July 2, 2015

AMERICAN PLAYERS THEATRE: Pride and Prejudice, The Merry Wives of Windsor and The Island

Pride and Prejudice 
This story is so well-known and beloved that any new adaptation has a high bar to hit for success. The American Players Theatre’s adaptation features a huge cast complete with lovely costumes and a delicate set which switches from a small sitting room or a ballroom in a moment.

Kelsey Brannon and Marcus Truschinski star as Elizabeth Bennet and the infamous Mr. Darcy. Their chemistry is electric, beginning with their first hostile scene all the way through the tender romance that develops. The play features a Lizzy that’s stubborn and self-righteous and whom you can’t help but love. Mr. Darcy is stormy and cold, right up until the moment when he bares his heart.

Each of the Bennet family members was perfectly suited for their role. There was the frivolous Lydia, witty Mr. Bennet, gentle Jane, and of course, the eternally high-strung Mrs. Bennet. Brannon’s interactions with her father, played by James Ridge, were subtle and gave so much depth to the family dynamic. In a single silent glance you could see their kindred natures.
The production is filled to the brim with humor and suspense. It’s a joyous show, one that has the audience laughing aloud and gasping in equal measure. It’s hard not to root for romance as you watch the restrained courtship between the different couple unfold.

BOTTOM LINE: One of the best shows I’ve seen at APT. The cast was enchanting, the pacing was sublime, and the audience, and I, loved every second of it.
The Merry Wives of Windsor
Falstaff, lout, over-weight drunkard, disheveled cad and an undeniable crowd favorite. The Merry Wives of Windsor gives one of Shakespeare’s most popular characters a chance to shine. This comedy introduces audiences to the upright wives of Windsor who Falstaff is attempting to seduce. His plan quickly turns on him when they realize his intents and decide to mock him for his efforts. Hilarity ensues between jealous husbands and the beleaguered Falstaff.

Colleen Madden and Deborah Staples play the titular wives with sass and unforgiving mirth towards men. Their playful comradery takes brings the audience in on the joke in every scene. David Daniel was particularly good as Master Ford, who is consumed with suspicions of his wife’s unfaithfulness. He leaned into the role, embracing the absurd and the crowd loved it. Sarah Day also shined in her role as the brassy go-between for all the play’s lovers. 
This production sprinkles songs throughout the show. They provide a welcome segue between scenes. The twilight dimmed perfectly in time for the midnight scene at the end of the show. Despite a slight rain delay, the show closed to an almost full house, showing just how much people were enjoying themselves before the unexpected break.

BOTTOM LINE: Shakespeare’s version of slapstick comedy still comes with a moral of the story. The entertaining show reminds you not to take your love for granted.

The Island
Apartheid in South Africa doesn’t make for light subject matter. Athol Fugard’s play focuses on an island prison that held political protestors during those dark years. The treatment they received and mental trauma they survived is incredible. Fugard manages to work humor into the show through the relationship between two prisoners who share a cell. They try to give each other hope even when life grows dark.

LaShawn Banks and Chik√© Johnson carry the show as the two prisoners. When they aren’t being worked to the bone, they are practicing a performance of Antigone for the prison’s upcoming culture night. They quickly realize that hope can be a dangerous thing in their dire situation.

Before the show even begins, audience members see the prisoners slaving away on stage while they   are attempting to find their seats and settle in. The production highlights the frustrating cycle of pain that the prisoners face each day. They perform pointless work until they’re forced to the breaking point every day. There’s no intermission and so the play pulls you in and doesn’t stop until the end.

BOTTOM LINE: Heavy but important. Learning about other cultures and experiences through theatre continues to be one of my favorite reasons to see shows. 


The American Players Theatre is open until October 18 for its regular season. It will host a special show, The Game of Love and Chance, opening October 30 in its indoor Touchstone Theatre.

The theater's outdoor seats are comfortable, but definitely bring a jacket, rain parka, blanket, bug spray or sun block depending on the weather. The show will go on even if it's chilly or drizzling. There are easily accessible restrooms and concessions at both the Up-the-Hill Theatre and the Touchstone Theatre. There are also picnic tables for those who bring lunch or dinner for before a show.

There are plenty of camping/B&B/cabin/hotel options nearby, depending on your preference. You can find additional information about where to lodge, restaurants and other attractions on APT's website.

For more information about APT and Spring Green, WI visit its website. Spring Green, Wi is only 6.5 hours from Indianapolis and makes a perfect weekend getaway! There are attractions for the entire family in addition to the APT, including the Wisconsin Dells water parks, House on theRock, Taliesin and a golf resort.

Photos Courtesy of the American Players Theatre.