When audience members enter the Studio Theater in the Carmel Center for the Performing Arts they are transported straight into the Kit Kat Klub in 1930s Berlin. Scantily-clad dancers say willkommen as they point you to your seats and the red lights set the mood. Cabaret is on stage now and the timing couldn’t be better.
Cliff (Eric J. Olson) is a young American author who finds his way into the city in the midst of a perpetual celebration.. He meets Sally Bowles (Cynthia Collins), a whirlwind of flirtatious energy and a singer at the Kit Kat Klub. Despite their drastically different temperaments, the two pair off.
Ben Asaykwee is the infamous Emcee and it’s worth hightailing it to Carmel for his performance alone. He steals every scene he’s in with a raised eyebrow and lascivious grin. His performance is more Alan Cumming and less Joel Grey, but with its own unique feel. Whether he’s teasing the dancers on stage or posing with a pineapple, you can’t look away.
The strength of the show lies in its balance between sexy fun musical numbers and dark social commentary. The sweet courtship between Fraulein Schneider (Debra Babich) and Herr Schultz (Darrin Murrell) gives the harsh reality of prejudice a face. Patrick Vaughn makes a wonderful Ernst Ludwig. He is a faithful friend, bringing home the point that the Nazi party wasn’t full of purely evil people. There were also average people swept up in the rhetoric, truly believing that it was their patriotic duty to support the party, which is even scarier.
The scenes at the Kit Kat Klub are so entertaining; it’s easy to forget that at its heart Cabaret is a political drama. But really that’s the point. You can look the other way and focus on having a good time, but as Cliff puts it, “if you're not against all this, you're for it—or you might as well be.”
Of all the times that I’ve seen Cabaret, this one resonated with me the most. In this midst of this election year, when every television ad is blasting a different candidate, it’s tempting to just look away and try to ignore it. It’s in those moments, when facing the coming storm is the hardest, that’s it’s most crucially important.
Don't Miss the Show
The production contains mature content and themes and is suitable for adults. Actors Theatre of Indiana is located in the Studio Theater at the Center for the Performing Arts, 4 Center Green, Carmel, IN 46032. "Cabaret" runs until Sunday, Nov. 20. Times for performances can be found and ordered here or by calling the box office at (317) 843-3800.
Photos Courtesy of Zach Rosing