January 26, 2015

The Giver

Dystopian novels have become common commodities as of late, but “The Giver” was around long before Katniss and Tris made an appearance. “The Giver” tells the story of a perfect world, where no one needs to make decisions because you know exactly what you are supposed to do every day. The Indiana Repertory Theatre, which first produced the play in 2009, has brought it back this month. Although the story remains the same, this is not simply a repeat performance. There’s a new set, new actors in each role, and a new generation of students being introduced to the story.

Courtney Sale’s direction gives the piece an appropriately eerie feel. What seems innocent and friendly at first takes on a sinister atmosphere as we learn more about the rules of their world. Each chime heightens the tension as Jonas begins to question the world around him.

David Alan Anderson’s appearance as The Giver brings a sense of gravity to the show from the moment he steps on stage. As Jonas learns about the true history of his world you can see the weight of the responsibility on Anderson’s face. Even in moments of joy you can see the pain it causes him to have to open the eyes of that innocent boy. 

One of my favorite elements in this production is the set. Designer Robert Mark Morgan uses library card catalogues to demonstrate the filing of generations of memories. Sheets of paper are strung from the ceiling and drawers sit open along the back wall. The three-sided set becomes a library of sorts, made of the endless memories the Giver has kept safe for so long. 

The show is perfectly adapted for a student audience. It moves along at a brisk pace and features young kids in the cast. There are also post-show discussions led by the IRT after each performance. Those are the perfect place for students and adults alike to discuss the thought-provoking ideas raised by the play. 

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. "The Giver" runs until Saturday, Feb. 21 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 the Indiana Repertory Theatre

January 22, 2015

The Illusionists

Let me start by saying I'm not necessarily a fan of magic shows. Having never attended any sort of professional magic show I can't say I was drawn to go see this one. That being said, the Broadway Across America's production “The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible” was one of the most entertaining performances I've been to in a while. The show includes acts by seven different illusionists. Each one goes by a specific moniker: the Inventor, the Warrior, the Escapologist, the Trickster, the Manipulator, the Anti-conjurer, and the Futurist. I was incredibly surprised by the level of showmanship that each one demonstrated.

Vegas veteran Jeff Hobson (the Trickster) and Adam Trent (the Futurist) act as the show’s emcees. They take turns hamming it up with the audience and introducing the other magicians. Both were hilarious and although neither of their magic tricks are mind blowing, their interactions with the audience made the whole show more entertaining.

This elaborate show works because it keeps moving. There's something for everyone, but not everything is for everyone. Some people might prefer the quiet reverie of the Manipulator, while others delight in the gaudy and playful humor of the Trickster. Regardless, you’ll probably find one that suits your taste because they are all so different. The Anti-conjurer, a Marilyn Manson-style artist, is particularly strange, but again no magician takes center stage for too long. Together they showcase all the usual elements of typical "magic" shows, but they do so while embracing and poking fun at stereotypes. 

There’s a lot of comedy worked into the show and the acts hold a lot of variety, which keeps things light. All of the illusionists are talented performers and know exactly how to get the biggest reaction from their audience using their medium of choice. The Warrior does a trick with a bow and arrow and a wedding ring which will make your jaw drop. He reminded me quite a bit of a professional dog trainer, he never speaks but with the slightest movement of his hand we all knew exactly what he needed us to do. The Escapologist recreates the infamous Harry Houdini’s trick with a water torture chamber. Both men built the tension beautifully and you could feel the audience holding its collective breath.

One thing to note, the show relies heavily on audience involvement and people are constantly being called on to help with different tricks. If you’re anywhere near the front of the house, there’s a solid chance you’ll get pulled up on stage. 

Don't Miss the Show 
The show runs until Sunday, Jan. 25 at the Old National Centre (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