“Next to Normal” at CCP

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Carmel Community Theatre concludes it’s 2015-16 season with an excellent choice – Next to Normal, the reflective 2009 Tony and 2010 Pulitzer Prize winning rock musical by Tomm Kitt and Brian Yorkey. This thought-provoking story depicts a mother’s trials with bipolar disorder and explores the effects it has on her family and her future.

CCP’s production is directed by Carlo Nepomuceno, with musical direction by Levi Burke. Both do a remarkable job, especially Nepomuceno, whose staging and emotionally correct leadership of his cast results in a devastatingly effective presentation of a significant study of our human condition. The exceptional cast of 6, all possessing well developed vocal skills – so necessary in a show that is about 95% singing – simply knocks this one out or the park.

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The cast of “Next to Normal”: (from left) Daniel Hellman, Kyle Mottinger, Sharmaine Ruth, Georgeanna Teipen, Russell Watson and Bradley Kieper.

Georgeanna Teipen’s portrayal of Diana Goodman, leads the way in excellence. Ms. Teipen is perfect as the troubled mother, portraying the angst and delusion of her disorders in just the right measure, never wavering from an unsureness that reaches out to the audience. Likewise, Russell Lee Watson, as her husband Dan, comes through with a stirring depiction of the troubles of the faithful and loving spouse of a disordered person – unfailingly patient and hopeful of getting his stable partner back.

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Diana confronts her delusions in a scene from CCP’s “Next to Normal” with (from left) Kyle David Mottinger, Georgeanna Teipen and Bradley Kieper.

Three adroit, young performers – Kyle Mottinger as lost son Gabe, Sharmaine Ruth as much ignored daughter Natalie, and Daniel Hellman as Natalie’s somewhat slacking boyfriend, Henry – add to the talent laden cast. All three have well honed singing skills and handle their various roles in the story arc with clarity and polish. Their talents fill the stage and Hellman’s and Ms. Ruth’s romantic interplay never fails to be believable and on the mark. Mottinger’s nearly ghostlike rendition of the dead son is precisely crafted as antagonistic without being overdone.

Bradley Kieper takes two lesser roles as Dr. Fine and Dr. Madden and makes them memorable merely through the power of his singing. He is an excellent vocalist and makes the most of a rare comic bend in the script.

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A scene from CCP’s “Next to Normal” with (from left) Daniel Hellman, Sharmaine Ruth and Russell Lee Watson.

The set design by Nepomuceno and Bill Fitch is imaginative and utilitarian, costumes “managed” by Pat Dorwin are always correct for mood and character, and the 4 piece band led by Levi Burke is consistently bright and well-toned, although at times a bit more “powerful” than perhaps is necessary as the musicians occasionally overtake the vocals – my only criticism to what is truly an amazing music production.

Bottom-line: Carlos Nepomuceno has once again provided us with an entertaining musical that carries with it a heart-rending story of our frailties and challenges. He (and CCP) is to be congratulated on a presentation that is striking in both it’s wealth of talent and it’s universal message. This community theatre endeavor is much like any professional offering in town. It is a “must-see”.

Carmel Community Player’s Next to Normal continues at their Clay Terrace venue through August 21. To learn information about times and dates visit http://www.carmelplayers.org or call 317.815.9387.

  • – Photos provided by Carlos Nepomuceno

 

 

 

“Church Basement Ladies” at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre fills their mid-summer schedule by pulling out the original edition of the Church Basement Ladies series – last seen on their stage in 2010. This beginning chapter is written by Jim Stowell and Jessica Zuehlke, and directed by Curt Wollan (who directed the very first production of the show in 2005) with choreography by Wendy Short-Hays.

Set in the mid 1960s, we meet the “pillars of the church”: Vivian Snustad, the senior member of the crew, winningly played by Licia Watson; Mavis Gilmerson, the feisty one in the group, done with panache by Karen Pappas; Dawn Trautman as Karin Engelson, the quietly energetic part of the quartet; and Karin’s daughter Signe, who has some different ideas about how things might be better and who is nimbly portrayed by Lindsay Sutton. Their spiritual leader is Pastor Gunderson, revisited by B&B’s own Eddie Curry in his usual earnest style.

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Signe (Lindsay Sutton), center, performs “Sing a New Song” in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of “Church Basement Ladies”.

This fivesome, through comedy and song, show life and it’s many changes and challenges, especially as it pertained to the middle 60’s in the U.S. All have wonderful singing voices and a keen knack for the humorous characterizations necessary in this show. It is an enjoyable show to be sure, highlighted by an array of fine physical comedy by Ms. Pappas, and some wonderfully timed reactions by Mr. Curry.

It what appears to be a very franchised brand – not only are the show’s direction and choreography supplied by Troupe America, the entity that seemingly owns the show – the accompanying costumes and musical soundtrack are also included in this production. It all works marvelously well, but is a bit different than most B&B offerings.

This Is Most Certainly True

From left – Signe (Lindsay Sutton), Vivian Snustad (Licia Watson), Karin (Dawn Trautman), and Mavis Gilmerson (Karen Pappas) use kitchen items for instruments as they sing “This is Most Certainly True” in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of “Church Basement Ladies”.

Included in the evening was Chef Odell Ward’s full buffet, this time featuring Barbeque Country Ribs and a wonderful lineup of side dishes. And of course we were also treated to great service by the ever observant and doting B&B staff.

Bottomline: A nice summertime alternative of good fun and good food is on tap at “the Beef”.

Church Basement Ladies continues at B&B through August 21st. Dates and times for performances can be found by calling 317.872.9664 or by visiting http://www.beefandboards.com

  • – Photos by Julie Curry

CRP’s “Equus” at Grove Haus

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reviewed by Larry Adams

“In a way, it has nothing to do with the boy.” – Dr. Dysart, Equus

Back in high school, on a class trip to New York City, a friend of mine received special permission to leave the group and watch a Broadway show called Equus. At the time, all I knew about it was that it had a horse, a naked guy, and Spock (Leonard Nimoy). Such is the profundity of youth. My youth, anyway. It would require several decades of maturity and a trip to the Fountain Square cultural district of Indianapolis on a beautiful summer evening for me to appreciate- rather, begin to appreciate- the emotional and conceptual depth of this truly stunning modern classic.

In 1973, inspired by a bizarre real-life incident in England in which a young stable hand blinded several horses under his care, playwright Peter Shaffer set about imagining a fictional encounter between the boy and his court-appointed psychiatrist. Somehow, from that quite specific and unusual springboard, Shaffer subsequently managed to create one of the most thematically complex and universally relatable dramas ever to grace a stage. This is the magic of great theater. You see, Equus is ultimately not about the horses, or the horrific act of violence, or even the fascinating and intimate interplay between doctor and patient. Indeed, “in a way, it has nothing to do with the boy.” Good theater would take those elements and create an interesting and entertaining story, because that’s what good theater does: it entertains. Great theater, however, either proclaims the Universal Truths of Life or asks the Great Questions. Equus is great theater.

Weaving a virtually seamless tapestry over the course of the play, Shaffer ingeniously intertwines threads of madness and normality, love and sterility, passion and enslavement- all under a thematic umbrella that is unusual for theater, and yet among the most basic motifs in human existence and experience: worship. “Without worship, you shrink. It’s as brutal as that,” Shaffer’s psychiatrist, Dr. Martin Dysart declares, recognizing even in the damagingly self-constructed theology of his patient, young Alan Strang, a passion he himself sorely lacks and desperately desires in his ordered life and loveless marriage. The idea of worship, or at least passion for something beyond the mundane of everyday existence if you like, suffuses nearly every aspect of Shaffer’s show, from the conflict between Strang’s rigidly Christian mother and just as rigidly atheist father, to the horses themselves, at every step portrayed metaphorically and even literally as powerful, all-seeing and godlike. “Religion! Religion’s at the bottom of all this!” Alan’s father, Frank, insists. Indeed, it is.

Casey Ross’s masterful direction and conceptual design wisely plays up this theme in the current production. The setting of the production itself, an old brick church now known as Grove Haus, instantly sensitizes the audience to the framework of the show, and her placement of the “horse chorus” under a stained glass window on what must have been in years past the raised chancel of the church brings to mind mute priests looking down in judgement upon the action taking place on the floor of the nave. Actors often rise and sit silently in stone-faced unison, suggesting the ritual of a somber religious service, and the rich lighting scheme also seems designed to project a feeling of mystical awe over the proceedings. Even the pre- and intra-show music selections, often ignored by both audiences and directors alike, serve to set and underscore the quasi-religious tone of the piece. This is the first Casey Ross production I have had the pleasure to see, but, with her keen theatrical instincts and close attention to detail, it will not be the last.

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CRP’s production of “Equus” stars Brian G. Hartz (left) as Dr. Dysart, and Taylor Cox as Alan Strang.

A play as complex as Equus cannot possibly succeed without top tier acting, and in this, Ms. Ross’s cast does not disappoint; there is not a single weak link in the chain. The bulk of the show rests squarely on the shoulders of Dr. Dysart, Alan’s psychiatrist and the narrator of the show, played with the necessary strength and gravitas by Brian G. Hartz. Dysart provides the internal psychological tension of the piece, as he gradually begins to agonize over whether he is really curing his patients or merely psychologically castrating them and forcing the bit of conformity into their mouths, metaphorically sacrificing their passion and uniqueness (as a recurring dream hammers home perhaps a bit too bluntly) on the altar of societal normality. Hartz impressively- and surely exhaustingly- carries this burden throughout the two-and-a-half-hour show, never leaving the stage, though occasionally acting only as an observer to Alan’s acted out flashbacks. In addition, Shaffer has saddled him with the great majority of the monologues, as well as nearly all of the plethora of quotable lines in Equus. If I have to pick at something (and, despite what you’ve read so far, I am supposed to be a critic), I might suggest that the gravity of the role, as well as the intensity of the monologues and even the British accent, occasionally pull Hartz to the brink of overacting, with grand gestures and inflections of speech that might be better suited for a large proscenium stage rather than the intimate, in-your-face setting of this theater in the round; however, Hartz for the most part resists this temptation, and in the end is nothing short of astounding in the role. His performance in fact left me, as an occasional and definitively amateur actor, in a love- hate relationship with the role: I would love to play it, but would hate the fact that I could never hope to play it as well.

Taylor Cox plays Alan Strang, the emotionally unstable stable boy whose disturbing act of violence sets the story in motion. The role of Alan requires the most emotional range, nuance and lability of the show, and Cox handles this with a natural air that is beyond extraordinary. In the course of minutes, Cox can be charming, weird, likable, scary, shy, belligerent, childlike, menacing, arrogant, confused, triumphant and defeated- and make the audience believe every single one. Subtle changes of expression and manner, especially when he is reacting rather than speaking, evidence an actor who is totally immersed in his character and the moment, every moment. It is a performance not to be missed.

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The cast of “Equus” includes Ericka Barker (left) and Doug Powers (right) as the parents of Alan Strang, played by Taylor Cox (center).

The supporting actors (Allison Clark Reddick, Sarah McGrath, Doug Powers, Tony Armstrong, Johnny Mullens and Nan Macy) are, to a person, worthy of professional theater, but one performance stands out for me: Ericka Barker as Alan’s mother, Dora. Though her rapid and clipped speech (a choice, I presume, befitting her rigidly religious character) sometimes make her difficult to understand when turned away or blocked by another character (an unavoidable hazard of theater in the round), Barker’s turn at Dora’s final monologue is outstanding, fleshing out her character and making human and relatable (at least for all us parents) what easily could have been a stock religious stereotype.

A word of appreciation also for the “horse chorus” of Bowie Foote, Christopher Bell, Beth Clark and, at times, the aforementioned Johnny Mullens: these are exceedingly small roles when measured purely in lines and action, but I cannot overemphasize their importance to the effect of the show. Towering over the proceedings like the silent and judgmental gods Alan- and eventually even Dysart- perceive them to be, their presence informs and shapes our perception of everything that happens on the stage. Simply put: Bravo. And as for the horse designer, Dianna Mosedale: How do you make a man or woman in a horse head costume look not silly, but instead menacing, powerful and implacable? That’s how.

And apparently no review of Equus can be complete without mentioning the nudity. If you are contemplating bringing children, or are easily offended yourself, you are forewarned: It’s there, and it is neither brief nor tempered. I suspect this is the main reason you so rarely see a community theater production of such an outstanding work. I personally feel the show could still be quite effective without it, and thus be more accessible to the community theater stage, though I’m sure many- including the playwright, if he were still with us- would probably differ. But know this also: it is not gratuitous, it serves a purpose, and it is effective. If you think the kids- and you- can handle it, I would set that issue aside.

Looking back, I wish the teenage me in New York City could have seen that Broadway production of Equus, but I doubt he could have fully appreciated it. As a friend of mine remarked, “I think you have to life a bit to understand it.” I cannot imagine, however, that even a Broadway production could outshine what this talented group of actors and crew has brought to the Indianapolis stage. Rarely do I consider seeing a show twice, but you just may see me there again next week, searching for things I missed, considering its messages a little bit more, and simply allowing it to wash over me rather than dissecting it for a review. I hope many of you also will take advantage of what seems to be a rare chance to experience Equus.

A Post Scriptum: It was bittersweet to see the show dedicated to the memory of David Ballard, actor and friend to the Indianapolis theater community. I did not know David long or well- but well enough to know he would have been touched by this gesture and honored to have his name associated with such a brilliant example of the best that community theater- indeed, any theater- has to offer.

Casey Ross Productions’ EQUUS continues July 17, 22, 23 & 24  – Curtain: Fri-Sat @ 8 PM / Sun @ 5 PM  –  TICKETS $25 – Presented at Fountain Square’s Grove Haus – 1001 Hosbrook St., Indianapolis IN. For tickets go to http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2555627
*Recommended for ages 16+, due to nudity, violence, and strong language.

“Charlotte’s Web” at Spotlight Players

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Spotlight Players’ final offering of 2015-16, their first season in their new digs – the Theatre at the Fort at Ft. Benjamin Harrison in Lawrence – is Charlotte’s Web, the endearing children’s tale by E.B. White. Employing an adaptation by Joseph Robinette, director Jim LaMonte and his cast have brought the story to life in a sweet, gentle and original way.

Inspired perhaps by such productions as Q Avenue and Hand to God, the several animal characters in the play are portrayed by actors with puppets. This method, sans ventriloquism, provides a pleasant portrayal, much enjoyed by the children in attendance at this performance.

The cast of 11, some handling several roles, are efficient in their story-telling. Patrick Becker is earnest as the main character, Wilbur the pig. He is joined by Elisabeth Giffin who conveys a fittingly tender air of kindness and caring as Charlotte the spider. Jeremy Tuterow joins the lead triumvirate, seemingly with a bow to Paul Lynde, as a self-interested Templeton the rat. Of the human characters, Audrey Duprey does a noteworthy job as Fern, the girl who helps save Wilbur from showing up on a dinner table.

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Audrey Dupey appears as Fern in Spotlight Players’ “Charlotte’s Web”.

Working on a rude but appropriately crafted set designed by LaMonte, the use of hand puppets with visible actors lends a quality of expressiveness one doesn’t get with ventriloquists or unseen puppeteers. I found myself watching the actors’ faces more than their puppets, which made it seem that the puppets took the place of a costume – so that Becker “was” Wilbur just by having a pig doll on his arm. It was a nicely effective method! And I must add that the wonderful array of puppets were created by Ashley Miller and Aaron Beasley of a group called The Lazy Knights of Felt.

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From left, Dustin Miller, Joey Click, Jeremy Tuterow and Veronique Duprey with some of the puppet characters in Spotlight Players’ “Charlotte’s Web”.

This is very much a children’s theatre production, and if the reaction of the two youngsters who sat behind me at the show is any indicator, it is magical and wonderous for kids. The show generated lots of questions from these two about the funny characters and about why Charlotte got left behind.

Bottom line: This story is a perfect one for teaching about friendship and caring and giving a lot to those we care about. Spotlight Players delivers on all these aspects and this play will touch the lives of those children lucky enough to be taken to see it. Be aware that this production plays only the remainder of this weekend and one other weekend before closing.

Charlotte’s Web continues at Spotlight Players new venue, Theater at the Fort, 8920 Otis Ave. in Lawrence through June 26. You can find out more information and make reservations by going to http://www.spotlight-players.org or by calling 317-366-4795.

  • – Photos by Spotlight Players

 

“Little Women” at The Belfry

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Let me begin by merely saying the latest Hamilton County Theatre Guild offering of Little Women at The Belfry is possibly the best show I have seen at this theatre and is a likely candidate for sellouts the rest of it’s run – a run which is distressingly short and ends on June 19. If you love great presentations of outstanding musical theatre, you should call The Belfry’s reservation number 317.773.1085 now(!) and grab a seat for this superb production – even before you read this. Now on with the review!

I have never seen the Broadway musical version of this treasured Louisa May Alcott story – I never read the book. Having seen the film version, I know the timeless and emotional tale of 4 sisters growing up together and apart. I must say, the added music by Jason Howard with lyrics by Mindi Dickstein and the book by Allan Knee both empower and enrich the story. What makes HCTG’s production so great is the outstanding direction by the tandem of Brenna Whitaker and Christy Clinton (with vocal direction by Betsy Bullis) and the extreme singing talents of not one, two or three of the performers but all ten singers. I am sure Ms. Whitaker and Ms. Clinton are very pleased with the cast they found – as an audience member last evening, so was I.

Veteran actress Susan Boilek Smith takes the role of Marmee, the mother of 4 diverse and growing daughters. Ms. Smith’s sensitive portrayal is highlighted by her work in the character’s two solos, which she offers up in emotionally striking renditions. The four daughters are played with unfailing exactness by Elisa Maudlin as the fragile Beth, Ellie Viola as the impatient and spontaneous Amy, Ellen Turner as Meg, the romantic of the group, and Anna Dewey in the lead role as the dynamic, outspoken Jo. All these ladies are exceptional singers. Of special note to me is Ms. Maudlin, whom at the tender age of 15 does impressive work with a multi-faceted character. She is talented beyond her years and I look forward to seeing her progress in our theatre community. Ms. Turner and Ms. Viola also give strong and significant performances both in their acting and their musical craft.

Anna Dewey is nothing short of phenomenal in her grand depiction of Jo. Her brilliant vocal talent is augmented by wonderful acting choices throughout the arc of the story. Ms. Dewey soars through intricate solo pieces – especially the impressive first act closer “Astonishing” and the second act’s tender “The Fire Within Me”. She is presently a senior musical theatre major at Belmont University, so we’ll hope to see much more of this skilled performer on this and other stages.

Remarkable depictions abound throughout the cast. John Parks Whitaker offers a fully realized Laurie – self conscious and mild; Jill O’Malia is barely recognizable in her wonderful Belfry debut as Aunt March; Mark Tumey adds to his long list of stage accomplishments with a kindly Mr. Laurence, Jan Borcherding is a snoopy Mrs. Kirk; Aaron Mowles plays Meg’s love interest John Brooke with a quiet flair; and Darrin Gowan is splendidly unsettled as the proper Professor Bhaer . All are impressive with their strong, expressive and often harmonizing vocals.

Several ancillary facets of the show deserve special mention. First of all, I was delighted to hear the score provided in a pre-recorded full-sounding digital rendition. Using the big sound of a full orchestration gave addition power to the songs and incidental music. Secondly, in a show filled with set changes, this production employs a large, well-rehearsed crew of stagehands and an ingenious set designed by Kendell Roberts. The longest change is probably about 30 seconds or so – the quick, choreographed movement, aided by the aforementioned music as an accompaniment to it, is greatly appreciated by this “not a fan of long set changes” critic. Well done! Finally, let me add that costume designs by Marilyn Dearmin and Norma Floyd added greatly.

Bottom line: this is not only a superior production of a marvelous and captivating musical, it is a show that all ages can enjoy. The once-in-a-lifetime cast simply knocks this one out of the park!

Little Women continues at The Belfry for four more performances – scheduled for June 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 linking here or by calling 317.773.1085.

Dance Kaleidoscope’s “Scheherazade 25” at IRT

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Dance Kaleidoscope’s season ending program of Scheherazade and An American in Paris was presented at IRT’s OneAmerica Stage to a rousingly approving audience last night. The ovation was not only for the magnificent display of dance, but also for Artistic Director David Hochoy’s 25 years leading the company, and for recognition of his long association with the company’s Executive Director, Jan Virgin, as well as with Lighting Designer, Laura Glover . It is evident that the company would not be such a crucial part of the fabric of Indianapolis dance and culture without the leadership and skills provided by this trio.

Jillian Godwin, Mariel Greenlee, Zach Young

The Princess (Jillian Godwin) is overtaken by the Witch’s Cronies as Scheherazade (Mariel Greenlee) encounters the Wicked Witch (Zach Young) in DK’s “Scheherazade 25”

As I say, the dancing was magnificent. The DK troupe is such a diversely talented corps, we see so many strong performances layered together in a piece such as Scheherazade. The quietly graceful countenance of Mariel Greenlee in the title role, is matched up with excitingly strong turns by Jillian Godwin as Princess and Zach Young as Wicked Witch. Harem dancers Emily Dyson, Jillian Godwin, Aleksa Lukasiewicz, Mandy Milligan and Missy Trulock offer allure, and are countered by Fates – Stuart Coleman, Brandon Comer and Timothy June – leading a frenzied final section of powerful choreography and emotion.

Director Hochoy created the steps and the stories for Rimsky-Korsakov’s score in 1992 as a showy end-piece to his first season with DK. They have survived the years well – as have the wonderfully colorful and depictive costumes by Barry Doss. Add Laura Glovers’ intensely beautiful lighting arrangements, and you have what could be Hochoy’s signature piece.

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Brandon Comer and Caitlin Negron dance the leads in DK’s “An American in Paris”.

A somewhat newer offering preceded the Scheherazade performance. Gershwin’s An American in Paris was delightfully portrayed by the company with Brandon Comer and Caitlin Negron as the featured couple. Gershwin wrote such a wonderfully varying piece, it is a perfect vehicle for Hochoy’s imaginative depictions – especially the busy streets of Paris, which here features a lively bus. Although the “boy meets girl’ aspect is delivered with charm – I thought it was interesting that this was not so much a romantic piece as it was a celebration of the composer’s love of syncopation and buoyant tempo. The performances were captivating, whatever the interpretations one gave it – and the strength of the troupe was impressive.

Sadly this program of dances will only be available one weekend – it would be wise to partake of this show, which is very entertaining and captivating for all ages.

Dance Kaleidoscope’s Scheherazade and An American in Paris continues only through June 5th at IRT’s OneAmerica Stage. Information about DK performances can be found at http://www.dancekal.org or by calling 317.635.5252.

