February 27, 2013

Sister Act

Nuns have always had a successful run in musical theater. From The Sound of Music to Nunsense, people have proven they love to see sisters belt out songs on stage. Sister Act is the latest in a long line of Broadway productions to bank on this fact. The movie musical, based on the 1992 film starring Whoopi Goldberg, is on stage now at the Old National (Murat) with Broadway Across America.

The story is about a struggling singer, the girlfriend of a night club owner, who witnesses a murder and must go into hiding. The police decide to hide Deloris in the last place anyone would look, a nunnery. She’s forced to reign in her wild behavior and abide by their rules. She finally finds an outlet for her passion to sing by directing the church’s choir. The story is really secondary to the string of big musical numbers that carry the show.
Hollis Resnik plays Mother Superior and provides a constant stream of acid quips, keeping the audience in stitches. Fans of the movie will recognize all of their favorite characters in this production. Diane J. Findlay’s cranky Mary Lazarus is a crowd favorite. The exuberant Mary Patrick (Florrie Bagel) cheers everyone up and Deloris helps the shy Mary Roberts find her voice.

The best element of the show is its playfulness. It never takes itself too seriously and includes funny numbers like Eddie’s (E. Clayton Cornelious) breakout disco solo “I Could Be That Guy” and Curtis’ ode to assassination in “When I Find My Baby.” The musical is confectionery fluff; fun, entertaining and gone in a moment.

Don't Miss the Show

The show runs until Sunday, March 3 at the Murat Theatre so hurry to get tickets. Tickets can be purchased at Clowes Memorial Hall, The Murat Theatre, by calling (800)-982-2787 or online here. Shows begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday. 

Photos courtesy of Broadway Across America

February 25, 2013

Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper is a mind-bending look at one woman’s struggle with mental illness. The play, a NoExit Performance project produced in association with Q Artistry, was adapted and directed by Ryan Mullins. The world premier of this adaptation is on stage until March 9th.

The ├╝ber creepy story was originally published in 1892 and tells the story of Charlotte, a woman who is staying in the country with her husband in order to quiet the symptoms of her nervous depression (possibly post-partum depression). Her husband’s solution is a forced isolation and avoidance of all intellectual stimulation. He has set her up in a strange room where the walls are covered with ugly yellow wallpaper. As the story progresses she becomes obsessed with it and believe she can see a woman lurking behind the designs in the wallpaper. The longer she remains confined to the room the deeper she descends into her madness, taking the audience along for the ride.

The set is genius. The play requires the audience to see what Charlotte sees, which in this case is moving wallpaper and a woman hiding behind the pattern. This difficult visual is achieved by creating a constricting three-walled room as the set, with one wall backlight as a screen. The over-whelming pattern of the yellow wallpaper fills every corner with its oppressive brown swirls. The eerie, grating music adds to the mood and becomes more disturbing as the play intensifies.

Charlotte is played by the Shelley Duvall-esque Julie Mauro. She is outstanding as a woman trapped within the confines of her own life. She captures the nuances of a woman who has become so trapped in her life that even the sheer number of layers in her daily clothing is restricting. You can almost see her mood lighten with each item she removes when dressing for bed. Since the book was written as a personal diary, it works well to have Charlotte treat the audience as her confidant, breaking the fourth wall and speaking her thoughts directly to them.

Matthew Goodrich plays Charlotte’s husband John. He coddles her, acting out of love but never seeing her as more than a helpless creature. He treats her as a patient and removes her freedom for “her own good.” His frustration with the situation is palpable. Her struggle is dismissed as “nerves” because he can’t comprehend her disease.

It’s terrifying to see how easy it used to be to lock a woman away. The story is often called one of the first pieces of feminist literature. It’s a chilling look at the “treatment” women were often given and the lack of freedom they were permitted in these situations. It’s also just a great scary story, so there’s something for everyone.

