Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Indiana Repertory Theatre: “12 Angry Men”

Indiana Repertory Theatre”s “12 Angry Men”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 8/9

Monument Theatre Company: 1984

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

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

Footlite Musicals: Bring It On!

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

Save on Indiana Repertory Theatre’s Twelve Angry Men

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

Save on Phoenix Theatre’s Georgia McBride

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

IndyFringe Fundraiser

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 6/27

Summer Stock Stage’s Eclipse: Thoroughly Modern Millie

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

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

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

The 7th Artistry: Hansel and Gretel

The 7th Artistry’s “Hansel and Gretel”

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

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

Parker Nolen: Not Exactly Paris

Parker Nolen

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

Posted in Uncategorized

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 4/26

The Phoenix Theatre: The Childrenseeyouthere

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The Phoenix Theatre’s “The Children”

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

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

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

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Andy Offutt Irwin

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

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

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

Carmel Community Players: A Streetcar Named Desire

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

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

Civic Theatre: Disney’s Newsiesseeyouthere

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

seeyouthere

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

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

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

Actors Theatre of Indiana: Forbidden Broadway

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

 

10-Minute New Play Festival

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

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

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

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

Extension

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Indiana Repertory Theatre: “Amber Waves”

 

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

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 4/5

Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes

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“Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes”

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

Indiana Repertory Theatre: Amber Waves

Hard times mean hard decisions as an Indiana family faces the prospect of losing their farm. This small-town tale returns by popular demand, featuring music by Tim Grimm and Jason Wilber, with generous helpings of courage, love, and humor. Check the website for special programming for this play. which was written by playwright in residence James Still.

Beef & Boards: 42nd Street

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

Make Me A Perfect –Asperger’s– Match

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

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

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

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

Footlite’s Got Talent

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

Extension

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highly recommended regardless of my small nitpicks.

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

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Openings for the weekend of 3/15

Fonseca Theater Company: Lady Day

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

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

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

Indiana Repertory Theatre: A Doll’s House 2

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

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

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

Discount for Beef & Boards’ 42nd Street

42nd

Footlite’s Got Talent

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

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 2/22

Black & 25 in America

Jeremy Gillett
Jeremy Gillett

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

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

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

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

IndyFringe: Winter Magic Showcase 

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

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

University of Indianapolis: Her Lies, His Secrets Part 2

A suspense thriller written by D.P. DeMarco.

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

 

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

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Artwork by Kyle Ragsdale

The award-winning children’s author Mo Willems scripted this Exploring Stages production.  It’s a rollicking celebration of friendship and fun in a colorful musical for children 3 to 8 years old and their families. With their backup trio the Squirelles, Gerald and Piggie sing, dance, and laugh their way through a day where anything can happen.  The show is approximately 75 minutes, including pre- and post-show activities.  

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

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

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

North Central High School: Winter One Acts

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

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

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

PUNpocalypse: A Pun/Dad Joke Competition

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

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

Openings for the weekend of 2/15

Mud Creek Players: Almost, Maine

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

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

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

Epilogue Players: Wait Until Dark

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

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

 

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

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

Beef & Boards: The Cat in the Hat

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

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

Stage To Screen Studios: Them Girls

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

 

Timeless V-day Cabaret

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IRT’s Celebrity Radio Show

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

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

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

Ticket Sales

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Indiana Repertory Theatre: “The Diary of Anne Frank”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 1/25

Fonseca Theatre Company: The Ballad of Klook and Vinette

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

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

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

Indy Men’s Chorus: Queen Day

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

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

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

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

Buck Creek Players: After the Fair

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

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

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

Actors Theatre of Indiana: Ruthless: The Musical

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

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

Indiana Repertory Theatre: The Diary of Anne Frank

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The IRT’s “The Diary of Anne Frank”

This stage play is by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett and adapted by Wendy Kesselman. In a world turned upside down by the Holocaust, Anne Frank held on to her faith in humanity. This story of resilience, optimism, and a young girl’s extraordinary spirit that transcends time and offers hope to today’s world.

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

Broadway in Indianapolis: School of Rock

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“School of Rock”

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

Phoenix Theatre: Apples in Winter 

The show has been extended through Feb. 3.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Openings for the weekend of 11/23

Phoenix Theatre: A Very Phoenix Xmas 13: Merry Superstitions

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Phoenix Theatre’s “A Very Phoenix Xmas 13”

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

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

Indiana Repertory Theatre: A Christmas Carol 

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Indiana Repertory Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol”

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

Special Black Friday Sale

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 11/2

Storytelling Arts of Indiana

Dr. David Matlack: The Stories in Our Stones

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

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

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

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

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

Epilogue Players Night Out November Fundraiser

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

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

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

The Improbable Fiction Theatre Company: Comedy of Errors

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

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

Khaos Theatre Company: Emerging Artists Theatre New Play Festival

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

IndyFringe: The Inaugural Indiana High School Festival

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

Merrillville High School: Drift

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Merrillville High School’s “Drift”

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

Lawrence Central High School: Interrupting Vanessa

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

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

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

Castle Hill High School: These Shining Lives

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

Roncalli High School: Steel Magnolias 

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

Carmel High School: Failure: A Love Story 

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

University High School: Alice Through the Rabbit Hole

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

Westfield High School: The Actor’s Nightmare 

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

The District Theater: Coping with Autumn staged reading

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

Indiana Repertory Theatre: A Super Secret New Play staged reading

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

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

Indiana Repertory Theatre: “Pipeline”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

POST-SHOW DISCUSSIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 10/19

Indiana Repertory Theater: Pipeline

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

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

Phenomenal Women

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

Actors Theatre of Indiana’s Fall Barn Bash

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

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

Beef & Boards Children’s Theatre: Rapunzel

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Beef & Boards Children’s Theatre: “Rapunzel”

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

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

Indiana Repertory Theatre: “Holmes and Watson”

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

Where is Sherlock?

Well, there seems to be three of him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

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

HAPPENING NOW: Flash sale for Forbidden Broadway

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

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

Other Forbidden Broadway special dates:

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

TONIGHT: Word Fringe Day Kingmakers Game for Good

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

Footlite Musicals: Young Adults

Into the Woods Fairytale Friday 

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“Into the Woods” artwork by cast member Rylie Gendron

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

Coming up

 Indiana Repertory Theatre’s

A Christmas Carol in July Sale

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

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

promo

flexpass

boas

http://www.phoenixtheatre.org/

Footlite Musicals Annual Meeting & Barbecue Pitch-In Event

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 5/4

Footlite Musicals: Priscilla Queen of the Desert 

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

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

NoExit Performance: Nickel & Dimed

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NoExit Performance: “Nickel & Dimed”

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

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

Epilogue Players: Maggie’s Choice

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

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

Ten-minute Play Festival

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

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

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

IRT special for Noises Off

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

Plus these events at the Phoenix

where is Phoenix

thepill

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Indiana Repertory Theatre: “Noises Off”

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

Have you ever wondered what is happening backstage during a play? Oftentimes it is all typical show work, such as prop handling, costume changes, etc. But sometimes, things can start to go terribly wrong, as is the case in Noises Off, and if those somethings snowball, they can cause the production to implode.

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Indiana Repertory Theatre’s “Noises Off.” Photo by Amber Mills.

Guess what happens here.

It’s the final dress rehearsal (or technical rehearsal—there is no agreement) before opening night of Nothing On, a silly little farce. The opening‘s trouble is leading lady Dotty, played by Hollis Resnik. It’s nearing midnight, but Dotty still cannot make it through her scene without flubbing lines or misplacing her plate of sardines. Director Lloyd Dallas, played by Ryan Artzberger, has reached, retreated, and reached his breaking point several times. He barks orders at the poor assistant stage manager Poppy, played by Mehry Eslaminia, a mousy woman who looks terrified each time Lloyd makes demands. His verbal abuse is made even more inexcusable when we find out that he is sleeping with her. But he is also sleeping with Brooke, played by Ashley Dillard, a spacy blonde who can’t seem to fully comprehend what is happening around her. She also seems to lose her contacts as often as Dotty loses her sardines. But Dotty isn’t the only one causing trouble, as issues such as motivation are brought up by other cast members—questions that should have been explored waaay before this moment.

