“A Child’s Christmas in Wales” at Carmel Theatre Company

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

This year’s cavalcade of Christmas shows continues for Mrs. K and I, this time on a community theatre stage, with Dylan Thomas’ charming remembrance – A Child’s Christmas in Wales. In what will sadly be CTC’s final show at the Studio 15, this sentimental picture of another era’s celebration is filled with songs and stories and mischief. Director John C. Clair works with a large cast of 24 performers, nearly half of them children and young adults, to bring Thomas’ wonderful use of language to the fore.

Rick Sharp plays the narrator, the mature Dylan, as he looks back to days long ago when, as a boy, he spent Christmas Day with aunts, uncles, cousins, townspeople and his parents. Sharp’s delivery of Thomas’ poetical prose is sensitive and on the mark, projecting a rich nostalgia. Playing the younger Thomas, Dalyn Stewart repeats his role from 2 years ago. Young Mr. Stewart has an easy feel for stage work and is very appealing as he imparts a lively imagination and a thrill for the holiday.

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Dalyn Stewart plays young Dylan Thomas, while Rick Sharp portrays Dylan Thomas the elder. (This picture is from the 2014 presentation of the show.)

The various other roles are played out with energetic enthusiasm by a talented corps of actors and actresses. Highlights for me were Anthony Johnson, effusive as Dylan’s father -D.J.; Smith David, engaging as Dylan’s best friend Tom; Valery DeLong, alternately harried and in charge as the Thomas mother; LeRoy Delph as a very lively Uncle Gwyn – full of song, dance, and stories; Nan Macy as larger than life Aunt Nellie; Thom Johnson, who gives his all in multiple comic roles; and Rachelle Woolston, whose amazing voice is a show-stopper, as her Aunt Eleri sings the traditional Welsh song Calon Lân with a beautiful interpretation.

The musical accompaniment by Musical Director Carol Keddington on clavinova and percussionist Dick Leap adds to the texture of the show and the six members of The Swansea Singers regale us with ageless carols before each act.

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Bottom line: This is unusual Christmas fare. Tunefully adapted for the stage by Jeremy Brooks and Adrian Mitchell – it takes a little while to settle into the Thomas prose, but we are thus led into a holiday from another time. The simplicity and joy conveyed here cannot help but put one into a fine holiday spirit.

A Child’s Christmas in Wales runs at Carmel’s Studio 15 through December 17th, with Thursday through Saturday evening shows at 7 pm and one Sunday show on December 11th at 2:30 pm. For ticket reservations and information go online to http://www.carmeltheatrecompany.com or call the reservation line at 317.688.8876.

A short note of remembrance: It truly is sad to me that the central Indiana theatre community will be losing Carmel’s Studio 15. (It is being razed to become valuable Arts District parking spaces.) The squat building has been utilized as a unique venue for both actors and audience members since I directed the first show there in 2002. CCP’s production of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams starred Jean Adams and Joshua French and was played in 3/4 round – before the 2 inch high stage was built at the north end of the building for the next show. A lot of improvements were made over the years – many by Larry, Susan and Ron Creviston, many by John and June Clair – but the old city office building always provided a singularly intimate theatre experience. As my friend Larry Adams once wrote here, “As an actor, I’ve always loved that feeling of being in the audience’s face- practically in their collective lap – connecting with them, drawing them into the experience. Now, as an audience member, I can tell you that feeling is just as much fun, and something you simply won’t experience at a bigger theater.”

Here’s hoping that CTC finds a suitable replacement as they move away and into the future!

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A Beef & Boards Christmas – 2016

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Mrs. K and I were joined by our daughter Angela and granddaughter Hanna for a Sunday matinee of the 24th annual A Beef & Boards Christmas. This was the third year running that the Mrs. and I have had this pleasure, and as I sit down to write this review I ask myself – “How does one re-review a show that is, for the most part, a repeat of previous years?”

The first year we saw it, in 2014, I mentioned how I would have to wear out my thesaurus to describe the delights I saw. And last year, I wrote about the revisited pleasures we look forward to each holiday season. Now, after this year’s edition, I am at a bit of a loss for words.

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Deb Wims and Kenny Shepard (center) dance a Christmas Waltz in “A Beef a Boards Christmas”

Granted, the show isn’t EXACTLY the same as those previous years. Our hosts are once again the talented duo of Deb Wims and Kenny Shepard – by the way, this will sadly be Ms. Wims’ final appearance in the revue. Three members of the tuneful Christmas Quartet return: Betsy Norton, Cara Statham Serber and Peter Scharbrough are joined by erstwhile B&B performer Kyle Durbin, making his first appearance at the theatre in 8 years. Also, Josh Stark is back again as a funny, holly, jolly St. Nick. And Kendra Lynn Lucas once again wows the entire audience with her spectacular voice and her powerful rendition of “O Holy Night”. Many members of the B&B dance troupe are back, tirelessly performing a nearly unbelievable number of routines, in a seemingly endless array of Jill Kelly Howe’s colorful costuming. Additionally, the eight member B&B Orchestra is back in full force, skillfully led by Kristy Templet.

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The Christmas Quartet: (from left) Peter Scharbrough, Betsy Norton, Cara Statham Serber, and Kyle Durbin in “A Beef a Boards Christmas”

And the entire show is again top-notch – a wonderful mixture of bouncy and familiar holiday songs folded in with a satisfying sampling of traditional, sentimental and even emotional favorites. For me, the highlight is always a series of songs that begins with a heart-rending “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” – this year sung to perfection by Mr. Durbin – followed by a touching military tribute and segued by the orchestra’s rendition of “Carol of the Bells” into Ms. Serber’s amazing “Do You Hear What I Hear?”. This is followed by Ms. Lucas singing her show-stopping “O Holy Night”. It gets me every time! And I guess that’s the point.

Christmas is tradition, and revisiting familiar experiences – and sharing them, as we did this year with our daughter and granddaughter. To me it is very much like having a favorite Christmas album that you enjoy hearing again and again. With each listening, you are reminded of past holidays and all their meaningful emotions. And since Christmas comes only once a year – it really never does get old.

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Kendra Lynn Lucas (center) performs “O Holy Night” in “A Beef & Boards Christmas”

Bottom line: B&B’s traditional Christmas show is once again a pleasure to behold. You may have seen it before – but that is actually an advantage. And if you have never seen it – you are in for an immense treat – enjoy!

A Beef and Boards Christmas continues through December 23rd. You can find out more about the schedule and reserve 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

“A Christmas Carol” at IRT – 2016

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Indiana Repertory Theatre celebrates Christmas 2016 with the return of their perennial holiday production – the Tom Haas adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. This edition of the show is directed by Executive Artistic Director Janet Allen, who brings a deft and somewhat innovative viewpoint to the undertaking.

If you have seen the show in recent years, you may recall the snow-filled stage, the huge golden frame, perhaps even the surprising and refreshing characterizations that Ryan Artzberger brings to his portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge. All these familiar pieces are in place, but Ms. Allen has lovingly brought a more melodic and descriptive sensitivity to the story-telling. The result of her choices, which includes female ghosts, feels like a whole new experience – in fact it is an energizing and uplifting tonic, beneficial to the holiday’s soul.

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Emily Ristine (Christmas Past) and Ryan Artzberger (Ebenezer Scrooge) in IRT’s 2016 production of “A Christmas Carol”

In addition to Mr. Artzberger’s fine work, we are treated to strong performances by the entire ensemble. Charles Goad returns with his imposing Jacob Marley, and Constance Macy delights us once again with her flighty Mrs. Fezziwig – but there is a freshening in many characters.  In addition to Emily Ristine as Christmas Past, and Milicent Wright as Christmas Present, plus Rob Johansen’s silent Christmas Future, there are Charles Pasternak as Young Scrooge and nephew Fred, Amanda Catania’s lovely and sensitive Belle, as well as a quite touching portrayal of the Cratchit family led by Jeremy Fisher and Ms. Ristine as Bob and Mrs. Cratchit, along with Miles Morey, Alyssa Marie Gaines, Teddy Rayhill, Nina Morey and Sophaia Prabhu-Hensley as the Cratchit children. These and the other cast members deliver a poignant yet often humorous recreation.

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The entire ensemble from IRT’s 2016 production of “A Christmas Carol”

As usual, all the technical aspects of the show are polished and profuse. These include Russell Metheny’s open yet functional snowy set design; Murell Horton’s array of costumes, which adroitly portray the 1840s’ class distinctions; composer Andrew Hopson’s influential touches of music and sounds; and the dynamic effects of lighting designed by Michael Lincoln.

Bottom line: It all adds up to another very special edition of this Christmas classic by IRT, which is truly a large part of the holiday season for so many. If you have the idea that seeing it again this year would be a repeat of recent productions, know that this year’s version has a noteworthy freshness to it.

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A Christmas Carol continues on IRT’s main stage through December 24th. For ticket and reservation information, go to http://www.irtlive.com or call the ticket office at 317-635-5252.

  • Banner artwork by Kyle Ragsdale
  • Photos by Zach Rosing

“Cabaret” at Actors Theatre of Indiana

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Once again, Actors Theatre of Indiana proves that it is a master of the black box musical – this time with their absolutely stunning production of John Kander and Fred Ebb’s Cabaret. The musical delivers what is a multi- faceted piece with equal parts as allegory, as entertainment and as statement – indeed, perhaps even as a didactic warning.

Director Billy Kimmel has built his show using plenty of originality in concept and interpretation. His vision – supported by a knock-out cast, musical direction by John D. Phillips, and slick choreography by Carol Worcel, with visual touches in place through P. Bernard Killian’s set design, costumes by Stephen Hollenbeck, lights by Marciel Irener Greene and makeup design by Daniel Klingler – propels the audience back to 1931, to the opening throes of the Nazi regime, with the echoes of the 1920s’ opulence still in evidence.

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Ben Asaykwee (center) performs as the Emcee with the Kit Kat Klub dancers in ATI’s production of “Cabaret”.

As an allegory, Cabaret deftly presents the factions in place at that time, as the world tumbled down into the pit of the 30’s and early 40’s. It starts with the Emcee, our thematic narrator, who gives open warnings about the chaos which is at the brink, before being caught in the ominous web himself. Then there is Sally Bowles – the English chanteuse who, with her self indulgent and protective short-sightedness, makes a rather harsh decision in an attempt to prolong the good times she is accustomed to, reflecting what her native country did when failing in an early faceoff with the Third Reich. American novelist Cliff Bradshaw finds isolationism to be more to his liking when confronted with knowledge of the pain the Reich will bring. There is also Fräulein Schneider, the tolerant German, turning her back on happiness  and accepting her fate because, well “What Would You Do?” and Herr Schultz, a Jew who believes the oncoming cloud of Nazism cannot be so bad, because after all, he is a German. Finally, Ernst Ludwig is the true believer, the citizen taken in by the many promises that are made.

It does not seem to me that the message of potential doom in today’s world is much below the surface in this updated version of the 1966 Broadway musical. Director Kimmel subtlety advises us of the possibilities in musical numbers that ring up familiar and timely themes.

As a pure entertainment, the show is hugely successful. Ben Asaykwee leads the way as the Emcee. He has created a strikingly original version of the scandalously brazen creature – at some times nuanced and frisky, yet fearsome and threatening at others. Asaykwee does a masterful job projecting his cautionary admonitions, which seem to be this character’s purview, and he does so in a playfully effective way. His movements and attitude are such, one cannot take their eyes off him.

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Cynthia Collins as Sally Bowles sings “Maybe This Time” in ATI’s production of “Cabaret”.

Cynthia Collins absolutely seizes the starring role of Sally Bowles and flies with it. Totally convincing as the lively, party-loving, and impetuous young singer, Ms. Collins shows a fine understanding of her character’s hopes and fears – while lifting the show with her freshly innovative and dramatic renditions of “Maybe This Time” and “Cabaret”.  Eric J. Olson brings a refined honesty to his portrayal of Cliff Bradshaw. Caught between the love of an exciting woman and an oppressive time in history – Olson shows the difficulty of the decisions he must make and the unsureness of whether they are best.

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From left: Eric J. Olson (Cliff Bradshaw), Cynthia Collins (Sally Bowles) and Patrick Vaughn (Ernst Ludwig) in a scene from ATI’s production of “Cabaret”.

Judy Fitzgerald blithely brings Fräulein Kost to life and Patrick Vaughn is a harsh and dedicated Ernst Ludwig, while Debra Babich and Darrin Murrell partner up as Fräulein Schneider and Herr Schultz, the star-crossed elderly couple. Ms. Babich’s and Murrell’s performances are quite poignant and provide a counterpoint of sorts from the Kit-Kat Klub and it’s seedy proceedings. The Kit Kat girls (and guys) are presented in a flashy and fleshy projection by Nicole Bridgens (Helga), Jeneé Michelle (Rosie), Ashley Saunders (Lulu), Carol Worcel (Texas), Nicholas Roman (Bobby) and Kenny Shepard (Victor). They whirl through the plethora of musical scenes at the Klub with less than subtle skills. And in the opening scene, I could not help but notice Don Farrell’s spot-on cameo appearance as the Führer.

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Debra Babich (Fraulein Schneider) and Darrin Murrell (Herr Schultz) in a scene from ATI’s production of “Cabaret”.

The wonderfully familiar score of the show gets a high grade rendition by this very talented group of performers. Without any lapses or gaps, it was a treat through-out. The costumed orchestra, led by Levi Burke, also deserves high marks as they provide an unfailing accompaniment.

Bottom-line: ATI scores yet another “must see”, with a high energy, well-produced edition of this innovative American musical. (Please note, this show has adult themes and situations.)

Cabaret continues at ATI’s Studio Theatre in the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel through November 20, 2016. You can get information about the schedule and tickets by calling 317.843.3800 or by logging onto http://www.atistage.org .

  • – Photos by Kip Shawger

“Young Frankenstein” at Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Last evening, Mrs. K and I made our first foray to the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre to see their 2016-17 season opener – Mel Brook’s musical version of Young Frankenstein. First of all, I would like to note what a tremendous facility the Civic has in Carmel. Featuring an unbelievably large stage, superb technical fixtures, and spacious and comfortable audience seating, one expects a Broadway caliber show just by entering the premises. And that is exactly what we got!

So, for those of you who have not seen or heard of this show (I imagine that is not very many of my readers!), Young Frankenstein – the 2007 musical version – is based on the eponymous 1974 film. This was Mel Brook’s parody of the horror genre as only Mr. Brooks can render, full of schtick and what the New York Times, in it’s review of the original show, identified as a “giggly smuttiness”. For those who loved the film, nearly all the laughable bits are intact – the huge knockers, the whinnying horses, the moveable hump, and the Inspector’s mechanical arm, to name but a few.

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From left: Devan Mathias (Inga), Damon Clevenger (Igor) and Steve Kruze (Frederick) in a scene from Civic Theatre’s production of “Young Frankenstein”

 

Civic’s production, directed by Michael Lasley, with choreography and musical staging by Anne Nicole Beck, and musical direction by Brent Marty, appears to be based on the Broadway blueprint. Included are many technical aspects borrowed, literally and physically, from the touring production. This is a wonderful asset to the show as we are treated to some astonishing scenic properties, as well as many amazingly impressive musical numbers. These include several showstoppers – “Family Business”, featuring a 25 foot puppet of the monster; “He Vas My Boyfriend”, Frau Blücher’s (cue the horse whinnies) stylized lament; and, of course, “Puttin’ on the Ritz”, done in a much expanded version compared to the film.

From left – Nathalie Cruz (Elizabeth) and Vickie Cornelius Phipps (Frau Blücher), and B.J.Bovin (The Monster) and Steve Kruze (Frederick) in scenes from Civic Theatre’s production of “Young Frankenstein”

But what all these great technical facets actually do is lend support to the truly outstanding work of the cast. From top to bottom – everyone gives their all in this production. Steve Kruze takes the role of Frederick Frankenstein and runs with it. Never trying to duplicate the late Gene Wilder’s impressive portrayal, Kruze sets his own course and, with an energetic and dynamically voiced performance, makes the Doctor very much his own creation. Sharing the stage with him are: Damon Clevenger – lively and witty as the be-humped Igor; Devan Mathias – captivating as a beguiling Inga; Vickie Cornelius Phipps – catching and delivering all the clever nuance of the mysterious Frau Blücher (distant horse whinnies); Nathalie Cruz – beautifully voicing the part of the spunky and self-involved Elizabeth, the Doctor’s fiancé (and The Monster’s future mistress); and B.J.Bovin – in a simply spot-on appearance, grunting, singing and dancing his way into our hearts as The Monster. (Another technical achievement needs to be mentioned here – David Schlatter’s prosthetic design for The Monster’s head and face is an impressive accomplishment!) Likewise, Parrish Williams did a noteworthy job with both his roles – Inspector Kemp and the Hermit, and Evan Wallace vigorously led us through one of the production’s show-stopping numbers as Frederick’s grandfather Victor.

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At center: Parrish Williams (Inspector Kemp) surrounded by ensemble members in a scene from Civic Theatre’s production of “Young Frankenstein”

It would be my misgiving to not give mention to the wonderful work of the 14 member ensemble. They filled the stage with their voices and their footwork. All the impressive, big musical numbers would not have been so notable without their contributions. Believe me – this group of performers are kept very busy!

I cannot finish without a nod to the great sounding pit orchestra, led by Trevor Fanning. We often forget their work in preparing for a show of this size. Their input was extremely important to the success of this show and they did an outstanding job.

I think it may also be of note that this performance was done before a rather quiet audience. I could go on for several paragraphs about audiences and their contribution to what happens on stage – but let me just say that I noticed how there were moments that fell flat, some of the many Brooksian schtick moments in particular, that were no fault of the people onstage. They were working – and the audience was indeed listening, as evidenced by the standing ovation at the end – but sometimes Saturday night audiences can be quite restful, and this seemed to be one of that ilk. So I salute these performers, who gave great and energetic performances without very much energy being returned to them from the seats.

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B.J.Bovin (The Monster) leads the ensemble in “Puttin’ on the Ritz” in a scene from Civic Theatre’s production of “Young Frankenstein”

Bottom-line: Outstanding vocal talents, impressive dance abilities and great technical aspects make this retelling of a familiar story fun and satisfying. For any Mel Brooks fan, this is a “must see” production!

Young Frankenstein continues at Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts through November 5th. For ticket information and reservations call 317.843.3800 or go online at http://www.civictheatre.org .

– Photos by Aren Straiger

“Finding Home: Indiana at 200” at IRT

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Reviewed by Mark Kamish

I was 16 and a sophomore in high school when the United States of America celebrated its Bicentennial; I remember well the pomp and circumstance from that summer of 1976. Forty years later, with seemingly much less fanfare (so typically “Hoosier” in its modest and unpretentious rollout), Indiana celebrates its 200th birthday. But Hoosiers are also known to take care of business. Five years ago, IRT’s executive artistic director, Janet Allen, playwright-in-residence James Still, Indiana Historical Society president John Herbst and others began earnest discussions about how IRT might explore, theatrically, two centuries of the Hoosier experience. The culmination of that effort has unfolded this week on IRT’s Upperstage in the masterful production of Finding Home: Indiana at 200, which I was pleased to attend Friday night.

