October 21, 2014

AMERICAN PLAYERS THEATRE: Alcestis and American Buffalo

Greek tragedy isn’t always at the top of everyone’s must see list, but this beautiful play dips into both the dark and light that every life holds. This production is based on Ted Hughes’ translation of the original play by Euripides. His skill as a poet is clear in each well-crafted line. From the opening scene we learn that Alcestis is dying, she has given her life so that her husband Admetus can live.
Alcestis, played by Melisa Pereyra, gives a hallowed-eyed performance as the selfless queen. To carry her to the Underworld is Death, deliciously played by Brian Mani. He’s charming in his chilling condescension.  The play’s second act isn’t as smooth or concise as the first, but it comes full circle by the end. We meander a bit as characters deal with the consequences of Alcestis’ death.
The play explores the ideas of grieving, sacrifice, and life carrying on despite mourning. In one man’s struggle with his wife’s death we can see mankind’s struggle with our own mortality. There’s one beautiful line from the show that summed it up perfectly, “Their birth-cry is the first cry of the fatally injured."
All of this sounds dire, but the story is not without hope. Heracles (the Greek name for Hercules) is a wild, strong force in Admetus’ house of sorrow. He is visiting his friend and despite the depression that’s descended on everyone around him, his passion for life overflows with joyous bursts. His role is a reminder that all life must include the bitter with the sweet. It’s a powerful production.


We open on a cluttered resale shop, empty bottles are strewn about and walls are lined with knick-knacks and antiques. The shop’s owner, Don, is a bear of a man who seems harmless enough. Things don’t really kick into gear until Teach appears. He’s a wiry man who prowls around the shop in a huff shouting obscenities and knocking things over.
The stand out element of this show is the performances. In Brian Mani’s skilled hands Don becomes a barely contained volcano of frustration. He controls himself, but you can see the slow-burning anger boiling beneath the surface. James Ridge plays the high-strung Teach, a hard character to like, but when he’s on the stage you can’t look away. He’s a loose cannon, a manic ball of energy that raises the level of tension in the room. Add in the naiveté of Brendan Meyer’s Bobby and the trio balances on the edge of something enthralling.  
The show’s playwright, David Mamet, is better known for “Glengarry Glen Ross,” another whirlwind play revolving around money. The difference with American Buffalo was that the plot failed to make me as invested in the outcome. I was caught up in the incredible work of the actors, but the stakes never seemed high enough for the eventual consequences that unfold.
The American Players Theatre is open until November 9th. Their 2015 season will open in June with a new selection of classic work for audiences to enjoy.

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 (indoor). 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 the Rock, Taliesin and a golf resort.

Photos Courtesy of the American Players Theatre.

September 22, 2014

The Two Gentlemen of Verona

There aren’t many Shakespearean plays where a can dog steal the show, in fact there’s only one: The Two Gentlemen of Verona. It’s one of the Bard’s lesser known works and it includes the infamous dog, Crab. In previous productions I’ve seen the dog played by a stuffed animal, but the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s current production has the real thing and the sweet pup holds the audience captivate every time she’s on stage.

As great as the canine performance is, it’s not the only highlight from the show. The IRT opens its 43rd season with a play in honor of Shakespeare’s 450th birthday. The show includes a cast of IRT vets like Ryan Artzberger and Robert Neal (who both starred in HART “The Tempest” this summer), along with some excellent newcomers. Two standouts were Charles Pasternak as Valentine, who vacillates between ardent lover and frustrated exile and Ashley Wickett as both Julia’s maid Lucetta and the sought-after Silvia.

The plot itself is not without its problems. Like much of Shakespeare’s more obscure work, this one doesn’t come together in the end in the way one might expect. But that’s one of the reason this show is such a valuable production. It’s rare to be able to see high-quality performances of Shakespeare that aren’t of a well-known play (Hamlet, Macbeth, etc.) Seeing a show like this gives audiences a chance to explore the repeating themes in Shakespeare’s plays and see how he executed them successfully or unsuccessfully. It’s even easier to appreciate Shakespeare’s body of work when you can see the ways he improved over time. 

Each of Shakespeare comedies have strands of tragedy woven into the plot. His ability to combine the two extremes is one of the many reasons he is still being celebrated 450 years after his birth. His themes of heartbreak, betrayal and particularly in this show, first love, are demonstrated so well that each actor has a meaty role to dive into. The scenes are played with such heart that we feel the characters’ pain along with them.

In addition to that, the show is funny and wonderfully entertaining. At the intermission I kept overhearing comments from people wondering why this show isn’t produced as frequently as other (the second act answered that question for them.) With so many great plays of Shakespeare’s to choose from, it’s easy to see why some theatres skip over the ones that aren’t as neatly tied up at the end. I’m so thrilled that the IRT decided to produce this one for the very first time and I hope audiences will get out and see it!
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 Game's Afoot" runs until October 19 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

September 2, 2014

Beef & Boards Announces 2015 Season

Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre presents a fabulous lineup in 2015 that includes two new productions to its stage.
The season gets off to a solid start with the classic Neil Simon comedy: The Odd Couple, which marks its 50th Anniversary in 2015. Two Beef & Boards favorites will star in this tale of mismatched roomates, with Jeff Stockberger as the easygoing Oscar Madison and Eddie Curry as the uptight Felix Ungar, who moves in with Oscar after his marriage falls apart. What happens next is nothing short of hilarious! Opening on Dec. 27, 2014, the show is on stage through Feb. 8.
Then starting Feb. 12, the Beef & Boards stage is filled with all things Gershwin as it presents the all-American musical Crazy For You. Winner of three Tony Awards and based on the 1930 musical Girl Crazy, the story centers around Bobby Child, who is sent to Nevada to foreclose on a theatre. But when he falls in love with the local postmistress, he devises a plan to save the theatre. On stage through April 4.
A parody of American musical comedy of the 1920s, The Drowsy Chaperone makes its Beef & Boards debut on April 9. A middle-aged musical theatre buff plays the record of his favorite musical, the (fictional) 1928 hit The Drowsy Chaperone, and the show comes to life – with two lovers on the eve of their wedding, a bumbling best man, a desperate theatre producer, gangsters posing as pastry chefs, an intoxicated chaperone and more! On stage through May 10.
The imaginations of the young and young at heart will soar to Neverland starting May 14 when Beef & Boards presents the beloved Tony Award-winning musical Peter Pan as the 2015 Family Show! This production features $10 discounts off tickets for all kids ages 3-15. On stage through July 3.
The lovable – and imperfect – Singing Sanders Family returns for the summer in Smoke on the Mountain: Homecoming, the third installment of the popular comedy series. Opening July 8 and on stage through Aug. 16, the story takes place in 1945 – seven years since the Sanders Family first came to Mount Pleasant Baptist Church for a Saturday Night Sing.
Then the Rodgers & Hammerstein favorite, South Pacific, opens Aug. 20. Set in an island paradise, two parallel love stories are threatened by the dangers of predjudice and World War II. Nellie, a spunky nurse from Arkansas, falls in love with a French plantation owner, Emile, but is conflicted by what she learns about him. On stage through Oct. 4.
On stage for the first time at Beef & Boards and just in time for the spooky Halloween season, it’s The Addams Family, opening Oct. 8. This Tony Award-nominated macabre musical comedy is based on the cartoon characters created by Charles Addams, who also inspired the television show that first aired in 1964. Gomez Addams faces every father’s nightmare when his daughter, Wednesday, falls in love. On stage through Nov. 22. 
The holiday season is celebrated with the theatre’s original production, A Beef & Boards Christmas, opening Nov. 27 and featuring beautiful costumes, heartwarming songs, dazzling dancing and even Santa himself. A tradition at Beef &Boards for more than 20 years, and perfect for the entire family, this seasonal celebration is on stage through Dec. 23. 
Also returning in 2015 is Beef & Boards’ one-hour adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol, on stage for select performances Dec. 5 through 21. Enhanced with holiday carols, this iconic tale of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge who is given a second chance is the ideal way to enjoy the holidays.
TICKETS: New VIP memberships for the 2013 Season are on sale starting Sept. 4. Tickets go on sale to the general public starting Oct. 1. Visit www.beefandboards.com, for complete details.
Photos courtesy of Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre.

August 6, 2014

Phoenix Theatre Announces 2014/15 Season

This season the Phoenix Theatre is presenting the various ways we laugh. Humor is how we manage to get through the tragedies and absurdities of life. They've put together a lineup of stories featuring a rich variety of comedic styles.

All of the shows have their fair share of substance, but the Phoenix has found a balance of humor to go with that drama. As they say- comedy equals tragedy plus time.  

Clark Gable Slept Here by Michael McKeever
September 18 – October 19, 2014
As one of the silver screen's brightest stars charms his way through the Golden Globe Awards ceremony, his staff tries to figure out what to do with the dead male prostitute in his hotel room at the famed Chateau Marmont. This glamorously dark satire explores the make-believe world of Hollywood, where nothing is ever what it seems and closets are used for so much more than hanging up your tuxedo.

Old Jews Telling Jokes by Peter Gethers and Daniel Okrent
October 23 – November 23, 2014
This Off-Broadway hit comedy pays tribute to and reinvents classic jokes of the past and present. Think you’ve heard them all before? Not this way. If you’ve ever had a mother, visited a doctor or walked into a bar with a priest, a rabbi, and a frog, Old Jews Telling Jokes will sit in the dark, give you a second opinion and ask you where you got that. You'll laugh 'til you plotz. 

A Very Phoenix Xmas 9: Flashing Through the Snow
November 28 – December 21, 2014
Share your holiday with us! We’re back with another round of all-new sketches, songs and dances! We’ve got everything on your list: traditional holiday music, madcap comedy skits, and some very talented people to help you celebrate this most joyful—and stressful—time of year. We turn the holidays on their head with local and national playwrights putting a new spin on all things traditional. An Indy favorite!

River City by Diana Grisanti (an NNPN Rolling World Premiere)
January 8 – February 1, 2015 mention NNPN
Shaken by her father's death, Mary sets off to uncover three generations' worth of family secrets buried in the West End of Louisville, Kentucky. Mary's journey spans four decades and investigates race, memory, and the ghosts that haunt one American city. River City is a fascinating and funny story about how you find your “people” when you check more than one box to define your cultural heritage.

The Cripple of Inishmaan by Martin McDonagh
February 5 – March 1, 2015
When a Hollywood director visits a remote Irish island to cast his latest film, the locals clamor for their once-in-a-lifetime chance at movie stardom. But it's Billy, a frail young man with the odds stacked against him, who has the biggest Hollywood dream of them all. Direct from a smash-hit run on Broadway, this dark comedy features a cross-eyed look at Irishness and what it means to follow your heart, twisted as it may be.

Buyer and Cellar by Jonathan Tolins
March 5 – April 5, 2015
Alex More has a story to tell. A struggling actor in L.A., Alex takes a job working in the Malibu basement of a beloved megastar, Barbra Streisand. One day, the Lady Herself comes downstairs to play. It feels like real bonding in the basement, but will their relationship ever make it upstairs? This hugely successful Off-Broadway hit is an outrageous one-man comedy about celebrity, the oddest of odd jobs and the pursuit of utopia.

Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea by Nathan Alan Davis (an NNPN Rolling World Premiere)
April 9 – April 26, 2015
18-year-old Dontrell Jones III decides that it is his duty and destiny to venture into the Atlantic Ocean in search of an ancestor lost during the Middle Passage. But his family is not at all ready to abandon its prized son to the waters of a mysterious and haunting past. Blending poetry, humor, wordplay and ritual, Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea is a present-day hero’s quest exploring the lengths and depths we must go to redeem history’s wrongs.

Typhoid Mary by Tom Horan ( Phoenix Theatre playwright in residence)
April 30 – May 24, 2015
You’ve probably heard of “Typhoid Mary,” but most of us are unfamiliar with Mary Mallon, the cook behind the name. This quirky, anachronistic telling of the discovery of Mary’s peculiar disease, as well as her forced quarantine, unfolds in front of a backdrop of changing notions of medicine, morality and cleanliness – Did she willfully infect others? Was she a victim of a misguided medical authority? Or is the truth even stranger? 

To Be Determined
May 28 – July 5, 2015
We are currently negotiating a contract for a show that has done
so well nationally and internationally, the Phoenix would be the
first non-touring production of it in the region. We pride ourselves
on bringing you the most recent hits, and this time we’ve definitely
hit our mark with this fresh and high energy musical. That’s all we
can say till spring.

Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play by Anne Washburn
July 9 – August 9, 2015
What will endure when the cataclysm arrives—when the grid fails, society crumbles and we’re faced with the task of rebuilding? This imaginative dark comedy propels us forward nearly a century, when what begins as a simple reminiscing of foundation a past episode of The Simpsons eventually leads to the development of the of a new civilization. Mr. Burns is a vibrant exploration of how the pop culture of one era might evolve into the mythology of another.

July 9, 2014

A Mighty Fortress is Our Basement

Our church basement ladies are back in a brand new installment. The lovely ladies of the Lutheran church won Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre audiences’ hearts when they first appeared in 2010. This is the fourth show in the series and the crowd favorites are sure to fill seats again. The clean, quirky humor is entertaining to anyone who has grown to love them over the past few years. It’s now 1960 and the girls are cooking, singing and swapping advice about life in their small Midwestern town.

This installment feels a bit more forced than the others. Most people who attend the show will already know if they love the Church Basement Ladies series or not. This one doesn’t deviate from what we’ve come to expect, but it also doesn’t offer quite as much depth.
Mavis, played by Karen Pappas, remains the stand out character. Her earnest nature and brash sense of humor are both endearing and hilarious. Licia Watson also returns as Vivian, the group's matriarch, and has a great scene in the Catholic church basement. 
The rest of the cast includes Hillary Smith and Eddie Curry reprising their roles as Beverly and Pastor Gunderson respectively. Katherine Proctor was noticeably absent as Karin. She was replaced by Carrie SaLoutos, fresh off the national tour, but SaLoutos lacked Proctor’s heartwarming sincerity and Karin felt more like a caricature in her hands. 
The Church Basement Ladies series might not offer any startlingly new revelations about life, but it provides comfortable entertainment. Anyone who was raised in the church in the 1950s and ‘60s, no matter what denomination, will be able to recognize pieces of the show from their own past.

Up next on the Beef & Boards stage is Oklahoma. The Rodgers and Hammerstein classic will open August 21st and run until October 5th.

Don't Miss the Show

: The show runs until Aug. 17. Doors open for evening performances at 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. The buffet is served from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m. For Wednesday matinees doors open at 11:30 a.m. and the buffet is served from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The show begins at 1 p.m. For Sunday matinees doors open at 12 p.m. and the buffet is served from 12:15 to 1 p.m. The show begins at 1:30 p.m.

: To purchase tickets call (317) 872-9664 between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Prices range from $38.50 to $63.50 and include the show, tax, coffee, tea and the buffet. This production offers discounts, call the box office for more details.

Photos Courtesy of Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre