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.