January 27, 2014

Defending the Caveman

The differences between the sexes have been a topic of discussion and commiseration since the dawn of time. Defending the Caveman is a long-running one-man show on the subject and it has finally made its way to Indianapolis. The show holds the record as the longest running solo play in Broadway history. In addition, it’s made the rounds in Chicago, Las Vegas, Washington D.C. and more; now Hoosiers have the chance to see Kevin Burke perform firsthand. 
The production opens on what looks like Fred Flintstone’s living room, complete with caveman drawings on the walls. What follows is a string of observational comedy that most couples can relate to. Burke pokes fun at both sexes but never makes it feel like an attack. The playful teasing is paired with admiration as he highlights the things that sometimes make men and women struggle to connect.  
What could be a stale review of well-known clichés about men and women feels fresh because of Burke’s delivery. He is clearly a veteran performer and has been performing this show since 2003, so he’s no newcomer to the material. He interacts with the crowd with ease, pumping them up and getting them laughing early on in the production. The best moments of the show came whenever Burke had impromptu interactions with the crowd. Any one-man show relies heavily on the audience’s reaction and Burke knows how to draw people in.
I don’t think I’m alone when I say that it can be hard to find a show my husband and I both enjoy. This is one of the first shows I’ve seen in a long time that’s actually geared towards men. Grab your spouse or your boyfriend or girlfriend and make it a date. I’d be surprised if you both don’t understand each other a little better by the end of the night.
Don't Miss the Show
Performances: The show is an open-ended run on the Theatre on the Square’s mainstage, 627 Massachusetts Avenue, Indianapolis. Shows begin at 8 pm on Fridays, 5 pm and 8 pm on Saturdays and at 2 pm on Sundays. There is some adult language.
Tickets: Tickets are $30 and may be purchased by calling the box office at 317-685-TOTS (8687) or online at www.TOTS.org
Photos Courtesy of Defending the Caveman

January 20, 2014

And Then They Came for Me

The name Anne Frank is inexorably linked with the Holocaust and immediately brings to mind the tragic story of a young girl lost too soon. The question of who she would have become is left unanswered. In James Still’s play “And Then They Came for Me," he explores the lives of two children who survived, despite all odds. The play is being produced for the third time on the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s Upperstage and is being seen by a new generation of students in dozens of matinée performances.

Eva Geiringer and Ed Silverberg both knew Anne Frank. All three were Jewish children desperately trying to escape the persecution of the Nazi party. Through the portrayal of a small cast of actors and the real footage from filmed interviews with Eva and Ed as seniors, audiences are able to hear their powerful stories. The cast is made up of four young actors and two veteran performers (Mark Goetzinger and Jennifer Johansen) who balance the lively earnestness of the newcomers. The set manages to incorporate elements of barbed wire and train tracks along with large flat screen TVs to broadcast the interviews. It’s a stark atmosphere, perfectly attune to the dire subject matter.

My favorite element of the show is the combination of the interviews and the acting. Still splices them together in a way that showcases the raw emotion of the real individuals and the skilled performers who bring their stories to life. Seeing the survivors tell their own stories and then watching those experiences unfold before you is a powerful experience. It adds a heaviness to a history lesson that we sometimes take for granted. Still makes the horror of their situations resonate by reminding us how foreign the discrimination was at that time. They went from being part of a community to being shunned and hunted in a matter of only a few years.
The Holocaust has lost some of its shock for generations over the years. As we learn about it in history books it’s easy to forget how disturbing it truly was. This play brings that reality home and gives audiences a chance to witness the terror first hand. Showing the events through the eyes of adolescents makes it even more heartbreaking.

 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. "And Then They Came for Me" runs until Saturday, Feb. 15 on IRT's Upperstage. 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

January 13, 2014


Billy, a deaf man, is part of a large opinionated family. They are intellectual snobs ruled by a condescending patriarch, Christopher, and his empathetic wife Ruth. Their three adult children have all moved back home after frustrating turns in their own lives. They bustle about the set, a crowded but cozy home filled to the brim with books and knickknacks, all lost in their own problems.

Billy (Andrew Martin) has spent his whole life surrounded by the angst and chaos of his family. He's become used to a world in which he is a spectator but rarely a participant. Then he meets Sylvia, a lovely young woman on the verge of losing her hearing. He begins to question his role in the world and the way he interacts with others. Billy and Sylvia (Ryan O’Shea) have wonderful chemistry on stage. O’Shea is particularly good as a young woman trying to come to terms with a massive change in her world. She conveys the mixture of anger and frustration in such a sincere way and it's easy to feel her character's pain. 

Stephen Hunt gives a powerful performance as the overwhelming father. He constantly dismissive of his children, tempering every remark with a cruel cut. He antagonizes them and refuses to act civilly all under the guise of honest discussion. He loves to have others agree with him but bristles when anyone expresses a view or interest that differs from his own. He prides himself on his family's hyper-intelligent interactions, but with all his patronizing talk he's blind to his children's struggles.

The power of the play lies in the exploration of communication. In a world where people can hear they seldom actually listen. It's about communication in every sense of the word. The way we interact with family, our partners, and the rest of the world. It's about what we say and what we leave unsaid. As I heard another audience member say after the play ended, "Another great show at the Phoenix!"

In case you have a strong reaction to smoke, there are two moments in the play where cigarettes are smoked. Also, there is adult language throughout the show. The Phoenix is offering Post-Play discussions on the following dates: Thursday, January 23, 2014, Sunday, January 26, 2014, Thursday, February 6, 2014 and Sunday, February 9, 2014. The following performances of Tribes will include an ASL interpreters: Saturday, February 8, 2014 and Sunday, February 9, 2014.

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 February 9 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 $18 to $28. The play has one intermission.

Photos courtesy of Ben Rose.