kieper delivered exquisite emotion and vocal performances in this raw narrative without utilizing bells and whistles.

 

Sweeny Todd by Actors Theatre of Indiana

What made it great: probably one of if not the best Sweeny productions I’ve ever seen. ATI maximized its use of the small, black-box stage with a multipurpose set piece by designer P. Bernard Killian. Don Farrell was awesome as the ghoulish Todd in presentation and musical ability. Judy Fitzgerald played a perfect foil for Farrell’s insanity as the sociopath Mrs. Lovett. Kudos to director Richard J. Roberts.

 

Young Frankenstein at Indianapolis Civic Theatre

What made it great: across-the-board top-notch staging that featured talent, enthusiasm, and commitment. Director Michael Lasley indulged us with shticky pleasures while achieving and maintaining excellence in performance and presentation. Jaw-dropping scenery framed ensemble musical numbers that came at you with the power of a case of 5-hour Energy drinks. Steve Kruze, Nathalie Cruz, Damon Clevenger, Devan Mathias, Vickie Cornelius Phipps, and B. J. Bovin owned their caricatures 100 percent and reveled in their insensible, bawdy humor.

 

Plays

Crumble (Lay Me Down Justin Timberlake) at Theatre on the Square

What made it great: a dark, lyrical script, direction by Rob Johansen, and the performances of Clay Mabbitt and Paeton Chavis. The bizarre humor of the show was appallingly sidesplitting. The language used in the script is sexy, luscious, even poetic at times. The actors agilely wrapped their lips around the fascinating lines. Mabbitt was excellent as the anthropomorphic character House that yearned for a loving touch, an oiled hinge, a release of radiator steam. Mabbitt’s deft physicality in depicting doors, windows, and falling plaster and his slithering along walls and floors were amazing. Chavis—as a hyper, foul-mouthed, belligerent 11-year-old who exhibited symptoms of schizoaffective disorder and spewed explicit venom via her dolls—was mesmerizing in her on-stage intensity.

 

The Diviners by Casey Ross Productions in association with the Carmel Theatre Company

What made it great: Casey Ross’s direction and charming characters. Ross’s stagecraft was showcased in the underwater scene. A combination of slow motion and David C. Matthews’s lighting depicted action when (the likable and relatable) Pat Mullen and Davey Peluse were underwater cut with moments that they surface with normal motion and lighting. This scene was impressively effective and a great use of the black-box space.

 

It’s Only a Play at Theatre on the Square

What made it great: caricature portrayal. Darrin Murrell directed the cast into Breakfast Club-like stereotypes, making this sendup of all things theater a hoot. Adam O. Crowe, Thomas Cardwell, Kathy Pataluch, and Afton Shepard deserve particular shout-outs for throwing themselves into the silliness wholeheartedly.

 

Merry Wives of Windsor by Wisdom Tooth Theatre Project

What made it great: superlative direction, set, and acting. Director Bill Simmons hit a ringer with his premiere shot at directing a Shakespearian play. The cast and crew was a who’s who of renowned Indianapolis-theater favorites. Spumoni-ice-cream colors, lawn-dart head ornaments, a mish-mash of retro clothing, ukuleles, and a bubble-gum-blowing, hula-hooping object of desire. These people are pros. Each and every cast member was top-notch here and adroit at physical comedy. Just a very few include Rob Johansen, Adam O. Crowe, Amy Hayes, Claire Wilcher, and Carrie Schlatter, and mention must be made of Sara White’s sets and Peachy Kean Costuming’s attire.

 

Peeing-Your-Pants Hysterical

Avenue Q at Footlite Musicals

What made it great: across-the-board top-notch staging that featured talent, enthusiasm, and commitment. Under the co-direction of Kathleen Clarke Horrigan and Ed Trout, the cast was exceptional. Really, pointing out any musical numbers or scenes as “the best” wasn’t possible—every voice, every note was superlative. I was floored by the quality of the show. Just a very few shout-outs include puppeteers Phil Criswell (Princeton), Emily Schaab (Kate Monster), Damon Clevenger (Rod), Graham Brinklow (Nicky), Ryan England (Trekkie Monster), and Zarah Miller (Lucy). The high-quality puppets the actors used were acquired through an Adopt a Puppet program, making them the equivalent of the ones used in professional productions. Scenery was also a boon.

 

Bat Boy at Theatre on the Square

What made it great: a strong lead and the cast’s unfailing commitment to nutty. Zach Neiditch directed Justin Klein as Bat Boy, who did a spectacular job of transitioning from a cave-dwelling, grunting wild child to an eloquent, proper young man, complete with a British accent. Other notables were Mindy Morton, who was perfect as the long-suffering wife, and Devan Mathias’s mixture of teen angst and idealism. Vocal director David Barnhouse teased impressive performances out of the whole cast. Music, makeup, lighting—it was all good.

 

Drankesphere by EclecticPond Theater Company at the IndyFringe Festival

What made it great: unconstrained, ribald humor by comedians par excellence. A drinking game meets a fast-and-loose Romeo and Juliet. This raucous, frenetic send-up brought us such lines as “Are you fucking fisting me right now?” and “Who the fuck is in my bushes?” (the infamous balcony scene). Some of Shakespeare’s original lines were thrown in for good measure at a tempo that didn’t seem humanly possible—but was deeply impressive.

 

Every Christmas Story Ever Told at Buck Creek Players

What made it great: out-of-control hilarity. This show (which just closed last weekend) was what other holiday sendups only wish they were: genuinely, uproariously funny. Under director D. Scott Robinson, Jessica Bartley, Stacia Ann Hulen, and Steven R. Linville exuded genuine energy and abandonment. They weren’t just playing parts—they were interacting, having a good time, and even cracking each other up. I laughed so hard I snorted.

 

Hand to God at the Phoenix Theatre

What made it great: Nathan Robbins’s performance of his inordinate attachment to his demonic, vulgar, bloodthirsty puppet Tyrone. Under the direction of Mark Routhier, the entire cast was stellar, but additional emphasis must be given to Robbins and his character’s id in puppet form. His mastery of the craft was remarkable. His puppeteering was so deft that you came to see Tyrone as a separate entity that had accepted the devil as his lord and savior. In contrast to Tyrone, Robbins conveyed a shy, insecure teen in Jason. His split-second oscillation of unrestrained rage to confused, scared boy could twist your spine.

 

The Mystery of Irma Vep: A Penny Dreadful at the Indiana Repertory Theatre

What made it great: chemistry on stage and embracing “theater of the ridiculous.” Director James Still, Marcus Truschinski, and longtime acclaimed theater-staple Rob Johansen captured and hog-tied the play’s nonsensical elements, producing one of the IRT’s most uproarious and unexpectedly deviant shows. Truschinski and Johansen played off each other flawlessly. The three of them made melodramatic farce a new artform.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Beauty and the Beast” at Indianapolis Civic Theatre (4 stars)

 

bb1In summary:  Ron Morgan directs (and choreographs) the excellent cast through this “tale as old as time” with all the sweetness and elegance that audiences expect from this elaborate production.

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From the opening number to the curtain call, you will love being Indianapolis Civic Theatre’s guest for its production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Ron Morgan directs (and choreographs) the excellent Virginia Vasquez (Belle), Will Tople (Beast), Andrew Dalstrom (Gaston), and the rest of the large cast through this “tale as old as time” with all the sweetness and elegance that audiences expect from this elaborate production. Ryan Koharchik’s beautiful backdrops perfectly capture the settings, and Adrienne Conces’s costumes are spot-on.

Small distractions include too much reverb, Cogsworth’s painful light reflection, and some confusing utensils, but these quibbles won’t detract from audiences’ thorough enjoyment of this classic.