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

The cast’s peculiarities continue with the persistently and annoyingly optimistic Belinda, played by Heidi Kettenring. Leading man Garry, played by Jerry Richardson, seems to have a unique speech disorder; he cannot complete a sentence, instead ending each one with the phrase “you know,” as if you are supposed to know. He is romantically involved with Dotty, which will make for some good backstage comedy later. Freddie, played by Robert Neal, has his own strange disorder in that the mere insinuation of any kind of violence causes a nosebleed. Selsdon, played by Rob Riley, is supposed to be a seasoned actor, but he’s also a drunk, and when he is actually around, he spends most of his time playing “find the whisky bottle”—which he always inevitably does. Finally, the stage manager Tim, played by Will Allan, is barely conscious from overwork and lack of sleep but finds himself in some very strange predicaments.

With a set of characters this idiosyncratic, mayhem is bound to happen.

While the first act is good for laughs, Acts 2 and 3 are where the farce really takes off. Yes, there are two intermissions, but I am certain the second one is for the actors’ benefit. You’ll understand why. Scenic designer Bill Clarke’s set rotates as if it is on a giant lazy Susan (think the Les Mis barricade), exchanging the front of the stage for backstage. The next two acts are then set during the actual run of the show.

Over the next two acts, the slapstick escalates and Nothing On deteriorates.

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

One of the most entertaining of the shenanigans involves Gary, who is incensed when he thinks something is going on between Freddie and Dotty. Of course Freddie gets pulled into the middle, one incentive being misunderstood fellatio. Accidental dry humping, a fire ax, dropped trousers, shrinking bouquets, missing sheets, missing sheiks, and so much more over the next two acts lead to the show’s inevitable demise. Richardson, as Gary, especially is subjected to physical humor, climbing and rolling around on the two-level backstage with his shoelaces tied together while he attempts various attacks.

It’s likely the “audience” for the last performance of Nothing On was either very confused or highly amused.

I was highly amused.

The cast, with director David Bradley, has a field day with this play. In their hands, it’s hysterical, horrifying, and fascinating to watch. The cast lets the tension rise until everyone and everything just snaps. It seems as if I’ve used this word a lot lately, but it is too apropos to not use again, and it actually defines the whole play: schadenfreude at its best.

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews, Indianapolis theater: reviews

Theater marathon

It’s not unusual for multiple theaters to open shows on the same weekend.

What is unusual is that every single show was fantastic.

This week, I started with Wicked on Thursday, Noises Off at the Indiana Repertory Theatre on Friday, The Mystery of Edwin Drood at Actors Theatre of Indiana on Saturday, and then I concluded my whirlwind weekend with Hairspray at Civic Theatre.

I’m trying my best to get my thoughts about the last three up here as quickly as possible (I already posted Wicked), but how many synonyms can you come up with for “fantastic” before you just sound unbearably repetitive?

I’m hoping for a minimum of one review per day, in the order that I saw them. So bear with me.

Interesting side note: The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Noises Off are both play-within-a-play structures. I just thought that was a funny coincidence.

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 4/27

Actors Theatre of Indiana: The Mystery of Edwin Drood

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

ATI’s 13th season closes with the rip-snorting rendition of Rupert Holmes’ The Mystery of Edwin Drood, based on Charles Dickens’ unfinished novel of the same name. In this bombastic rendition of the whodunit Dickens mystery, the audience enters the action and becomes the ultimate detective, deciding who committed the dastardly deed. Multiple endings are determined by audience vote.

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

Indiana Repertory Theatre: Noises Off

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Indiana Repertory Theatre’s “Noises Off.” Photo by Amber Mills.

Ever gone to a play and something went wrong? What happens when everything goes wrong? Rehearsal implosions, backstage shenanigans and onstage disasters have the cast on life support—and the audience in stitches!

Storytelling Arts of Indiana presents Barbara McBride-Smith: Crooked Ways of the Ancient Greek Gods

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Barbara McBride-Smith

A bonafide wordsmith, Barbara McBride-Smith, whose wicked wit is underscored by serious research and scholastic excellence, brings a stellar reputation to her interpretation of the Greek myths. With her incurable Texas drawl, Barbara spins the Greek myths as you’ve never heard them before, rending them 99% more fun while retaining 100% of their original insights into the crooked ways of the human heart and the no-less crooked ways of the ancient Greek gods.

In celebration of our 30th year, Bob Sander will kick-off the evening with a story of his choice. He began pursuing a career as a storyteller at the same time that he co-founded Storytelling Arts of Indiana. Bob travels the state for Arts for Learning and is currently teaching an-eight week workshop on storytelling at the Hamilton East Public Library in Noblesville for us.

  • Saturday, April 28, 7-9 p.m.
  • Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center
  • $20/advance and $25/door
  • storytellingarts.org

Civic Theatre: Hairspray

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Civic Theatre’s “Hairspray”

The 1950s are out, and change is in the air! Hairspray is a family-friendly musical, piled bouffant-high with laughter, romance, and deliriously tuneful songs. It’s 1962 in Baltimore, and the lovable plus-size teen, Tracy Turnblad, has only one desire: to dance on the popular Corny Collins Show. When her dream comes true, Tracy is transformed from social outcast to sudden star. She must use her newfound power to dethrone the reigning Teen Queen, win the affections of heartthrob Link Larkin, and integrate a TV network … all without denting her ‘do!

  • April 27-May 11, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m.; final Saturday at 5 p.m.
  • $24-$45
  • http://civictheatre.org

Renaissance: A Harlem Affair

The historic Madam Walker Legacy Center and the Langston Hughes Family Museum presents Renaissance: A Harlem Affair, an evening of the arts celebrating the achievements of Indiana artists. Dress in your favorite vintage attire from the 1920s and 1930s and prepare for an unforgettable experience. Dive headfirst into a living art installation featuring interactive 3D projection mapping coupled with talented actors, dancers, musicians, and poets interpreting the long-lasting impact and importance of the Harlem Renaissance.

Phoenix Theatre: From Ashes, They Rise

It’s time to celebrate the amazing 35-year history of Phoenix Theatre and launch into the spectacular new Cultural Centre with style. A short presentation of memories at the old building precedes a procession down the Cultural Trail to the new facility. Mayor Joe Hogsett and the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce will perform a ribbon-cutting ceremony. A short presentation in the new building will reveal the company’s hopes and dreams for the new Cultural Centre of Indianapolis.

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

IRT season released

Friday, the Indiana Repertory Theatre revealed its 2018–2019 season, its 47th, to the media during a small marketing luncheon, which also included the (literal) unveiling of Kyle Ragsdale’s lovely artistic interpretations of each show. This is the IRT’s fifth year collaborating with Ragsdale, whose originals are auctioned at the IRT Radio Show fundraiser.

The lineup is a diverse offering of challenging works and popular classics. The season consists of six productions as part of its subscription package and three special productions.

So now, let’s see what the IRT has planned for its next season. (Note that the show descriptions have been provided by the IRT. I have not personally seen many of these plays produced.)

 

Holmes and Watson by Jeffrey Hatcher, Sept. 25–Oct. 21, 2018: a chilling mystery (part of subscription package)

Summoned to a remote asylum on a rocky island, Dr. Watson investigates three inmates who all claim to be the late master sleuth Sherlock Holmes. This eerie new puzzler by award-winning playwright Jeffrey Hatcher will stir your blood and tease your mind.

Pipeline by Dominique Morisseau, Oct. 16–Nov. 11, 2018: a searing drama (part of subscription package)

Nya’s son, Omari, is tormented with rage and in trouble at school. A fractured family navigates a broken system as a mother fights for her son’s future in a world divided by race, class, and money. Compassion and eloquence galvanize this gritty new work by one of America’s most sought-after playwrights.

Lilly Presents Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol adapted by Tom Haas, Nov. 17–Dec. 26, 2018: an Indy holiday tradition

As the weather turns cold, warm your heart with Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, and spirits of the past, present, and future. Filled with laughter and tears, A Christmas Carol celebrates the power of kindness and love in this uplifting tale of one man’s journey to redemption.

Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan Macmillian with Jonny Donahoe, Jan. 8–Feb. 10, 2019: loss and laughter (part of subscription package)

What makes life worth living? The answers are both simple and profound in this one-of-a-kind Off-Broadway hit. A theatrical experience like none other, this witty new play shines compassionate light into the dark corners of the human condition.

The Diary of Anne Frank by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett adapted by Wendy Kesselman, Jan. 25–Feb. 24, 2019: a courageous classic

In a world turned upside down by the Holocaust, Anne Frank held on to her faith in humanity. This story of resilience, optimism, and a young girl’s extraordinary spirit transcends time and offers hope to today’s world.

Elephant & Piggie’s “We Are in a Play!” with script and lyrics by Mo Willems and music by Deborah Wicks La Puma, Feb. 23–March 24, 2019: joyful musical

The author of the best-selling Elephant & Piggie books brings you a rollicking celebration of friendship and fun in a colorful musical for children 3- to 8-years-old and their families. With their backup trio the Squirelles, Gerald and Piggie sing, dance, and laugh their way through a day where anything can happen.

