January 25, 2010

Romeo and Juliet

The Indiana Repertory Theatre's Mainstage is currently home to one of the world's most famous love stories, just in time for Valentine's Day. Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" has been breaking audiences' hearts for centuries and this production is no exception.

To give the old story a new twist, the IRT's version of "Romeo and Juliet" is set in the 1940s. The Capulets are African American and Montagues are Caucasian, but when Romeo and Juliet see each other for the first time their love rises above the racial divide.

The production is the IRT debut for many in the cast. There are a few IRT regulars, but many of the leads, including the title duo, are new to the Indy scene. Though I love seeing familiar faces, it's always a treat when a local theater offers audiences a few new performers with a fresh perspective.

The play hinges on the audience believing that the two teens have fallen so completely in love that they literally can't live without each other. The problem is that the chemistry in this show feels forced. The scene in which Romeo and Juliet see each other for the first time is brief and there is little time for them to show any real connection.

Juliet's nurse, played by Karen Aldridge, does a wonderful job. She is at times playful and in the very next scenes she's shaking with rage and grief. I really enjoyed Claire Aubin Fort as Juliet as well. She has a sweet sincerity, but becomes filled with wild desperation as her world spins out of control.

The fact that the IRT is willing to include something from the Bard in its season every year is fantastic. The only true way for students to being introduced to Shakespeare is by seeing his work on stage. Every time I see his work performed it gives me a chances to watch the text come to life and it makes me fall in love with Shakespeare's masterful language all over again.

Don't Miss the Show

Performances: The show runs until Saturday, Feb. 27 on IRT's Mainstage. Times for performances can be found at www.irtlive.com or by calling the IRT box office at (317) 635-5252.

Tickets: To purchase tickets call (317) 635-5252 or order online at www.irtlive.com Prices begin at $29 with discounts available for students.

The Indiana Repertory Theatre is located at 140 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, one-half block west of the Circle Center Mall between northbound Illinois Street and southbound Capitol Avenue.

Photos courtesy of Julie Currie Photography

January 18, 2010

The Housewives of Mannheim

The Phoenix Theatre's first show of 2010 is "The Housewives of Mannheim." Set in Brooklyn in 1944, the play showcases a very different world than the one that we know. It's a world where women are able to spread their wings and experience a bit of freedom for the first time in their lives. With their husbands away fighting World War II, the women are left to find their footing on their own. This provides a paradox for the characters, as they experiment with their freedom they also know that the change is a temporary one.

The play features four women who live in the same apartment complex. There is the prudish and meddlesome Alice, brassy Billie who has a mouth like a sailor, Sophie, a Jewish woman who is new to the building and fresh from the conflict in Europe and May, a young mother with a thirst for knowledge. Sophie's arrival changes the tenuous balance of the women's friendship.

May's kitchen serves as the delicious set. From the cereal boxes to the tiled floor, the design is perfect and it's executed with a flawless attention to detail.

The one problem I had with the play is the fact that it seems to equate a desire to learn or challenge oneself with sexual curiosity. Though May's desire to change something in her own life could be interpreted that way, simply writing her feelings off as only dealing with sexuality seemed to cheapen her undeniable yearning for a life filled with knowledge. When she rejects one, she rejects the entire world of possibilities that only moments before had enthralled her.

The most powerful scenes are the ones featuring the illusive Sophie, played beautifully by Martha Jacobs. The scenes where she connects with May are wonderful. A friendship slowly blossoms between the two women, forcing both to step outside of their comfort zones. The show sticks with you and leaves you wondering about that time period and marveling about how far we have come in the past few decades.

Don't Miss the Show
For more information about the Phoenix Theatre, visit www.phoenixtheatre.org. The theater is located at 749 N. Park Ave., Indianapolis, just off Massachusetts Ave.

Performances: The show runs until Feb. 6 and offers four performances a week. Thursdays begin at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturdays begin at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.

Tickets: To purchase tickets, call (317) 635-PLAY (7529). Prices range from $15 to $20.

Photos Courtesy of the Phoenix Theatre

January 12, 2010

The Foreigner

This year Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre decided to open its 2010 season with an odd comedy. It takes place in a lodge in Georgia where a British man, Charlie, is staying. The lodge's owner, Betty, and its other guests believe that Charlie can't speak any English. Hilarity ensues when they all share their secrets in front of him.

The show is undeniably packed with laughs, but it breaks from the normal vein of comedies because there is a darker undercurrent that runs throughout the entire play. The plot deals with issues of racism and prejudice rooted in ignorance. Also with exploiting a mentally challenged man. At one point a furious group of Ku Klux Klan members show up at the lodge and threaten the lives of the guests.

That being said, the show is also one of the funniest to hit the Beef & Board's stage. Jeff Stockberger plays the "boring" Charlie to perfection. He tones down his usual antics to play this depressed Brit and it works well. As Charlie begins to come out of his shell the slapstick humor is ramped up as well.

Other cast stand outs are Betty, played by Kate Braun and Ty Stover as Charlie's best friend Froggy LeSueur. Betty's sweet-natured sincerity oozes off the stage and the audience can't help but love her; even as she yells comments at Charlie in an effort to get him to understand English. At times Froggy provides a spot-on straight man to the lodge of misfits. He also slides in quiet jokes whenever he's on stage.

The play makes some interesting points about judging people too quickly. It's also a harrowing look at the terror certain people are willing to inflict upon others. It's a comedy, but the meat of the show is no laughing matter.

Don't Miss the Show

Performances: The show runs until Feb. 7. 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.

Tickets: To purchase tickets call (317) 872-9664 between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Prices range from $35 to $58 and include the show, tax, coffee, tea and the buffet.

Photos Courtesy of Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre