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Showing posts from October, 2018

Pipeline

Education and race: there aren't too many issues that are more divisive in our country at the moment. The Indiana Repertory Theatre's current Upperstage production, Pipeline, tackles them both. The 90 minute play keeps a frantic pace as Nya, a public school teacher, finds out her teenage son has gotten into a fight at his private school.  
The show, written by Detroit-native Dominique Morisseau, brings to the stage the debate of public vs. private education and the role race plays in that conversation. In addition to being a playwright, Morisseau was a teacher for years and that experience comes through in her writing. She writes about the struggle from the point of view of both parent and teacher with equal weight.  One of the major strengths of the show is the character of Omari, played with compelling vulnerability by Cole Taylor.  In the hands of a less talented playwright he could easily have been a caricature of an angry young black man. Instead he is complex, emotional, c…

Man of La Mancha

Don Quixote, the infamous errant knight questing to save those in need and fighting windmills because he sees giants in their frames. He is a familiar character to most of us. Man of La Mancha is a classic musical inspired by the Spanish story. Beef & Boards’ current production of the show features Disney royalty in the titular role.
Richard White, famous for providing the voice of Gaston in Disney’s animated Beauty and the Beast, takes on the role. It is absolutely his show, featuring him first as the book’s author, Miguel de Cervantes, and then transforming into the knight. His deep baritone is perfect for the role. His Don Quixote is blundering, but sincere in his delusion and you can’t help but root for him.  The show features a untraditional love story. The elderly knight sees Aldonza, a kitchen maid and prostitute, and decides she is his glorious lady Dulcinea and he will do anything to win her favor. Aldonza is a fiery character full of scorn. Erica Hanrahan-Ball tackles the …

Holmes and Watson

Three men claiming to be Sherlock Holmes are being held in an asylum on an island. The famous detective's trusty sidekick, Dr. Watson, must make his way to the remote isle to identify the true Sherlock. The Indiana Repertory Theatre's season opener is a twisty mystery that keeps you guessing until the final moments. It takes a minute for the show to hit its rhythm, but it's worth settling in to wait and see how the identities are revealed.  
The set is one of the most extraordinary the IRT has created. Its gothic design layers stairs and ledges deep into the stage. There is even an aperture that opens and closes to reveal different characters and gives the audience the feeling of being inside of a camera at times. Kudos to Robert Mark Morgan for its creation.  Each of the three Sherlocks have a unique take on the role. One is classically clever, two is grief-stricken and emotional, and the third is literally catatonic. The seven-person cast keeps the show humming under the d…

Bright Star and the 2018/19 Phoenix Season

The Phoenix Theatre has gone through some huge changes in the past year. In addition to moving into a brand new state-of-the-art theater, it also has a new artistic director, Bill Simmons. With all of that in mind it’s not surprising that the theatre opened its new season with something a bit outside of its normal range. Known for producing plays that tackle tricky issues the theatre doesn’t often do musicals and when it does they tend to be edgy shows like Spring Awakening, American Idiot or Avenue Q.
In contrast, Bright Star is a bluegrass musical with a big heart. Written by banjo-playing renaissance man Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, the show is set in the hills of North Carolina in the 1940s with flashbacks in the 1920s. It is at times playful and at others steeped in nostalgia. There’s a large ensemble cast with a full bluegrass band onstage providing live music. The set is simple, with movable pieces on wheels and straightforward staging. The result is an absolutely delightful …