Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 9/13

Phoenix Theatre: The Legend of Georgia McBride

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

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

Phoenix Theatre: An Evening with Lillian Baxter

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

Open Indy Showcase: Molly Brennan

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

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

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

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

Fonseca Theatre Company: Rice and Beans Festival

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

 Storytelling Arts of Indiana: “Comedy with Jen Kober”

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

Writer’s Block

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

Mud Creek Players: Steel Magnolias

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

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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 7/19

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

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

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

Fat Turtle Theatre Company: Go Be Joan

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

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

Phoenix Theatre: The Brain Thief by Tom Horan public reading

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Phoenix Theatre: “White City Murder”

Amanda Hummer and Ben Asaykwee in “White City Murder”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 6/14

Catholic Boy Blues

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

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

Phoenix Theatre: White City Murder

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

Indy Shakes Traveling Troupe: Much Ado About Nothing

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

Debbie Nelson & In Full Transition Band

Debbie Nelson & In Full Transition

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

The Phoenix Theatre: “The Children”

The Phoenix Theatre’s “The Children”

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 4/26

The Phoenix Theatre: The Childrenseeyouthere

thechildren
The Phoenix Theatre’s “The Children”

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

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

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

irwin
Andy Offutt Irwin

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

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

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

Carmel Community Players: A Streetcar Named Desire

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

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

Civic Theatre: Disney’s Newsiesseeyouthere

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

seeyouthere

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

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

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

Actors Theatre of Indiana: Forbidden Broadway

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

 

10-Minute New Play Festival

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

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

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

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

Extension

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Phoenix Theatre: “The Hotel Nepenthe”

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

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

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

Eccentricities.

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

And there is a through line if you squint.

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

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 3/1

District Theatre: Yank! — A WWII Love Story

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

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

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

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

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

Footlite Musicals: Singin’ in the Rain

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

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

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

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

Phoenix Theatre: The Hotel Nepenthe

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

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

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

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 2/22

Black & 25 in America

Jeremy Gillett
Jeremy Gillett

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

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

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

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

IndyFringe: Winter Magic Showcase 

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

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

University of Indianapolis: Her Lies, His Secrets Part 2

A suspense thriller written by D.P. DeMarco.

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

 

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

elephant
Artwork by Kyle Ragsdale

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

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

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

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

North Central High School: Winter One Acts

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

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

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

PUNpocalypse: A Pun/Dad Joke Competition

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

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

Openings for the weekend of 2/15

Mud Creek Players: Almost, Maine

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

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

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

Epilogue Players: Wait Until Dark

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

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

 

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

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

Beef & Boards: The Cat in the Hat

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

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

Stage To Screen Studios: Them Girls

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

 

Timeless V-day Cabaret

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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: 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: reviews

Q Artistry and the Phoenix Theatre: “Cabaret Poe”

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

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

You now have Cabaret Poe: The Musical.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out a preview here:

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 10/5

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Q Artistry’s “Cabaret Poe”

Phoenix Theatre and Q Artistry:

Cabaret Poe

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Phoenix Theatre: “Bright Star”

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Phoenix Theatre’s “Bright Star”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out a preview here:

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 9/21

Phoenix Theatre: Bright Star

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Phoenix Theatre’s “Bright Star”

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

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

Epilogue Players: Becoming Dr. Ruth

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Epilogue Players’ “Becoming Dr. Ruth”

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

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

Carmel Community Players: Forever Plaid

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Darrin Gowan in Carmel Community Players’ “Forever Plaid”

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

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

Actors Theatre of Indiana: A Comedy of Tenors

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

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

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

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

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

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Storytelling Arts of Indiana presents Vicki Juditz

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

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

Openings for the weekend of 9/7

America’s Sweethearts

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America’s Sweethearts

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

Storytelling Arts of Indiana: Indy Story Slam

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

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

September Swing Dance WWII-Era Big Band

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

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

StageWorthy Fire Recovery Fund

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

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

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

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

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

www.stageworthy.org

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Phoenix Theatre: “Cry It Out”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 8/3

Phoenix Theatre: Cry It Out 

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Phoenix Theatre’s “Cry It Out”

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

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

Indianapolis Shakespeare Company: Coriolanus

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

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

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

Buck Creek Players: The Rainmaker

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

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

Brent Marty & Claire Wilcher:

In Character!

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Brent Marty and Claire Wilcher

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

Fat Turtle Theatre Company: Godspell

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

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

Intern Theatre: A Night of One Acts

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

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

HAPPENING NOW: Flash sale for Forbidden Broadway

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

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

Other Forbidden Broadway special dates:

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

TONIGHT: Word Fringe Day Kingmakers Game for Good

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

Footlite Musicals: Young Adults

Into the Woods Fairytale Friday 

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“Into the Woods” artwork by cast member Rylie Gendron

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

Coming up

 Indiana Repertory Theatre’s

A Christmas Carol in July Sale

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

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

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http://www.phoenixtheatre.org/

Footlite Musicals Annual Meeting & Barbecue Pitch-In Event

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Phoenix Theatre: “Indecent”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 6/15

Storefront Theatre of Indianapolis: Prowess

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Storefront Theatre of Indianapolis’s “Prowess”

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

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

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

Phoenix Theatre: Indecent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sweat for NoExit

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

The Phoenix Theatre: “The Pill”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 5/18

Phoenix Theatre: The Pill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

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

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

Well.

