February 28, 2012

August: Osage County

The Pulitzer-Prize-winning play, August: Osage County is on stage now at the Phoenix Theatre. Within the first few moments of the opening rambling monologue, you know you’re in for something amazing.

The epic family drama tells the story of the Weston clan, an Oklahoma family with two aging parents and three adult daughters. The group is full of charismatic individuals and peculiar introverts, all of whom are broken for one reason or another. When the family’s patriarch goes missing they all return home to help sort it out.

The audience is tossed right into the midst of these relationships with no preamble, but none is needed. Each antagonizing remark hints at the scores that have come before it. The family dynamics are so true to real life; parents to children, siblings and spouses all struggling to get along. The show reminds us how easy it is to slip back into the childhood roles in our families, no matter how old we are.

As the family spirals out of control, the everyday niceties fall away and the “truth-telling” begins. Life is heavy and messy and people are often at the worst during an emergency.

The set design, by Bernie Killian, is breathtaking. With two-stories and a familiar layout, it looks as though the outer wall has just been removed, giving audience a glimpse into a house that’s been there for decades. Everything, from the bookshelves to the paintings completes the illusion.

In addition to the flawless writing and excellent set, the cast knocks it out of the park. The 13 players each bring a new dimension to the show, slipping into the hostile household and getting caught in the fray. From the condescending know-it-all Aunt Mattie Fae, to the quiet, long-suffering daughter Ivy, there isn’t a weak link in the production. It’s difficult to make each person memorable in a cast that large, but between their talent and Bryan Fonseca’s skilled direction, they do it with ease.

Though the plot follows a few days in the lives of the whole family, one daughter, Barbara, is really its central focuses. As her life is falls apart, she struggles to find her footing. Diane Kondrat’s tour de force performance as Barbara is mesmerizing. She is controlled and sarcastic one moment and overwhelmed by grief in the next.

Martha Jacobs’ performance as Violet, the pill-popping matriarch is also astonishing. She oscillates from a gibbering addict to a nagging mother, bringing others to their knees with her cruel barbs.

The 3 and a half hour show has two intermissions, but despite its length, the scenes just fly by. This isn’t a family show, language isn’t appropriate for kids, but it’s a must for adults.

Do yourself a favor and make sure you see this one before the 2013 film (starring Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep) is released. The energy of the production can’t be reproduced on the silver screen and the Phoenix’ stage is just humming with it right now.

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 March 11 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. 

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

Photos Courtesy of the Phoenix Theatre

February 20, 2012

Legally Blonde

I’m the first to admit that sororities and their constant cries of OMG tend to annoy me, but Legally Blonde manages to poke fun of those sorority clich├ęs while also celebrating the bonds of friendship synonymous with the groups. Legally Blonde: The Musical, on stage now at Beef & Boards, adds song and dance to the main premise of the 2001 film of the same name.

Reigning sorority president Elle Woods receives a shock when her long-time boyfriend breaks up with her. On a mission to get him back, Woods gains admission into Harvard Law School to prove she’s smart and serious. Along the way she learns a bit more about what she’s really capable of doing.

Maggie Taylor stars as Elle. She’s the embodiment of all things blonde, but she also conveys a sweet sincerity that balances things out. Dominic Sheahan-Stahl is back at B&B as her new friend Emmett and Indiana Repertory Theatre performer Mark Goetzinger (Professor Callahan) is always a treat

During the performance I attended there were a few sound issues and two separate scene malfunctions, but the performers took it all in stride and never paused for a second. The two live dogs featured in the show upped the cuteness factor, especially Rufus.

The show is undeniably entertaining. It’s frivolous fun and the key is to enjoying it is to embrace the intentional ditziness. It’s not a great one for kids unless you’re up for explaining the “Gay or European?” question which one song hilariously asks. Instead, grab your girlfriends and let Elle remind you that a woman’s worth depends on much more than one man’s approval.

Don't Miss the Show

The show runs until April 6. 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.

To purchase tickets call (317) 872-9664 between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Prices range from $37 to $60 and include the show, tax, coffee, tea and the buffet. This production offers discounts; call the box office for more details.

Photos Courtesy of Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre