April 22, 2013

Clybourne Park

Sometimes you see a show that just makes your mind hum for days. Clybourne Park, on stage now at the Phoenix Theatre, is one of those rare shows. The Pulitzer-Prize-winning play is a continuation of Lorraine Hansberry's classic “A Raisin in the Sun.” Her play tells the story of an African-American family that has the opportunity to move into all-white neighborhood in a nicer part of town. It was ground-breaking and controversial when it was first published and performed in 1959.

Clybourne Park continues that story; its first act introduces us to Bev and Russ, the white family in the process of selling their home to the family featured in Raisin in the Sun. Bev is a ‘50s housewife overflowing with false cheerfulness. Her husband finds himself withdrawing from society after they tragically lose their son. Their neighbors are in a tizzy when they discover a “colored” family will be moving in and everyone’s true feelings on the subject come out.

The second act picks up 50 years later when the face of the neighborhood is about to change once more. A young white couple is moving into the same house and race takes center stage again. The racism in the first act is horrifying to us now, but the second act asks how much has truly changed? Do people feel differently about racial integration or do many individuals just keep their thoughts to themselves because it’s no longer socially acceptable to voice them? The question is not whether or not there is prejudice; it is how do we deal with the prejudice that surrounds us?

The play, written by Bruce Norris, tackles the tough issue head on. Norris also widened the net of those facing prejudice to include a woman with a disability, a boy with Down Syndrome, a disgraced veteran, a gay man, a temperamental Spaniard, etc. While that may sound heavy-handed it never feels that way. Instead the issue feels universal and is brought up in much the same way it might be around your own dinner table. Racism is not the only bias in our society. The heartbreaking thing is that people often have such ingrained prejudices that they don’t even realize it until they are confronted by someone with a different point of view. Individuals are often alienated from communities instead of being incorporated in purely because they might make someone uncomfortable.

Everyone in the seven-person cast pulls double duty, playing a different character in the first and second act. Ben Tebbe actually takes on three roles. The excellent performances are crucial to the success of the show. In less talented hands the plot could feel preachy instead of relatable. The cast includes Lisa Ermel, Constance Macy, Eric J. Olson, Ben Rose, Bill Simmons, Ben Tebbe, and Dena Toler; not a weak link in the whole group, though Simmons turn as a heartbroken father was my particular favorite.

The set, designed by Bernie Killian, is wonderfully done. During the intermission it is easily transformed from a lovely family home into a run down abandoned house with only a few simple adjustments. The transformation is striking and very smooth.  

The play garnered a visceral reaction from the audience. There were audible gasps and murmurs throughout the show and yet despite its serious subject matter, it provides moments of levity. This is a play that shouldn’t be missed. See the show, join the conversation, be part of the change in your own community.

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 May 5 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 $28. The play has one intermission and includes adult language and issues.

Photos Courtesy of the Phoenix Theatre

April 15, 2013

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Flowers are beginning to bloom and love is in the air. The Indiana Repertory Theatre is closing its season with the classic comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Young lovers’ blossoming relationships run amiss when they cross paths with a forest full of fairies led by the warring King and Queen of the fairies, regally played by Ryan Artzberger and Jennifer Johansen respectively.

This production shows us the well-known story of A Midsummer Night’s Dream seen as a dream of a young boy. I must say that if it is all happening inside his head then he’s got a pretty advance view of romantic drama. It’s a unique twist on the play, and garnered easy laughs from the audience. The show embraces the silliness of the situation with physical comedy and features a Puck that is a bit more goofy than clever, but it works as seen through the eyes of a child.  

Nick Bottom, played by Henry Woronicz, is the perfect fool. His inflated sense of his own talent makes his transformation into an ass (literally) an easy one. Woronicz is wonderful in the role, especially in the play-within-the-play, a staging of Pyramus and Thisbe’s romance for the Duke and his new wife. The goofy play entertains the audience with its cast’s hilarious lack of talent.

Using the original language, as any great Shakespearean production should, the show remains playful and fun. It’s a full-staging with elaborate fairy costumes (Nan Zabriskie) and fanciful stage design (done by Linda Buchanan), including a huge blooming flower chair for the fairy queen. Three of the confused, young romantics are making their IRT debut in this show. They all swoon with infatuation, trading one love interest for another with a little help from the fairies. Sarah Price as the neglected Helena was spot on and we will hopefully be seeing more of her in the future.  

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the perfect way to close the season. It’s playful and fun, full of fairies, songs, and quick witty banter. It’s great for families, providing an accessible introduction to Shakespeare for kids or a farcical entertaining night out for adults.

Don't Miss the Show

The Indiana Repertory Theatre is located at 140 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, one-half block west of the Circle Center Mall between northbound Illinois St. and southbound Capitol Ave. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream" runs until Sunday, May 12 on IRT's Main Stage. Times for performances can be found at www.irtlive.com or by calling the IRT box office at (317) 635-5252. To purchase tickets call (317) 635-5252 or order online at www.irtlive.com

Photos Courtesy of Zach Rosing.

April 8, 2013

IRT Announces 2013/2014 Season

The Indiana Repertory Theatre has announced its season for 2013/2014. There is a great mix of shows. To buy tickets or find out more information visit their site here.

The Crucible – SEPTEMBER 17 - OCTOBER 13
It's the American classic of fear and unchecked accusation. Written as an allegory of early 50s McCarthyism, Miller’s dramatization of the Salem witch trials of 1692 has continued to resonate with generations since.

An Iliad – OCTOBER 16 - NOVEMBER 16
Homer’s saga of the Trojan War brought to life by a lone poet telling tales of human loss and folly, connecting it to our era with searing images and words of wars and bloodshed.

A Christmas Carol – NOVEMBER 16 - DECEMBER 24
The beloved classic returns.

And Then They Came for Me  – JANUARY 17 - FEBRUARY 23
Eva Schloss and Ed Silverberg, friends of Anne Frank, were caught up in the nightmare of the Holocaust but lived to tell of lives spent in hiding and the horrors of the concentration camps. James Still's most-produced play combines video and live performance to bring history to life.

Kurt Vonnegut’s Who am I this Time? – JANUARY 28 - FEBRUARY 23
Some of Vonnegut’s most endearing characters take us on a journey searching for love and identity. Stories taken from his first collection, Welcome to the Monkey House.

Other Desert Cities – MARCH 12 - APRIL 6
When Brooke Wyeth, a once promising novelist, announces she is about to publish a memoir focusing on a devastating moment in her family’s history, a Palm Spring holiday reunion is thrown into turmoil as the family struggles to come to terms with the past.

The Mountaintop  – APRIL 2 - 27
April, 3rd 1968--After delivering his magnificent and memorable I’ve Been to the Mountaintop speech, an exhausted and defeated Dr. Martin Luther King retires to Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel where he encounters a mysterious and spirited stranger.

The Game’s Afoot  – APRIL 17 - MAY 18
Acclaimed Broadway actor of the 1930s, William Gillette, invites his Sherlock Holmes co-stars to his eccentric Connecticut mansion for a Christmas Eve celebration. When one of the guests is murdered, Gillette employs the persona of the master detective he’s made famous on the stage. The danger and hilarity are non-stop in this glittering whodunit.

April 3, 2013

American Idiot

American Idiot, based on the Green Day album of the same name, bursts onto the stage with a flurry of lights and blasting guitars. Sex, drugs and rock and roll, this show has all three in spades. If that trio is not your cup of tea then this one probably isn’t for you.

The plot revolves around three friends who find their lives pulling them in very different directions. The musical, a flurry of angst and head-banging with no intermission, is packed with discontent 20-somethings pretending to be tougher than they are. The set is a dirty warehouse with movable scaffolding and a live band on the stage. The back wall is covered with three dozen television screens.  

The females in the cast, especially Kennedy Caughell and Alyssa DiPalma, are incredibly talented and almost underutilized. They shine in numbers like “Dearly Beloved” and “21 Guns” and then fade to the background as we focus in on the guys’ issues.  

The production is incredibly dependant upon gimmicks. From a Peter Pan-style number with actors flying through the air to the televised song lyrics being broadcast across the whole back wall of the set; the results is interesting but often unnecessary. The show is full of energy but its strength lies in its quieter numbers. “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and “Wake Me Up When September Ends” held the audience captive. Where the gimmicks work the result is memorable. In one scene the rubber tubing used to shoot heroine is used to create a strange ballet.

Though the show could have benefited from a simpler approach, rock operas are over-the-top by nature and embrace their tendency towards sensory overload. If you wouldn’t be at home at a Green Day concert then this show should be a pass for you, but if you would then get ready for a rocking good time. Adult language and themes make this an adult only show.

Don't Miss the Show

The show runs until Sunday, April 7 at Clowes Memorial Hall so hurry to get tickets to the show. Tickets can be purchased at Clowes Memorial Hall, The Murat Theatre, by calling (800)-982-2787 or online at www.broadwayacrossamerica.com. 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

April 1, 2013

Menopause The Musical

Menopause the Musical is exactly what one might expect. The Beef & Boards debut is a cheeky, fun look at “The Change” set to song. Any woman who can identify with the experience is sure to love the show.

Four very different women cross paths in Bloomingdales department store. Despite their differences they have an automatic sense of camaraderie because of the one thing they have in common: menopause! Unlike most Beef & Boards shows, there is no intermission. The musical is a brisk 90 minutes. 

The songs are parodies of familiar classics from the 1960s. The songs poke fun at the systems of menopause. From the night sweats to hot flashes, memory loss to mood swings, the reworded versions of “California Girls” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” are a playful look at the challenges of Menopause.

The set has art deco-style dressing room doors lining the back, allowing for quick entrances and exits. Over the course of one day in the mall the women commiserate and encourage each other to make it through each new obstacle.

Tiffanie Bridges is the Professional Woman. Her powerful voice and candid demeanor are perfect for the role. The rest of the cast includes Judy Bridgewater as a naive Iowa Housewife, the aging Soap Star is played by Rebecca Fisher and the hippie Earth Mother is Dee Etta Rowe.

This might not be every guy’s dream show, but grab your mom or your gal pals and enjoy a girls’ night out. Up next on the Beef & Boards stage is the family-friendly musical, The Sound of Music opening May 16, 2013.

Don't Miss the Show

Performances: The show runs until May 12. 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 $37.50 to $62.50 and include the show, tax, coffee, tea and the buffet. 

Photos Courtesy of Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre