“Peter Pan” at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre


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I belong to the generation of Americans who were treated, as children, to a very extraordinary television event in 1955, ’56 and ’60 – Mary Martin in “Peter Pan”! For me, it was quite a memorable occasion – I loved the fantastic story, I believed I would very much like to fly, and I might say that I became a fledgling performer due to the show’s wonderful songs – “I Won’t Grow Up”, “I’m Flying'” and  “I Gotta Crow” – which I executed regularly for a time after the show had run. It left me with a great appreciation of the show, which I found was vividly renewed by attending B&B’s outstanding current production of Peter Pan.

Choreographer Ron Morgan and Director Eddie Curry have recreated all the fun and magic and memory of the original – and the result is a well-chosen selection for the “family show” offering in B&B’s 2015 season. The audience was filled with plenty of little new-believers – and the cast and technical crew provided plenty of inspired portrayals and effects to suit their fascination. (On Tinker Bell’s first appearance – as her greenly lit embodiment flitted about onstage – a sweet young voice exclaimed out loud – “WHAT is THAT?” – to everyone’s delight.)

Peter Pan (Phebe Taylor) teaches the Darling children (Kennedy Martin, Holland Barnes and Ethan Gold) that they can fly in B&B’s “Peter Pan”.

The role of Peter Pan is filled by B&B newcomer Phebe Taylor. She makes an excellent Pan – full of energy, strongly voiced, fittingly able to do all of Peter’s flying tricks and attitudes; Ms. Taylor always has just the right way about her to help us believe. The three Darling children, led by talented B&B regular Kennedy Martin as Wendy, all do first-rate work. Ethan Gold is solid as John Darling and first grader Holland Barnes does himself proud as little Michael. Suzanne Stark gives her lovely singing voice to us as their mother, Mrs. Darling.
Captain Hook (Jeff Stockberger) and his crew (Clockwise from bottom: Darrin Murrell, A.J. Morrison, Doug King, John Vessels and Michael Davis)

Captain Hook (Jeff Stockberger) and his crew (Clockwise from bottom: Darrin Murrell, A.J. Morrison, Doug King, John Vessels and Michael Davis)

Of course there are also Lost Boys, Pirates and Indians to contend with. Simon Barnes, Eric Best, Colin McCabe, William Main, Miles Morey, Abraham Rittenhouse, Danny Staton and Samuel McKanney cavort as the troupe of Pan’s motherless boys. As Pirates, Michael Davis, Doug King, John Vessels and A.J. Morrison drip with amusing evil – led by the rubber-faced Darrin Murrell as a lively Mr. Smee. Dancers Allyson Hankins, Danielle Carnagua, Alexandra Young and Amanda Lehman provide the Indian roles – skillfully led by the very talented Sally Scharbrough as Tiger Lily.  

The one and only Jeff Stockberger takes the role of Captain Hook, a part I believe he was born to play. Stockberger provides a maximized performance as the ridiculous, droll, ludicrous and whimsical sea-farer. He has us in his pocket from his first entrance, and seems to get better and funnier as the show progresses.

Tiger Lily (Sally Scharbrough), center, cautions her band of Indians to be quiet in B&B’s production of “Peter Pan”.

Musical Director Terry Woods leads his smartly compact B&B band through their paces, and costumes by Jill Kelly are colorful and appropriate. The action is played on Michael Layton’s fine set design, with lights by Ryan Koharchik that add to the magic. And Troy Trinkle’s aerial apparatus and technical instruction give us the thrill of seeing the players fly around the stage.

Peter Pan (Phebe Taylor), right, teaches the Lost Boys a “lesson” by declaring “I Won’t Grow Up” in B&B’s production of “Peter Pan”

Bottom line: Beef and Boards’ Peter Pan is pure fun. Though the show is certainly geared toward a young audience, there is plenty to please all family members and no one goes away with anything except a feeling of having been magically entertained.
Phebe Taylor as Peter Pan

Phebe Taylor as Peter Pan

Peter Pan continues through July 3rd. You can find out more about the schedule and reserve your tickets by calling the Box Office at (317) 872-9664, or by going to the website at http://www.beefandboards.com.

* – Photos by Julie Curry

“Xanadu” at Actors Theatre of Indiana

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Some of you might remember the movie Xanadu, which appeared in 1980 and was almost universally panned by critics as a flop. I saw it and recall it as being perhaps one of the worst musical films ever made. It certainly shortened the film career of star Olivia Newton-John and is credited with being an inspiration for the Golden Raspberry Awards (the “Razzies”) which annually commemorate “the worst that Hollywood has to offer”.

Luckily for us, this legacy of awfulness is not what ATI’s season closing production by the same name is all about, merely what it is based on. Xanadu the Broadway musical is, in fact, a send-up of that unremarkable film. Amazingly, the writing team of Douglas Carter Bean and Christopher Ashley were inspired to take another look at that failed effort and rework it in a spoofish vein. The resulting production opened on Broadway in 2007 and garnered more than a few Tony and Drama Desk nominations.

Jenny Reber and Dominic Sheahan-Stahl star  as Clio/Kira and Sonny Malone in ATI's "Xanadu"

Jenny Reber and Dominic Sheahan-Stahl star as Clio/Kira and Sonny Malone in ATI’s “Xanadu”

The altered story still concerns an uninspired artist, Sonny Malone – played here by the very talented Dominic Sheahan-Stahl – who is at the end of his creative wits and dismally contemplates his self-demise. Enter the Muse Clio, a daughter of Zeus, on an assignment from Mount Olympus to be Danny’s inspiration. This Muse, portrayed by lovely local actress Jenny Reber, decides to change her name from Clio to Kira, don leg-warmers and roller skates, and take on an Australian accent. The couple’s encounter, their plan to open an all arts encompassing roller disco nightclub, their ultimate love feelings and the conflicting story arc provided by two of Clio’s older Muse sisters, joyfully played by ATI co-founders Cynthia Collins and Judy Fitzgerald, make up the mostly thin plot-line which is saved by a generous sprinkling of production numbers and songs.

DeJuan Jackson, Betsy Norton, Sean Seager, Kellie Spill, Judy Fitzgerald and Jenny Reber appear as Muses and "sisters" in ATI's Xanadu

DeJuan Jackson, Betsy Norton, Sean Seager, Kellie Spill, Judy Fitzgerald and Jenny Reber appear as Muses and “sisters” in ATI’s “Xanadu”

Ably directed by Billy Kimmel, with choreography by Allison Bibicoff, the skilled cast includes Betsy Norton, Kellie Spill, Sean Seager and Dejuan Jackson as the remaining Muse sisters (yes, guys are sisters in the campy framework on this sometimes preposterous satire) and features Paul Nicely in a winning portrayal of Danny Maguire (and Zeus). They spin through a long list of mostly familiar songs. Some of us who lived through (and survived) the disco era are glad to hear again such tunes as “Magic”, “Evil Woman” and “Have You Never Been Mellow”, among others. Though the dancing is sometimes less than precise and “snapping”, I felt the songs were carried out very nicely by the strong voices – especially those of the two leads. Ms. Reber and Sheahan-Stahl are blessed with fantastic vocal talents and the entire ensemble creates some wonderful moments with harmonies and solos. Musical Director Brent Marty assuredly leads his 4 piece combo through the maze of music.

Jenny Reber, Dominic Sheahan-Stahl, Allison Bibicoff, Betsy Norton, DeJuan Jackson, Paul Nicely, Sean Seager and Kellie Spill in a scene from ATI's "Xanadu"

Jenny Reber, Dominic Sheahan-Stahl, Allison Bibicoff, Betsy Norton, DeJuan Jackson, Paul Nicely, Sean Seager and Kellie Spill in a scene from ATI’s “Xanadu”

Of special note is the amazing sound design by Jonathan Parke, whose technical adeptness sets up a variety of interesting vocal special effects and sound cues. Margaret Ozemet’s costumes sparkle and amuse, while Daniel Klinger’s array of hair designs and effects are original and noteworthy. R.B. Marie put together a dynamic light design that enhances the story and Bernie Killian offers a concise set design.

Cynthia Collins and Judy Fitzgerald cavort as Calliope and Melpomene in ATI's "Xanadu"

Cynthia Collins and Judy Fitzgerald cavort as Calliope and Melpomene in ATI’s “Xanadu”

The fact is, the whole idea behind Xanadu is to make fun of such productions – at one point, in the show’s climax, Zeus proclaims from the 1980’s: “Creativity shall remain stymied for decades. The theatre? They’ll just take some stinkeroo movie…throw it onstage and call it a show.” This should never be forgotten while watching this over-the-top depiction of the forgettable film. If you begin to think it is otherwise, you will not only lose the point, you will wonder what ATI was thinking when they listed this show in their season schedule!

ATI’s Xanadu continues through May 17th. You may find information about show dates and times by going to http://www.actorstheatreofindiana.org or by calling the box office at 317.843.3800.


I am pleased to inform you of the upcoming ATI 2015-2016 season which includes The Fantastics (Sept 11-27), The Andrews Brothers (Nov 6-22), Frog and Toad (Dec 11-27), Sweeney Todd (Jan 29-Feb 14), and Unnecessary Farce (April 29-May 15). Season subscriptions go on sale May 8. Call 317.843.3800.

“The Drowsy Chaperone” at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre

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It seems I have a new favorite musical. After seeing Beef and Boards’ production of The Drowsy Chaperone, it cannot be any other way. The show is so unique, so inspired, that my first exposure to it left me searching for accurate words to describe it. But I will try.

To begin with, the show has a rather unusual history. It started in 1997 as a spoof of musicals devised for a bachelor party celebration for Bob Martin and Janet van de Graaf, two Canadian performers. The idea was then adjusted to be a Fringe Festival show in Toronto. Following the Fringe offering, it came to the attention of theatre producer David Mirvish, who put together an enlarged 1999 production for a Toronto theatre – which led to a more fully scaled version in 2001, with subsequent successes in Los Angeles in 2005 and Broadway in 2006. It won Tony Awards for Best Score and Best Book and also won a collection of Drama Desk awards.

David Schmittou plays Man in the Chair in Beef and Boards'

David Schmittou plays Man in the Chair in B&B’s “The Drowsy Chaperone”

The Beef and Boards presentation of the show, under brilliant direction and choreography by Ron Morgan, is top level. David Schmittou, recently seen here in Lend Me a Tenor and The Sound of Music, is absolutely perfect as Man in the Chair, our guide for a rather unique stage premise as he shares his infatuation for a recording of a 1920’s musical with us. Schmittou’s uncanny choices for his character’s nebbish and unsure persona are completely wonderful and entertaining. It all seems entirely “in the moment”, which only certifies Schmittou’s consummate stage talents.

Timothy Ford and Laura Douciere team up as soon to be married Bob Martin and Janet Van de Graaff in Beef and Boards'

Timothy Ford and Laura Douciere team up as soon-to-be-married Bob Martin and Janet Van de Graaff in B&B’s “The Drowsy Chaperone”

The “recorded” cast, who spring forth onstage once the record is played, is also very gifted. All have wonderfully strong vocal skills and all have taken well to the burlesque qualities of the script. Laura Douciere, in her B&B debut, takes on the main role as bride-to-be Janet Van de Graaff, who will give up her stage career to marry the dapper Robert Martin, played by Timothy Ford. Their wedding is set to occur at the home of Mrs. Tottendale, portrayed by B&B favorite Suzanne Stark with the aid of her employee, Underling – the always amusing John Vessels. Add in a nervous and threatened producer, Mr. Feldzieg (Douglas E. Stark), a hopeful showgirl, Kitty (Deb Wims), a rather over-blown gigolo named Aldolpho (Alan M-L Wager), the ever drowsy chaperone (B&B newcomer Victoria Weinberg), best-man-to-all George (Ian Frazier), two pastry loving gangsters (Samuel McKanney and Craig Underwood) and Aviatrix Trix (Kendra Lynn Lucas – of O’ Holy Night fame) and you have a rousing, hilarious story setting which pokes fun at it’s own genre – the show-stopping, shoe-tapping musical! There are absolutely no weak links in this incredible cast. The satirical songs and dance numbers are all top-notch, and the fun-filled story line is well executed with just the right touch of spoofishness and parody. And all of this is well supported by the smartly adept ensemble and by Kristy Templet’s amazing 5 piece orchestra. Bright, imaginative costumes by Kurt Alger, on the versatile set design by Michael Layton, complete the picture; and Chef Odell Ward’s fine buffet completes the evening.

Janet Van de Graaff tells how she does not want to Show Off any more in B&B's

Janet Van de Graaff (Laura Douciere) tells how she does not want to Show Off any more in B&B’s “The Drowsy Chaperone”

Bottomline: I am so happy to have seen this much anticipated production – I was totally taken in by the very unique qualities of the book and by the highly talented cast. If you are unfamiliar with this show, be sure to give it a chance on your entertainment calendar. I think you will be very pleased that you did!

“Gangsters 1 & 2″ (Samuel McKanney and Craig Underwood) display their talents for producer Mr. Feldzieg (Douglas E. Stark) in B&B’s “The Drowsy Chaperone”

You may have to rush a bit to get on the reservation rolls. This production has a slightly limited time frame – B&B is presenting only 39 shows of The Drowsy Chaperone. The show only runs through May 10, so be sure to call the box office soon at 317-872-9664. You can visit B&B online at http://www.beefandboards.com for more information. Don’t miss this great show!

* – Photos by Julie Curry

“On Golden Pond” at Indiana Repertory Theatre

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Indiana Repertory Theatre closes it’s 2014-15 season with Ernest Thompson’s timeless On Golden Pond on the OneAmerica Main Stage. Since opening on Broadway in 1979, the play has stayed relevant and noteworthy in it’s exploration of aging, family relationships and the importance of places in our lives. IRT’s production infuses all those factors into an offering that is scenically beautiful and strikingly original.

It is very rare that I have seen any play 5 or 6 times, but On Golden Pond is that play. I love it’s tenderness and witty snaps of humor. The play has always seemed to portray things that we all wish for – a long, loving relationship, a beautiful rustic summerplace of relaxation and renewal, even a long life. Surely, my frequent exposure to the work (including my having directed a local production in 1998) has left no surprises in the storyline for me. The pleasure has most often come from watching actors’ portrayals, set designs, and perhaps a nuanced moment here and there. But director Janet Allen’s offering is nothing short of inventive.

Ethel (Darrie Lawrence) and her husband Norman (Robert Elliott) in IRT's "On Golden Pond"

Ethel (Darrie Lawrence) and her husband Norman (Robert Elliott) in IRT’s “On Golden Pond”

Norman and Ethel Thayer, the two elderly main characters, are portrayed here by veteran actors Robert Elliott and Darrie Lawrence. Ms. Lawrence delivers a masterful performance as the steady and sweet Mrs. Thayer, showing the character’s exasperation, as well as her deep love for Norman, with a seemingly effortless aplomb. Elliott’s depiction of Norman is one I have never seen the likes of. Rather than the slow, ironic curmudgeon, he gives us a lively, more energetic man – whose frailties are more in his regressing mind than in his physicality. This Norman’s humor is pointed and his movements are old school nonsense – he is a fun-loving character, who can still “bring it”. He has aches and pains  – and a heart condition – to be sure. But this very original Norman is a 21st century 80 year old, aging but less aged.

Charlie (Charlie Clark), Chelsea (Constance Macy) and Ethel (Darrie Lawrence) enjoy reminiscing in IRT's "On Golden Pond"

Charlie (Charlie Clark), Chelsea (Constance Macy) and Ethel (Darrie Lawrence) enjoy reminiscing in IRT’s “On Golden Pond”

Likewise, Constance Macy’s portrayal of Chelsea, Ethel and Norman’s somewhat estranged daughter, has an freshness to it. Ms. Macy gives a more raw quality to the off-putting situation Chelsea faces – her struggle with Norman. It seems to be a more overwhelming factor in this performance and her anguish is not hidden or restrained. And it works.

Bill Ray Jr. (Griffin Grider) and Bill Ray (Ryan Artzberger) share a moment in IRT's "On Golden Pond"

Bill Ray Jr. (Griffin Grider) and Bill Ray (Ryan Artzberger) share a moment in IRT’s “On Golden Pond”

The smaller roles are well covered by Charlie Clark as mailman Charlie Martin, Ryan Artzberger as Chelsea’s beau Bill Ray, and young Griffin Grider as Bill Ray Jr. Clark has great fun with Charlie – he has established a good balance of funny and sympathetic qualities in his portrayal, which includes a lot of fine comedic moments I have not seen before. Artzberger makes the most of his short time on stage with a well-crafted performance of the uncomfortable Bill Ray. And Griffin Grider does good work as Bill Ray Jr. – a bit less feisty than I have seen in the past, but solid and confident as the young visitor.

All this takes place on Robert M. Koharchik’s wonderfully evocative set, which features a wrap-around view of Golden Pond seen through his imaginative cabin structure. Linda Pisano’s costumes add a comfortable touch, and Betsy Cooprider-Bernstein’s lighting design offers sun and storms with equal effect. Of special note is Richard K. Thomas’ sound design. Using a Carrie Newcomer soundtrack adds many degrees of emotion, and the finishing touches of nature sounds as well as many “off set” realities add much to the production.

Bottomline:  it was a fine pleasure to attend one of my favorite plays, only to see some strikingly original qualities which greatly added to the enjoyment and understanding of this enduring script. Even if you have seen On Golden Pond a few times, this production will delight and satisfy. Director Allen has accomplished much with this production.

On Golden Pond continues at IRT through May 10. You can find out more about scheduled dates and times by going to http://www.irtlive.com or by calling the IRT box office at 317-635-5252.

* – Photos by Zach Rosing

**- Banner artwork by Kyle Ragsdale

“Noises Off” at The Belfry Theatre

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The Belfry Theatre continues it’s 50th anniversary season with a production of Michael Frayn’s very British comic play: Noises Off. As with the rest of the commemorative season, this show is a previously presented offering; it was done here in 1986, directed by Steve Free. The current production is directed by Ron Richards, who had a role in the 1986 version.

Noises Off is a typically broad-humoured (sic) British farce, full of wacky characters, zany situations, extravagant horseplay, and sardines. Presented in three acts, (consisting of a final rehearsal, a backstage view of a mid-run performance and a late-run onstage presentation) we are shown portions of the rather unfortunate run of “Nothing On”, which has been cast with a variously incompetent group of actors and actresses. There is veteran actress Dotty Otley (played by Susan Reardon) who is plagued with forgetfulness; put-upon director Lloyd Dallas (Kelly Keller); a puzzling (puzzled?) actor named Garry Lejeune (Zachariah Buzan); inexperienced ingénue Brooke Ashton (Addison D. Ahrendts); sensitive assistant stage manager Poppy Norton-Taylor (Katie Beckstrom); rather dim-witted and nasally delicate actor Frederick Fellowes (John Parks Whitaker); the cheerful, least encumbered actress Belinda Blair (Brenna Campbell); over-worked stage manager Tim Allgood (Tim Long); and the elder statesman of the group – tippler Selsdon Mowbray (Duane Leatherman).

Director Richards does an exemplary job managing this troubled crew through a web-like set of situations and movements, especially in the extraordinary second act, which presents a back of the set view of the play’s goings on. By this time, the story is a tangle of love triangles, jealousies and physical comeuppances. The entire troupe shines in this display of nearly silent acting chores. It is great fun to see this unusual combination of pantomime and slapstick.

Overall, the cast does a fine job with a truly difficult endeavor. It is evident that this show required a lot of precision from all involved and this was indeed well accomplished. The compliment extends to the remarkable set change crew whose precise work during the act breaks, as they twice turn the well-designed set (by Terry Prentkowski) 180 degrees, is a marvel.

Bottom-line: although British humor, with it’s reliance on irony and a rather dry quality, is not my cup of tea these days – I thought the amazing work of the cast (and their director) is so impressive as to carry me past the farcical plot and it’s nonsensical effect. I had a great time watching the proceedings. Kudos to all involved!

Noises Off continues at The Belfry for two more weekends, with performances scheduled for April 10,11,12,17,18 & 19. Friday and Saturday shows are at 8 pm, while Sunday matinees begin at 2 pm. You can find out more about the show and reservations by going to http://www.belfrytheatre.com or by calling 317.773.1085.

“A Few Good Men” at Buck Creek Players

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Saturday night saw Mrs. K and I make the 30 minute journey down to Acton Rd. for Buck Creek Players’ production of A Few Good Men. The play, by popular television/film writer and playwright Aaron Sorkin, opened on Broadway in 1989 before becoming a 1992 film. The military courtroom drama is based on actual events that took place at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in July 1986.

