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.

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