The 90 minute show has no intermission, allowing the tension to build with an uninterrupted intensity. It is on stage at the Irvington Lodge, located in the lovely historic neighborhood on Indianapolis’ eastside. The area is a wonderful place to spend an evening. There are plenty of restaurants and shops where you can enjoy a meal or drink before the show.

Don't Miss the Show For more information about NoExit Performances and Q Artistry, visit www.noexitperformance.org. Q Artistry is located at 5515 E Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46219.

Performances: The show runs until March 9 and offers three performances a week; beginning at 8 pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Tickets: To purchase tickets, (317) 258-2255. Prices range from $15 to $20. The play includes adult language and issues.

Image Courtesy of the NoExit.

February 12, 2013

The Fox on the Fairway

The Fox on the Fairway, a fun farcical romp, is on stage now at the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre. The play is about a heated golfing competition between two rival country clubs. The stakes are raised when side bets are made and everything depends on the outcome.

I think farces often work a bit better as period pieces. There is more room for misunderstandings and scandalous situations when there are more taboos. Setting one in present day leaves little room for any true shocks. That doesn’t take away from the humor; it just feels a bit more like a TV sitcom with over-the-top humor and confusion that’s all ironed out by the end of the episode.

Jean Childers-Arnold plays Pamela, a jilted ex-wife and a board member at the country club. Her comedic timing was one of the highlights of the show. She slipped in quick-witted barbs at all the right moments. Dickie Bell (Paul Ellis) and Louise (Melissa Mellinger) battle it out for the role of the loudest one on the stage. I think Bell’s sweaters may have won, but Mellinger’s Fran Drescher-esque whine was a close second.

The show is great for an entertaining night out when you want a quick laugh. There is some mild adult language and themes, so leave the kids at home for this one.

Up next at Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre is the Stephen Sondheim musical Into the Woods beginning April 26.

Don't Miss the Show
Performances: The show closes Feb. 23. Performances begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. The Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre is located at 3 Center Green, Carmel, IN 46032 at the Center for the Performing Arts.

Ticket prices start at $39 and can be purchased by calling (317) 923-4597 or visiting www.civictheatre.org. There are $13 tickets available to students with a valid ID.

Photos courtesy of Zach Rosing

February 4, 2013

Next to Normal

A musical about mental illness sounds like a tough sell, but the Pulitzer-Prize and Tony-Award-winning show Next to Normal makes the subject matter enthralling. The show is about one woman’s struggle with mental health and her fight to find a balance between spinning out of control and complete numbness.

It’s a story so raw and intimate you almost feel like a voyeur watching another person’s personal hell unfold in front of you. The impact of Diana’s breakdowns on her family is startling; every aspect of their life is shaped by her disease. Their loneliness is visceral and you can’t help but feel their pain. The set is unique and jarring; angled screens hang from the ceiling and stark shades of black and white cover ever surface. The world created is a representation of Diana’s life, off-kilter and lacking in all color.

The six-person cast is led by Emily Ristine. She stars as Diana, a woman with bi-polar disorder stemming from a tragedy that happened years before. Her internal struggle is usually kept in check by medication, but occasionally her highs and lows get out of control, tipping the scales in her mental teeter-totter. Ristine was fun and playful in last year’s Avenue Q, but this performance is on a completely different level. She blows the audience away with her heartbreaking portrayal of a woman betrayed by her own mind.

The rest of the production is packed with incredible performances. Charlie Clark plays Diana’s husband Dan, a man grasping at straws to hold his world together. His duet with Ristine in “How Could I Ever Forget?” is one of the best moments in the show. Diana’s son is played by Will Hutcheson with an intensity that’s mesmerizing. He has an impressive vocal range and gives a powerful performance.

It’s hard to explain quite why Next to Normal is as good as it is, but needless to say you should see for yourself.

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. 24 and offers five performances a week. Wednesday and Thursday shows 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 $23 to $33. The play has one intermission and includes adult language and issues.

Photos Courtesy of the Phoenix Theatre