  • – Photos by Crowe’s Eye Photography
  • – Banner photo by Freddie Kelvin

First Folio’s “Hamlet” at Wayne Township Community Theatre

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Surely, producing one of William Shakespeare’s greatest works, indeed one which is called “the greatest play ever written” in many camps, is a vast undertaking. For a “community theatre” group to tackle the project, albeit a company such as First Folio Productions with it’s feet firmly planted in Shakespearean works, is doubly difficult. But director Glenn Dobbs most certainly has surrounded himself with a plethora of innovative craftsmen and designers, talented avocational actors, and dedicated producers to accomplish the wonder which is The Tragedy of Hamlet, currently being presented in a very limited run at Ben Davis High School.

This skillfully edited version of the play remains a true telling of the tale of Hamlet, the disillusioned prince who sees the death of his father King Hamlet lead to his uncle Claudius’ rise to the throne and his mother Gertrude’s marriage to the new king. A dynamic performance by Carey Shea as Hamlet leads the way in excellence. Shea nimbly portrays the many facets of the vengeful prince with a fine understanding of the man, his conflicts, and his thoughts and ideals. As the role of Hamlet is one which signifies a “top of the list” opportunity of accomplishment for an actor, Shea has show himself to be a more than capable practitioner.

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Carey Shea, left – as Hamlet, with Tom Weingartner, as Polonius in a scene from First Folio Productions’ “Hamlet”.

Matt Anderson is spot on as Claudius, anxiously dealing with his ill gotten position, caught between a restless demeanor and a false bluster of confidence. Ericka Barker’s uneasy Gertrude is confounded by all the changes around her – especially her son’s sudden madness, and his disdain for her.

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Tom Weingaten, left, as Polonius, Matt Anderson as Claudius, and Ericka Barker as Gertrude in a scene from First Folio Productions’ “Hamlet”.

There are many other solidly done portrayals, indicating director Dobbs’ deft and detailed handling of the cast. Tom Weingartner’s Polonius, John Mortell as Laertes and Benjamin Mathis’s Horatio all find high levels of achievement. The difficult role of Ophelia receives perhaps the most polished and awesome rendering. Devan Mathias’ emotional turn as the bewildered young noblewoman is devastatingly truthful and deep. Ms. Mathias totally immerses herself in her reactions to the puzzling treatment given her by Hamlet, as well as in her character’s madness after Polonius’ death, with a breathlessly complete performance. Additionally, the many supporting players do excellent work. Of particular note is Chris Burton as both the lively gravedigger and the Lead Player.

Devan Mathias’

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Devan Mathias, left, as Ophelia and John Mortell as Laertes in a scene from First Folio Productions’ “Hamlet”.

 

Technical aspects of the show also deserve praise. Fred Margison’s set is beautiful and ideal for the necessary variety of settings. Lighting designer Donald Stikeleather adds a feel of drama and power. Costume design by Melody Burnett, Linda Schornhorst and Anne Gross is elegantly quirky in it’s bow to a steampunk theme and vigorous fight choreography by Scott Russell is amazingly realistic with a spontaneous feel.

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The ensemble celebrates the marriage of Claudius, center left, played by Matt Anderson and Gertrude, played by Ericka Barker in a scene from First Folio Productions’ “Hamlet”.

There is no way to describe this show other than as a complete triumph. All facets of it fall unerringly into place and offer the audience a thoughtful journey through this iconic tragedy. Unfortunately, this offering only runs two weekends – so hopefully you can soon make plans to see it. Do not delay! A production this good deserves support by Indy’s theatre-going community.

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Carey Shea , left, as Hamlet and John Mortell, as Laertes, duel in a scene from First Folio Productions’ “Hamlet”.

Hamlet will continue May 28th, 29th, June 3rd, 4th and 5th at the theatre at Ben Davis High School. Information about dates and times can be found on the internet here or by calling 317-988-7966.

  • – Photos by Joe Konz

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