June 26, 2017

The Golem of Havana

The Golem of Havana is set in the 1950s as the people of Cuba waver on the brink of the revolution. A young Jewish girl named Rebecca is growing up in her father's tailor shop, oblivious to the turmoil around her. She writes stories of a superhero, the golem; the fabled protector she’s grown up hearing stories of from her European mother. When their maid’s son, a rebel fighter, turns up the family must make a decision that will determine their future in this volatile world.  

The premise echoes one that’s repeated too often throughout history. It’s a story of oppression and rebellion, strength in resistance and the tough moral choices that go hand-in-hand. It reminds me of Anne Frank's story and Les Miserables and dozens of others. Persecution is the same no matter what political face it wears. 

Maria, the family’s maid, is played by Teneh B. C. Karimu. She gives a powerful performance as a mother in search her child. Eric Olson, who has already proved his singing chops on the Phoenix stage, excels again as Rebecca's henpecked father.

The original musical provides a chance to see something unique about a piece of history many of us aren't familiar with. A live band performs the music behind a translucent screen above the stage. The production is staged with the entire cast sitting just in the wings and popping up to provide additional voices for musical numbers or even static on the radio.

The staging of the show is simple, a desk or sewing machine acting as the only props in most scenes. There is a multimedia screen that shows pieces of Rebecca’s graphic novel of the golem and that works well to tell that piece of the story. 

The flow of the story never quite clicks into place. A long first act with multiple plot lines seems to drag. The songs may be catchy, but they are sometimes lost as the audience is pulled into World War II flashbacks or the family’s financial troubles. The heart of the story is good, but it misses a few steps along the way to being great.

Don't Miss the Show

For more information about the Phoenix Theatre, visit www.phoenixtheatre.org. The theater is located at 749 N. Park Ave., Indianapolis, just off Massachusetts Ave. 
Performances: The show runs until July 16 and offers four performances a week. Thursdays begin at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturdays begin at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. 
 Tickets: To purchase tickets, call (317) 635-7529 or visit phoenixtheatre.org. Prices range from $22 to $35.

Photos courtesy of Ed Stewart.

June 12, 2017

The Great Bike Race

 And they’re off! The 2014 IndyFringe Festival favorite is back in a full-length format. The Great Bike Race tells the store of the second running of the Tour de France in the most hilarious way possible. It was vicious, with cyclist cheating their way to the finish line, willing to sabotage anyone who crossed their path.

The show is done in a series of vignettes that introduce each of the racers separately. The staging is simple. A screen shows the landscape scrolling by as the bikers pass. Each person holds a set of handlebars to indicate their cycle.

Frankie Bolda plays the 16-year-old contender Henri Cornet with a wide-eyed innocence. He wants a gentlemanly race, but his competitors are set on playing dirty. He’s an ambitious lad with dreams of Parisian girls meeting him at the finish line and Bolda shines with her earnest portrayal.

The main race is between the cut-throat favorites Hippolyte Acoutrier (Paige Scott) and Maurice Garin (Ben Asaykwee). The prideful pair are well cast as the lascivious Garin and pompous Acoutrier. Josh Ramsey has his hands full playing four different characters: a radio announcer, a British man, Italian, and Scot, with the use of only a handful of accents, a removable kilt, and a mustache. Craig Kemp plays Gustave Drioul, the oldest competitor. Though his role is a quiet one, his background antics and quick one-liners provide some of the funniest moments in the show.

The refreshing show is a glass of lemonade (maybe with a shot of vodka thrown in), perfect for summer. It’s short, eccentric, and an utter delight. 
Don't Miss the Show 
Performances: The show runs until June 24 on the Christel DeHaan Main Stage, 627 Massachusetts Avenue, Indianapolis. Due to adult humor, this one’s not for kids.
Tickets: Tickets are $25 Reserved or $20 for Seniors/Students with ID.  Tickets may be purchased by calling the box office at 317-207-0171 or online at tots.org.

Photos Courtesy of Theatre on the Square