October 31, 2015

April 4, 1968: Before We Forgot How to Dream

On the night of April 4, 1968 Bobby Kennedy was scheduled to give a campaign speech in Indianapolis. Instead, he announced the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. to a stunned crowd. In this world premier play by James Still the audience sees the events of that night unfold through the eyes of one small family.

At the heart of the play is a married couple, John Henry and Addie, transplants from Kentucky, raising their two kids who are Hoosiers by birth. I loved their interactions. From the first moment they made you feel as though they were a family you knew, bickering and teasing in equal measures. Tracy N. Bonner's performance as Addie was particularly moving. She has a complexity, as a mother, wife, neighbor, and a woman, and she conveyed that beautifully.
The generational difference of our characters is one of the most interesting parts of the play. This heartbreaking news, along with the impact of the Vietnam war and the racial struggles the country is facing all elicit different reactions depending on the characters' point of view. A teenager, a young girl, an elderly woman, an adult couple, each one has their own experiences and opinions through which they filter the news.

Christina D. Harper plays Geneva, the couple's earnest 16-year-old daughter. She is passionate and confident in a way that only the young can be, while they are still naive and have yet to be disappointed by the world. It is an age where you think no one understands you and only you truly know what's right.
The production uses audio from Kennedy's actual speech, a powerful addition to the show. It also incorporates frequent references to Indianapolis , making this a meanful play for any Hoosier to see. Russell Metheny's set design incorporates a backdrop of neighborhood homes in a beautiful way. With telephone wires and street lights, he reminds us that the family is part of a neighborhood and each family on the street will be coping with the tragic news that night. 

This historic moment in Indiana's history was a shared experience throughout our nation. There have been few notable ones in the past century; Pearl Harbor, the Challenger explosion, 9/11, each one of which stopped people in their tracts and made them reflect. They are joined together for a brief moment, grieving as one, and James Still captures the tense spirit of that night.

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. "April 4, 1968" runs until Nov. 15 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 the IRT

October 19, 2015

Titus Andronicus

Titus Andronicus is the Reservoir Dogs of Shakespeare. It’s the most violent of the Bard’s plays and a perfect fit for October. Director Thomas Cardwell has set the story of two warring clans in a post-apocalyptic world and the show sucks the audience in from the opening scene.

The Indie Artist Colony provides a stark world in which EclecticPond can build its gritty new society. Everything from the costumes to the set design is intentionally rough, suggesting haphazardness to its creation. The costumes, an assorted mix of layered leather, fur, scarves, and vests enforces the scavenged look of a society that’s been put together in a piecemeal fashion.
The show hosts a large cast on the small stage and as the bodies start to pile up, the revenge plots grow darker. The play includes one of the most infamous dinner scenes in all of western literature. 

Tamora is played by Kelly Gualdoni, in a wildly different role than the last time audiences saw her perform for EclecticPond in The Speckled Band. She nails the performance of a manic femme fatale set on revenge. She is vicious and haughty, seducing and destroying people as she desires.  Joanna Winston is equally enthralling as Aaron the Moor. She’s unapologetically conniving, but she brings a humor to the performance. Matt Anderson (Marcus Andronicus) and Zachariah Stonerock (Saturninus) give stand out performances as well.
It’s hard to find live production of this play and even harder to find one that is so well executed. If you’re a fan of Shakespeare, a fan of dark comedies, or just a fan of great live theatre, don’t miss this one. Leave the kids at home, but bring your friend who only knows Shakespeare through A Midsummer Night’s Dream. They’ll be in for quite a bloody surprise.

Don’t miss the show

Performances run until Oct. 31. Tickets are $19. Performances are held at the Indy Indie Artist Colony, 26 E. 14th St., Indianapolis, In 46202. For more information, a complete schedule of the shows or to purchase tickets, visit ETC’s site here. 

Photos Courtesy of the EclecticPond Theatre Company

October 12, 2015

Cabaret Poe

Cabaret Poe is a macabre delight that has become an annual tradition for Indy theatergoers. For the first time it has moved from its Irvington home to Theater on the Square on Mass Ave and has a more elaborate set. This was my first time seeing the show, so I can't compare it to previous productions, but I can say the current version is a must see. 

The entire original musical was created by Ben Asaykwee, and uses Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry and infamous short stories to create a collective work perfectly suited for October. At times the cast performs a scene, at others they recite poetry. There's a wonderful balance of variety. There's also live music on the stage enhancing every scene.

Each performance features a cast of three people, but Asaykwee is the only actor featured in every show. The remaining two parts rotate between four women. The performance I saw featured Jaddy Ciucci and Renae Stone. Asaykwee could bring on a chill or a laugh with a single raised eyebrow. This is his show in every sense of the word and he brings the whole thing alive.

I'm a huge fan of Edgar Allan Poe, so I was looking forward to seeing what pieces would be incorporated into the production. Each one was instantly recognizable, The Raven, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Masque of Red Death, The Pit and the Pendulum, and so many more. The costumes are gothic steampunk creations, intentionally tattered and coming apart at the seams. They give the entire show a ghoulish atmosphere of things about to unravel.

One element that completely surprised me was the humor woven throughout the show. The cast provides sarcastic commentary, breaking the fourth wall in the opening sequence. Poe’s work is packed with dark subject matter, and while the musical keeps the creepy level high as one would hope, the cast infuses humor throughout.

The show is a complete delight. It’s not too dark for the faint of heart, but just right for a Halloween treat. 

Don't Miss the Show 
Performances: The Q Artistry play runs until Oct. 31 on the Christel DeHaan Main Stage, 627 Massachusetts Avenue, Indianapolis. 

Tickets: Tickets are $20 Reserved or $15 for Seniors/Students with ID.  Tickets may be purchased by calling the box office at 317-207-0171 or online at tots.org.

Photos Courtesy of Q Artistry 

October 5, 2015

The Great Gatsby

The Indiana Repertory Theatre opens its 44th season with an American classic. The Great Gatsby is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous portrait of the dark side of the American dream. His novel captures the futility of spending your life longing to capture an illusion. In Simon Levy’s adaptation the play brings that heartache to life in all its glittering intensity.

We see the story unfold through the youthful eyes of Nick Caraway (Zach Kenney). In the midst of the jazz era he moves to New York City and connects with his cousin and the wealthy elite in her crowd. He’s in awe of his new friends, but also troubled by the strange lack of morality they all seem to embrace.
Hillary Clemens portrayal of Daisy Buchanan brought something to the role that I’d missed in other film portrayals. For me, her struggle had more depth and felt more real. She’s a character that’s often depicted as shallow and selfish with little else to offer, but Clemens instills her with a relatable disillusionment. The audience can see her waiver between her longing for security and comfort and her desire to follow her heart. 

As Gatsby, Matt Schwader exudes a vulnerable desperation. He’s trying so hard to be part of this new world, but it’s clear he’s never comfortable in the role. I’d been impressed by Schwader’s turn as Hamlet at theAmerican Players Theatre and was not disappointed by his performance in this title role.

The trouble with seeing The Great Gatsby on stage is that the play’s focus is on excess and luxury. We see it in Gatsby’s parties, in the Buchanan’s East Egg home, and in the overall lifestyle of that time period. It’s a crucial part of the story, but it’s almost impossible to capture the lavishness of that world on a small stage. 

The set design adds in small elements with touches like a chandelier, and the use of a multi-media backdrop helped enhance scenes by enlarging the parties or showing the valley of ashes. But the sparseness that’s necessary with so many scene changes means it’s difficult to be overwhelmed by the wealth and opulence that’s intended.

Tracy Dorman’s costume design was outstanding in this production. Clothing plays a huge role in the creation of each character in The Great Gatsby and Dorman nailed the tone. From Daisy’s flowing gowns to the men’s perfectly tailored suits, no detail was neglected. 

The production is a wonderful season opener. It’s a difficult show to stage, but the story is timeless. Whether you’re new to it or have read the book and seen the movies, it’s still a treat.

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 Great Gatsby" runs until Oct. 25 on IRT's OneAmerica Mainstage. 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 IRT