That was weird.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 5/11

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

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

Improbable Fiction: The Butler Did It, Again!

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

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

At the Fringe

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Bonnie Bitch at IndyFringe

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: 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

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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

Openings for the weekend of 4/20

Agape Performing Arts Company: The Pirates of Penzance

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Major General Stanley’s daughters in Agape’s “The Pirates of Penzance”

The Pirates of Penzance, Gilbert and Sullivan’s most popular production, is a hilarious farce and a timeless classic. This delightful musical features a  beautifully witty score and lovable characters including gentlemen pirates; lovely daughters; a charming Pirate King; the 21-year-old Frederic who was recently released from his apprenticeship to the pirates; Mabel, the daughter of the Major General whom Frederic loves; and a bumbling bunch of constables, led by their fearless sargent. The production features a full orchestra and many leads who were double-cast because of their extraordinary talent.

The Agape Performing Arts Company strives to help performers grow in confidence and character. Within a loving community, they work to create high-quality theater productions that are good family entertainment. Productions help young people strengthen their performing arts skills while also reinforcing their self-control, teamwork, diligence, and patience. Agape is a ministry of Our Lady of the Greenwood Catholic Church, in partnership with the Knights of Columbus Mater Dei Council’s McGowan Hall.

  • April 20-29, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and matinees Saturdays and Sundays at 3:30 p.m.
  • $15 VIP, $10 adult, $5 child (ages 11 years and under)
  • www.agapeshows.org

Carmel Community Players: Ragtime, The Musical

At the dawn of a new century, everything is changing … and anything is possible. Set in the volatile melting pot of turn-of-the-century New York, three distinctly American tales are woven together: that of a stifled upper-class wife, a determined Jewish immigrant, and a daring young Harlem musician. They are united by their courage, compassion, and belief in the promise of the future. Together they confront history’s timeless contradictions of wealth and poverty, freedom and prejudice, hope and despair, and what it means to live in America.

The Tony-winning score is just as diverse as the melting pot of America itself, drawing upon many musical styles from the ragtime rhythms of Harlem and Tin Pan Alley to the klezmer of the Lower East Side, from bold brass band marches to delicate waltzes, from up-tempo banjo tunes to period parlor songs and expansive anthems. This presentation is Ragtime Version 2, which is better suited for an intimate stage yet still includes all the musical numbers as Ragtime.

  • April 20-29, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
  • $18; $16 for seniors (62+) and students
  • Ivy Tech, 300 N. 17th St., Noblesville
  • www.carmelplayers.org

Mud Creek Players: Amorous Ambassador

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Mud Creek Players’ “Amorous Ambassador.” Photo by Duane Mercier.

When Harry Douglas, the new American ambassador to Great Britain, tells his family he is going to Scotland to play golf, his wife and daughter announce weekend plans of their own. Their newly hired butler, Perkins, watches stoically as each leaves and secretly returns for a romantic rendezvous in the empty house. Harry’s secretary and Captain South of Marine Corps Embassy Security then arrive in the wake of a bomb threat and the embassy is sealed off, with hilarious results. Even the imperturbable Perkins is drawn into the shenanigans

  • April 20-May 5, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 29 at 2:30 p.m.
  • Pay What You Want night Thursday, April 19
  • $15; $13 Sunday matinee
  • http://www.mudcreekplayers.org

Broadway Across America — Indianapolis: Wicked

Yeah, you don’t need a synopsis …

“Sharing Hoosier History through Stories: Over There and Back Again” told by Sharon Kirk Clifton

Sharon Kirk Clifton
Storytelling Arts of Indiana presents Sharon Kirk Clifton

It was called the Great War, the World War, the War to End All Wars. In its early years, most Americans referred to it as the European War. We wanted to protect our own interests by staying out of the fray, remaining neutral, and trading with both sides. However, Germany would not recognize U.S. neutrality. American ships at sea became fair game. After the Germans sank two of our ships, American sentiment shifted, and the public pressured President Woodrow Wilson to go to war against the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy. On April 2, 1917, Wilson sent a war request to Congress. Four days later, the United States declared war on Germany. Among the first to answer the call to serve were two Hoosiers. Ruth Wright of Rochester had recently become an RN and was working at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. When she heard the Red Cross needed nurses to volunteer for duty in France, she signed up to go with the first wave. Robert H. Tyndall, an Indianapolis native, was a successful businessman who heard the call to serve and sold his half of a tailoring firm to his partner and re-entered the military. He had served in the War with Spain.

Using the Indiana Historical Society’s archives, storyteller Sharon Kirk Clifton will share the stories of these two people who, after the war, became leaders in Indiana.

Sharon is a professional storyteller who is also passionate about writing, especially for children. She has published two middle-grade novels and is working on a third. She received the Frank Basile Emerging Stories Fellowship in 2004 for which she premiered “Abigail Gray: Living Under the Drinking Gourd.” This is her second commission for the Sharing Hoosier History Through Stories series. Her previous story, “At Home and In Harm’s Way: The Role of Indiana Women in the Civil War,” premiered in 2007.

  • Saturday, April 21, 2 p.m. at Carmel Clay Public Library
  • Tuesday, April 24, 7 p.m. at Hancock County Public Library
  • Free
  • http://storytellingarts.org

Natural Shocks reading hosted by the Phoenix Theatre

Be a part of the national movement! Across the country, readings of Lauren Gunderson’s new play are scheduled to benefit the fight to end gun violence. Claire Wilcher and Scot Greenwell will read this fantastic play. Produced by special arrangement with The Gersh Agency.

  • Friday, April 20, 7 p.m.
  • Indy Convergence, 2611 W. Michigan St.
  • Suggested donation of $10. All proceeds go to support Everytown for Gun Safety
  • https://everytown.org/ 

Circle City Tap Company: Tapping into the City

Circle City Tap Company presents a family-friendly showcase featuring some of their classic numbers as well as new pieces choreographed by company members. Circle City Dance Productions is dedicated to bringing performing arts education and opportunities to the Indianapolis metro area as well as creating a strong community of artists that work together to ensure dance and the performing arts are kept alive and well for generations to come. The Circle City Tap Company features professionals, apprentices, and pre-professionals.

Indianapolis Shakespeare Company’s “Shakespeare’s Birthday Bash”

Party like it’s 1564!! (But much better!) Buffet dinner, cash bar, live entertainment, directors’ talks, stage makeup demos, birthday game silliness, and a silent auction! VIP tickets are a MUST with VIP check-in and seating, a DOPE swag bag ($40 value), and 2 drink tickets!

Brooks and Bourke Theatre Company: The Pajama Game

Conditions at the Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory are anything but peaceful as sparks fly between new superintendent, Sid Sorokin, and Babe Williams, leader of the union grievance committee. Their stormy relationship comes to a head when the workers strike for a 7.5 cent pay increase, setting off not only a conflict between management and labor, but a battle of the sexes as well.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Phoenix Theatre: “Fairfield” (4 stars)

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

Playwright Eric Coble shows an almost wicked sense of humor in his play Fairfield, a portrayal of Black History Month at Fairfield Elementary School that goes horribly wrong. Far from being a dig at the commemorative month, however, the play’s farce highlights what can be an equal opportunity clusterfuck when people are hyper-aware of being politically correct or aren’t aware of their own prejudices or lack of actual education.

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

Fairfield Elementary considers itself a diverse, liberal school, touting “Peace. Love. Respect for all.” But a young, clueless, and overeager first-grade teacher’s attempts at what she considers educational lesson plans for Black History Month — the most benign of which is a spelling list including the words “chitlins” and “booty” — set off a chain reaction of misguided escapades that deteriorate in almost diabolical ways. (The teacher genuinely seems lacking in good judgment based on her wardrobe choices alone. She’d win any ugly sweater competition hands down.) The lynchpin comes when the parents of two boys —one black, one white — go tête-à-tête after the white boy “role plays” master and slave by trying to flog the black boy with a chain he crafted out of linked paperclips. The poor principal is on the verge of a heart attack by the time it all comes to a head in a raucous and so gloriously offensive assembly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phoenix Theatre last hurrah for the old building fund-raiser

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

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

 

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Phoenix Theatre: Pure Prine

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: 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

 

footlite
For information and registration, click here.

dinner

 

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 2/9

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

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

Phoenix Theatre: Sweat

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Phoenix Theatre: “Sweat.” Photo by Zach Rosing

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

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

 

Mud Creek Players: Sylvia

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Mud Creek Players: “Sylvia”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 1/12

Phoenix Theatre: Halftime with Don

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

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

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

Plus:

sweat

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: reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 11/24

 

 

The anti-holiday show:

Footlite Musicals: The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

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“The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” at Footlite Musicals

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Broadway Across America: A Christmas Story: The Musical

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Civic Theatre ticket sale

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Barbecue” at the Phoenix Theatre (4.5 stars)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The exceptionally talented cast:

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

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

Openings for the weekend of 10/27

Barbecue at the Phoenix Theatre

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“Barbecue” at the Phoenix Theatre

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

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

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

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“Fun Home” at the Phoenix Theatre

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

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

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

And I wish there had been an intermission.

OK, enough nitpicking.

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 9/22

 

Fun Home at the Phoenix Theatre

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“Fun Home” at the Phoenix Theatre

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

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

Storytelling Arts of Indiana: Fairy Tales for Grownups

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 Sister Act at Footlite Musicals

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

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

KaidyDid Productions with Indiana Performing Arts CentreMemphis: The Musical

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

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

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

New shows opening at IndyFringe

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“The Secret of Castle Alphabet” at IndyFringe

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

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

And under Music & Dance

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

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

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

Phoenix Theatre fundraisers

Brad Hinshaw and Friends

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

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

Mathew Street: A Beatles Celebration

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

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

Tickets for both events can be bought here.

Buck Creek Players’ Ice Cream Social

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

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

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

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“Human Rites” at the Phoenix Theatre

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

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

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

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“Human Rites” at the Phoenix Theatre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Openings for the weekend of 7/21

World premiere of Human Rites at the Phoenix Theatre

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“Human Rites” at the Phoenix Theatre

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

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

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

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

Riot: A Comedy Variety Show at Theatre on the Square

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 6/23

The Golem of Havana at the Phoenix Theatre

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“The Golem of Havana” at the Phoenix Theatre

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

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

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

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

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

The Princess and the Pea presented by The 7th Artistry

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

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

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

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“13: The Musical” at Carmel Community Players

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

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

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

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“Triangle” by Q Artistry and YAT

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

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

 

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Hir” at the Phoenix Theatre (3.5 stars)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 5/18

Beef & Boards: Shrek, The Musical

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

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

Phoenix Theatre: HIR

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

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

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

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

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

Khaos Company Theatre: 2017 Dionysia New Play Festival

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

 

Catalyst Repertory: Feral Boy

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

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

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

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Openings for the weekend of 4/21

Carmel Community Players opens the musical Blood Brothers

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

Phoenix Theatre opens The Open Hand

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Mud Creek Players opens Picasso at the Lapin Agile

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Openings for the weekend of March 17

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“Shakespeare (Abridged)” at Civic Theatre

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

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

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

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

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

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

Openings for the weekend of Feb. 17

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

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

And on to the openings.

Theatre on the Square: “The Money Shot”

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Photography: ZACH ROSING

Poster design: LORI RAFFEL

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

Feb. 17-March 4

$20-$25

Phoenix Theatre: “An Act of God”

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

Feb. 16-March 12

$20-$33

Mud Creek Players: “Rabbit Hole”

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“Rabbit Hole” at Mud Creek Players

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

Feb. 17-March 4

$15 per person; $13 Sunday matinee

Posted in Indianapolis theater: previews

Preview for the weekend of Jan. 27, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“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:

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“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

“A Very Phoenix Xmas 11” at the Phoenix Theatre (3.5 stars)

 

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Photo by Zach Rosing

In summary: What is consistent is the excellent cast. No matter what the setting or situation, each of them pulls it off effortlessly.

 

Eleven years running, and you still don’t know what to expect. A Very Phoenix Xmas 11 is the latest incarnation in the Phoenix Theatre’s commitment to bring its audiences unique and brand-new shenanigans for the holiday season. The show goes melodramatically PC this year by including some less-well-known customs from other countries to show us that we are all weird in our own ways; hence the tagline “I’m dreaming of an intersectionally thoughtful, multicultural winter holiday.”

Directed by Bryan Fonseca, he and playwright Tom Horan “curated” short pieces from eight contributors and mashed them together into a hit-and-miss hodgepodge of goofy, confusing, tragic, and even bunny-murdering stories performed collectively by Jean Childers-Arnold, Paeton Chavis, Paul Collier Hansen, Andrea Heiden, Jay Hemphill, Devan Mathias, and Keith Potts. From the hell that is the “It’s a Small World” ride, to Christmas dinner Mad Libs, to another kind of hell in the Syrian civil war, to puppets—the content runs the gamut and then some. What is consistent is the excellent cast. No matter what the setting or situation, each of them pulls it off effortlessly. My personal favorite: a “Night Before Christmas” tap rap by Potts and Collier Hansen.

Special accolades must also be given to the technical crew that made such a wide array of topics accessible on a single stage. I can’t reprint the program page here, but a very special Christmahannukwanzadanstice to them too.

3-5stars

Wed Dec 7, 2016 7PM
Thu Dec 8, 2016 7PM 
Fri Dec 9, 2016 8PM 
Sat Dec 10, 2016 8PM 
Sun Dec 11, 2016 2PM 
Wed Dec 14, 2016 7PM

$22/$30

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Peter and the Starcatcher” at the Phoenix Theatre

 

Photo by Zach Rosing
Photo by Zach Rosing

4 stars

Before there was Tinker Bell, Captain Hook, or the “second star on the right,” there was a nameless, friendless orphan boy.

The Phoenix Theatre opens its season with the Tony Award-nominee Peter and the Starcatcher, a prequel to the well-known Peter Pan stories, which relates the origins of Peter and Neverland.

Set in the 1800s, 13-year-old Molly (Phebe Taylor) is trying to overcome the burden of being a smart girl in a man’s world. Her astute supportive father, Lord Leonard Aster (a dignified Paul Nicely), is a “starcatcher,” and she is a starcatcher in training. Starcatchers gather rare “star stuff,” the dust that remains from a falling star. The Asters board separate ships, accompanying identical trunks—one carrying the queen’s treasure and one containing what appears to be sand. Molly travels on board the Neverland, where she finds a trio of orphans who have been sold into slavery: “Boy” (Nathan Robbins, recently in Hand to God), Ted (Peter Scharbrough), and Prentiss (Tyler Ostrander). Of course, requisite pirates take control of both ships, and the Boy (Peter), who wants to be more than a nameless orphan, helps save the real treasure.

Bryan Fonseca directs a large cast, most of whom play multiple characters. Liberal use of choral speaking gives the play a poetic feeling. James Gross’s set is both sea-worthy and island-accessible, and Emily McGee’s costumes add the finishing time-period touch.

Taylor and Robbins pull a little too hard on childish affectations for my taste, but it is diluted by other intentionally over-the-top characters, such as the flamboyant, malapropism-inclined Captain Black Stache (Eric J. Olson, in a snort-worthy performance), and the tongue-in-cheek romance between Alf (Michael Hosp), a pirate, and Mrs. Bumbrake (John Vessels Jr.), Molly’s nanny. The very un-PC “Injuns” have been replaced with a less racially offensive tribe of islanders, which are led by Fighting Prawn (Ian Cruz, who also embraces the equally outlandish performance); he was an English kitchen slave while a boy, and consequently, after his escape, his vernacular is punctuated with a slew of dishes.

The show is heart-warming if occasionally bittersweet; however, if you are taking kids, note that even though there are singing mermaids, one short event is dark: Peter being caned. I was glad I didn’t take my 7-year-old.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Theatre Festival: “Bad Brother: Religion and Politics in ’69”

3.5 stars

Written and performed by Loren Niemi

Phoenix Theatre Underground

Loren Niemi’s autobiographical storytelling is intense and personal at the same time. He recounts how he ended up at Catholic seminary, though not Catholic and not even very religious, after high school and how his journey evolved, eventually shaping him into a Buddhist antiwar demonstrator. Everything was changing in that decade—it was post Vatican II, and Vietnam was on the horizon. Catholicism and the country were torn between the past and the future, with causalities on both sides confusing the present. Eventually, Niemi was denied his final vows because, as he was told, “it isn’t what you believe; it’s that you say it out loud.” While racism, “post-riot architecture,” and the questionable morals of the church and country are at the heart of his story, the seemingly inconsequential details bring counterbalance to the performance’s serious subject matter, such as Niemi smoking a joint during visiting hours in a minimum-security prison with 62-year-old Brother Basil, who had been imprisoned for protesting—a joint that was smuggled in via Jennie O’s vagina. History buffs, lapsed Catholics, and antiwar supporters will find much to enjoy in this show.

http://indyfringefestival.com/

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Festival: “Silken Veils”

3 stars

By Leila Ghaznavi

Performed by Pantea Productions and The Indy Convergence

Phoenix Theatre Mainstage

 

fringe-veilsI’m going against popular opinion on this show by not giving it five stars.

It’s prettily done, incorporating marionettes and shadow theater into the story of an Iranian émigré who flees the marriage altar and then, in a storage closet, has PTSD-like flashbacks to her childhood during the Iranian Revolution. In her mind, Darya has linked her family’s tragedies to her parents’ soulmate-like connection to each other. A love her mother clung to even though her husband eventually left them and created a new family with a new wife. Now, Darya is terrified of losing her own identity to her fiance because she is the product of what we would now call a dysfunctional family.

The bones of the production itself are strong, with solid acting and cunning props and staging. It’s visually striking. My discomfort comes from the slow pacing and the extraneous use of Darya’s fiance, Ahmad. Ahmad’s presence on the other side of the closet’s locked door does little to move the story forward until the end. I wish he had been a stronger character—someone who had a personality that showed he was worthy of Darya commitment. While the flashbacks and puppetry are intriguing, they run too long. The puppetry scenes especially could be tightened up because they drag down the story’s momentum.

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Festival: Elsie and Frances and the Fairies

2.5 stars

by Tom Horan

Performed by Earlham College

Phoenix Theatre Mainstage

fringe-fairyThe Cottingley Fairies story is intriguing even now. In 1917, still during the early ages of photography, two young girls faked a photograph of fairies that had many in the world believing.

This retelling begins in modern times with a group of sisters poking around in their grandmother’s attic. A scrapbook is found with the pictures and news clippings about the events, and Elsie and Frances “appear” to the girls and tell their side of the story.

The actresses tell us this is a work in progress after the performance, and given that these ladies are college students, staging a production on the side is impressive.

The show is quaint, with some lovely costuming. Elsie and Frances carry a subtle British accent, which is admirable. Acting quality is across the board for the six cast members, but with school productions — even at the college level — that isn’t surprising.

But as an audience member, I was a little disappointed. I’m a fan of the original story — and fairies in general (watch for a popular Brian Froud image to pop up), and I was expecting more wonderment. Instead, the show feels rather flat, with Frances and Elsie simply recounting their adventures with occasional help from the original four sisters, who stand in as various other characters. Additionally, none of the characters have sufficient depth — Elsie and Frances have merely a hint of a personality. More showing, less telling would make the experience more engaging.

http://indyfringefestival.com/

 

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Theatre Festival: “A Darkly Humorous Time with Stephen Vincent Giles”

1 star

Phoenix Theatre Underground

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Stephen Vincent Giles is at a disadvantage in Indianapolis because many of us who are longtime local theater enthusiasts were spoiled by (now defunct) ShadowApe Theatre‘s Gorey Stories. No performance of dark poetry will ever compare. Unfortunately, Giles’s set includes many of Edward Gorey‘s pieces (as well as well-known poems such as “The Cremation of Sam McGee” by Robert W. Service and “Little Orphant Annie” by James Whitcomb Riley), so the comparison is inevitable.

Giles is almost too sweet-looking for the macabre. His persona leans more toward James Corden as Craig in Doctor Who than toward Vincent Price. The incessant hand rubbing and unconvincing voice affectations are distracting instead of entertaining. And speaking of distracting and annoying, he uses an overhead projector (!) with transparency sheets to illustrate some of his tales.

 

What.

The.

Hell.

http://indyfringe.org/

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Acid Dolphin Experiment” at the Phoenix Theatre

3 stars

Lisa Gauthier Mitchison

John C. Lilly: 1960s and ’70s physician, neuroscientist, psychoanalyst, “psychonaut,” philosopher, writer, and inventor, as well as the subject of Phoenix Theatre Playwright-in-Residence Tom Horan’s loose biography, Acid Dolphin Experiment.

First, a condensed background on Lilly because there is little setup within the often-psychedelic and hard-to-follow show. Lilly had a near-death experience as a child, which fueled his desire to explore and understand humanity’s view of consciousness. He deviated from the family’s lucrative banking career and turned toward scientific pursuits—including nontraditional experimentation in which he was often the test subject. He invented the isolation tank to achieve sensory deprivation and used LSD to explore alternate forms of consciousness. He believed that dolphins were capable of imitating human language, and he was a proponent of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) project.

As his grasp on reality relaxed, his mind crafted cosmic watchdogs, the benevolent Earth Coincidence Control Office (ECCO), and the malevolent Solid State Intelligence (SSI), a sort of artificial intelligence destined to go to war with humanity.

On the Phoenix’s second stage, Joshua Coomer is generally awash in blue light, representing Lilly floating in his isolation tank. (Effect achieved by lighting designer Laura Glover.) This is where his communications with ECCO happen. Lauren Briggeman, Jolene Mentink Moffatt, and Chelsey Stauffer pop in and out of portholes as members of ECCO. They also take on many other roles that pertain to Lilly’s life, as does Michael Hosp. Under the direction of Bill Simmons, the cast is passionate, focused, and lively, with several funny moments interspersed throughout. Costuming and set coloring (Emily McGee and Jeffrey Martin) are bright reflections of the time. But as I noted before, the play feels disjointed (though a case could be made that its structure is a representation of Lilly’s LSD trips). This makes the story arc hard to follow, however, hence the summary of Lilly above. With adequate information going in, the show could be a look inside an unusual piece of American scientific history presented by a capable cast. Without the Cliffs Notes, it’s as discombobulating as the LSD.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Hand to God” at the Phoenix Theatre

5 stars

Puppet sex seems to be a theme this year. First, in Avenue Q at Footlite Musicals in March, again in Bat Boy at Theatre on the Square in May, and now in Hand to God, the latest production that the Phoenix Theatre snagged as it came off Broadway. It’s also a year of five-star reviews, as I have never handed out so many in such a small amount of time.

Much like Avenue Q, this show integrates puppets into its cast. But here, the puppets aren’t used to replace the human character behind (under? in?) them. Only one puppet, Tyrone, could be called an individual character—a demonic, vulgar, bloodthirsty one. Tyrone may be the puppet, but he is the puppet master.

If religious irreverence shocks you, you will have PTSD after seeing this show. The story is set in a small town in Texas. Margery, played by Angela R. Plank, is a recent widow who is trying to find a place for herself by teaching a puppet-making class at her church. Her awkward son Jason, played by Nathan Robbins, seems inordinately attached to his puppet. Also in class are love-interest Jessica (Jaddy Ciucci) and horny bad boy Timothy (Adam Tran). Margery has to deal with the advances of both Timothy and the church’s pastor, Greg (Paul Nicely), while dealing with depression, her estranged son, and unmotivated students.

Under the direction of Mark Routhier, the entire cast is stellar, but additional emphasis must be given to Robbins and his character’s id in puppet form. His mastery of the craft is remarkable. His puppeteering is so deft that you come to see Tyrone as a separate entity that has accepted the devil as his lord and savior. As Tyrone’s rampage escalates, a puppet exorcism is contemplated. In contrast to Tyrone, Robbins conveys a shy, insecure teen in Jason. His split-second oscillation of unrestrained rage to confused, scared boy could twist your spine.

Plank also gets to be a switch player, from an anxious, grieving widow to kinky sexcapader in the VBS restroom. She manages to be equally believable and sympathetic in both modes. Tran’s high-energy, testosterone-laden Timothy is the picture of a teen acting out, but his quest for the MILF Margery is sad too because he craves a human connection, as do the rest of the characters.

Nicely juxtaposes the role of righteous pastor and his passive-aggressive courter of Margery. You would think he would be the voice of reason, but he is bested by Tyrone as well. The group’s anchor in reality is Ciucci as Jessica, the only one who knows how to deal with Tyrone’s iniquity and Jason’s repressed emotions. Ciucci’s smart, steady portrayal buffers the other characters’ insanity.

The show is consistently hilarious, but it is also a reflection on human needs and desires. Snappy writing and superior performances make this another one not to miss.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Crumble” at Theatre on the Square

4.5 stars

It’s no secret that I adore dark, weird drama (and musicals). Crumble (Lay Me Down Justin Timberlake) at the Theatre on the Square is one of the weirdest and darkest I’ve seen in a long time, and it’s awesome.

The play, written by Sheila Callaghan, who is also a writer/producer for the Showtime comedy Shameless, uses a cast of damaged characters to reflect on isolation, death, and deterioration. This sounds depressing, but really, it’s not. Plus, the bizarre humor is appallingly sidesplitting. The language used in the script is equally compelling. It’s sexy, luscious, even poetic at times, and it expresses as much about the characters as their bodies do.

From the beginning, you know this isn’t a typical show. It opens with Clay Mabbitt, as the once-dapper House, who delivers the first of many soliloquies. He bemoans, “I was a mansion once. A kept mansion,” but now he is in a state of decay. The House addresses his inhabitants, but his tenants are only marginally aware of his awareness—like a rising of hair on the back of the neck. Mabbitt is excellent as the anthropomorphic character that yearns for a loving touch, an oiled hinge, a release of radiator steam. Mabbitt’s physicality in depicting doors, windows, and falling plaster and his slithering along walls and floors add a whimsical and amusing touch to his lonely character.