Through Jan. 1; $49.50

Thursday, Friday, & Saturday @ 7pm
Saturday & Sunday @ 2pm

Beauty & the Beast Holiday High Tea at Tina’s Traditional Old English Tea Kitchen, December 16 & 23

Brunch with Belle at 502 East, December 18

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Every Christmas Story Ever Told” at Buck Creek Players (5 stars)

Photo by photogary.net
Photo by photogary.net

In summary: The cast and crew have created a holiday show that is actually entertaining instead of just another tradition. This one deserves all the money.


Buck Creek Players’ production of Every Christmas Story Ever Told is what other holiday sendups only wish they were: genuinely, uproariously funny. Director D. Scott Robinson and the trio of actors, Jessica Bartley, Stacia Ann Hulen, and Steven R. Linville, get the credit for the show’s out-of-control hilarity. I laughed so hard I snorted, and I literally almost fell out of my chair when demon-Frosty boomed, “I’ll be back again someday!” And really, who can resist a shiny green codpiece on the Nutcracker? (Two weeks running, I’ve gotten to use “codpiece” in a review.)

The premise of the show is built around Steven’s insistence that A Christmas Carol is the most appropriate holiday offering, but Jessica and Stacia just as adamantly disagree, saying that other BHCs (Beloved Holiday Classics) are as deserving. And so they bust away from Carol and into the “drug-induced orgy of theft” that is How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Other memorable programs are also given the abbreviated treatment, but due to copyright issues, one claymation classic is revamped, with Gustave the Green-Nosed Goat and his oral hygiene elf heading to an island with freakish playthings, such as a Pee-wee Herman pull toy.

The show is such a success because of the genuine energy and abandonment that the cast exudes. They aren’t just playing parts—they are interacting, having a good time, and even cracking each other up. Which segues into the warning that some audience members will be conscripted onto the stage, and the show is rated PG-13.

Cathy Cutshall’s costume design adds those ingenious touches that take the joke further, and Aaron B. Bailey’s set design is a book-lover’s dream. The cast and crew have created a holiday show that is actually entertaining instead of just another tradition. This one deserves all the money. Pack the house. And if the hints during the show aren’t enough to remind you, buy the cookies in the lobby.

5stars

December 2, 3, 9, 10, 16 & 17 at 8 p.m.
December 4, 11 & 18 at 2:30 p.m.

$18 adults
$16 children & students
$16 senior citizens (62 & up)

 

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Spamalot” at Footlite Musicals (4 stars)

Photograph by Gary Nelson
Photograph by Gary Nelson

In summary: There’s so much good here that it overwhelms many of the production’s flaws.

Mounting a production of Spamalot is a bold move for Footlite Musicals. The show is based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a 1975 movie that garnered a cultish following, and that following, along with Broadway trivia buffs, helped make the musical a smash hit on Broadway, even if Terry Gilliam did call it “Python-lite.” Plus, the original cast included Tim Curry, Sara Ramirez, Hank Azaria, and David Hyde Pierce, among others. Given the show’s history (and having seen it twice in touring productions), scaling back my expectations was difficult at first, especially when the sound was distorted and the lighting was off. However, on more objectively evaluating Footlite’s production, it really is a remarkable success. Cast and crew are made up completely of volunteers, but this did not stop them from turning out a production with ingenious costuming, well-executed sets, and a cast packed with talent.

Rich Baker leads the knights and ladies through this show of carefully orchestrated silliness. And while Arthur is the central figure of the eponymous legends, the first laurels must go to Rebecca Devries McConnell as the Lady of the Lake. Her ability to bring down the castle in “The Diva’s Lament” would make Sara Ramirez proud, and her scatting in “Knights of the Round Table” is spot-on, as is “Find Your Grail.”

That said, Drew Duvall most certainly holds his own as King Arthur, especially in his rendition of “I’m All Alone” with his loyal, and hilarious, manservant Patsy, Vince Accetturo, who shines in “Always Look at the Bright Side of Life.” Arthur’s knights—Christopher Jones (Sir Robin), Christian Condra (Sir Lancelot), Tony Schaab (Dennis/Sir Galahad), Clint Buechler (Sir Bedevere), and Sam Surette (Sir Bors)—individually create distinct and inherently outrageous characters while collectively adding to the dynamic humor of the show (like in “Knights of the Round Table”). Jones pulls off a perfectly cheeky “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway,” and Condra is screechingly funny in his complete embrace of the rainbow in the too-brief “His Name Is Lancelot” (with help from THAT CODPIECE. Thank you, costume designer Jeff Farley, and for all your other masterworks here.).

There’s so much good here that it overwhelms many of the production’s flaws. And even mistakes can add to the entertainment—some bumbled dismembering of the Black Knight on Sunday made the scene even more comical.

4stars

 

Thursday @ 7:30 pm
Friday @ 7:30 pm Saturday @ 7:30 pm Sunday @ 2:30 pm
N/A November 25 November 26 November 27
December 1 December 2 December 3 December 4
December 8 December 9 December 10 December 11

Adults – $23.00
Youth (17 and under) – $15

Discount Days: All Thursday evening performances and opening weekend Sunday matinee: $10 all seats.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“A Very Phoenix Xmas 11” at the Phoenix Theatre (3.5 stars)

 

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Photo by Zach Rosing

In summary: What is consistent is the excellent cast. No matter what the setting or situation, each of them pulls it off effortlessly.

 

Eleven years running, and you still don’t know what to expect. A Very Phoenix Xmas 11 is the latest incarnation in the Phoenix Theatre’s commitment to bring its audiences unique and brand-new shenanigans for the holiday season. The show goes melodramatically PC this year by including some less-well-known customs from other countries to show us that we are all weird in our own ways; hence the tagline “I’m dreaming of an intersectionally thoughtful, multicultural winter holiday.”

Directed by Bryan Fonseca, he and playwright Tom Horan “curated” short pieces from eight contributors and mashed them together into a hit-and-miss hodgepodge of goofy, confusing, tragic, and even bunny-murdering stories performed collectively by Jean Childers-Arnold, Paeton Chavis, Paul Collier Hansen, Andrea Heiden, Jay Hemphill, Devan Mathias, and Keith Potts. From the hell that is the “It’s a Small World” ride, to Christmas dinner Mad Libs, to another kind of hell in the Syrian civil war, to puppets—the content runs the gamut and then some. What is consistent is the excellent cast. No matter what the setting or situation, each of them pulls it off effortlessly. My personal favorite: a “Night Before Christmas” tap rap by Potts and Collier Hansen.

Special accolades must also be given to the technical crew that made such a wide array of topics accessible on a single stage. I can’t reprint the program page here, but a very special Christmahannukwanzadanstice to them too.

3-5stars

Wed Dec 7, 2016 7PM
Thu Dec 8, 2016 7PM 
Fri Dec 9, 2016 8PM 
Sat Dec 10, 2016 8PM 
Sun Dec 11, 2016 2PM 
Wed Dec 14, 2016 7PM

$22/$30

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“A Christmas Carol” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre (4 stars)

Photos by Zach Rosing
Photo by Zach Rosing

In summary: The productions are consistently posh in every way—as John Hammond would say, its creators “spare no expense.” Even as the show has evolved over the last quarter century, it has remained the perfect picture postcard of Christmas.

 

This is the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s 25th year of producing A Christmas Carol, a tradition not only for it but also for many families in the greater Indianapolis area. This year, I was able to return to the show for the first time in seven years after taking a maternally induced writing hiatus, and I found that many of the elements that make this show so beautiful are still intact: a plethora of Indianapolis’ favorite actors, the choral recitation of lines, just the right amount of music, the gorgeous backdrop of haunting ruins, beautiful period costumes, dramatic lighting, the spooky entrance of the Ghost of Christmas Past, and of course lots and lots and lots of snow. But different faces pop up in different roles, Tiny Tims have to stay tiny, the script is trimmed here and there, and a director’s personal touches add new nuance.

IRT Executive Artistic Director Janet Allen takes the directorial reins this year for the first time since 1998—and what strikes me the most in this rendition is the portrayal of Scrooge. Ryan Artzberger is so intense that there is no caricature to his character. His Ebenezer truly is terrifying, and while that kind of believability is usually lauded onstage, in this setting, it is intimidating. If I had been one of the charity solicitors, I would have shit my pants when Scrooge charged at me with that ruler. With no humorous or relatable edging, it’s hard to root for Scrooge’s transformation. And his eventual redemption is creepy in its own way. Artzberger’s laugh seems calculatingly sinister instead of sincere, as if he’s going to buy the giant turkey and then use Tiny Tim as stuffing.

Charles Goad (Marley’s ghost, et al), Constance Macy (Mrs. Fezziwig, et al), Emily Ristine (Christmas Past, Mrs. Cratchit, et al), Milicent Wright (Christmas Present, et al), Charles Pasternak (young Scrooge, Fred, et al), and Jeremy Fisher (young Marley, Bob Cratchit) all play their roles with panache, as does the crowd of other thespians on stage.

The productions are consistently posh in every way—as John Hammond would say, its creators “spare no expense.” Even as the show has evolved over the last quarter century, it has remained the perfect picture postcard of Christmas.

4stars

Through Dec. 24

$25-$75

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Blackberry Winter” at Theatre on the Square (1.5 stars)

Photo by Zach Rosing
Photo by Zach Rosing

For National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, Theatre on the Square is presenting Blackberry Winter, a relatively new play by Steve Yockey. Vivienne Avery is a middle-aged baker who oversees her mother’s care. Her mother’s Alzheimer’s has progressed to the point that Vivienne must come to terms with the transition from assisted-living facility to a nursing home.

Samples of the baked goods that Vivienne boasts about would help make the show easier to swallow. While Vivienne repeatedly insists, “It’s not about me,” her incessant bitching about her life gets old—fast. As does the amount of time spent on immaterial details, such as the intricate recitation of a recipe for coconut cake. The tired script is flatly, haltingly delivered by Gari Williams, who had to reference notes Saturday night. It is practically a one-woman play, which is challenging for an actor, to say the least, and I can’t really blame her for not remembering the rambling lines of her character. There is nothing enlightening or entertaining here.

In addition, there is a bizarre Alzheimer’s origin myth created by Vivienne. Using animals. Chelsea Anderson is lovely as a lively, high-spirited white egret, and Dan Flahive somehow actually captures the essence of a slightly cantankerous gray mole. As absolutely ridiculous as this premise is, Anderson and Flahive insert some much-needed diversion. Sadly, the first of their-three part installment is abandoned in favor of a tirade by Vivienne about scarves. Yet Anderson and Flahive are left on stage to look interested in Vivienne’s monologue until they finally get another turn. Those three short scenes helped me endure the 80 minutes of this play.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Cabaret” at Actors Theatre of Indiana (3.5 stars)

 

photo by Zach Rosing

Cabaret turns 50 this year, making it an advantageous time to revisit it—not to mention how its theme, impending political doom, sums up 2016. Actors Theatre of Indiana scales down the staging a bit for this production in its black-box studio located inside in the Carmel Performing Arts Center.

Directed by Billy Kimmel, the production gives the audience pretty much what it’s expecting: leather and lace, commentary on societal expectations, and the inevitability of catastrophe, all imbedded in well-known musical numbers.

Ben Asaykwee takes on the iconic role of the Emcee, whom he plays as less of a slightly disturbing pansexual and more as an escaped mental patient. His wild eyes seem to have been given the Clockwork Orange treatment. That aside, he performs admirably in both narrative and song, most often with his Kit Kat girls and boys: Nicole Bridgens, Jeneé Michelle, Ashley Saunders, Carol Worcel, Nicholas Roman, and Kenny Shepard with choreography by Carol Worcel.

ATI co-founder Cynthia Collins portrays a world-weary version of Sally Bowles—a Sally who can almost be pitied for her forced frivolity, fully knowing that her life is the joke and she’s on her way out. Collins’s rendition of “Maybe This Time” conveys this, as it lacks the actual hopefulness others have put into this song. While Collins is a strong vocalist, the overuse of audio effects though the sound system, especially in the above-mentioned song, detracts from her voice’s natural modulations.

Opposite Sally is Cliff Bradshaw, who is given a sincere, likable demeanor by Eric J. Olsen that is emphasized by his generous smile. (Though the question of his sexuality is played down considerably here.) He contrasts well with the very convincing Patrick Vaughn as Ernst Ludwig, whose affability is tempered by his matter-of-fact attitude toward Nazi politics.

Some of the most engaging performances are found in the supporting cast, which also includes Judy Fitzgerald as Fräulein Kost, Debra Babich as Fräulein Schneider, and Darrin Murrell as Herr Schultz. Babich and Murrell imbue true emotions into their so-sweet rendition of “It Couldn’t Please Me More” (the pineapple song).

The band (musical direction by John D. Phillips), on stage behind sliding screens, even gets in on the fun with some alternative costuming.

Do note that the show contains mature content and themes, and the ATI suggest that it is suitable for ages 16 years and older.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Young Frankenstein” at Civic Theatre

img_07724.5 stars

 

While Mel Brooks fans will be especially giddy with anticipation for the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s season opener, Young Frankenstein, (if they haven’t seen it already during opening weekend), anyone who savors an across-the-board top-notch musical comedy will be deliriously dazzled by the sheer quality of this staging. Having seen a professional touring production of the show several years ago, I can confidently state that Civic’s group of thespians outdid their travelling counterparts in talent, enthusiasm, and commitment.

The show’s transfer from film to stage kept intact the lowbrow comedy that make Brooks’ parodies so hilarious and inspired a dedicated following: ridiculous slapstick, bizarre situations, sexual innuendo, and outright dick jokes presented in unapologetic quantities.

Director Michael Lasley indulges us with shticky pleasures while achieving and maintaining excellence in performance and presentation. Jaw-dropping scenery frames ensemble musical numbers that come at you with the power of a case of 5-hour Energy drinks, choreographed and staged by Anne Nicole Beck with musical direction by Brent Marty and a live orchestra under the baton of Trevor Fanning. The most fantastical number, “Family Business,” contains not only a noteworthy performance by Evan Wallace as Grandpa Frankenstein but also a ginourmous puppet of the monster that is awe inspiring and unnerving.

Steve Kruze embraces the role of Frederick Frankenstein while insinuating his own take on the doctor, but hardcore fans won’t be turned off by his interpretation of the iconic character. He asserts his dominance of the stage from his first scene, “The Brain,” and never lets go. Nathalie Cruz also puts her own coquettish mark on Elizabeth, Frederick’s fiancée. Roles that more closely reflect their film versions are Igor by Damon Clevenger, Inga by Devan Mathias, Frau Blücher (“neigh!”) by Vickie Cornelius Phipps, and the Monster by B. J. Bovin. This in no way means that they aren’t exceptional—they own their caricatures 100 percent and revel in their insensible, bawdy humor. All of the main characters deliver knock-out renditions of songs, such as “He Vas My Boyfriend,” “Deep Love,” and “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”

So why take off half a star? Opening night, there were some pretty grating sound and mike issues. For a show of this caliber, it was a shame that occasionally we couldn’t hear the actors.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Dirty Blonde” at Buck Creek Payers

2 stars

 

Photo by photogary.net
Photo by photogary.net

Dirty Blonde by Claudia Shear, now on stage at Buck Creek Players under the direction of Lea Viney, loosely sketches out Mae West’s career arc (1930s through her death in the ’80s) intertwined with the present-day (fictional) story of Jo and Charlie who form a relationship based on their mutual obsession over the actress. While not strictly a musical, it does feature a handful of West’s songs.

Sonja Distefano plays both West and Jo. However, Distefano does not capture the sex appeal, confidence, and propriety-snubbing aura that dripped off West, and her musical numbers feel stiff, as does her posture. She is much better in the role of Jo, giving a sweet, likable persona to a girl who tentatively forges a friendship with the equally awkward Charlie.

