December 22, 2007

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat


"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" is on stage now at Indianapolis Civic Theatre. The show, a creation of Broadway icons Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, is a mutt of various productions. It combines everything from country-western to calypso musical stylings.

The show is a recreation of the Biblical tale of Joseph and his 11 brothers. Joseph is the apple of his father's eye and his brothers are jealous. Their anger sends him on a one-way trip to Egypt, where he is sold into slavery. The show may have its basis in a Biblical story, but God has no part in the production. Instead, the musical turns the tale into an upbeat, jovial romp. With an Elvis-impersonating Pharaoh of Egypt and a singing camel, it relies heavily on its jokes and gags.

Joseph Robert Doyel makes a great Joseph. In an over-the-top musical, he underplays most scenes, bringing a quiet humor to the show with his expressions. His vocals had a soothing quality and provided a glimpse at his obvious talent.

Supporting character Tom Beeler plays Reuben, one of Joseph's many brothers. His solo performance of "Those Canaan Days," a soulful French number was delightful.

The musical is light-hearted and entertaining, but audiences shouldn't expect a deeper message from this holiday show.

Performances: "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" closed Jan. 6, 2008.

December 19, 2007

Tuesdays with Morrie


The bestselling book "Tuesdays with Morrie" has been adapted for the stage and the Indiana Repertory Theatre is currently presenting it on its upperstage.

The story revolves around Mitch Albom, a successful journalist who has become caught up in all of life's trappings. Success, money and fame have become priorities and he has lost touch with the simple things he used to love. One day he hears his old college professor Morrie Schwartz is dying. His whirlwind life freezes and he realizes he should visit his ailing friend.

The show is based on Mitch Albom's real life experience. His conversations with Morrie force him to focus on what is truly important in life; community, love, family, joy, beauty and even death. He is searching for the meaning of life, or rather how to find meaning in life.

With death creeping nearer Morrie's thoughts and emotions are raw. His beliefs become clearer and his drive to make sure Mitch finds happiness becomes urgent. Even in the depths of his pain, Morrie is set on sharing his wisdom with Mitch.

The gifted actors make the characters come alive. Their flaws, pain, hope and love are evident in each trembling hand and hurried hug. Ryan Artzberger plays Mitch Albom and Jon Farris plays Morrie. Both men are wonderful, showing in their own ways that though Morrie is physically weak, Mitch is the one whose life is broken.

This simple tale of two men highlights how much one person can influence another's life. One is the teacher, one the student, one is old and the other young. Morrie is losing his freedom, dignity and his strength and Mitch is finding his purpose. The show is a lesson in friendship. It shares the important fact that those willing to make sacrifices in their lives, whether its time, money or comfort, etc., open themselves up to gain so much from others.

Performances: "Tuesdays with Morrie" closed Jan. 13, 2008.

December 13, 2007

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels


Broadway Across America's newest production "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" is based on the 1988 film starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine. The show is onstage at Clowes Memorial Hall and unlike the film, it's a musical. The basic plot remains the same, but big Broadway numbers have been woven into each scene.
Two con men meet, one an elegant gentleman who woos women and eventually takes their money. The other is a crass, vulgar cretin with seemingly no morals or restraint.

Circumstances throw the two together they find they make the perfect team. With their very individual skill sets they can dupe wealthy women into forfeiting their riches.

At first the classy gent, Lawrence, tries to train the other, Freddy, to be at least presentable. It's like a topsy turvy, and much more depraved, version of "My Fair Lady."

Shortly after the partnership begins they fall out and turn against each other. They decide that instead of working together, they will make a bet and determine which one is the better deceiver. And as always, winner takes all, including the French Rivera territory where the show is set.

Jamie Jackson does a great job playing Lawrence Jameson. He is cocky, but eternally smooth as he swindles the female tourists. Jenny Gulley shines as Christine Colgate, an ernest and optimistic heiress.

One of the show's numbers, "Love is My Legs," has some of the worst and cheesiest lyrics in show business, but that's intentional. The song features eloquent phrases like, "faith are the toes attached to your feet." The words are atrocious and that's the point. The show is cheeky and not to be taken too seriously.

The three supporting characters, Muriel Eubanks, Andre Thibault and Jolene Oakes, are treats for the audience. Their parts add flavor and hilarity to the show. The over-the-top Frenchman, Andre, is played by Jeff Essex, with excellent snide pompousness.

The show is not appropriate for kids, but for those who enjoyed the movie or just want a good laugh, it's a good fit.

Performances: "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" closed Dec. 16, 2007.

December 12, 2007

A Very Phoenix Xmas


The show begins with a warning, "If you're looking for 'A Christmas Carol,' this isn't it." They aren't kidding.

"A Very Phoenix Xmas" is on stage now at the Phoenix Theatre in Indianapolis. The comedy show is presented annually, but with new sketches every year, written by Phoenix playwrights and submitted by audience members.

Taking snatches from Christmas tales and holiday movies the writers have melding these elements together to make a completely original creation. Featuring skits about the island of recalled toys and the tragedy of a broken Christmas cookie the show is both entertaining and a little strange.

Any Christmas show that includes a song called "Don't Eat the Baby" definitely falls into the "out of the ordinary" category. Everything from local fast food eateries to 'The Wizard of Oz' is fair game at the Phoenix.

The six person cast does a great job bringing each story to life. Michael Shelton and Sara Riemen particularly stand out. Their varied characters include munchkins, a jewish couple and a myriad of others.

The Christmas extravaganza is everything that other Christmas shows are not. It's sarcastic and dark and incredibly funny. It's probably the only holiday show that has ever included nose flutes. Yes, they exist and they are as hilarious as they sound.

The show is a breath of fresh air in a season steeped in unoriginal traditions. Seeing the normal Christmas productions is always fun and shouldn't to be forsaken, but for anyone hoping for something a little different, the Phoenix awaits.

Performances: "A Very Phoenix Xmas" closed Dec. 23, 2007.

November 9, 2007

Mamma Mia!


Broadway Across America has brought the neon colors and sparkling sequins of "Mamma Mia!" to Indianapolis. The international hit musical is on stage now at the Murat Theatre.

The show is built around songs by the Swedish band ABBA, who hit it big in the late 1970s. If you can't name more than a couple ABBA tunes, you're not the only one. But the show is beyond entertaining, it is a tasty, synthetic pop treat. The show is no highbrow drama, instead it is an unabashedly funny romp.
The story follows young Sophie who, just before her wedding day, attempts to find out who her father is. After being raised on a Greek island by her single mother Donna, Sophie decides it's time to meet the other half of her gene pool.

Donna's best friends are a modern day Lucy and Ethel combo. Played by Christine Sherrill and Allison Briner the duo steal the scene with their hammy antics. Their physical comedy makes for some of the best parts in the show.

Sophie's potential fathers are three very different men who knew Donna 20 years before the fateful wedding day. They are surreptitiously reunited by the curious offspring in the midst of the festivities. Wounds are reopened, sparks are ignited and hilarity ensues.

The show feels like an ABBA concert, but you don't have to been an ABBA fan to enjoy it. The performers' energy and the actors' lighthearted banter make "Mamma Mia!" an absolutely entertaining show.

Performances: "Mamma Mia!" closed Nov. 11, 2007.

October 17, 2007

Hamlet


"The play's the thing ..." there are few phrases more familiar to the theater going public. The Indiana Repertory Theatre has brought back the show where that line originated. "Hamlet" is now playing on their upperstage.

The show incorporates current elements of culture into the original text for easy relatability. This includes a shared iPod song, a quick game of hacky sack and a few cellphone calls. One of the finer uses of this tactic was an easily interchanged video recorder for the musical recorder in a scene with Hamlet and his patsy friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Matthew Brumlow walks the tightrope of sanity as the show's title character. He has just the right blend of discontent and contempt. He never completely reveals his cards, veering from cheeky jest to tortured rage in an instant.