Even stranger is Paeton Chavis’s character Janice, a hyper, foul-mouthed, belligerent 11-year-old who exhibits symptoms of schizoaffective disorder and spews explicit venom via her dolls. When confronted with freezing or wearing the abhorrent sweater her Aunt Brenda bought her, she states, “I would rather bleed to death in an open field slathered in manure.” Her doll comments, “Nice sweater, asshole.” Janice replies, “Eat me. You think you’re so hot just because you have an eyebrow ring. But know what? It looks retarded, and anyway, it’s fake.” From there, the exchange deteriorates into a series of insults involving the word “fuck.”

As House says, “How does one cultivate such an odd human?”

Chavis, who also played a disturbing child character in Phoenix Theatre’s production of The Nether in 2015, is equally amazing here. You realize quickly through her keen acting abilities that she is in fact a grown woman, but she is completely believable in her character. Most children are simply not this brilliant. Chavis is mesmerizing in her on-stage intensity and can deftly move from blooming psychotic to typical preteen star-struck reverence when Justin Timberlake flies into her room.

A jocular Joshua C. Ramsey, as Timberlake, also shows up as Harrison Ford for Clara, Janice’s mom. Mother and daughter embrace these ludicrous, dream-like escapes to find solace.

Carrie Ann Schlatter as Clara has the arduous task of anchoring the show in reality. Schlatter’s character is simply lost without her husband, and the widow’s obsessive menus and panic attacks plague her ability to move forward with her life, her house, her daughter, and her career. Schlatter does what she can with the character, but Clara’s evolution is slow, making her less interesting and/or sympathetic than those around her. Xanax, stat. However, she gets her share of lyrical yet quizzical lines. She describes her daughter’s breath as “napalm, like rotting fruit and stomach acid, as though she swallowed a pear months ago but can’t digest it.” Clara’s sounding board is her sister Barbara, a childless, divorced, crazy cat lady (numbering 57) played by Amy Hayes. Again, the character is flawed because it is so stereotypical, but Hayes gets to add amusing nuances in her interaction with her fur babies and with Janice.

All of this was coalesced under the direction of Rob Johansen. He has engineered a sneak attack for best play of the year, blemishes included.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Book of Merman” at the Phoenix Theatre

4 stars

Generations clash in The Book of Merman, a musical-comedy mashup of the 2011 Tony Award-sweeping musical The Book of Mormon and Broadway darling of the ’30s to ’70s Ethel Merman, of Annie Get Your Gun and Gypsy fame, whom Time Out New York named in the top 25 greatest divas of all time.

While it’s purported that Merman died in 1984, in The Book of Merman, now playing at the Phoenix Theatre, two Mormon missionaries ring her present-day doorbell and hilarity ensues.

Merman was memorable for her brassy personality, but friends also described her as “vulnerable” and “childlike.” Even in her later years, every event was exciting, including the mundane ones. Jolene Mentink Moffatt captures this mixture of wonderment and cheekiness, a pairing seen not just in her character but also in the show itself. Tyler Ostrander and Lincoln Slentz shine with fresh-faced naiveté even if their songs reek of unsubtle innuendo (“If It’s Not Hard, I Don’t Like It”).

Fans of Merman and Mormon will appreciate the slips of music each is notable for that are incorporated into the show. Ostrander’s character, Elder Shumway, sees Merman as a goddess, which opens the door for Moffatt to belt out some Merman-esque tunes—and for Elder Braithwaite to do some soul searching. “She’s Ethel Merman” is a direct parody of “I Believe,” and a lively rap number uses “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General” from The Pirates of Penzance as its base.

Emily Ristine directs Moffatt, Ostrander, and Slentz in their affable characterizations with Jay Schwandt as musical director. The trio’s interactions (quartet if you include Jay) are a joy to watch. Glen Bucy’s set of a residential neighborhood is a realistic backdrop that doesn’t hog all the stage space, giving the actors room to sway and pout. Friday night’s performance had a few off notes, but the show is a crowd-pleaser with feels; no matter which generation you identify with, you’re bound to be a convert by the end.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“On Clover Road” at the Phoenix Theatre

3.5 stars

Twist ties would envy the plot arc of On Clover Road. It forces you to put on the mental brakes and back up to reevaluate what you just saw, but by the time you’ve wrapped your mind around something, another curve leaves you reeling. While this makes for an exciting mental exercise and good entertainment, it does detract from the play’s serious subject: parent-child dynamics and the pseudo-acceptance lure of cults. Just set that aside and enjoy the ride.

On Clover Road is the Phoenix Theatre’s latest offering as part of the National New Play Network rolling world premieres. This is the second play by Steven Dietz that the theater has produced through the program (the previous was Rancho Mirage).

The show is grounded in excellent character portrayals by Jen Johansen (as the mother, Kate, of a runaway daughter who was sucked into a cult), Rob Johansen (as Stine, a “deprogrammer”), Mara Lefler (a teenage cult member), and Bill Simmons (as cult leader Harris McClain). Director Courtney Sale has the characters tearing at each other—physically and emotionally. The three “adults” express their flawed natures willingly or not, but Lefler, as an innocent, gets to wow the audience with her changeable acting chops.