Finding Home was uniquely written and is as uniquely performed. A collaboration of more than thirty Hoosier writers, the show is an anthology based primarily upon historical events that have taken place in the “Land of the Indians” during its time as a territory and state, as told through the voices of the very colorful characters who lived and breathed that Hoosier history.

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The cast of IRT’s Finding Home: Indiana at 200″

This collection of tales is presented to us in a series of vignettes performed by an amazingly talented and diverse ensemble of 10 actor/singers. While regular IRT-goers will recognize several faces, the ensemble includes visiting artists with credits ranging from Juilliard School diplomas to Chicago theater awards to television shows to movie roles. The dramatic (and comedic) action is perfectly tied together by the original and heart-warming music of actor-songwriter-musician Tim Grimm and his five-member Grimm Family Band (complete with fiddle and harmonica).

And, depending on which night you choose to attend, you can enjoy very different theatrical experiences. Even though the show I watched ran two hours and forty minutes (with a fifteen-minute intermission), the wealth of material amassed for this project requires that it be split into two evenings – Blue and Gold (think Indiana flag or Indiana Pacers). Each production is a show unto itself (approximately 70 percent unique content in each, according to IRT).

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The female cast members of IRT’s “Finding Home: Indiana at 200”

My “Blue Night” experience featured characters and stories such as Madame Walker; the Deer Lick Creek massacre; General Lew Wallace and Indiana’s role in the Civil War; Cole Porter; James Dean; Princess Mishawaka; a discussion between Eli Lilly and George H.A. Clowes about the development of a new drug to treat diabetes (“Insulin, huh? We may have to name it something else,” muses a young Eli Lilly); a drunken, rambunctious walk home with James Whitcomb Riley & Eugene Debs; a drive around the Brickyard with Janet Guthrie; and much more.

Those attending the Gold performance will see work featuring Abe Lincoln, Flossie Bailey, John Dillinger, William Conner and Mekinges, Hoagy Carmichael, Ernie Pyle, May Wright Sewall and Alfred Kinsey and many others.

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Michael Joseph Mitchell (left) and Aaron Kirby in the IRT’s “Finding Home: Indiana at 200”

As a Hoosier transplant (although after 23 years here, perhaps I’ve attained “honorary Hoosier” status), I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed Finding Home. Having said that, I acknowledge this show won’t be for everyone. A bit on the long side of a comfortable production run time, heavy on history, bluegrass-style music and ballads may not be everyone’s cup o’ tea (especially if you cringe thinking back to your fourth-grade teacher force-feeding you every Indiana fact and figure you could fit into your 10-year-old head). On the other hand, this show has so much diverse content, I’m very confident you can find something for everyone in these performances.

For example, here are some of my favorite moments from the Blue production: a ballad sung by Tim Grimm about (and performed by DeLanna Studi portraying a female Indiana victim of) the Deer Lick Creek massacre (which ended in the unprecedented hanging in 1825 of three white men for savagely murdering a group of Indians); Tim Grimm, from his rocking chair, waxing eloquent (Hoosier style) about what it means to grow up in this state and to be a Hoosier (“We all learn to be nice, to greet people with handshakes and to wash our hands after greeting people with handshakes.”); and an absolutely hilarious bit between actors Mark Goetzinger and Aaron Kirby playing two good ol’ boys who sit down on a porch, pop open their cans of beer (remarkably, in perfect unison), and proceed to have a talk about the wonders of $4.99 breakfast menus at “the Denny’s” and watching a relative in “the thee-AY-ter” perform in Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors (“Comedy of Heirs . . . . So does somebody inherit the money then? OH, Comedy of Airs. <chuckle, chuckle> So does somebody break wind.”).

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Aaron Kirby (left) and Mark Goetzinger in IRT’s “Finding Home: Indiana at 200”

Dramatic monologues; introduction (and reintroduction) to the names and faces of amazing Hoosiers and red-letter dates in this state’s (and nation’s) history; light-hearted and laugh-out-loud comedy; an exploration of the inhumane treatment of the “free men” of Indiana’s late nineteenth-century African-American community; murderous atrocities committed against Indiana’s first inhabitants; the struggles of the first woman breaking into the men’s world of Indy 500 racing; stories of Hoosier women pioneers in other areas; all surrounded and enhanced by Tim Grimm’s soothing and homegrown music. Something for everyone.

Finding Home: Indiana at 200 will continue its run at Indiana Repertory Theatre through November 20. For more specific information on dates, showtimes, ticket orders, plus back stories of the play, the players and the musicians, visit IRT’s website at http://www.irtlive.com/.

Happy Birthday, Indiana!

  • Banner artwork by Kyle Ragsdale
  • Photos by Zach Rosing

“King Lear” at Bard Fest

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banner-2 reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

William Shakespeare’s King Lear is a large-scale story – a calamitous yarn of kings and courts, battlements and precipices. Usually one would expect such an outsized tale to be performed on a full sized stage, in a grand setting. One part of the magic of First Folio Production’s offering of the play is that we are invited to witness all of this on Studio 15’s compact stage. Director Carey Shea has styled his production to not only fit the confines, but indeed, in some ways to expand it.

Bolstered with a fine sound design by Tristan Ross, and colorful costuming by Dianna Mosedale, Shea’s King Lear comes across in fine stead, asking the audience to use some of their imagination skills, something I am always pleased to note. The set, consisting of four rotating panels, plus an added chair or banner or rock, is suitable for this simpler telling of a complex account. Shea’s cast of actors more than rises to the occasion, delivering fully developed characterizations and clear story-telling – their excellent diction being one highlight of their endeavors.

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Cordelia (Ann Marie Elliott) watches her father King Lear (David Mosedale) in Bard Fest’s “King Lear”

David Mosedale takes on the difficult title role. He proves to be up to the task, delivering a well conceived depiction, skillfully balancing Lear’s wisdom, emotion and madness. Ann Marie Elliott is lovely in the dual role of Cordelia and her posing as the Fool. She conveys the gentle nature of both with aplomb. Likewise, Doug Powers’ Kent shows the strength of being his own man with a definitive performance. Craig Kemp plays Gloucester with clear purpose – we never doubt his intention to do what is right. Zach Stonerock does a masterful job with Gloucester’s son Edgar, driven to madness in his exile. Matt Anderson gives Albany a full depiction, as both hen-pecked husband and courageous loyalist.

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Goneril (Sarah Frehlke) comforts a dying Edmound (Bradford Reilly) in Bard Fest’s “King Lear”

Shakespeare floods the stage with evil-doers: Goneril and Reagen, the two unscrupulous daughters of the king, are given due portrayals by Sarah Froehlke and Beth Clark, conniving and dishonest. Bradford Reilly shows special talent as the slick opportunist, Edmound, while Tristan Ross plays the large and threatening Cornwall with an apt fierceness.

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Edgar (Zach Stonerock) tends to his blinded father Gloucester (Craig Kemp) in Bard Fest’s “King Lear”

Bottomline: a thoughtful production design coupled with a highly talented cast are assets in bringing a difficult play to life. This is a wonderful opportunity to see a top-notch production of a rarely produced masterpiece.

King Lear continues as part of the 2nd annual Bard Fest, currently running through October 30th at Carmel Theatre Company’s Studio 15. Productions of Twelfth Night and Coriolanus are also offered during the festival. For information about the schedule and ticket sales go to http://brownpapertickets.com/ and search events in Carmel IN, or call the box office at 317-688-8876.

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