BCP’s offering features a cast of 18, directed by Melissa DeVito. The resulting production is an entertaining evening of well-designed staging and some fine performances. A Few Good Men is the story of two young Marines, Lance Corporal Howard W. Dawson and PFC Louden Downey (played with exactitude by Michael Johnson and Nic Elizondo, respectively). These two are accused of murdering fellow Marine PFC William Santiago (Austin A. Russell), who has had a troubled time at “Gitmo”. Their actions are, on the face, unintentional, but the pair is infused with a fierce military bearing and they are willing to take any consequences that come their way because they were “doing their duty”.

Lt. Kendrick (Aaron E. Smith), LtCol Jessep (John D. Carver) and Capt. Markinson (Ronan Marra) contemplate their situation in BCP's "A Few Good Men"

Lt. Kendrick (Aaron E. Smith), LtCol. Jessep (John D. Carver) and Capt. Markinson (Ronan Marra) contemplate their situation in BCP’s “A Few Good Men”

Their commanding officer, Lt. Col. Nathan Jessep, (portrayed by veteran actor John D. Carver) seems to be behind a plot to get rid of the troublesome Santiago and works alongside Marine Capt. Matthew A. Markinson (compactly played by Ronan Marra) and Marine Lt. Jonathan Kendrick (in a dynamic portrayal by Aaron E. Smith) to facilitate the plan to do so.

Christopher Dietrick as LtJG. Daniel Kaffee and Mary K. Fischer as LtCmdr. Joanne Galloway satr in BCP's "A Few Good Men"

Christopher Dietrick as LtJG. Daniel Kaffee and Mary K. Fischer as LtCmdr. Joanne Galloway star in BCP’s “A Few Good Men”

Enter the Navy JAG team of Lt. J.G. Daniel Kaffee (Christopher Dietrick), Lt. Cmdr. Joanne Galloway (Mary K. Fischer) and Lt. J.G. Sam Weinberg (given an easy and witty presence by Adam Grandy) – who are assigned to represent the Marines in this case against prosecutor Marine Lt. Jack Ross (played with sharp precision by Jay Hemphill). Sorkin’s excellent writing and story-telling skills make for an engaging arc of events that all lead to the finishing point – which if you do not already know, I will not spoil for you.

This production features many high points. The staging is pleasingly rendered by mostly left and right alternating areas on BCP’s large stage, using lights to define the playing areas and changing the many scenes’ furnishings in a quick and non-distracting way. Director DeVito has gotten an even set of fine performances from her cast – in the smaller roles as well as in the principle ones.

Capt. Markinson (Ronan Marra) advises Lance Cpl. Dawson (Michael Johnson) and PFC Downey (Nic Elizondo) in BCP's "A Few Good Men"

Capt. Markinson (Ronan Marra) advises Lance Cpl. Dawson (Michael Johnson) and PFC Downey (Nic Elizondo) in BCP’s “A Few Good Men”

John D. Carver has crafted a multi-leveled character for his Jessep, with shows of quiet confidence, mixed with a fearsomely commanding presence. You almost like him in the beginning scenes of Carver’s portrayal, but that merely adds contrast to the later scenes’ conditions and reactions.

Ms. Fischer offers a finely finished depiction of Lt. Cmdr. Galloway. She gives us a well-informed performance, knowing and showing exactly what her character is thinking and doing – straightforward and pointedly aimed at her quest to do what is legally right by her two charges – the accused Marines.

Dietrick’s Kaffee starts out very Cruise-like, but luckily finds some of it’s own more original definition in subsequent scenes. Dietrick looks very comfortable on stage. It is my understanding that he is a relative new-comer to theatre, but that does not show in his choices and methods. He does a wonderful job letting us see most of what Kaffee is about and what he is going through, although I would have liked to have seen a bit more intensity at certain times.

Kaffee (Christopher Dietrick) confers with opposing lawyer Lt. Jack Ross (Jay Hemphill) in BCP's "A Few Good Men"

LtJG. Kaffee (Christopher Dietrick) confers with opposing lawyer Lt. Jack Ross (Jay Hemphill) in BCP’s “A Few Good Men”

Speaking of intensity, my feeling is that the only thing that is lacking in this very entertaining production is a story arc that dynamically portrays the increase of tension in the evolving situations and characters. Even Markinson’s endpoint in the play is presented rather matter-of-factly, whereas I consider it to be a very tragic moment. Basically, I think a good deal of the play unfurls as one would read it on a page as opposed to a dramatic rendering. But essentially, I feel this missing aspect is overcome by very good acting and a sharply designed production.

You’ll have to rush to see this worthwhile show. It is on BCP’s calendar for a total of two weeks. After the March 29th matinee, you will only have April 3, 4, and 5 to attend. Evening shows are at 8 pm and Sunday matinees begin at 2:30 pm. Reservations and ticket info is available at the BCP website http://www.buckcreekplayers.com/ or by calling the box office at (317) 862-2270.

* – Photos by Aaron B. Bailey

“What I Learned in Paris” at IRT

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Once again, my friend Adam Crowe stands in as guest reviewer (should I say, staff member Adam Crowe?) for another of IRT’s offerings, which I sadly had to miss:

Many theaters seem to feel pressure to produce what some might think of as “Black” plays in the month of February, in honor of Black History Month. This trend has been a gift and a curse. These theaters have gifted audiences with opportunities to see terrific shows like A Raisin in the Sun, or the brilliant works of August Wilson. On the curse side, it has allowed some theaters to forget the other 11 months of the year.

My mind pondered this and other questions, as I prepared to spend a beautiful Spring afternoon visiting the Atlanta Georgia of 1973, courtesy of Indiana Repertory Theatre’s Indianapolis Premier of Pearl Cleage’s What I Learned In Paris. An African American cast of five brings Cleage’s story of an historic mayoral election to vibrant life. I mention the author’s (and actors’) ethnicity because it ISN’T February, and because the play itself – while clearly grounded in the life experiences of black men and women in the early 1970s – is so wonderfully universal. And FUNNY! Over two Acts, Cleage tells the story of some (fictional) folks orbiting the (real) election of Atlanta’s first African American Mayor, Maynard Jackson. But make no mistake – this is not a play that focuses on politics – unless you count the sexual variety.

Ericka LaVonn and David Alan Anderson star in IRT's "What I Learned in Paris". (Set design by Vickie Smith)

Ericka LaVonn and David Alan Anderson star in IRT’s “What I Learned in Paris”. (Set design by Vickie Smith)

J.P. Madison (David Alan Anderson) is an advisor to the new Mayor, hoping to become Atlanta’s City attorney. His new wife Ann (LeKeisha Randle) and his campaign mates John Nelson (Cedric Mays) and Lena Jefferson (Tracey N. Bonner) are awash in the excitement and historical significance of the moment. Into this mix walks Evie Madison (Erika LaVonn), J.P.’s ex-wife and the center of this glorious rumination on love, marriage, personhood, and pursuit of true happiness. Cleage manages to create characters who are fully accessible, while still definitely products of their place and their time. The Black experience of post-1968 Atlanta is assuredly a “character” in her story, but Cleage makes sure that her human characters are relatable to any audience, with writing that is sharp and lyrical. The cast of actors that bring these people to life is uniformly superb. David Alan Anderson and Tracey N. Bonner, who made up the entire cast of IRT’s production of The Mountaintop, are again terrific here. And Erika LaVonn is mesmerizing as the enchanting Evie – who has returned to Atlanta to share what she learned . . . in Paris and in life!

Tracey N. Bonner and Cedric Mays in a scene from IRT's "What I Learned in Paris".

Tracey N. Bonner and Cedric Mays in a scene from IRT’s “What I Learned in Paris”.

What I Learned In Paris is performed on IRT’s Upperstage – and the space is used beautifully. Director Lou Bellamy’s deft touch carries the lightest (great spit takes) and deepest moments with clarity and true feeling. Matthew LeFebvre’s costumes are terrific – especially Evie’s gorgeous wardrobe. Vickie Smith’s set design is pitch perfect and Don Darnutzer’s lighting goes from unassuming to heart breaking. Todd Mack Reischman’s sound design is equal to the production – using some of the music of the era to perfection.

Erika LaVonn and LaKeisha Randle appear in IRT's "What I Learned in Paris"

Erika LaVonn and LaKeisha Randle appear in IRT’s “What I Learned in Paris”

What I Learned in Paris continues its run through APRIL 12th. You can find out more about the schedule and reserve tickets by calling the Box Office at (317) 635-5252, or by going to the website at http://www.irtlive.com. GET YOUR TICKETS SOON! I really loved this enchanting production!!

* – Photos by Zach Rosing

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