A Doll’s House, Part 2 by Lucas Hnath, March 12–April 7, 2019: fierce and funny (part of subscription package)

Straight from Broadway, A Doll’s House, Part 2 begins fifteen years after Nora left her husband and her children. As she returns to the place where she slammed the door on her past, long-kept secrets are split wide open. A scaldingly funny and deadly serious exploration of divorce, family, and lost love.

Amber Waves by IRT playwright-in-residence James Still, April 2–28, 2019: from the Heartland (part of subscription package)

Hard times mean hard decisions as an Indiana family faces the prospect of losing their farm. This small-town tale returns by popular demand, featuring music by Tim Grimm and Jason Wilbur, with generous helpings of courage, love, and humor.

You Can’t Take It with You by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, April 23–May 19, 2019: madcap comedy (part of subscription package)

Alice loves her eccentric family, but what if her fiancé’s straight-laced parents don’t feel the same way? Brimming with colorful characters, this Pulitzer Prize-winning farce with heart brings people together in a comedy classic that ignites fireworks of laughter!

 

Executive Artistic Director Janet Allen is by far most excited by A Doll’s House Part 2 and Every Brilliant Thing, both of which are the season’s edgiest shows. Getting the rights to A Doll’s House Part 2 was quite the coup for the IRT. The show closed on Broadway in September of 2017, and since there won’t be a touring show, the rights were opened to regional theaters. Allen assures us that if you haven’t seen A Doll’s House Part 1, that’s OK because you will learn all the background you need during the first 10 minutes of Part 2. Allen referrers to how the “slammed door changed theater forever,” in that the main character, Nora, defied convention and committed an act almost considered taboo in the Victorian era. In Part 2, we will see how those actions affected everyone.

Audiences might be familiar with Every Brilliant Thing because it was also an HBO film. While the subject matter may seem dark—Donahoe’s character is compiling a list of things worth living for—the writing keeps the audience engaged. Quite literally. As Allen commented, it is “highly audience involving.” So be prepared for some level of audience participation. The one-man show has been cast already: Marcus Truschinski will take the stage. Audiences may remember him from the IRT’s production of The Mystery of Irma Vep: A Penny Dreadful in 2016, where he played opposite Rob Johansen. And when I say played, these two played. Irma Vep was hilarious, so I have faith in Truschinski’s ability to pull this show off.

While You Can’t Take It with You was writing in the 1930s when racial viewpoints were different than they are today, Allen says the theater will “expand” its view and “do it in a way that will be respectful to the play.” This includes their approach to casting choices.

While some people may roll their eyes at yet another production of A Christmas Carol, Allen makes a good point regarding it, as well as Anne Frank and Elephant & Piggie. They are “gateway” productions. Carol is the IRT’s best multi-generational production. It acts as both a family tradition and a way to introduce all ages to live theater. Anne Frank targets the teenage set by tying in with the students’ curriculum and then bringing it to life. Elephant & Piggie is part of Exploring Stages, which is a program designed for ages 3-8. (Town Mouse and Country Mouse recently closed, but it was a joy to share the experience with my 8-year-old son).

When choosing the season, Allen says the process involves determining “the audience we want to make works for.” The IRT sets out to serve audiences for a lifetime, so they ask, “Who are we serving with a particular show?” The season then reflects a combination of the new, the edgy, the classics, and the gateway productions.

Beginning on March 27, seated ticket packages can be purchased for the Signature Six Series. Go to irtlive.com for more information.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Indiana Repertory Theatre: “Appoggiatura” (5 stars)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Openings for the weekend of 3/9

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

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

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

IndyFringe’s OnyxFest: Jabberwocky: 50 Years Later

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

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

Indiana Repertory Theatre: Appoggiatura

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“Appoggiatura” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre

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

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

Phoenix Theatre: Fairfield

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

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

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

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

The Alley Theatre: Hamlet

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

Hamlet

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

Broadway in Indianapolis: Les Miserables

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Indiana Repertory Theatre: “Town Mouse and Country Mouse”

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Indiana Repertory Theatre: “Town Mouse and Country Mouse”

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

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

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

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Indiana Repertory Theatre: “Town Mouse and Country Mouse”

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

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

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

Openings for the weekend of 2/23

Carmel Community Players: David Mamet’s American Buffalo

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

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

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

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

EclecticPond Theatre Company: Sonnets and Slow Jams 

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EclecticPond Theatre Company: “Sonnets and Slow Jams”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Butler Theatre: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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Butler Theatre: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

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

Go. Why? Because Diane Timmerman and Constance Macy.

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

Village Voices: Notes from the Griot

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

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

VDAY 2018: The Vagina Monologues

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

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

And other various events of note …28058497_10159919225955401_4290253389322931670_n

 

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For information and registration, click here.

dinner

 

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 2/16

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

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Civic Theatre: “The Cat in the Hat”

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

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

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

Storytelling Arts of Indiana: Antonio Sacre telling The Leprecano

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

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

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

IRT Radio Show

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Openings for the weekend of 1/26

Carmel Community Players: Other Desert Cities

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Carmel Community Players: “Other Desert Cities”

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

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

Buck Creek Players: The Rink

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

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

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

Indiana Repertory Theatre: Romeo and Juliet

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“Romeo and Juliet” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Storytelling Arts of Indiana:n D. Paul Thomas

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

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

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

Longshot Theater: The 24-Hour Playhouse

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 1/12

Phoenix Theatre: Halftime with Don

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

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

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

Plus:

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Indiana Repertory Theatre: A Raisin in the Sun

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Indiana Repertory Theatre: “A Raisin in the Sun”

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

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

Plus:

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

Left-Hander in London — The Earthquake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Looking back at 2017

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

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

2017 News Bits

Theatre on the Square renovations

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

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

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

The Cat opened in Carmel

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

My favorite hysterically funny moments of 2017

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

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

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

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

 Indiana Repertory Theatre: Boeing Boeing

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

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

Theatre on the Square: The Great Bike Race

“The Great Bike Race” at Theatre on the Square

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

IndyFringe: The Gab produced by Zach & Zack

“The Gab” at IndyFringe

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

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

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: 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

“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: 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

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

“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

“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: 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.

 

uofi
“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.)

gatsby
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.”

Boeing
“Boeing Boeing” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre

“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.
  • irtlive.com

 

 

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:

snoopy
“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

“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

“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

“Bridge and Tunnel” at Indiana Repertory Theatre

4 stars

Milicent Wright is no stranger to one-woman shows; Bridge & Tunnel, now on stage at the Indiana Repertory Theatre, is her fifth. Being the only player on stage for 90 minutes straight is daunting enough, but Wright also takes on fifteen characters—child to senior, male and female, and varied ethnicities—complete with complementary costume accessories.

The characters are participants in a poetry gathering for immigrants. They present their personal stories and poetry, some of it commentary on the life of an immigrant but also insights into the person as just an individual. These snippets remind us that immigrants aren’t the enemy; they are our fellow human beings with emotions and experiences everyone can relate to. The play also challenges Americans’ perception of immigrants, including one woman from Australia—not the sort of ethnicity many people call to mind when thinking of “immigrants.”

Wright is amazing on stage, and with direction from Richard Roberts, she transitions from personality to personality, giving each one a distinguishing characteristic and accent. Costume designer Katie Cowan Sickmeier completes the effect with a visual clue over Wright’s multipurpose black-on-black foundation.

Some situations are sober, such as the Pakistani host’s harried phone conversations with his wife concerning a federal investigation, which frames the show, but Wright’s exuberant interpretations of the light-hearted performances are laugh-out-loud worthy. Wright truly appears to be enjoying every moment in the spotlight, and her enthusiasm is infectious.

I was disappointed that the host’s story didn’t end with some clue as to what would happen next, and some of Wright’s accents blended too close together. However, her standing ovation was well-deserved.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Fences” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre

4.5 stars

Fences, the 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner for Drama and the 1987 Tony Award winner for Best Play, is number six of a 10-part series, known as the “Pittsburgh Cycle,” by American playwright August Wilson. Each segment of the cycle examines the evolving social status of African-Americans in the 20th century by decade, Fences being set in the late ’50s/early ’60s. The Indiana Repertory Theatre is presenting its fifth production out of the 10 (Fences was also staged by the IRT in 1996), and it has the advantage of Lou Bellamy, founding artistic director of Penumbra Theatre Company in St. Paul, Minn., directing this installment. Bellamy and Wilson were both friends and cohorts, giving Bellamy intimate insight into Wilson’s plays.