That’s not to say that the Johansens and Simmons aren’t up to snuff. The three actors have lauded reputations in Indianapolis’s theater community for good reason. Rob is intense to the nth degree, making you wonder if he’s as nuts as the cultists are. Simmons again gets to explore the deviant side of humanity, following in the steps of his previous predatory character in The Nether at the Phoenix. He comes across just as confidant, alluring, and smarmy here as he did there. Jen is a hot mess as a single mom and recovering alcoholic who is willing to do anything in her desperate attempt to do the right thing. The actors add nuance to characters that aren’t as fleshed out on paper as they could be, creating a tense and riveting story because you just can’t wait (or anticipate) what they will do next.

Jim Ream created a set—a decaying room in an abandoned motel—that captures the rotting integrity of the four souls on stage.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“Pulp” at the Phoenix Theatre

3 stars

The Phoenix Theatre is part of the National New Play Network, which presents “rolling world premieres” of new scripts. The play is produced in three or more theaters within a 12-month period. This gives the playwright an opportunity to work with different creative teams and fine-tune the script. Pulp by Joe Zettelmaier, on stage now, is part of that process, so whereas most reviews’ primary focus is on the actors and production, a few words on the story are apropos here.

“Pulps” were the successors of the penny dreadfuls: sensationalistic, fictional stories in ratty magazines that were popular through the 1950s. Zettelmaier sets his story in 1933 around an alcoholic, washed-up private investigator, Frank Ellery. He is approached by a “dame,” pulp romance writer Desiree St. Clair, to solve the murder of her agent. Besides St. Clair, the other suspects are the deceased’s only other clients: sci-fi writer Bradley Rayburn (a nod to Ray Bradbury?), super-hero wannabe Walter Cranston-Smith, and horror fanatic R.A. Lyncroft (an homage to H.P. Lovecraft?). The play is a collection of stereotypes, reflecting the shallow characterization often found in the cheapest of the cheap pulps. While it’s meant to be a send-up, from a script standpoint, it doesn’t deliver. Something of this nature should have more humor written into it, and it should be self-conscious of its own cheesiness. (And yes, I got the point that the author hates critics.)

That being said, the saving grace of the show is the excellent work by its actors and designers. In other hands, it could have fallen flat.

The production opens with period video footage and a look at the revolving stage’s four sets featuring each character. This is a riveting setup from director Bryan Fonseca, lighting designer and technical director Jeffery Martin, and set designer Bernie Killian. Fonseca goes on to direct Eric J. Olson (Ellery), Joshua Coomer (Rayburn), Michael Hosp (Cranston-Smith), Ian Cruz (Lyncroft), and Angela R. Plank (St. Clair) through scene-chomping after scene-chomping scene. Each actor takes his or her character to the limit of camp. Hosp and Cruz especially commit to making their characters so over-the-top that their scenes help propel the languid plot, the gangly Hosp as his bumbling, masked alter ego The Cloak and Cruz as a maniacal summoner of sleeping demon-gods.

The show is worth seeing for the outstanding talent of the performers and creative team alone. And the amazing raspberry coconut cookie-cakes at the concession stand.

Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

“The Nether” at the Phoenix Theatre

4 stars

The Phoenix Theatre’s production of the award-winning play The Nether by Jennifer Haley is a fascinating if uncomfortable—even macabre—examination of morality and a person’s true nature.

Set in the near future, people now spend the majority of their time in 3D online virtual worlds that offer them complete sensory immersion. They work, go to school, and find entertainment in fabricated “realms” that can provide them infinite varieties of experiences, including some that are no longer available in the physical world, such as spacious gardens and forests of trees. Some people are so addicted to this alternate universe that they become “shades”: a body on life support while the mind becomes a permanent resident of The Nether.The Hideaway is the most sophisticated realm, and it comes under the scrutiny of Detective Morris, who has uncovered its covert and perverse purpose: It is an outlet for pedophiles. The “children” are actually avatars for adult employees of The Hideaway, but it still begs the question of whether acting out an immoral compulsion in a controlled environment remains immoral.

Under the direction of Bryan Fonseca, Bill Simmons manifests an unsettling intensity as the sociopathic Papa. What could be taken for sincere affection toward his favorite chimera, a nine-year-old named Iris, Simmons exposes as an affectation—Papa’s own fantasy that he could feel real emotions toward his targets. To justify this, he encourages (and even forces) disassociation between client and product through virtual murder of the child.

Paeton Chavis as Iris is amazing. Though she is in her early 20s, she is completely convincing as the little girl. Even her laughter is realistic—not a forced imitation that grates on the ears. Her manners and speech are genuine; her transformation into a child is seamless.

Doyle, played by Rich Rand, is a client addicted to his depravity. Instead of the expected pervert, Rand shows us a heartbroken man. Doyle is a schoolteacher on the brink of retirement with a wife and grown daughter. Rand exemplifies a person crippled by his own needs, having denied himself his innermost desires because they were considered unacceptable. He arrived at The Hideout searching for not only an outlet but also for nonjudgmental love.

Scot Greenwell’s Woodnut, the undercover detective sent into The Hideout to confirm his agency’s suspicions, is timid yet mesmerized by the world he has entered. In this place, Greenwell reacts with his own child-like delight to the strangeness of the environment, and he is drawn into the sanctuary of The Hideout.

Sarah McGee as Detective Morris lacks convincing emotion in her role, but it does not detract from the intensity of the characters’ interaction. Their proclivities may be aberrant, but the play challenges you to think deeper about subjects that remain unexplored.