August 15, 2017

Three Sisters

Humans yearn for what we do not have. It is the trademark of our species. We seem to never be satisfied, always longing for more, better, bigger. Though this play is set a century ago in Russia, it could not be more relevant to our current culture.

Three Sisters tells the story of Olga, Masha, and Irina (and to a lesser extent, their brother Andrei). They are trapped in the monotony of country life. There's something so relatable about their constant struggle to get to Moscow. They live dreaming of the glory of the past and longing for the hopeful days of the future. They never embrace the present. Kelsey Brennan is the disenchanted Masha. Her flashes of passion, whether they are caused by love or anger, are beautifully played in contrast to her default attitude of boredom. She is all fire and ice, there is no middle ground.

The only person who sees himself as happy is a classic fool. His refrain of contentment is an empty claim, repeated to convince himself that everything is alright in his world. The rest of the characters are weary and no one seems satisfied with their lot in life. Olga wishes she was married, regardless of passion. Masha wishes she was free. They all long for what they don't have.

The set is one of the most beautiful I've seen at the American Players Theatre. It makes the most of the newly designed space, allowing an open view of the fields behind the stage and incorporating them into the show. William Brown's direction is successful in its simplicity. Three Sisters is a play filled with monologues philosophizing on the purpose of life. Brown keeps the audience focused on the speaker, stripping away distractions.

All of the main cast members' transformations over the course of the play are incredibly well done. Through subtle shifts in the way their hair is done and the colors they wear, they become the embodiment of their exhaustion. The sparks of life that we see in the first scene slowly fade into oblivion as they resign themselves to their fate. Praise goes to costume designer Rachel Anne Healy for her deft orchestration of the change.

BOTTOM LINE: Three Sisters is a melancholy play. It's full of reflection without much action, but in the hands of these talented performers it's impossible to look away.

The American Players Theatre is open until October 22 for its regular season. It just opened the second half of its 2017 season, which includes Three Sisters. Pericles, Prince of Tyre is an obscure Shakespeare show (details below). It’s a rare treat to find a production of that adventurous story. A View from the Bridge is one of Arthur Miller’s famous plays. The intense production at APT is not to be missed. The audience will be on the edge of its collective seat from start to finish as the drama unfolds.
APT will continue to show a rotating selection of eight different plays over the next two months. Currently in the Hill Theatre, William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is playing along with an adaptation of Georges Feydeau’s French farce A Flea in Her Ear, and an adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s swashbuckling romance Cyrano de Bergerac. The 201-seat, indoor Touchstone Theatre is currently offering Yasmina Reza’s The Unexpected Man and Jean Genet’s The Maids.

Further information can be found at APT’s website, Tickets for performances and events can be ordered online, in person at APT or by calling the Box Office at 608-588-2361.

Pericles, Prince of Tyre
By William Shakespeare, directed by Eric Tucker
The most epic of Shakespeare’s late romances, Pericles, Prince of Tyre sails from island to island in search of love and a place to call home. This particular production is like none APT has ever staged. Directed by BEDLAM theater company’s award-winning artistic director Eric Tucker, the ensemble consists of just 10 actors playing in excess of 25 roles. Stripped to its elements, the result is funny, poignant and instantly relatable – even in its more fantastic moments – creating a story that spans oceans, decades and the expanse of the human heart.

A View from the Bridge
By Arthur Miller, directed by Tim Ocel
In Eddie and Beatrice’s humble and hardworking Brooklyn neighborhood, family ties are a fierce point of pride. Case in point, Bea’s orphaned niece, Catherine has lived with them since she was a child and is now ready to make her way in the world, though Eddie seems reluctant to let her grow up. When the couple agrees to take in two of Bea’s cousins, Marco and Rodolpho, Catherine and Rodolpho start spending more time together, fanning Eddie’s hot temper and driving the family to an emotional boiling point. A Greek Tragedy set in 1950s Brooklyn.
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 newly renovated 1,089 seat Hill Theatre and the 201-seat Touchstone Theatre. 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 theRock, Taliesin and a golf resort.

Photos Courtesy of the American Players Theatre.

July 26, 2017

Indy Shakes Presents As You Like It

One of my favorite annual Indy traditions is back this weekend! The Indianapolis Shakespeare Company (formerly Heartland Actors' Repertory Theatre) is presenting As You Like It at White River State Park tomorrow, Friday, and Saturday. The show start at 8 pm, but the pre-show festivities begin at 6 pm. 

Every year the productions are incredible and so much fun. Professional actors take the stage for only three days during this FREE event. There will be food trucks and Sun King Brewery will be serving a special "As You Like It" beer. Don't miss it! Visit their website here for more info.

Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Shakespeare Company 

July 24, 2017

J. Eyre: A New Musical Adaptation

There's something unique happening in Fountain Square right now. In Grove Haus, an old church being used as a performance space, EclecticPond is presenting an original piece, written, composed, and directed by Indiana's own Paige Scott. Viewers of this new interpretation of the classic novel Jane Eyre will fall into two categories. The first will be avid fans of the novel who can't wait to see it come to life on the stage. The second will be people who don't know the story at all or vaguely remember the details from a high school literature class. The great news is that the production is accessible to both groups.

Personally, I fall into the first group, a huge fan of the book who was both nervous and excited to see Scott's creation. I left the show feeling completely enchanted. The beautiful production of Brontë's work brings emotional nuance to pivotal scenes. The cast of seven never leaves the stage, an except for the main two leads, each person plays a rotating selection of characters, filling in bits of narration when needed. The minimalistic approach to staging works well in this show. The simple wooden floors are surrounded on three sides by rows of audience members. Scattered across the floor are handwritten letters and notes between the characters. Even though the stage and costuming is simple, the attention to detail makes it completely effective.
The show is a musical, and the original compositions are beautiful, heightening the emotions in an already dramatic tale. At times it feels repetitive as we return to the same refrains throughout the show, but never enough to be distracting. The music is provided by a single pianist, Jacob Stensberg, on the stage behind the performers. The simplicity of this execution allows for a rawness that matches the overall tone. 

Each of the cast members has to have the musical chops to make the show work and there are no weak links. Special attention should be paid to the two leads. Devan Mathias as Jane Eyre is all innocence and earnestness. Her voice impresses and she wears her heart on her sleeve, her lack of experience in love an enticement to the world-weary Mr. Rochester. Tim Hunt tackles that role and provides a heavy-lidded, moody counter to Mathias' Jane. He's a tortured soul, her opposite in every way except for their need of each other. Their chemistry is electric and and the supporting cast just fans the flames as the two circle each other.

Don’t miss the show

Performances run until July 30th. Tickets are $15. Performances are held at the Grove Haus, 1001 Hosbrook St, Indianapolis, IN 46203. For more information, a complete schedule of the shows or to purchase tickets, visit ETC’s site here

Photos Courtesy of Derek Martin/ Zed Martinez

July 10, 2017

Ring of Fire

The infamous "Man in Black" certainly has the legions of fans that merit a musical about his life, but you don't have to be a big Johnny Cash fan to love Ring of Fire. The show, onstage now at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, walks audiences through his life song by song; starting with his childhood in Arkansas all the way through the Grand Ole Opry days and then his struggle with substance abuse.

The success of the show lies completely in the talent of the cast. While other productions can depend on flashy sets or costumes (though there are no lack of costume changes in this one), Ring of Fire is purely about the music. Each cast member must be able to carry their weight when it comes to singing and playing a wide range of instruments. This cast does not disappoint, with eight strong, though very different, versions of Johnny Cash taking the stage. Each one brings a unique tone and style to the performance.

Featuring Allison Kelly, Tim Drake, Melody Allegra Berger, Brian Gunter, Jill Kelly Howe, Jeremy Sevelovitz, Travis Smith, and Zack Steele, audiences can revel in reverberating bass numbers, wild fiddle solos, sweet ballads, and playful songs. The wide variety in the production is part of the fun. Kelly's performance of "All Over Again" was an absolute highlight, but there were too many others to mention. 

Fans of Smoke on the Mountain will definitely enjoy this one. The cast rotates through pianos, trumpets, guitars, drums, an upright bass, a fiddle, washboards, and even banging on pieces of the set to accompany the songs. The sheer number of instruments is impressive, but the fact that the cast is the one playing them all raises the bar even higher. The end result is an absolute delight and one that shouldn't be missed. Take your tapping toes to Beef & Boards this month! 

Don't Miss the Show

Performances: The show runs until Aug. 13. Doors open for evening performances at 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. The buffet is served from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m. For Wednesday matinees doors open at 11:30 a.m. and the buffet is served from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The show begins at 1 p.m. For Sunday matinees doors open at 12 p.m. and the buffet is served from 12:15 to 1 p.m. The show begins at 1:30 p.m.

Tickets: To purchase tickets call (317) 872-9664 between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Prices range from $42.50 to $67.50 and include the show, tax, coffee, tea and the buffet.

Photos courtesy of Beef & Boards

July 4, 2017

Richard III

From the moment Matt Anderson takes the stage, his seething and scheming Richard III demands your full attention. It's a role that would be easy to over act, but instead Anderson's portrayal is raw and visceral. He has frequently popped up in supporting roles over the years, but this play gives him a chance to stretch his wings and show what he can do. He is mesmerizing as the simpering villain.

Under Glenn Dobbs’ direction, some of the simplest moments are the most powerful. There's a scene where the two ill-fated nephews grasp hands, and that simple gesture conveys so much emotion.  The set is simple, consisting of only a few chairs or benches. The audience surrounds the stage on three sides and the cast makes the most of the intimate space.

Christina Howard’s plays both Lady Anne and Lord Grey, but it’s her performance as the grieving widow that is particularly powerful. She and Allison Clark Reddick (playing Queen Elizabeth) are both beautiful studies of grief and heartbreak. They wear their anguish on their faces as others vie for the crown. 

The show is presented by First Folio Productions and Catalyst Repertory at the IndyFringe Theatre. The collaborative work never suffers from having too many cooks in the kitchen. Instead its message is clear from the start. In addition to maintaining the original language of Shakespeare’s work the production open and closes with scenes set in the 2012 discovery of Richard III’s actual bones in England. Though the play is somewhat fictionalized, it’s based on real people. It's a reminder that history is often more bloody than any fiction we can create.

Though there is only one more weekend left to see this fantastic show, you can still get your Shakespeare fix from these same production groups in October at the Bard Fest. This year's offerings include Cymbeline, Taming of the Shrew, and Macbeth. The festival moves from Carmel to the IndyFringe Theatre for the first time. If Richard III is any indication, it shouldn't be missed. For more information visit the website here.

Don't Miss the Show

The show runs until Sunday, July 9th at the IndyFringe Basile Theatre on Mass Ave so hurry to get tickets. Tickets are $15 Adults/$12 Students & Seniors or $18 at the door. The box office opens one half hour before show commences. For more information about First Folio Productions, visit For more information or to purchase tickets visit the website here.
Photos Courtesy of First Folio Productions