Jay Hemphill (as Charlie and many other characters) is the star here. He executes dexterous transformations from character to character, each with a unique look and defining personality. From bowler hat to ball gown, this dynamo convincingly carries off anything.

Michael Patrick Smiley is hit-and-miss in his portrayal of a number of characters. His performances of caricatures (as opposed to more realistic people) are actually his best scenes.

The show’s pacing is bogged down by lengthy scene changes, often-inaudible dialogue, and unnecessary movement. However, Hemphill’s performance and Distefano and Smiley’s shining moments help break up the tedium.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Three Musketeers” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre

threemusketeers4 stars

Most people—even children—are familiar with the basic tale of the brave and daring Three Musketeers and their protégé D’Artagnan. The Indiana Repertory Theatre’s production, adapted for the stage by Catherine Bush, is a brilliant period piece—and we would expect no less from the IRT. Director Henry Woronicz coaxes his cast into a performance that eloquently invokes the time period, enhanced by William Bloodgood’s atmospheric, imposing set that towers over the characters, much as political intrigues hovered threateningly over Paris. The set is complemented by Ann G. Wrightson’s posh lighting, and Devon Painter’s elegant costuming is the finishing touch.

Jeb Burris is thoroughly charming as D’Artagnan in his naivety and dedication. He has a smile that could break hearts. He befriends the swashbuckling titular threesome made up of the prone-to-drunkenness Athos (Ryan Artzberger), the mild Aramis (Nathan Hosner), and the fun-loving Porthos (David Folsom), each of which seems to carry his character’s personality effortlessly. The Musketeers are led by Robert Neal as Monsieur de Treville, who can make hairpin turns from thunderous rage to intimate comradery.

Antagonists in the play are the evil incarnate Rochefort played by Rob Johansen (who is the recipient of some good laughs nonetheless), his subtly cunning cohort Milady de Winter played by Elizabeth Laidlaw, and the intimidating Cardinal Richelieu played by Dan Kremer.

Amanda Catania is sweet as Constance, D’Artagnan’s love interest, and Charles Goad gets a comedic if short turn as the foppish King Louis XIII; these are among the multitude of intriguing characters.

Barry G. Funderburg’s music reflects the tension of the play, but some musical underscoring during fights is distracting. The swordplay is realistic thanks to fight director Paul Dennhardt, but it often goes on too long—something that can be said of the show as a whole.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“The Addams Family” at Footlite Musicals

Photos/design by Gary Nelson
Photos/design by Gary Nelson

4.5 stars

Footlite Musicals’ staging of The Addams Family rides on two things: nostalgia and a strong cast under the direction of a passionate director, Ed Trout.

The musical is actually based on Charles Addams’s cartoons as opposed to the TV and movie adaptations. But all the favorite black-and-white characters, including Thing and Cousin Itt, are depicted to a T here.

The plot is merely a vehicle for catchy songs and a chance to revisit these beloved ghoulish characters. Wednesday (Ivy Bott), now in her 20s, has fallen in love with a regular guy, Lucas (Joseph Massingale). They are secretly engaged, and they plan a dinner so their families can meet and hear their news. But instead of being a show about Wednesday, Gomez (Michael Davis) is the pivotal character, sort of like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof minus the political and religious themes.

There is some excellent staging here. The costumes by designer Curt Pickard are spot-on, and the ethereal chorus of lively dead Ancestors shows an array of styles over the centuries. The Addams mansion, sound effects, and makeup are also grand accomplishments, as is the kicky choreography by Trish Roberds. A personal favorite is Uncle Fester’s (a hilarious Bryan D. Padgett) number “The Moon and Me” that utilizes a black light.

Everyone from lead to chorus does a standout job on stage. Davis and Kathleen Clarke Horrigan create spitting images of Gomez and Morticia (respectively) both physically and in their mannerisms. Both have first-rate performances that include exemplary musical numbers, but the vocal superlatives are Bott and Carrie Neal (as Lucas’s mother Alice), both of whom have powerful voices behind their shy characters’ demeanors. Even Pugsley (seventh-grader Xavier Wilson) gets a good turn in “Pulled” with Bott and “What If” with Grandma Addams (Marie Beason). Rounding out the cast is Darrin Gowan as Lucas’s stuffy father and Trenton Baker as the reticent Lurch.

The lighting and orchestra were a little off on Saturday, but these minor quibbles don’t detract from the show that is a dreadfully guilty pleasure.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Peter and the Starcatcher” at the Phoenix Theatre

 

Photo by Zach Rosing
Photo by Zach Rosing

4 stars

Before there was Tinker Bell, Captain Hook, or the “second star on the right,” there was a nameless, friendless orphan boy.

The Phoenix Theatre opens its season with the Tony Award-nominee Peter and the Starcatcher, a prequel to the well-known Peter Pan stories, which relates the origins of Peter and Neverland.

Set in the 1800s, 13-year-old Molly (Phebe Taylor) is trying to overcome the burden of being a smart girl in a man’s world. Her astute supportive father, Lord Leonard Aster (a dignified Paul Nicely), is a “starcatcher,” and she is a starcatcher in training. Starcatchers gather rare “star stuff,” the dust that remains from a falling star. The Asters board separate ships, accompanying identical trunks—one carrying the queen’s treasure and one containing what appears to be sand. Molly travels on board the Neverland, where she finds a trio of orphans who have been sold into slavery: “Boy” (Nathan Robbins, recently in Hand to God), Ted (Peter Scharbrough), and Prentiss (Tyler Ostrander). Of course, requisite pirates take control of both ships, and the Boy (Peter), who wants to be more than a nameless orphan, helps save the real treasure.

Bryan Fonseca directs a large cast, most of whom play multiple characters. Liberal use of choral speaking gives the play a poetic feeling. James Gross’s set is both sea-worthy and island-accessible, and Emily McGee’s costumes add the finishing time-period touch.

Taylor and Robbins pull a little too hard on childish affectations for my taste, but it is diluted by other intentionally over-the-top characters, such as the flamboyant, malapropism-inclined Captain Black Stache (Eric J. Olson, in a snort-worthy performance), and the tongue-in-cheek romance between Alf (Michael Hosp), a pirate, and Mrs. Bumbrake (John Vessels Jr.), Molly’s nanny. The very un-PC “Injuns” have been replaced with a less racially offensive tribe of islanders, which are led by Fighting Prawn (Ian Cruz, who also embraces the equally outlandish performance); he was an English kitchen slave while a boy, and consequently, after his escape, his vernacular is punctuated with a slew of dishes.

The show is heart-warming if occasionally bittersweet; however, if you are taking kids, note that even though there are singing mermaids, one short event is dark: Peter being caned. I was glad I didn’t take my 7-year-old.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“It’s Only a Play” at Theatre on the Square

photo by Zach Rosing
photo by Zach Rosing

 

4 stars

It’s Only a Play by Terrence McNally (Corpus Christi, Love! Valour! Compassion!, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Ragtime, The Full Monty, etc.) is a theatrical-trivia-lover’s dream. Name-dropping and potshots at the theatrical echelons—especially professional critics—make up the show, in which a new play’s “inner circle” (plus a coat-checker and critic) anxiously await their opening-night reviews.

Audience members with no more than a passing interest in live theater will not get the show as a true fanatic would. References span decades, up to and including Hamilton. However, if you can pick up on even a third of them—they’re pitching-machine fast—you will thoroughly enjoy this sledgehammering of all things stage, which is currently running at Theatre on the Square.

The characters are Breakfast Club-level stereotypes. Adam O. Crowe as James Wicker, a “dear friend” of the playwright (Wicker seems to have many “dear friends”) and a Broadway refugee who has taken up the more lucrative but less dignified work of TV, opens the show with the set-up of the story via a one-sided phone conversation. Crowe immediately lets us know that this is going to be fun—and snarky. Crowe gets to express the widest array of emotions of the characters: congenial, gossipy, defensive, jovial, devastated, and even sympathetic—all of which he does with charisma.

Dave Ruark plays Peter Austin, the playwright, as a fragile artist. Ruark’s demeanor conveys the sense that Austin often lives in his own reality, though he shows fierce love for his work. With Austin’s head in the clouds, he is a somewhat bland character.

The play’s director, Thomas Cardwell as Frank Finger, and the leading lady, Kathy Pataluch as Virginia Noyse, salt the stage. Cardwell portrays the director as a strange, somewhat flamboyant man with interesting clothing choices. Finger desperately wants to direct a flop because he claims he is sick of being a directorial golden boy, and he occasionally retreats from the action by throwing a velvet cape over his head. Cardwell is a hoot. Pataluch kicks up the bawdy as the coke-sniffing, ankle-monitor-wearing, washed-up actress Noyse. Pataluch snorts up the (quite lovely) scenery in an uncouth, even trashy way. (And I say that in the most complimentary way possible.) The other characters’ reactions to her are just as funny.

Financing this bizarre project is Julia Budder, played by Afton Shepard. Budder is an appallingly positive, wealthy blonde who fancies herself a theater-advocate. Shepard’s portrayal of the ditzy producer is like a cat licking your poison ivy rash: You just want to slap her. (Again, I say this in the most complimentary way possible.)

The two hangers on in the room are Gus, an overenthusiastic goofball of a coat-checker, played by Jacob Swain, and Ira Drew, a theater critic, played by Jeff Maess. Unfortunately, Maess’s Drew is kind of pitiful; he’s not daunting enough given the reputation and power he supposedly holds. Of course, today the role of critic is far from what it was in the ’80s, when the play was originally conceived. With the advent of the Internet in almost every home in America, everyone really is a critic. So, Drew himself and the production’s depiction of baited-breath reviews are obsolete. (Sad for me.)

Kudos to Darrin Murrell and the cast and crew for opening TOTS’s season with a winner.

Trivia: The version of It’s Only a Play that hit Broadway in 2014 starred Nathan Lane as Wicker, Matthew Broderick as Austin, Stockard Channing as Noyes, and Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) as Finger. The play’s original Broadway premiere in 1978 was cancelled due to negative reviews.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“My Old Lady” at Epilogue Players

3 stars

https://www.facebook.com/duane.mercier.5?hc_location=ufi
Photo by Duane Mercier

Penniless, friendless, jobless, middle-aged Mathias sells all he owns and flies to Paris in the hopes of making a profit off an apartment that he has inherited from his estranged father. His plans are thwarted on the doorstep when he discovers that he not only inherited the apartment but also its longtime tenants. The apartment is occupied by Mathilde, age 92, and her middle-aged daughter. Mathilde remains in the apartment through en viager. She “sold” Mathias’s father the apartment, but she lives in her home and receives consistent payment for the property from the buyer. When she dies, the property belongs to the purchaser (Mathias’s dad, or in this case, Mathias). This is a good investment for the purchaser—if the seller doesn’t live very long.

My Old Lady by Israel Horovitz (which was also made into a movie), now on stage at Epilogue Players, is about family and love. Sometimes, those two are mutually exclusive, and sometimes they are very complicated.

Gary Stewart as Mathias, Robina Zink as Mathilde, and Veronique DuPrey as Chloe are a trio of clashing personalities that now live together as roommates. Mathias is an alcoholic, being flippant and unmotivated about his own craptastic life. Chloe, Mathilde’s daughter, is acerbic in the way most Americans perceive the French to be. Mathilde is a bit of a mystery. She can cut to the core of an issue, but she also allows Mathias to stay with her. While Mathias’s motivations are always on the table, Mathilde and Chloe have layers that need to be examined cautiously.

Under Ed Mobley’s direction, the cast performs scenes of engaging repartee. DuPrey conveys the coiled energy of a cornered cat that is ready to unsheathe its claws at any moment. The Montreal, Quebec, native also gets to inject the show with some passionately French dialogue. Stewart exhibits genial pessimism at every chance. I only wish these two had more chemistry between them; their relationship is unanticipated, creating a chink in suspension of disbelief. Zink carries the grace of a blunt grandmother—you love her, but what she has to say can be exasperating. Some opening-night flubs can be forgiven, as with additional runs of the show, I am sure these will be tightened up.

While the play isn’t grand and groundbreaking, think of it as a mental amuse-bouche for the weekend.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Theatre Festival: “Bad Brother: Religion and Politics in ’69”

3.5 stars

Written and performed by Loren Niemi

Phoenix Theatre Underground

Loren Niemi’s autobiographical storytelling is intense and personal at the same time. He recounts how he ended up at Catholic seminary, though not Catholic and not even very religious, after high school and how his journey evolved, eventually shaping him into a Buddhist antiwar demonstrator. Everything was changing in that decade—it was post Vatican II, and Vietnam was on the horizon. Catholicism and the country were torn between the past and the future, with causalities on both sides confusing the present. Eventually, Niemi was denied his final vows because, as he was told, “it isn’t what you believe; it’s that you say it out loud.” While racism, “post-riot architecture,” and the questionable morals of the church and country are at the heart of his story, the seemingly inconsequential details bring counterbalance to the performance’s serious subject matter, such as Niemi smoking a joint during visiting hours in a minimum-security prison with 62-year-old Brother Basil, who had been imprisoned for protesting—a joint that was smuggled in via Jennie O’s vagina. History buffs, lapsed Catholics, and antiwar supporters will find much to enjoy in this show.

http://indyfringefestival.com/

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Festival: “Silken Veils”

3 stars

By Leila Ghaznavi

Performed by Pantea Productions and The Indy Convergence

Phoenix Theatre Mainstage

 

fringe-veilsI’m going against popular opinion on this show by not giving it five stars.

It’s prettily done, incorporating marionettes and shadow theater into the story of an Iranian émigré who flees the marriage altar and then, in a storage closet, has PTSD-like flashbacks to her childhood during the Iranian Revolution. In her mind, Darya has linked her family’s tragedies to her parents’ soulmate-like connection to each other. A love her mother clung to even though her husband eventually left them and created a new family with a new wife. Now, Darya is terrified of losing her own identity to her fiance because she is the product of what we would now call a dysfunctional family.

The bones of the production itself are strong, with solid acting and cunning props and staging. It’s visually striking. My discomfort comes from the slow pacing and the extraneous use of Darya’s fiance, Ahmad. Ahmad’s presence on the other side of the closet’s locked door does little to move the story forward until the end. I wish he had been a stronger character—someone who had a personality that showed he was worthy of Darya commitment. While the flashbacks and puppetry are intriguing, they run too long. The puppetry scenes especially could be tightened up because they drag down the story’s momentum.

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Indy Fringe Festival: “Passing Notes”

3 stars

By Joe Cameron

Theatre on the Square Stage Two

fringe-notesWonder Years style, an adult Matt looks back at his teen-age relationship with May. May and “Matty” pass notes as a major part of their interaction. It was the 1990s, so these were actual paper notes that had to be hand-written and sometimes even mailed, like with a stamp. Matty calls notes May’s “weapon of choice” but only because he is portrayed in all his teenage male awkwardness and oblivion. As Matt says, “Life as a teenage boy is making a series of stupid statements and then trying to make up for them.”

Overall, it’s a sweet picture of bumbling first love with wide-eyed actors portraying the teens. But then their lives take a heart-wrenching turn. Looking back, Matt says you always remember the first and the last of something, but you never know when that last is until it’s over. This initially lighthearted show ends with the audience having a more conscious appreciation for the people in their lives.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Festival: “Drankspeare”

4.5 stars sober; 5 stars drunk

By EclecticPond Theater Company

ComedySportz

fringe-drankDrink! The audience is continually invited to imbibe along with the actors while EclecticPond plays fast and loose with Romeo and Juliet. This raucous, frenetic send-up brings you such lines as “Are you fucking fisting me right now?” Drink! “You have to be 16 to drive a Chevy but only 13 to drive a vulva.” Drink! “Who the fuck is in my bushes?” (the infamous balcony scene). Drink! And, regarding Juliet, Nurse says, “She isn’t experienced with men, so if you are looking for butt stuff, this is not the droid you’re looking for.” Drink!