Jessica Martin takes on the role of Ophelia, a woman easily swayed and confused by the events unfolding around her. She demonstrates the pendulum swing between family loyalty and a lover scorned with excellent precision. Her decent into madness begins when she believes Hamlet's love has waned and is complete with her father's murder.

The genius of Shakespeare lies in his ability to tell a story while still leaving some things to the audiences discretion. Is Hamlet truly mad? Did Ophelia commit suicide? These are questions that have been debated for centuries and this production does a wonderful job leaving the answers just out of the audience's reach.

The 90 minute show is brief enough to appeal to a younger crowd. The original language hasn't been changed, just trimmed. There is also a Q & A included at the end of each show where audiences members can talk with the cast. The show is well suited for those new to the Bard or longtime devotees.

Performances: "Hamlet'" closed Nov. 3, 2007.

October 11, 2007

Cirque Dreams: Jungle Fantasy


"Cirque Dreams" is on stage now at Clowes Memorial Hall, it's a Broadway Across America show. The production is part circus, part comedy and part Broadway show.

It is visually stunning and audiences will be treated to an amazing feast for their senses. Violinist Jared Burnett, performing as Soul Tree, provides a continuous flow of music from his electric violin. His soulful strands of notes fill the venue as audience members watch, mouths gaping, at the rich scenes unfolding on the stage.

The strength of the show lies not in the songs, but in the complicated dance sequences and acrobatics. Even jumping rope becomes astonishing in the hands of these talented performers. They don't stand still for a second. Every movement they make is perfectly coordinated and they toss each other round and manipulate their bodies in unbelievable ways.

Their breathtaking acts are unlike anything most theater-goers have seen before on a local stage. The contortionists and flyers form moving art with their bodies. They unfurl and intertwine so graceful patrons can almost forget the intense strength these individuals have. Each new pose they make creates a new exotic sculpture.
Cirque Dreams is in the most literal sense a fantastic show. With it's surreal colors, elaborate costumes and swooping and spinning cast members the show seems like a crazy, beautiful dream.

Performances: "Cirque Dreams: Jungle Fantasy'" closed Oct. 14, 2007.

October 3, 2007

Aida


The Indianapolis Civic Theatre's most recent show, "Aida" was part comedy, part drama. The story is a modern version, created by Elton John and Tim Rice, of Verdi’s grand opera. The show's namesake is a Nubian princess who is captured and forced to serve as a slave in Egypt.

The woman's captor, Radames, quickly falls for her and Aida is torn between her newfound love and her loyalty to her people. The matter is further complicated by the fact that Radames is engaged to the pharaoh's daughter.

Mikayla Anne Reed plays Radames's finacee Amneris. She's a caricature of a spoiled princess. A Barbie-esqu sphinx who provides a welcomed element of comedic relief. She crocodile rocks her way through her first big number "My Strongest Suit." As the show goes on the audience watches as she maturs and by the end of the show her character shows unforeseen depth with songs like "I know the truth."

The pop musical pulls elements from gospel songs, "The gods love Nubia," and classic ballads, "Easy as life," giving the actors a chance to flex their musical prowess with the varying styles.

Aida, played by Angela Nichols Manlove, is the clear standout vocal talent in the production. Her rich voice provides the perfect blend of passion and strength for the role.

The Indianapolis Civic Theatre production uses silhouettes throughout the show for a dramatic effect. The scenes of action displayed in still life poses seemed like they could have been painted on an ancient Egyptian vase and work well with the story. The show brought history to life and few people have Elton John songs as the soundtrack to their history lessons.

The Indianapolis Civic Theatre is located at 3200 Cold Spring Rd. on the Marian College campus. Their next show "On Golden Pond" opens Nov. 2. For more information visit www.civictheatre.com or call (317) 923-4597.

Performances: "Aida'" closed Sept. 30, 2007.

September 26, 2007

Our Town


From the opening strands of music to the lilting melody that plays as the actors take their final bows 'Our Town' is a beautiful piece of theatrical work. The show is on stage now at the Indiana Repertory Theatre.

Playwright Thornton Wilder wrote this Pulitzer Prize winning piece of work in the '30s, but its message still rings true decades later. The story is timeless and touches on points that every person on earth can relate to.
Set in the small town of Grover's Corners, N.H. the play unfolds in three acts. First there is the daily life of a small town, then there is love and marriage and lastly there is what waits for us all in the final act, death.

The production is staged as a play within a play. The stage is simple with few set pieces and even fewer props. Audience members are left to use their imaginations and rely on the outstanding acting the cast provides.

Rarely does an evening at the theatre so completely satisfy. The show is about the simple joys of life, the beauty of the moon, the pleasure of falling in love for the first time, and all of the other unavoidable pieces of our existence that spill together to create our world.

Wilder's quiet play doesn't have any huge plot twists or monumental stories to tell. Instead it is a gentle story about small town life. It is a gem, magnificent in its simplicity, that shows humanity at its best. Its message is to embrace life, savor every minute of it, love you family and friends and revel in their hopes and dreams.

The dialogue is eloquent, but not flowery. It sounds the way people converse when they've known each other for years; intimate and casual, without stilted airs. These characters feel like friends, neighbors you'd gladly pass an hour with. Towards the end of the show Emily Webb, played by Gwendolyn Whiteside an actress whose fresh performance is matched in excellence by all of her fellow performers, has a heart-wrenching scene. She gives one of the finest monologues ever spoken on stage. Those lines, which were written so long ago, evoke deep reflections into the scenes of one's own life.

Each day, each cup of coffee and each conversation is meant to be savored. Wilder's words remind us all that life, with all of it's joy and pain, is wonderful.

Performances: "Our Town'" closed Oct. 6, 2007.

September 19, 2007

Altar Boyz


Only a few years ago you couldn't turn on the radio without hearing the most recent pop song by a boy band. Bands like 'N Sync, Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees ruled the airwaves and spewed out one formulaic hit after another. A show which manages to both embrace and mock that pop culture phenomenon, "Altar Boyz," is on stage now at the Phoenix Theatre in Indianapolis. The off-Broadway musical is making its Midwest premier.

The show is staged like a concert featuring the five-member boy band "Altar Boyz." The members of the band, Matthew, Mark, Luke and Juan (the latin member), are good Catholic boys who believe they were called to minister through the rhythm God put in them. The fifth member of the group is Abraham, a Jewish guy who ended up in the band by mistake. Mix them together and they create the self-dubbed "apostles of pop."

There is, like in any boy band, the "cute" one, the "bad boy," etc. The boys get down while sharing their holy motives with the crowd. They also share their personal crises and a few confessions from the concert goers.

Audience members can't help laughing as the lights dim and the boys belt out the serious ballad "Jesus Called Me On My Cell Phone.” The show has an underlying message of morals, but is 90 percent comedy. For anyone who had more than their fill of the boy band craze this production is a well-deserved laugh about the choreographed hilarity of what MTV entertainment has become. It wouldn't be nearly as funny if it didn't resemble the reality of those boys bands so closely.

The show is rated "G" but includes many innuendoes and thinly veiled references for adults.

Performances: "Altar Boyz'" closed Oct. 21, 2007.

August 15, 2007

Dos Fallopia: Desperate Spuddwives


What could be sweeter in the midst of the summer heat than slipping into a cool theater and having a good laugh. "Dos Fallopia: Desperate Spuddwives," a satire of pop culture is on stage at the Phoenix Theatre and provides audiences with the perfect place to beat the heat.

Dos Fallopia is a Seattle-based comedy duo made up of Lisa Koch and Peggy Platt. Their shows are audience favorites at the Phoenix Theatre and they are back with a new show "Desperate Spuddwives."

The show consists of six sketch comedy bits starring Koch, Platt, Kevin Smith and Scot Greenwell. In additions to the mysterious women on "Hysteria Lane" the show mocks faded rock stars, angry poets and militant baristas.

Clad in suits and toupees the Dos Fallopia duo portrays President Bush and his right-hand man Dick Cheney in the skit 'Are You Smarter than the President.' The game show pits audience members against the current presidential administration and Hillary Clinton.

Peggy Platt, in all of her hilarious glory, is reminiscent of a female Chris Farley. Her impersonation of Dick Cheney is almost a recreation of Farley's motivational speaker character Matt Foley. Koch's characters are a bit more mellowed and her ballad "I'm a Middle-aged Woman" is sure to make anyone laugh, even if they haven't experienced menopause.

The show works like a late-night sketch comedy show and it gives audience members a chance to sit back, relax and enjoy a very silly night. So leave your high brow expectations at the door and come prepared to laugh.

Performances: "Dos Fallopia: Desperate Spuddwives" closed Aug. 26, 2007.

August 8, 2007

Welcome to the Monkey House


Eight stories woven into one show. Seven cast members, each taking on a handful of characters. It all adds up to a wonderful night at the theater and a bittersweet way to honor the death of an incredibly gifted man.

ShadowApe Theatre Company is an Indianapolis based theater company that offers a new show each year. This year's selection is "Welcome to the Monkey House," an original adaptation of some short stories by Kurt Vonnegut. The production was created by ShadowApe as part of Indianapolis' "Year of Vonnegut." It is currently at the Indianapolis Repertory Theatre; where many of ShadowApe's members are regular performers.

The second patrons enter the theater they see a stage set with a simple blue sky background. Suspended in that sea of clouds are ten shelves covered with books and audience members know they've entered one of Vonnegut's Twilight Zone universes.

The show would not work so flawlessly without its talented cast. The four man and three woman cast works together like a well-oiled machine. No one steals the spotlight from another, instead they each shine brilliantly in their own right.

The show contains, among other things, a love story, a human game of chess, and the birth of a child. The element that shines through all of these stories is Vonnegut's distinct voice and rare ability to critic society while at the same time rejoicing in the simple beauty of life. Therein lies the immortal genius that will continue to entice new generations of readers to his work despite his death this year.

Vonnegut's dry, satiric style will be missed by all who loved his work, but productions like this will continue to keep his voice alive.

Performances: "Welcome to the Monkey House" closed Aug. 19, 2007.

July 11, 2007

Beyond the Rainbow

Judy Garland is an iconic figure. She's revered as one of the most talented performers of all time. Countless scores of people have seen and cherished her performances in films like 'The Wizard of Oz' and 'A Star is Born.' But for anyone curious about what lay behind the Garland's beautiful music 'Beyond the Rainbow' is a must see. 

Actors Theatre of Indiana's latest show 'Beyond the Rainbow' recreates Judy Garland's famous 1961 concert at Carnegie Hall. The production includes three separate Judys, the youngest played by Kennedy Martin, the 38-year-old Garland singing at Carnegie, and a third who plays Garland from her teens through her early 30s. Each of the three actresses help shape the whole picture of Garland's troubled life.

Jody Briskey plays the eldest Garland. Briskey originated the role for 'Beyond the Rainbow' in 2005 and has performed it at many venues in the U.S. Briskey nails each wobbly pitch in Garland well-known style, mimicking the mannerisms of Garland in her later days. She seems to channel Garland's tremulous voice as she belts out famous songs like 'Stormy Weather' and 'Swanee.'

The show revolves around the concert, but Garland's haunting memories of her life unfold on the stage while Briskey performs. The oldest Garland provides the soundtrack to her own life as she sees the painful steps that brought her to that famous Carnegie performance. Her childhood and rise to fame were built upon the unstable foundation of pressure, pills and the constant criticism of the public's eye.

Katy Gentry does an amazing job as she takes on the role of the middle Garland, covering around 20s years of the performers' life. Along with outstanding vocals during each song, Gentry manages to capture Garland's tone of voice and vulnerability. Gentry begins as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed novice and slowly becomes into a jaded addict overcome with loneliness and the pressure of pleasing everyone. Yet throughout the transformation Gentry never loses the sweet optimism and eternal trust that Garland seemed to always have.

The cast of supporting characters each took on several roles. The played the parents, spouses, friends and critics in Garland's life. Their collective talent sets the stage for all three Garlands to shine.

Garland's legacy will never be forgotten. Even at her most troubled moments she was still undeniably talented. She exuded a quality that drew people to her and it's that same quality that will attract audiences to this gem of a show. Whether you want to know more about Garland or you just want to enjoy a concert of her signature songs, 'Beyond the Rainbow' shouldn't be missed.

June 28, 2007

The Little Dog Laughed


Rarely do we Hoosiers get a chance to see something fresh from Broadway. New plays tend to make their way from the New York stage across the country slowly. They typically trickle through a dozen other states before making their way to Indianapolis.

'The Little Dog Laughed' is an exception to this trend. It's now on stage at the Phoenix Theatre, it's very first show since Broadway. The play premiered on Broadway in 2006 and was nominated for the 2007 Best Play Tony award. That being said the show is definitely not for everyone. Accolades aside the show has very adult themes and contains some nudity.

The comedy gives the audience and glimpse into the life of a Hollywood movie star who is a closeted homosexual. Mitchell Green, excellently played by Michael Shelton, has a career dependent on his ability to appeal to women, as his agent Diane so frequently reminds him. His story is a fictional representation of the many stars that have dealt with the same dilemma, including 1950s screen heartthrob Rock Hudson.

The character of Green's agent Diane, a role that just earned Julie White the 2007 Tony award for Best Actress in a play, is the best part of the show. Megan McKinney plays the fast talking, no nonsense agent with the perfect balance of sincerity and unfettered ambition.

Her dialogue is peppered with Karen Walker-style insults (from Will & Grace) and her killer one liners leave audiences guffawing with their stinging humor.

She's the puppet master of the show and she wears her power suits with a confidence that leaves her enemies and rivals shaking in their Manolo Blahniks and Armani suits. The woman has a heart, but you won't find it anywhere near her sleeve.
Ellen, played by Joanne Dubach, is a little easier to read, but just as tough. The young woman is inadvertently caught up in the movie star's drama and struggles to find her footing as her world begins to crumble.

Chris Roe, in the role of Ellen's boyfriend Alex, catches Green's eye and in doing so knocks over the first domino in a series of complications. His sweet demeanor and childlike enthusiasm are infectious and the audience can't help but hope he ends up happy.

The four person cast works well together, each one adding a bit of humor and a lot of heart.
For experimental theater goers looking for something new and different this show is perfect. It's a taste of Broadway dumped in the Midwest. So if you've always wanted to know what the hype is all about for those New York stages make sure you check this out.

Performances: "The Little Dog Laughed" closed July 22, 2007.

June 13, 2007

Arsenic and Old Lace

Arsenic and Old Lace is on stage at Center Stage Community Theatre (CSCT) in Lebanon. Many may remember the story from the classic 1944 Cary Grant film of the same name. The story follows the Brewster family through one confusing night of mayhem.
Mortimer Brewster has just decided to marry his sweetheart, Elaine Harper, when he discovers his sweet elderly aunts, Abby and Martha, have been committing murders is their doily dotted home.

In addition to that shock Mortimer's evil brother Jonathon has returned home after years abroad to further disrupt the Brewsters' lives. Mortimer's other brother, Teddy, adds to the madness as he charges through the house convinced he is Teddy Roosevelt and is overseeing the construction of the Panama Canal.

Mortimer sums up the crazy atmosphere of the Brewsters' home with one hilarious quip, "Insanity runs in my family, in fact it practically gallops."

While Teddy chats with nonexistent dignitaries and Jonathon plots everyone's demise, Mortimer tries to keep his new finacee out of the mix and find a solution to his many quandaries. Mortimer is played by Dave Eckard and Beth Neilson plays Elaine Harper. Both Eckard and Neilson are returning to CSCT after their performances in the theater's last show, 'The Boys Next Door.' The pair work well together and serve as sane buoys in a sea of deranged relatives.

Kae Campbell and Sally Dunlap star as a couple of those crazies, Abby and Martha Brewster respectively. The duo are sugar and spice and everything nice, plus a dollop of arsenic and a pinch of strychnine for good measure. At their home feel free to enjoy a home cooked meal, just don't ask for anything to drink.

The set works perfectly for the show, allowing actors to head upstairs, to the basement or to climb in through windows, despite the size of the stage.

The Center Stage Community Theatre is a testament to the importance of live theater in every community. We're lucky to have a dedicated theater troupe in Lebanon. I encourage everyone to enjoy each new show they offer if you get a chance.

Performances: "Arsenic and Old Lace" closed June 17, 2007.

June 6, 2007

Fat Pig


The Phoenix Theatre's current production, 'Fat Pig,' is sure to spark conversation for audience members.

The show revolves around Tom, played by Douglas Johnson. Tom is pretty average, good worker, nice guy. Then he finds himself unexpectedly falling in love with Helen ... a plus size woman.

All of a sudden Tom's simple life becomes complicated. His catty ex-girlfriend Jeannie, who is racked with her own self esteem issues, is incredulous. His coworker Carter, a shallow, foul-mouthed jerk, harasses Tom about Helen's size. Although Tom is clearly at his most relaxed and happy when he is with Helen he isn't sure how to cope with the pressure of social "norms."

It's almost painful to watch Tom struggle with the issue. Between Jeannie's bitter insecure tirades and Carter's obnoxious putdowns the audience can really feel Tom's pain.

The play is written by Neil LaBute, who also wrote 'The Shape of Things' a play which similarly probed the issue of physical appearance and its importance in our society. His reflections on the impact that social standards have on an individuals' happiness is fascinating. This production is filled with adult themes and language, so don't take the kids.

The show deals with an incredibly delicate issue. Through the honest writing and the work of a talented cast it manages to infuse a little humor and a lot of heart into the show. And long after the final bow has been taken you're sure to be thinking about Tom's story.

Performances: "Fat Pig" closed June 10, 2007.

May 2, 2007

And Her Hair Went With Her


The always original Phoenix Theatre is currently hosting the world premiere of 'And her hair went with her.' The play is written by Zina Camblin who stars, along with Milicent Wright, in the production.

The show focuses on two women who work in a beauty salon. Camblin is Angie, an intellectual single mother in her 20s who hopes to change the world. Jasmine, played by Wright, is in her 50s and has become more settled in her views of others and goals for herself.

The pair work side by side and though they spar and bicker about their differing opinions they have become true friends. Their love for Nina Simone and excitement about her upcoming concert is another thread which bonds them together.

Camblin and Wright are the only two actors in the show. They each play four characters, changing from role to role with the switch of a wig. The ladies play a slew of customers that breeze in and out of the beauty shop for new hairdos.

Each of the women have their own eccentric qualities. The funniest of which is Keisha, a self proclaimed "B.O.C." (black obsessive compulsive) who hilariously recounts her close calls with sneezes on public transportation and the germ filled fast food joints in her neighborhood.

Other characters include a wannabe actress, a woman who has bad luck finding a job and worse luck keeping one and a slightly schizophrenic elderly woman.

Wright also plays Phylicia, a woman who was convicted of murder. Angie has been visiting her in prison to interview her for a book she is attempting to write. The interplay between the two is intense as they both find an unexpected friend in the other.

There show is best suited for adults because there is some language. It has many light moments as the two main characters tease each other and laugh about their interesting customers, but at its heart it's a reflection on African American woman and their identities.

It looks at where they have been, where they are going and how they relate to one another along the way.

Performances: "And her hair went with her" closed May 25, 2007