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.