Some of Shakespeare’s original lines are thrown in for good measure at a tempo that doesn’t seem humanly possible—but is deeply impressive. Drink! Some ad lib adds to the flow, and anytime actors manage to crack each other up onstage means good comedy. This is an excellent show to cap off an evening of Fringing. Drink!

http://indyfringefestival.com/

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Festival: Elsie and Frances and the Fairies

2.5 stars

by Tom Horan

Performed by Earlham College

Phoenix Theatre Mainstage

fringe-fairyThe Cottingley Fairies story is intriguing even now. In 1917, still during the early ages of photography, two young girls faked a photograph of fairies that had many in the world believing.

This retelling begins in modern times with a group of sisters poking around in their grandmother’s attic. A scrapbook is found with the pictures and news clippings about the events, and Elsie and Frances “appear” to the girls and tell their side of the story.

The actresses tell us this is a work in progress after the performance, and given that these ladies are college students, staging a production on the side is impressive.

The show is quaint, with some lovely costuming. Elsie and Frances carry a subtle British accent, which is admirable. Acting quality is across the board for the six cast members, but with school productions — even at the college level — that isn’t surprising.

But as an audience member, I was a little disappointed. I’m a fan of the original story — and fairies in general (watch for a popular Brian Froud image to pop up), and I was expecting more wonderment. Instead, the show feels rather flat, with Frances and Elsie simply recounting their adventures with occasional help from the original four sisters, who stand in as various other characters. Additionally, none of the characters have sufficient depth — Elsie and Frances have merely a hint of a personality. More showing, less telling would make the experience more engaging.

http://indyfringefestival.com/

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Theatre Festival: “A Darkly Humorous Time with Stephen Vincent Giles”

1 star

Phoenix Theatre Underground

fringe-dark

Stephen Vincent Giles is at a disadvantage in Indianapolis because many of us who are longtime local theater enthusiasts were spoiled by (now defunct) ShadowApe Theatre‘s Gorey Stories. No performance of dark poetry will ever compare. Unfortunately, Giles’s set includes many of Edward Gorey‘s pieces (as well as well-known poems such as “The Cremation of Sam McGee” by Robert W. Service and “Little Orphant Annie” by James Whitcomb Riley), so the comparison is inevitable.

Giles is almost too sweet-looking for the macabre. His persona leans more toward James Corden as Craig in Doctor Who than toward Vincent Price. The incessant hand rubbing and unconvincing voice affectations are distracting instead of entertaining. And speaking of distracting and annoying, he uses an overhead projector (!) with transparency sheets to illustrate some of his tales.

 

What.

The.

Hell.

http://indyfringe.org/

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Next to Normal” at Carmel Community Players

Photo by Charlie Hanover, CCP Board Vice President
Photo by Charlie Hanover, CCP Board Vice President

4 stars

The rock musical Next to Normal is a dichotomy of heartbreaking and hopeful. Brian Yorkey (book and lyrics) and Tom Kitt (music), part of the team behind If/Then, crafted this show, which won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize and was nominated for the 2009 Tony Award for Best Musical. Their story gives audiences insight into the painful effects of mental illness on a family—in this case, the mother, who was diagnosed as bipolar and experiences hallucinations.

Carmel Community Players’ production of this raw narrative is spot on. Carlo Nepomuceno (also the director) and Bill Fitch’s set design is minimal but effective, letting the audience’s full attention rest on the actors. Various levels segregate spaces and allow simultaneous events to take place in different locations. Nepomuceno utilizes the cast’s talent to fill in the gaps.

Talent is in no short supply here. Georgeanna Teipen, as Diana, the mother, gives a powerful performance. Teipen’s Diana never comes across as a slave to her illness, even when she attempts suicide, which from her perspective seems logical, and then when ECT treatments rob her of most of her memories. (As Diana’s son sings in “Aftershocks”: “ECT, the electric chair, we shock who we can’t save.”) Teipen channels this strength in “I Miss the Mountains,” a song about how medication can dull you to the pain but also the joys of life. After one medication change, she is asked how she feels; Diana replies, “I feel…nothing,” which her psychiatrist notes as “stable.” A typical doctor’s interpretation in psychopharmaceutical treatment. Likewise, Teipen conveys Diana’s frustration in “You Don’t Know.”

Diana’s husband and daughter are worse for the wear after living with her oddities for the last 16 years. Russell Watson, as her husband Dan, expresses the longtime suffering of a man who is devoted to his wife but doesn’t really know how to help her. Watson’s Dan is the most sympathetic character, as he portrays the patience and helplessness of his situation.

Sharmaine Ruth as their daughter Natalie combines the typical difficulty of being a teen-ager with the added burden of her family life. Ruth shows how angry Natalie is but also how lonely and sad. Ruth and Teipen share a poignant duet in “Superboy and the Invisible Girl.” Ruth has a lovely, clear voice that carries Natalie’s conflicting emotions. Daniel Hellman, as her sweet boyfriend Dan, is the most stable element in her life, and she doesn’t know how to accept that kind of love.

Kyle Mottinger plays the crux of the family’s dysfunction: the specter of Gabe. His rocking “I’m Alive” demands notice, symbolizing the relentless, inescapable nature of mental illness and grief, which his character represents.

Bradley Kieper rounds out the cast as Diana’s two psychiatrists, aptly named Dr. Fine and Dr. Madden. Kieper’s few scenes also get some of the funniest treatment as Diana’s hallucinations take on a bizarre twist in “Who’s Crazy/My Psychopharmacologist and I” and “Doctor Rock,” which Kieper embraces wholeheartedly.

Toward the end, Diana says, “Most people who think they are happy haven’t thought about it enough.” Diana was diagnosed after only four months of grieving over a lost infant. The subtext in this show questions what is normal. As Natalie states later, maybe we should all accept that the more realistic goal should be something “next to normal.”

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Acid Dolphin Experiment” at the Phoenix Theatre

3 stars

Lisa Gauthier Mitchison

John C. Lilly: 1960s and ’70s physician, neuroscientist, psychoanalyst, “psychonaut,” philosopher, writer, and inventor, as well as the subject of Phoenix Theatre Playwright-in-Residence Tom Horan’s loose biography, Acid Dolphin Experiment.

First, a condensed background on Lilly because there is little setup within the often-psychedelic and hard-to-follow show. Lilly had a near-death experience as a child, which fueled his desire to explore and understand humanity’s view of consciousness. He deviated from the family’s lucrative banking career and turned toward scientific pursuits—including nontraditional experimentation in which he was often the test subject. He invented the isolation tank to achieve sensory deprivation and used LSD to explore alternate forms of consciousness. He believed that dolphins were capable of imitating human language, and he was a proponent of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) project.

As his grasp on reality relaxed, his mind crafted cosmic watchdogs, the benevolent Earth Coincidence Control Office (ECCO), and the malevolent Solid State Intelligence (SSI), a sort of artificial intelligence destined to go to war with humanity.

On the Phoenix’s second stage, Joshua Coomer is generally awash in blue light, representing Lilly floating in his isolation tank. (Effect achieved by lighting designer Laura Glover.) This is where his communications with ECCO happen. Lauren Briggeman, Jolene Mentink Moffatt, and Chelsey Stauffer pop in and out of portholes as members of ECCO. They also take on many other roles that pertain to Lilly’s life, as does Michael Hosp. Under the direction of Bill Simmons, the cast is passionate, focused, and lively, with several funny moments interspersed throughout. Costuming and set coloring (Emily McGee and Jeffrey Martin) are bright reflections of the time. But as I noted before, the play feels disjointed (though a case could be made that its structure is a representation of Lilly’s LSD trips). This makes the story arc hard to follow, however, hence the summary of Lilly above. With adequate information going in, the show could be a look inside an unusual piece of American scientific history presented by a capable cast. Without the Cliffs Notes, it’s as discombobulating as the LSD.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Heathers: The Musical at Theatre on the Square

2.5 stars

Reboots of iconic and/or cult classics are always challenging and controversial: Psycho, Star Trek, Ghostbusters … If you happen to be obsessed with the original material, deviations from the source can be … upsetting. And so, after seeing Heathers: The Musical, I left Theatre on the Square with a heavy heart. Heathers was and still is a staple in my movie collection. It’s my generation. I already knew the music was pretty formulaic, having listened to the soundtrack many times. But the gleeful, darkly vicarious experience of the movie—I would have loved to serve up some cups of Drano to several students in my high school—simply doesn’t translate to the stage.

With that said, TOTS’s production has its pros and cons. Let’s start with the pros.

  1. Director Zack Neiditch and choreographer Annalee Traeger created a most excellent slo-mo fight scene for “Fight for Me.” The cast’s expressions are priceless, and they pull off the effect perfectly.
  2. Also absolutely hilarious is “Blue,” a song performed by Joe Mount as Ram and Nic Nightingale as Kurt. Call me immature, but these guys pull off the crazy lyrics in a LOL yet totally believable way. (“They’re warm like mittens./They’ll curl up on your face/And purr like kittens!/You make my balls so blue!”)
  3. Clay Mabbitt as Ram’s dad and Ryan Ruckman as Kurt’s dad give an equally comical performance of “My Dead Gay Son.”
  4. Clayton Marcum as JD has an excellent voice.
  5. As do Sommer O’Donnell as Martha and Jenny Reber as Heather McNamara in their solos “Kindergarten Boyfriend” and “Lifeboat,” respectively.
  6. The live band is fantastic.

And so, the cons.

  1. Veronica’s “transformation” from geek to hottie entails a wardrobe change. Period. It’s on par with She’s All That: take Laney’s glasses off and bam! She’s a babe! And Veronica’s hair is all wrong.
  2. The costumes are hit and miss. JD’s trench coat is OK, but the jeans and T-shirt are too 1990s. Heather Chandler’s spangly party dress is a disaster. OK for prom, not a house party.
  3. Miranda Nehrig’s (as Veronica) vocals are capricious. Sometimes she hits that goal note, but sometimes … she doesn’t.
  4. A lot of the choreography uses moves too reminiscent of Grease.
  5. Heather McNamara’s character is a doppelganger for Sara Jessica Parker in Hocus Pocus.
  6. The set is minimalistic. I went in anticipating that TOTS would pull out all the stops, seeing as this slot had originally been reserved for RENT. But, no.
Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Billy Elliot” by BOBDIREX at Marian University Theater

4 stars

Nothing exudes immense strength disciplined with infinite control like a male ballet dancer. Sadly, many male dancers take flak from peers and even family for pursuing this demanding training, especially at an early age. Billy Elliot’s story about defying societal conventions to pursue your dreams (one that, strangely, I had never seen before) is popular in both movie and musical form, and BOBDIREX’s cast that spans all ages presents an engaging telling of the tale.

At the helm are director Bob Harbin, choreographer Kenny Shepard, and vocal/musical director and conductor Trevor Fanning. Together, they created a boisterous and touching rendition, even tackling British accents and the crazy clothes (Peachy Keen Costuming) and hair from the ’80s.

Seventeen-year-old Thomas Whitcomb is center stage as Billy. Whitcomb captures the innocence and budding talent of a boy torn between his family and his passion. But don’t let that baby face fool you. In the last number, Whitcomb’s roguish grin and sassy steps show that he knows just what he is doing—and he loves it.

Vocal standouts are Holly Stults as the fiery Mrs. Wilkinson and Bill Book as Mr. Elliott. Special mention goes to 13-year-old Jack Ducat, who shows no self-consciousness in donning women’s clothing, as Billy’s friend Michael.

Out of several, one particularly moving scene shows Billy dancing with his older self, Stu Coleman, in a well-executed glimpse of what Billy’s future could hold. The song “The Letter,” featuring Whitcomb, Stults, and Trisha Shepard (as Billy’s mother), is also exceptionally emotional.

Some lighting and mike missteps were distracting, but hopefully these will be ironed out for the remaining performances. The entire ensemble has so much enthusiasm that you can tell a lot of heart went into staging this show.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Hand to God” at the Phoenix Theatre

5 stars

Puppet sex seems to be a theme this year. First, in Avenue Q at Footlite Musicals in March, again in Bat Boy at Theatre on the Square in May, and now in Hand to God, the latest production that the Phoenix Theatre snagged as it came off Broadway. It’s also a year of five-star reviews, as I have never handed out so many in such a small amount of time.

Much like Avenue Q, this show integrates puppets into its cast. But here, the puppets aren’t used to replace the human character behind (under? in?) them. Only one puppet, Tyrone, could be called an individual character—a demonic, vulgar, bloodthirsty one. Tyrone may be the puppet, but he is the puppet master.

If religious irreverence shocks you, you will have PTSD after seeing this show. The story is set in a small town in Texas. Margery, played by Angela R. Plank, is a recent widow who is trying to find a place for herself by teaching a puppet-making class at her church. Her awkward son Jason, played by Nathan Robbins, seems inordinately attached to his puppet. Also in class are love-interest Jessica (Jaddy Ciucci) and horny bad boy Timothy (Adam Tran). Margery has to deal with the advances of both Timothy and the church’s pastor, Greg (Paul Nicely), while dealing with depression, her estranged son, and unmotivated students.

Under the direction of Mark Routhier, the entire cast is stellar, but additional emphasis must be given to Robbins and his character’s id in puppet form. His mastery of the craft is remarkable. His puppeteering is so deft that you come to see Tyrone as a separate entity that has accepted the devil as his lord and savior. As Tyrone’s rampage escalates, a puppet exorcism is contemplated. In contrast to Tyrone, Robbins conveys a shy, insecure teen in Jason. His split-second oscillation of unrestrained rage to confused, scared boy could twist your spine.

Plank also gets to be a switch player, from an anxious, grieving widow to kinky sexcapader in the VBS restroom. She manages to be equally believable and sympathetic in both modes. Tran’s high-energy, testosterone-laden Timothy is the picture of a teen acting out, but his quest for the MILF Margery is sad too because he craves a human connection, as do the rest of the characters.

Nicely juxtaposes the role of righteous pastor and his passive-aggressive courter of Margery. You would think he would be the voice of reason, but he is bested by Tyrone as well. The group’s anchor in reality is Ciucci as Jessica, the only one who knows how to deal with Tyrone’s iniquity and Jason’s repressed emotions. Ciucci’s smart, steady portrayal buffers the other characters’ insanity.

The show is consistently hilarious, but it is also a reflection on human needs and desires. Snappy writing and superior performances make this another one not to miss.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Time Stands Still” at Theatre on the Square

I want to preface this by saying that I do not enjoy writing negative reviews. I get no satisfaction out of them, though some people do write negative reviews with glee. It just makes me sad when something doesn’t live up to its potential.

2 stars

Though Time Stands Still was nominated for Best Play in the 2010 Tony Awards, I couldn’t help but feel it was little more than a string of cliché lines being delivered by cliché characters. Two journalists who have been in a long-term personal and professional relationship find that they have grown apart, and their editor seeks a more simple life with a much younger, simple woman. This isn’t life-changing stuff.

As far as its execution at Theatre on the Square…passion—that complete submersion into a character—felt off on opening night. This is surprising given that the cast and its director are seasoned pros and recognizable to Indianapolis-theater regulars: heavy hitters Ronn Johnston, Dave Ruark, Cindy Phillips, and director Gari Williams. They are joined by less-well-known Katherine Shelton, but even she isn’t a stranger to the stage.

Phillips is perhaps the most interesting as Sarah, a war photojournalist, because she gets to be confrontational and rude throughout most of the play. Her personality steamrolls over the other three, who, strangely, seem to lie down and await the inevitable pounding. There are good moments—some shocking and some funny—but they don’t carry the show to a transformative level.

John Walker’s set design is fun and functional—a representation of urban funk for people who don’t live in their living space often.

The show is passable, but it’s far from memorable.

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“GENIUS to the beat of SOUL” at Asante Children’s Theatre of Indianapolis

4 stars

The Asante Children’s Theatre of Indianapolis is closing its 26th season with GENIUS to the beat of SOUL, a new musical the company has created, with book and lyrics by founder and artistic director Deborah Asante and musical composition by Richard Trotman. Song and dance are heavily featured in the show, and ACT alumnus Jeffrey Page was recruited for the direction and choreography. The Indianapolis native is both a Broadway performer and choreographer, and he won an MTV Music Award for choreography in Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls).”

The story is loosely based around Anika (Kathryn Council), a teenager who is facing life challenges and who isn’t confident in herself to make the right choices. Unfortunately, on opening night, major microphone issues made the dialogue almost impossible to hear—to the point that the plot was hard to follow. In addition, the on-stage band often drowned out the actors. Fortunately, for the cast of 23 youth and adults, the focus is on the music and dance. Page’s work is nothing short of genius itself. The choreography is powerful and emotionally charged, as is Asante and Trotman’s work musical work. The cast executes each number with excellence, every dancer reaching maximum potential. All of the performances reach professional-level expectations. Most memorable is the song “I’s A Man,” about slaves declaring their humanity, that requires perfectly synchronous movements. Amazing.

Geoffrey Ehrendreich uses the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s mainstage to create a simple, airy, elegant backdrop out of yards and yards of hanging fabric. The lighting, however, was a bit thick with color—the best lighting is the kind you don’t even notice because it blends into the show so well.

Note that the show is PG-13, which means it’s probably not a good match for small children.

This is a masterful theatrical piece. With more workshopping, it could easily make its way to Broadway.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Crumble” at Theatre on the Square

4.5 stars

It’s no secret that I adore dark, weird drama (and musicals). Crumble (Lay Me Down Justin Timberlake) at the Theatre on the Square is one of the weirdest and darkest I’ve seen in a long time, and it’s awesome.

The play, written by Sheila Callaghan, who is also a writer/producer for the Showtime comedy Shameless, uses a cast of damaged characters to reflect on isolation, death, and deterioration. This sounds depressing, but really, it’s not. Plus, the bizarre humor is appallingly sidesplitting. The language used in the script is equally compelling. It’s sexy, luscious, even poetic at times, and it expresses as much about the characters as their bodies do.

From the beginning, you know this isn’t a typical show. It opens with Clay Mabbitt, as the once-dapper House, who delivers the first of many soliloquies. He bemoans, “I was a mansion once. A kept mansion,” but now he is in a state of decay. The House addresses his inhabitants, but his tenants are only marginally aware of his awareness—like a rising of hair on the back of the neck. Mabbitt is excellent as the anthropomorphic character that yearns for a loving touch, an oiled hinge, a release of radiator steam. Mabbitt’s physicality in depicting doors, windows, and falling plaster and his slithering along walls and floors add a whimsical and amusing touch to his lonely character.

Even stranger is Paeton Chavis’s character Janice, a hyper, foul-mouthed, belligerent 11-year-old who exhibits symptoms of schizoaffective disorder and spews explicit venom via her dolls. When confronted with freezing or wearing the abhorrent sweater her Aunt Brenda bought her, she states, “I would rather bleed to death in an open field slathered in manure.” Her doll comments, “Nice sweater, asshole.” Janice replies, “Eat me. You think you’re so hot just because you have an eyebrow ring. But know what? It looks retarded, and anyway, it’s fake.” From there, the exchange deteriorates into a series of insults involving the word “fuck.”

As House says, “How does one cultivate such an odd human?”

Chavis, who also played a disturbing child character in Phoenix Theatre’s production of The Nether in 2015, is equally amazing here. You realize quickly through her keen acting abilities that she is in fact a grown woman, but she is completely believable in her character. Most children are simply not this brilliant. Chavis is mesmerizing in her on-stage intensity and can deftly move from blooming psychotic to typical preteen star-struck reverence when Justin Timberlake flies into her room.

A jocular Joshua C. Ramsey, as Timberlake, also shows up as Harrison Ford for Clara, Janice’s mom. Mother and daughter embrace these ludicrous, dream-like escapes to find solace.

Carrie Ann Schlatter as Clara has the arduous task of anchoring the show in reality. Schlatter’s character is simply lost without her husband, and the widow’s obsessive menus and panic attacks plague her ability to move forward with her life, her house, her daughter, and her career. Schlatter does what she can with the character, but Clara’s evolution is slow, making her less interesting and/or sympathetic than those around her. Xanax, stat. However, she gets her share of lyrical yet quizzical lines. She describes her daughter’s breath as “napalm, like rotting fruit and stomach acid, as though she swallowed a pear months ago but can’t digest it.” Clara’s sounding board is her sister Barbara, a childless, divorced, crazy cat lady (numbering 57) played by Amy Hayes. Again, the character is flawed because it is so stereotypical, but Hayes gets to add amusing nuances in her interaction with her fur babies and with Janice.

All of this was coalesced under the direction of Rob Johansen. He has engineered a sneak attack for best play of the year, blemishes included.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Assassins” at Buck Creek Players

3.5 stars

While the premise of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Assassins may sound bleak—the stories of nine presidential assassins, four of whom were successful—it is actually fascinating and, surprisingly, funny. “Funny” may not seem plausible given the subjects, but when Sara Jane Moore and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme get high and use Colonel Sanders’s picture on a bucket of KFC as a “graven image” to curse their fathers with “the evil eye”…well, that’s priceless.

Scott Robinson directs the actors at Buck Creek Players in their depictions of desperate characters’ personalities and decade-defining markers, including authentic replicas of the original guns (created by David Schlatter), clothing style (Linda Rowand), and music (under the baton of Matthew Konrad Tippel).

The timeline spans Lincoln to Reagan, though not in that order, and the assassins defy time by interacting with each other. The lineup can get confusing, so a quick summary here may help audiences follow along.

  • Mark Meyer as John Wilkes Booth, 1865: assassin of Abraham Lincoln
  • David Wood as Charles Guiteau, 1881: assassin of James Garfield
  • Jake McDuffee as Leon Czolgosz, 1901: assassin of William McKinley
  • Scott Fleshood as Giuseppe Zangara, 1933: attempted assassin Franklin Roosevelt
  • Luke McConnell (uncredited) as Lee Harvey Oswald, 1963: assassin of John F. Kennedy
  • Daniel Draves as Samuel Byck, 1974: attempted assassin of Richard Nixon (by planning to fly a 747 into the White House)
  • Stacia Hulen as Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme and Cathy Tolzmann as Sara Jane Moore, 1975: attempted assassins of Gerald Ford
  • Trenton Baker as John Hinckley, 1981: attempted assassin of Ronald Reagan

The show also includes two fictional characters: The Proprietor (a gun salesman, portrayed by Steven R. Linville, who has a chillingly creepy grin) and The Balladeer (McConnell, who has a beautiful voice, as a narrator). In addition, the stage is fleshed out by a handful of bystanders and a few auxiliary characters.

Each assassin actor embodies someone with an excessive personality based on actual accounts, whether flamboyant (such as Fromme, Tolzmann, Draves, and Wood) or deeply angry/pained (such as Wood, McDuffee, and Fleshood). Everyone is up to the challenging task (Zangara even has lines in Italian), which makes these characters so real. While their entire background can’t be conveyed in 90 minutes, the show inspires some homework—a mark of a production that entertains while making you think.

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