November 28, 2016

A Very Phoenix Xmas 11


 
It’s that time of year again! Christmas shows are popping up all over town and whether you’re a fan of traditional or playful, there’s something for everyone. The Phoenix Theatre’s annual Xmas show is a mix of song, dance, parody, and poems. My favorite part about it is that it’s different every year. The content is fresh and ever-changing, so while you might not love every skit, at least it’s something new!

The 11th annual show focused on celebrating the holidays internationally. A narrator shared bits about unique traditions around the globe between the scenes. The set utilized multimedia screens that showed song lyrics and photos throughout the show.  During a dance sequence I felt myself appreciating that the Phoenix never constrains itself with meeting every social norm. The dancers were not a uniform body type and it was beautiful. The theatre consistently tries to represents people from many walks of life, instead of just one traditional Midwestern one.

 
 The tone was much more somber than past years, but there was still plenty of humor. From Stonehenge to Disney World, from an airport to a pharmacy, anything is fair game. Gratefully there were no references to politics. I think all of America is burnt out on that topic right now. I could have done with one less puppet skit, but it didn’t take anything away from the show. 

This year it was the quiet moments that stood out to me. One piece on spending Christmas in the hospital with a loved one was particularly poignant. Another took us to Syria, bringing home the severity of a situation that can sometimes feel far away to us. I also loved the audience interaction for a mad libs sketch. 

As always, the greatest strength of this Phoenix tradition is that it is unpredictable in every way, except that you’re sure to have a good time.

Don't Miss the Show
For more information about the Phoenix Theatre, visit www.phoenixtheatre.org. The theater is located at 749 N. Park Ave., Indianapolis, just off Massachusetts Ave. 

Performances: The show runs until December 23rd and offers five performances a week. Wednesdays and Thursdays begin at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturdays begin at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.
Tickets: To purchase tickets, call (317) 635-7529 or visit phoenixtheatre.org. Prices range from $22 to $35.
Photos courtesy of Zach Rosing.

November 7, 2016

Cabaret


When audience members enter the Studio Theater in the Carmel Center for the Performing Arts they are transported straight into the Kit Kat Klub in 1930s Berlin. Scantily-clad dancers say willkommen as they point you to your seats and the red lights set the mood. Cabaret is on stage now and the timing couldn’t be better. 

Cliff (Eric J. Olson) is a young American author who finds his way into the city in the midst of a perpetual celebration.. He meets Sally Bowles (Cynthia Collins), a whirlwind of flirtatious energy and a singer at the Kit Kat Klub. Despite their drastically different temperaments, the two pair off. 

Ben Asaykwee is the infamous Emcee and it’s worth hightailing it to Carmel for his performance alone. He steals every scene he’s in with a raised eyebrow and lascivious grin. His performance is more Alan Cumming and less Joel Grey, but with its own unique feel. Whether he’s teasing the dancers on stage or posing with a pineapple, you can’t look away.



The strength of the show lies in its balance between sexy fun musical numbers and dark social commentary. The sweet courtship between Fraulein Schneider (Debra Babich) and Herr Schultz (Darrin Murrell) gives the harsh reality of prejudice a face. Patrick Vaughn makes a wonderful Ernst Ludwig. He is a faithful friend, bringing home the point that the Nazi party wasn’t full of purely evil people. There were also average people swept up in the rhetoric, truly believing that it was their patriotic duty to support the party, which is even scarier. 

The scenes at the Kit Kat Klub are so entertaining; it’s easy to forget that at its heart Cabaret is a political drama. But really that’s the point. You can look the other way and focus on having a good time, but as Cliff puts it, “if you're not against all this, you're for it—or you might as well be.” 

Of all the times that I’ve seen Cabaret, this one resonated with me the most. In this midst of this election year, when every television ad is blasting a different candidate, it’s tempting to just look away and try to ignore it.  It’s in those moments, when facing the coming storm is the hardest, that’s it’s most crucially important.


Don't Miss the Show


The production contains mature content and themes and is suitable for adults. Actors Theatre of Indiana is located in the Studio Theater at the Center for the Performing Arts, 4 Center Green, Carmel, IN 46032. "Cabaret" runs until Sunday, Nov. 20. Times for performances can be found and ordered here or by calling the box office at (317) 843-3800.



Photos Courtesy of Zach Rosing

November 3, 2016

King Lear


Bard Fest wrapped up its second annual events this past weekend. This year’s festival included three different Shakespeare productions, by three companies, in rotation: Twelfth Night from Garfield Shakespeare Co., King Lear from First Folio, and Coriolanus from Catalyst Repertory. One highlights of the festival is that audiences are able to see plays that are rarely produced in Indiana

I was only able to make it to King Lear, something I hope to remedy next year. The productions obviously have a small budget, but they make the most of what they have. Costumes are simple and the stage is sparse, highlighting the performances over the atmosphere. Carey Shea’s direction wisely focuses on relationships over action sequences.



David Mosedale is the titular king. He’s flustered and frustrated by his situation. His brokenness is clear in the second act. Ann Marie Elliott plays both the rejected daughter Cordelia and the Fool. Her performance as the former is emotional and heart wrenching. Her turn as the Fool is cheeky and playful.

Matt Anderson plays Gonereil’s husband Albany. Although he’s a man of few words in this show, he infuses his performance with the appropriate meekness and cowardice. His transformation throughout the show is convincing on every level. 

I’m thrilled that Indy has a Shakespeare festival and I hope that it continues to grow and that they continue to offer some of the Bard’s more obscure work. This year’s festival has ended but keep an eye out for next year’s productions. The Bard Fest will be moving to the IndyFringe Theatre on Mass Ave in October 2017.  

Photos Courtesy of First Folio