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.