March 23, 2015

What I Learned in Paris


It’s not often that you can go to a play with no preconceived notion and have your socks off. That was my experience at "What I learned in Paris" at the Indiana Repertory Theatre. The play, set in Atlanta in 1973, deals with issues of race, gender, and romance. And while that sounds like heavy fare, it manages to be delightfully funny and engaging. The playwright Pearl Cleage’s dialogue and farce-like cast of characters popping in and out of a single apartment lends a sense of humor to each scene.


The plot opens on the night that Atlanta elects its first African-American mayor, Maynard Jackson. Some members of the campaign have met to celebrate the victory. The next day the appearance of one man's ex-wife, Evie, throws everything into a tizzy. She drops truth bombs and stirs things up as she waltzes through the city.

Evie, played by Erika Lavonn, is one of the most charismatic characters I've come across in years. She's sexy and full of energy. She breezes into a room and can charm the darkest scowl off any one's face. Lavonn gives her an effervescent presence as she sashays through every scene, but she never neglects the character’s depth. Tracey N. Bonner’s Lena is the lens through which we see all the action. She's the straight man (woman) to everyone else's drama. She says more with one arched eyebrow or smirk than most character can say in a full monologue.


The costumes are beautifully done by Matthew Lefebvre. Each character, particularly the women, say so much with their clothes. Ann’s slightly prudish style is juxtaposed beautifully with Evie's flowing gowns in brilliant colors. The characters’ unique personalities are clear in their outfits. Vicki Smith’s set is a two floor apartment, complete with a winding staircase that feels straight out of the 1970s. It’s littered with remnants of the campaign that’s just ended. The music choices between each scene were also perfectly chosen to reflect each mood.



The play is a meditation on love, hope, change, and finding strength you might not have realized you had. It’s funny and entertaining while still giving you a bit to chew on. If you were thinking about skipping this one because you aren’t sure it’s for you, I’d recommend you reconsider and treat yourself to a wonderful play! 

Don't Miss the Show
The Indiana Repertory Theatre is located at 140 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, one-half block west of the Circle Center Mall between northbound Illinois St. and southbound Capitol Ave. "What I Learned in Paris" runs until April 12 on IRT's Upperstage. Times for performances can be found at www.irtlive.com or by calling the IRT box office at (317) 635-5252. To purchase tickets call (317) 635-5252 or order online at www.irtlive.com



*Photos courtesy of Zach Rosing
 

February 23, 2015

The Hound of The Baskervilles


Sherlock Holmes is a perennial favorite at the Indiana Repertory Theatre. The Hound of the Baskervilles is the latest in a line of successful adaptations of the infamous detective to hit their stage. Sir Henry Baskerville (Eric Parks) returns to England from Canada after inheriting a manor. Unfortunately he may have inherited the family curse as well. Suspicions abound and red herrings are everywhere as we travel to the barren English moors. David Pichette and R. Hamilton Wright’s adaptation is beautifully done, adding some delicious twists to the already wonderful tale. The fog is as thick as the tension and the audience is sucked in from the first moments of the eerie opening scene.

At its heart, each Sherlock play depends heavily on the casting of the main duo. It’s the antagonistic tête-à-têtes between the detective and his trusty sidekick that make each of their adventures so enthralling. This production offers up Marcus Truschinski as Holmes and Matthew Brumlow as Dr. Watson. It’s a match made in casting heaven. Those two are supported by a superb cast of IRT favorites at the height of their game. I have to say, I love that core company members from the American Players Theatre, (a fantastic Wisconsin theatre), keep popping up at the IRT. Truschinski joins Cristina Panfilio, Eric Parks, and Will Mobley in the list of actors from this play who have appeared in both theatres.

Two particularly outstanding elements in this show were the lighting and the costumes. Lighting Designer Thomas C. Hase set the mood for each scene with his unnerving beams, which silhouetted characters or allowed them to creep in the shadows. Tracy Dorman, the costume designer, leant her skill to the show as well. Though most of the characters wear dour shades of black and grey to traipse about the moors, Dorman uses pops of color in all the right moments. From wigs to walking sticks, the clothes were perfectly suited; like Miss Stapleton’s dinner party dress, a pink frothy confectioner’s dream and Hank’s scarf and jacket which suggested his rougher roots. Most of the cast tackled at least two roles in the show, which offered up another costuming challenge, but Dorman handled it with ease.

The Scenic Designer (Kevin Depinet) had his work cut out for him as well. The show moves from Sherlock’s cluttered office on Baker Street to the wild moors. It also contains some of the largest moveable scenery the IRT has ever used. Even though it’s long, stretching to 2 hours and 40 minutes with two intermissions, the time flies by. It’s so well-paced that it hardly slows down at any point and there’s certainly enough content to justify the time.


Don't Miss the Show
The Indiana Repertory Theatre is located at 140 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, one-half block west of the Circle Center Mall between northbound Illinois St. and southbound Capitol Ave. “The Hound of The Baskervilles" runs until March 15th on IRT's Main Stage. Times for performances can be found at www.irtlive.com or by calling the IRT box office at (317) 635-5252. To purchase tickets call (317) 635-5252 or order online at www.irtlive.com

Photos Courtesy of the Indiana Repertory Theatre