Fences tackles questions regarding the familial bond, responsibility, and forgiveness as well as the standing of African-Americans in this time period. Wilson’s plays include memorable laughs to balance out the serious work of social examination, but this one is also dark—betrayal, in many forms, is a key element here.

The stellar cast is headed by David Alan Anderson as Troy, the main character. Anderson seems to effortlessly oscillate between Troy’s moods; on the outside, Troy is jovial and full of life, but at his core, he is self-serving and bitter. Anderson portrays Troy as a raucous, physically expressive character, though Anderson often speaks so fast it’s hard to catch each line.

Kim Staunton as Troy’s wife, Rose, unwaveringly demonstrates Rose’s strength. While the audience may wonder why she continues to stand with Troy, we never doubt that she can. Edgar Shanchez, as Troy and Rose’s high-school-aged son Cory, captures the arrogance and vulnerability of that age. He is at his best as an antagonist; his later scenes as a Marine are a little too stiff (even for a Marine), but when he softens toward his half-sister, Elise Keliah Benson, it is a touching transformation.

Marcus Naylor as Troy’s friend Bono and James T. Alfred as Troy’s eldest son Lyons may be playing auxiliary characters that help propel story and character development, but neither plays his part as minor. Alfred especially gives Lyons the feel of a full personality. Similarly, Terry Bellamy embraces the part of Gabriel, Troy’s brother who suffered a head wound in the war that left him mentally damaged.

Scenic designer Vicki Smith envisioned a stunning backdrop for the action. Her representations of the claustrophobic feeling of the run-down row houses are a physical manifestation of the characters’ own feelings of being trapped.

While the play is long, just short of three hours, and examines painful subjects, the ending is satisfying, and the growth of the characters leaves the audience uplifted in the face of these characters’ grueling challenges.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“To Kill a Mockingbird” at Indiana Repertory Theatre

4 stars

One of the most striking elements of the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s production of To Kill a Mockingbird is its integration of on-stage musical accompaniment. The original music and traditional arrangements by Tim Grimm (who also plays Heck Tate), performed by Grimm on acoustic guitar and Christopher Waltz (who also plays Boo Radley and Judge Taylor) on banjo, reflect and then heighten the emotional investment of the characters, and therefore the actors, and their subject matter. This seemingly small but powerful element, combined with the feeling of wide-open spaces by scenic designer Bill Clarke, set the tone for the show in a subtle and persuasive way.

The theater chose to revisit one of the most-challenged stories of the American fiction canon with the release of Harper Lee’s equally controversial Go Set a Watchman last summer. However, the topics that Lee explored 56 years ago—racism and human dynamics—remain relevant today.

Under the direction of the IRT’s Executive Artistic Director Janet Allen, Lauren Briggeman as the adult Jean Louise “Scout” Finch narrates and comments on the events that occurred during her childhood in 1935 Maycomb, Alabama. She watches as her younger self (Paula Hopkins), her brother Jem (Grayson Molin), and friend Dill (Mitchell Wray) experience the trial that became the center of the community’s and her family’s attention and activity since Scout’s father, Atticus (Ryan Artzberger), defender the black man, Tom Robinson (Daniel A. Martin), who was on trial for the rape of a white woman.

Hopkins, Molin, and Wray handled well what can be a taxing production for kids, as they take up a majority of the stage time. Artzberger convincingly portrays Atticus’s weariness as a man diligently fighting what he knows is a lost cause—but also as an older, single father who tries to lead by example in teaching his kids to do what is right.

Robert Neal is an effective bully as the bullish redneck Bob Ewell, father to the accosted girl (Katherine Shelton). Millicent Wright finds just the right balance between motherly and disciplinarian in Calpurnia, the Finches’ housekeeper. A host of other talents make up the many other characters, who all come together to tell this complicated story masked by its simplicity.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

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

5 stars

Imagine if comedian Mel Brooks and Twilight author Stephenie Meyer collaborated on a play set in eerie Hampstead Heath, England, in the early 1900s. This only begins to describe the ridiculous hilarity of The Mystery of Irma Vep: A Penny Dreadful.

Actually, the show was conceived by the American actor-director-playwright Charles Ludlam, who founded the aptly named Ridiculous Theatrical Company in 1967. Ludlum was a pioneer in the avant-garde genre “theater of the ridiculous,” which rejected realism onstage and embraced the art of camp. Ludlam’s most successful play, The Mystery of Irma Vep, sends up decades-spanning pop culture and (then) long-held ideals about what a play should be.

The storytellers at the Indiana Repertory Theatre embrace Irma Vep’s nonsensical elements, producing one of the IRT’s most uproarious and unexpectedly deviant shows. Playwright-in-residence James Still directs longtime acclaimed theater-staple Rob Johansen and core company member at American Players Theatre in Wisconsin Marcus Truschinski (seen at the IRT in last season’s The Hound of the Baskervilles). The two play off each other flawlessly. At one point on opening night, an improvisation by Truschinski had Johansen fighting not to laugh. The duo makes melodramatic farce a new artform.

The plot (I use the term loosely) revolves around newlyweds Lord Edgar and Lady Enid Hillcrest, their servants, and the former lady of the house, Irma Vep. Lady Enid lives under the shadow (quite literally) of Irma, while the moors are the hunting grounds of what could be a werewolf. Both Lord and Lady are looking for a way to escape the dead Irma (to exorcise her and to revive her, respectively), a search that leads them into the catacombs of Egypt.

Truschinski and Johansen play all seven characters, which not only requires the intense ability of an actor to switch personalities within seconds but also includes a score of rapid costume changes, many in drag (as dictated by Ludlam in the script). (Hat off to Guy Clark, who designed costumes that made the switches possible.) Truschinski and Johansen never falter in their on- (and off-) stage bedlam. Johansen even gets to scoot his bottom across the set in a way that dog owners will recognize all too well.

Everyone involved with this production did nothing short of spectacular work. Do not miss this show: It is worth every penny and then some of its ticket price.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“April 4, 1968: Before We Forgot How to Dream” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre

3 stars

Longtime playwright-in-residence at the Indiana Repertory Theatre James Still details the day Martin Luther King Jr. died from the perspective of an African-American family in the world premiere of April 4, 1968: Before We Forgot How to Dream. Still gleaned first-person stories from over 50 Indianapolis residents over five years, and the characters in the play represent an amalgamation of the experiences he collected.

The play is set in the home of the African-American, working-class couple John Henry (James T. Alfred) and Addie (Tracy N. Bonner) and their two daughters, Geneva (Christina D. Harper) and Johnna Rose, aka “Baby Sister” (Nia Simmons). Sixteen-year-old Geneva is passionate about Bobby Kennedy’s campaign for president. Her father, a devout nonvoter, refuses to let her participate. Finally, her mother offers to go with her, and while they are at the rally, Kennedy preempts his planned speech with heart-felt words on MLK’s death. Before leaving, Geneva and her mother pick up an abandoned white college student (Nick Vidal), whom they take home with them.

While the show is primarily an examination of race and identity, director Courtney Sale and the cast do not see the characters as mere mouthpieces. The deep love John Henry and Addie share is dexterously translated by Alfred and Bonner in their comfort with each other. Their intimacy and familiarity is demonstrated through touch and facial expressions, expertly conveying the bond between the two. Alfred also imbues his character with the volatile nature of an artist, and Bonner consistently keeps her character strong as his more practical complement. Ultimately, they create the most realistic and multilayered characters and anchor the dabs of humor that add levity to the show.

Harper, as Geneva, often goes over-the-top during her tirades like a teenage drama queen. She stomps and screams enthusiastically with the know-it-all attitude endemic to the age. Vidal earnestly captures the over-eager protester, Nick, a civil rights supporter who is well-meaning but inherently cannot relate to the personal struggle of African-Americans. However, he and Harper rely too much on volume to validate their opinions. Simpson makes her auxiliary character Miss Davine congenial yet sassy, but she capably exhibits Davine’s steadfast integrity in the end. In contrast, Simmons’s character (Baby Sister) doesn’t have much to do, and her role feels like a non sequitur, little more than that of an annoying and distracting sibling.

Overhead, composer Michael Keck provides the soundtrack for the events as a deejay at TLC. Scenic designer Russell Metheny provided a minimalist and lovely backdrop of flat, wooden stick houses to cradle the action on stage.

The show gets repetitive, which makes it longer than it needs to be. However, with a tighter script, it could be a much more engaging production and would be a wonderful introduction to students who need to ground the concept of this piece of history.