April 3, 2017

Miranda and My Fair Lady

Miranda is a CIA operative working in Yemen in the current upperstage production at the Indiana Repertory Theatre. Written by IRT's playwright-in-residence James Still, the show is the third play in a trilogy he created. The first play, The House that Jack Built premiered at the IRT in 2012. The second play, Appoggiatura, is part of the theatre's 2017/18 season. Each play works as a stand alone, but they deal with a single family and a tragedy that has shaped their lives. 

At its heart Miranda is about identity. The titular character is strong-willed and stubborn. The only thing fluid about her is the constant shift in her public persona. She goes by four different names in the short time we have with her. Her identity is shaped by her work and family.When her faith in the identity she's created is shaken, she begins to question everything. 
Jennifer Coombs embodies the broken but brash Miranda. Her layered performance captures the troubled spy's inner turmoil. She shows warmth as she meets with a possible informant, she's antagonistic with her caustic boss, and she's tender on a one-sided phone call with her mother. Mary Beth Fisher was a scene-stealer as both Rose, a charismatic woman from Baton Rouge, and Lauren. 

I am consistently moved by the language in Still's plays. His dialogue flows so smoothly, flipping back and forth with a natural rhythm and pulling you into the story. This show was no exception and there are many lines, like "Remembering the past is easy. Imagining the future takes guts." that stood out. The set was incredibly detailed, including a hand-painted mosaic on the floor and a warm glow from hanging lanterns. Scenic designer Ann Sheffield captured the feel of a Middle Eastern area while keeping things simple. 

Though the show is being promoted as a thriller, it never feels that way to me. Thrillers tend to be plot driven, while "Miranda" feels distinctly character driven. I think it's more accurate to say it's a study of grief and how for some it becomes the driving force of their life. 

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. "Miranda" runs until April 23 on IRT's Upperstage. To purchase tickets or find performance times, call (317) 635-5252 or order online at www.irtlive.com.

Content advisory:
Miranda is a psychological drama that contains strong language, references to sexuality and offstage references to war-like situations.

It has been 20 years since Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre last produced My Fair Lady. The classic musical is back and on stage now until May 14th. It's the story of Eliza Doolittle, a young woman with little money and less class. She becomes the student of a phonetician who is convinced he can turn her into a lady. 

David Schmittou is perfectly cast as Professor Henry Higgins. He's callous and dismissive and completely oblivious to his moments of cruelty. He nails the role of a man full of knowledge, but lacking any empathy. Kimberly Doreen Burns plays Eliza and her voice is captivating in numbers like, "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" and "I Could Have Danced All Night". Eliza's transformation from street urchin to society darling is entertaining to watch. 
One of the absolute highlights of the show is the costume design work by Jimm Halliday. Everything from the tailored men's suits to Eliza's layers of rags is just right, but the day at the Ascot races is on a whole different level. The entire ensemble is decked out in black and white with towering hats and elaborate details. The effect is breathtaking. 

The ending of the show is a problematic. By the time the audience makes it to the final scene it's hard to root for the conclusion we receive. That's an issue with the musical itself, not this production, but it's one that gives you pause.

Don't Miss the Show 
Performances: The show runs until May 14. 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 and the IRT

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