October 27, 2014

Red

 
When it comes to art, every person who views it can see something different. Even a simple color can mean a variety of things, stirring memories or emotions that bring on diverse reactions. The Indiana Repertory Theatre’s “Red” is a two-man play that explores the topic of art in all of its forms.  
 
Abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko hires a young man to help in his studio in the 1950s. The two very different men give us two distinct viewpoints of the world of art. We see things through the eyes of the seasoned artist who has already found success. Then we see the point of view of his assistant, who shows joy and enthusiasm for everything around him. The old and the new come to a head as Rothko pushes the novice harder and harder, and the conflict leaves them both raw.
 
 
The performers themselves bring such power to the show with their portrayal of the two men both tortured in their own ways. Henry Woronicz plays the cantankerous Mark Rothko with a delicate balance of gruffness and vulnerability. Rothko is condescending and harsh to his young employee, but he’s just as critical of himself. He’s constantly battling his own doubts and demons. Ken’s (Zach Kenney) eagerness becomes frustration as Rothko challenges his beliefs at every turn.
 
The production uses every available element to tell the story. The lighting plays a crucial role, the music heightens every scene and the dialogue whips back and forth in a frenzy. Each component adds a layer to create the fabric of the show. James Still directs the production, lending a gentle hand to the intense material.
 

Red is a meditation on art. Not just paintings, and visual arts, but music literature and performance art. It's an exploration of art’s purpose. Should it challenge us or is it for pleasure alone? Who decides whether a piece is successful: the critics, the audience, or the artists themselves? Do audiences need to understand the artists’ motive and emotions when creating the work in order to “get” it? The show’s goal is not to answer these questions, but instead to begin the conversation, a goal which it achieves beautifully.
 
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. "Red" runs until November 9 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

October 24, 2014

The Rocky Horror Show

 
“I'm just a sweet transvestite, from Transexual, Transylvania,” if you don’t immediately recognize those lyrics than this probably isn’t the show for you. This cult classic, the basis for the 1975 film, has a strange story. A young couple find themselves stranded when their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. They end up at the home of Dr. Frank-N-Furter and their bizarre night gets even weirder as they meet his devoted crew of miscreants.
 
The elegant Athenaeum theatre is an oddly fitting setting for the musical. The set included a full catwalk and scaffolding that allows the cast to take advantage of the whole stage. There were some occasional audio issues and moments when the music overwhelmed the actors’ voices, but it was a minor issue.
 

Zach Rosing Productions did an excellent job casting actors who were willing to throw themselves full force into the roles. Without their enthusiasm the show could have easily fallen flat, but instead the whole audience caught on to their energy. From the dancing Transylvanians to Scott Keith’s saucy Dr. Frank 'N' Furter, the cast was clearly having a blast. Damon Clevenger’ Riff Raff was spot on in his restrained creepiness and even Logan Moore’s naive Rocky, a role that can sometimes be wooden, was charmingly sweet.
 
The production could have depended heavily on camp alone and still been an incredibly fun show. Instead it combined some great performances and multimedia elements that were incorporated smoothly into the scenes. Magenta, played by Erin Cohenour, and Betsy Norton as Janet both nailed their songs with their powerful voices. Dave Ruark served as the narrator in via pre-filmed clips that worked perfectly because of his dry delivery.
 

Again if you find men in speedos and fishnets offensive, this is it going to be your cup of tea. But if you can embrace the silliness this show is just so much fun. You don’t have to know anything about it in advance to enjoy it. Now who's ready to do the Time Warp this Halloween?

Don't Miss the Show

The show runs until Saturday, Nov. 1 at the Athenaeum Theatre so hurry to get tickets. They can be purchased online at rockyhorrorindy.com or by calling (800) 838-3006. Shows begin at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 24th, 30th, 31st and Nov. 1st. There is also a 10:30 p.m. showing on Friday, Oct. 24 and 31st and on Saturday, Nov. 1st

Photos Courtesy of Zach Rosing.

October 21, 2014

AMERICAN PLAYERS THEATRE: Alcestis and American Buffalo


ALCESTIS
 
Greek tragedy isn’t always at the top of everyone’s must see list, but this beautiful play dips into both the dark and light that every life holds. This production is based on Ted Hughes’ translation of the original play by Euripides. His skill as a poet is clear in each well-crafted line. From the opening scene we learn that Alcestis is dying, she has given her life so that her husband Admetus can live.
 
Alcestis, played by Melisa Pereyra, gives a hallowed-eyed performance as the selfless queen. To carry her to the Underworld is Death, deliciously played by Brian Mani. He’s charming in his chilling condescension.  The play’s second act isn’t as smooth or concise as the first, but it comes full circle by the end. We meander a bit as characters deal with the consequences of Alcestis’ death.
 
 
The play explores the ideas of grieving, sacrifice, and life carrying on despite mourning. In one man’s struggle with his wife’s death we can see mankind’s struggle with our own mortality. There’s one beautiful line from the show that summed it up perfectly, “Their birth-cry is the first cry of the fatally injured."
 
All of this sounds dire, but the story is not without hope. Heracles (the Greek name for Hercules) is a wild, strong force in Admetus’ house of sorrow. He is visiting his friend and despite the depression that’s descended on everyone around him, his passion for life overflows with joyous bursts. His role is a reminder that all life must include the bitter with the sweet. It’s a powerful production.
 

AMERICAN BUFFALO

We open on a cluttered resale shop, empty bottles are strewn about and walls are lined with knick-knacks and antiques. The shop’s owner, Don, is a bear of a man who seems harmless enough. Things don’t really kick into gear until Teach appears. He’s a wiry man who prowls around the shop in a huff shouting obscenities and knocking things over.
 
The stand out element of this show is the performances. In Brian Mani’s skilled hands Don becomes a barely contained volcano of frustration. He controls himself, but you can see the slow-burning anger boiling beneath the surface. James Ridge plays the high-strung Teach, a hard character to like, but when he’s on the stage you can’t look away. He’s a loose cannon, a manic ball of energy that raises the level of tension in the room. Add in the naiveté of Brendan Meyer’s Bobby and the trio balances on the edge of something enthralling.  
 
The show’s playwright, David Mamet, is better known for “Glengarry Glen Ross,” another whirlwind play revolving around money. The difference with American Buffalo was that the plot failed to make me as invested in the outcome. I was caught up in the incredible work of the actors, but the stakes never seemed high enough for the eventual consequences that unfold.
 
 
The American Players Theatre is open until November 9th. Their 2015 season will open in June with a new selection of classic work for audiences to enjoy.

The theater's outdoor seats are comfortable, but definitely bring a jacket, rain parka, blanket, bug spray or sun block depending on the weather. The show will go on even if it's chilly or drizzling. There are easily accessible restrooms and concessions at both the Up-the-Hill Theatre and the Touchstone Theatre (indoor). There are also picnic tables for those who bring lunch or dinner for before a show. 

There are plenty of camping/B&B/cabin/hotel options nearby, depending on your preference. You can find additional information about where to lodge, restaurants and other attractions on APT's website.

For more information about APT and Spring Green, WI visit its website. Spring Green, Wi is only 6.5 hours from Indianapolis and makes a perfect weekend getaway! There are attractions for the entire family in addition to the APT, including the Wisconsin Dells water parks, House on the Rock, Taliesin and a golf resort.

Photos Courtesy of the American Players Theatre.