“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” at Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Thirty years ago in 1987, three American actors and writers, Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jeff Winfield – known as the Reduced Shakespeare Company – wrote and produced a very original idea. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) was presented that year at the famous Edinburgh Festive Fringe to great fanfare and soon after, began a nine year run at the Criterion Theatre in London, England.

The show, directed for Civic Theatre by John Michael Goodson, is a burlesque of sorts, with no fourth wall, employing a trio of actors to present the show directly to, and sometimes with, the audience. That aspect makes The Studio Theatre at Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts, usually the domain of Actors Theatre of Indiana, the perfect venue for this lively presentation of mayhem and frequently wacky humor.

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(from left) Kelsey VanVoorst, Frankie Bolda and Antoine Demmings – the cast of Civic Theatre’s production of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)”.

The show features sketch-savvy actresses Frankie Bolda and Kelsey VanVoorst, and introduces first time stage actor, Antoine Demmings. All three provide the necessary energized personas for the task at hand – 37 plays (plus a brief fly-over of the sonnets) in 97 minutes. The action is a string of routines (or “bits”) glued together by the purported task. Most bits work, some don’t. The script also provides plenty of room for improvisation and references to “news of the day” or current pop culture and, depending somewhat on your political preferences, some ideas which this group has chosen hit the mark squarely.

Regardless of content – the efforts of the actors are unquestionably first rate. There is an obvious cohesion among them which undoubtedly comes from the programming of director Goodson and the cast’s basic hard work. The flow of the show is unstoppable and the trio has sharpened their actions and responses to a fine point. As impressive as the more veteran actresses are, newcomer Demmings more than does himself proud in his debut. (I’ll expect to see more of Mr. Demmings on local stages in the future.)

Set designer Will Tople offers simple function with his attractive barn-like set; the lights designed by Quinten James are as near to a fourth character as lights can be; and Janet and Jennifer Sutton are to be applauded for their amazing collection of various props and notions, which augment Adrienne Conces’ sizable variety of costume pieces.

Bottomline: I think risks taken onstage very often justify the overall results. Such is what I saw here in the sometimes (but not often) unevenness of a nimble and very alive feeling production.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) continues at the Studio Theatre in the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel through April 1. You can get information about the schedule and tickets by calling 317.843.3800 or by logging onto http://www.civictheatre.org .

  • – Photos provided by Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre

“Boeing Boeing” at IRT

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

The Indiana Repertory Theatre hits its mid-season stride with Marc Camoletti’s classic 1962 farce, Boeing Boeing. The production draws together the considerable talents of director Laura Gordon, in her first foray with IRT, with a wonderfully matched corps of actors and actresses, resulting in a precisely staged and genuinely hilarious occasion.

Boeing Boeing, which ran for 7 years after its opening on London’s West End, is the story of a swinging 60s bachelor named Bernard who lives in an upscale Paris apartment which he shares with a French housekeeper, Berte, and his 3 air hostess fiancées – American Gloria, Italian Gabriella and German Gretchen. (Well, just reading that premise gives you the idea that mayhem is bound to ensue here, right?) A visit from an old school friend, Robert, gives Bernard the chance to tout what a wonderful arrangement it is to have a loving trio of rotating girlfriends who do not know the others exist. As you can imagine, things soon get complicated and, well, farcical!

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Chris Klopatek (Robert), Hillary Clemens (Gloria), and Matt Schwader (Bernard) in IRT’s production of “Boeing Boeing”.

Matt Schwader, returning to IRT after his 2015 Mitty Award winning stint as Gatsby in The Great Gatsby, is the perfect Bernard – handsome, self-assured and oh so ripe for his comeuppance. Schwader’s real-life spouse, Hillary Clemens, also returning from her engagement in Gatsby as Daisy Buchanan, enlivens Gloria, the rather self-centered American fiancée. Melisa Pereyra is a tender but fiery Gabriella, while Greta Wohlrabe gives a mix of innocence and dominance to her portrayal of Gretchen.

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Greta Wohlrabe (Gretchen) and Elizabeth Ledo (Berthe) in IRT’s production of “Boeing Boeing”.

Chris Klopatek plays the clumsily nebbish Robert with relish, and Elizabeth Ledo wins the audience’s hearts as the much put-upon housekeeper Berthe, savoring every last bit of her character’s grumbling nature.

In farce, exactness in blocking, pratfalls and reactions must be explicit and uninhibited. Aided by Rob Johansen’s clever ideas for movement and flow, the entire ensemble works through the play’s often harried activity with precision. Director Gordon has sharpened the action and reaction to a fine point, and the resulting comic turns by her cast are a great reward for the audience.

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On the set by Vicki Smith – Elizabeth Ledo (Berthe), Melisa Pereyra (Gabriella), Matt Schwader (Bernard), and Chris Klopatek (Robert) in IRT’s production of “Boeing Boeing”.

As usual with IRT productions, the technical aspects are eye-popping. Vicki Smith’s clean 60’s set, featuring a vibrant Calder mobile, is beautifully rendered. Mathew Lefebvre admits influence by the series Mad Men in his choices for costume design. He provides colorful and clean-lined fashions in his work here.

It is pleasing to have IRT at last embrace farces, with Boeing Boeing offered this season and Noises Off scheduled for next. The genre is perhaps the trickiest to pull off and many are the attempts that falter and fail. But IRT’s reputation for excellence is good reason to look forward to more of this type of comic show.

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Greta Wohlrabe (Greta), Chris Klopatek (Robert), Matt Schwader (Bernard), and Melisa Pereyra (Gabriella) in IRT’s production of “Boeing Boeing”.

Bottomline: Comedy is hard, especially the farce genre, but the tireless work of these players provides a rich entertainment full of belly laughs.

Boeing Boeing continues on IRT’s OneAmerica Mainstage through April 2. For more specific information on dates and show times visit IRT’s website at http://www.irtlive.com/ or call 317.635.5252.

  • – Photos by Zach Rosing
  • – Artwork by Kyle Ragsdale

 

“Rabbit Hole” at Mud Creek Players

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reviewed by Larry Adams

rabbit hole:    

1. a metaphor for an entry into the unknown, the disorienting, the mentally deranging.

2. something that is intricate or convoluted like a labyrinth and often has no outlet or resolution.

 

Nothing succeeds in community theater like the tried and true comedies, mysteries and musicals; precisely why I appreciate and admire those venues which periodically take a chance on a lesser known, perhaps more challenging (for both the cast and audience) piece. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the appeal and even the necessity of the time-tested standards. Theaters have to “put butts in the seats” to remain solvent, and, as a semi-regular audience member myself, I can attest to the fact that sometimes, after a long week of work, life, and whatever, you really just wanna sit back and be entertained. But I truly feel that it is also the obligation of our local theaters to stretch the minds of their audiences on occasion, to comment on the human condition, and to leave their patrons pondering unanswered questions and possibilities rather than neat and happy endings. Fortunately, Mud Creek Players’ production of Rabbit Hole accomplishes all of these more lofty-sounding goals, while managing to entertain as well.

Just before closing up my office last night and starting the long trek from Zionsville to East 82nd Street for the show, I texted my wife to remind her of my gig as guest reviewer for A Seat on the Aisle and to give her the thumbnail sketch of what I thought I was in for. “A 4-year-old boy is accidentally run over,” I typed, sarcastically adding, “and hilarious hijinks ensue.” You can imagine my surprise to find I was not that far off. That’s because David Lindsay-Abaire’s Pulitzer Prize winning script somehow pulls off an amazing feat: conjuring up that most devastating of human experiences- the loss of a child- and balancing it with a subtle humor that reads as natural, unforced and honest; taking a premise that would seem almost inevitably to lead to either the relentlessly depressing or maudlin, and instead leaving the audience with an experience that is- dare I say- enjoyable while still tugging at the strings of both the mind and the heart.

Credit a fine cast and the deft touch of director Michelle Moore for successfully bringing such a challenging script to the stage. Holly Hathaway (whom I last saw in a flawless performance as part of one of the finest productions I have ever had the pleasure to attend, CCP’s August: Osage County– and, yeah, okay, my mom was in it, but still…) delivers a rich portrayal of Becca, a mother eight months into her struggle to cope with the accidental death of her four-year old son, Danny. In what is a fairly balanced ensemble piece, Ms. Hathaway’s character gives us the widest range of emotions, swinging from laughter to anger to tears, from love to resentment to hopelessness, often within the same scene and always in a manner that seems natural and sincere. Becca’s husband Howie, played by Robert Webster with just the right mix of restraint, frustration and, at times, rage, is the perfect complement to his mate: one ready to move on but holding on to the memories, the other stuck in place and unable to tolerate them.

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From left: Jen Otterman (as Nat), Kimberly Biberstein (Izzy), Holly Hathaway (Becca), Robert Webster (Howie) and Kyle Dorsch (Jason) in a scene from Mud Creek Players’ “Rabbit Hole”.

Kimberly Biberstein gives a spirited, fun performance as Izzy, Becca’s generally care free and irresponsible sister. Though ably carrying much of the humor of the show, Ms. Biberstein still manages to convey that Izzy too has not been immune to the loss of her nephew. The final member of the family on stage, Becca’s and Izzy’s mother Nat, is played by Jen Otterman, and her performance is a true delight. Charmingly flaky, and giving the audience a sense that age has perhaps taken a slight toll on her verbal filters, Nat’s musings on the Curse of the Kennedys provides some welcome, lighthearted moments in the first act, while a touching scene with Becca in the second hints at an underlying wisdom born of carrying a heavy burden for so many years. Taken together, these four characters illustrate the depth of human despair in the face of senseless tragedy, the desperate and disparate attempts to cope and help each other, and the conflicts that inevitably arise.

The one missed note in the roster of characters is Jason, the teenage driver who accidentally causes Danny’s death. This is not, I must emphasize, the fault of the actor, Kyle Dorsche, who I frankly feel plays the role for everything it’s worth. In this case, I blame the author, who admittedly has one more Pulitzer Prize than I do. In a play that is striking for the complexity and authenticity of its characters, Jason’s appearances are distractingly written in one or perhaps two dimensional fashion, drifting between cartoonishly nerdish and almost serial killer creepy. Taking a character whose expected guilt, regret and anguish would seem ripe for development and exploration, the author instead goes for- well, I’m not exactly sure what, really, certainly not comedy relief- with a character who is somehow both prying and oddly detached from the destruction he has caused. If there was a point to be made, Mr. Lindsay-Abaire, I missed it.

The production and the play itself are not without other flaws. A hinted-at affair that screams “PLOT COMPLICATION!” seems to go almost nowhere, and a marriage being slowly ripped apart suddenly appears to make a rebound for no apparent reason. The humor, which requires a subtle touch in its delivery to feel natural and honest, drifts dangerously close to sitcom levels on a couple of occasions, and the second act drags a bit both in material and pacing. These are minor quibbles, however. “Bottomline,” as Mr. Klingenmeier would say: Mud Creek Players has staged a remarkable production of a remarkable show, one that will leave you talking, laughing, crying, and thinking long after the lights have dimmed. I urge you to take a trip down the Rabbit Hole.

Rabbit Hole continues at Mud Creek Players through March 4th. For ticket information and reservations go to http://www.mudcreekplayers.org or call 317-290-5343.

  • – Photo from Mud Creek Players

 

“Suite Surrender” at CCP

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Carmel Community Players continues their 2016-17 with Suite Surrender,  the 2008 farce by Michael McKeever. Set in wartime 1942 at the prominent Palm Beach Royale Hotel, the play tells the story of what happens when two self-important celebrities, who happen to be arch-rivals on and off the stage, are mistakenly booked into the same suite of rooms at this prestigious hotel.

Jan Jamison directs her energetic cast through a mayhem filled plot-line. Georgeanna Teipen (as Claudia McFadden) and Jill O’Malia (Athena Sinclair) blithely portray the combatant stars who leave a trail of insistent demands for their striving-to-please secretaries, Thom Johnson (Mr. Pippet) and Addison D. Ahrendts (Murphy). Also caught up in the turmoil are the overwhelmed hotel manager Bernard Dunlap, performed with relish by Sydney Loomis, harried bell boys Otis and Francis (Colton Martin and Steve Jerk, respectively), and somewhat battered gossip columnist, Dora Del Rio (Marjorie Worrell). Kate Hinman plays the interruptive socialite, Mrs. Everett P. Osgood. Toss in a little dog named Mr. Boodles, played with rare calm in the chaos by Sergio, and you have a complete set of delicious characters for the twisting farce.

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The Cast of CCP’s “Suite Surrender”: (from left) Steve Jerk, Colton Martin, Marjorie Worrell, Jill O’Malia, Georgeanna Teipen w/ Sergio, Sydney Loomis, Thom Johnson, Kate Hinman, and Addison D. Ahrendts.

A very packed house enjoyed a good number of laughs as the cast enthusiastically worked through moments of slapstick, word plays, face takes, sub-plots and misunderstandings, all having developed broad characterizations for the tasks. Though a bit uneven at times in their pacing, the team onstage easily won over the crowd with their antics.

All this wild activity takes place on the beautifully appointed set conceived by Bill Fitch, and decorated by Ron Roessler and Ms. Jamison, in a rich set of costumes designed by Patricia Dorwin.

Bottomline: Suite Surrender has enough comic action and farcical plot to please the palate of most theatre goers. And the highly spirited cast truly enjoys giving its all to fulfill the script’s intensions.

Carmel Community Player’s Suite Surrender continues at their Clay Terrace venue through February 26. To learn information about times and dates visit their website: http://www.carmelplayers.org or call 317.815.9387.

  • – Poster by Lori Raffel
  • – Photo by Charlie Hanover

 

 

CRP’s “Tooth of Crime” at Grove Haus

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reviewed by Adam Crowe

Maybe you have never seen a play directed by Casey Ross. The Artistic Director for Catalyst Repertory Productions (formerly Casey Ross Productions) has been producing well received play for the last few years on small budgets and in locations other than the “usual theaters”.   One such location is The Grove Haus, an artists’ collective located South of Downtown Indianapolis. On Friday February 10, the Grove Haus hosted opening night of Tooth of Crime by Sam Shepard. Originally produced in London in 1972, The Tooth of Crime is a musical play. A revised version of the play was presented in 1996, with new music by T-Bone Burnett and it is this version that Casey Ross and Company are presenting at The Grove Haus.

Complex. Demanding. These are the best words I can find to describe this production. The play itself demands a lot – from its two main actors, and also from its audience. Shepard has created a very specific world, set sometime in an American future, where the inhabitants still speak English, but with elaborate and unusual slang. It takes several minutes (or more) for an audience to adjust their ears and begin to follow what the actors are talking about. Shepard’s setting suggests an elaborate contest being played by his characters, under the gaze of some sort of overlords or “Keepers”. What that contest entails slowly becomes clearer – somewhat.

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From left: Adam Tran as Crow confronts Davey Pelsue as Hoss in CRP’s production of “Tooth of Crime”.

Hoss, played by Davey Pelsue, is our Hero. He is at the top of his “game” and must constantly track the rise of challengers. The latest such foe finally makes his appearance in Act II – in the guise of Adam Tran’s Crow. As I have said before, I try not to detail a play’s entire plot as I don’t wish to spoil the journey. In this instance, such explanation would be a bit pointless, as the ostensible plot is less important than the rapid fire of ideas, spoken and sung. Both lead actors are fierce and their performances are terrific. Playing an assortment of supporting characters, the cast includes Jay Hemphill, Sarah Hoffman, Zach Stonerock, Nan Macy, Ryan Powell and David Malloy. And as it is a musical play – the house band includes Christopher McNeely, Chris Burton, Kris Mainer, Ben Eads, David Rosenfield, Andy Strum, and Craig Burton. Other than some occasional volume issues, the band is great.

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“Tooth of Crime” set: designed by Andrew Darr

Should you go? I will say this – if you want to be an audience member who sits and lets the play wash over you, this might not be the show for you. Complex and demanding, remember? Tooth of Crime requires full investment from its audience. If you are looking for a theatrical experience – something you will find nowhere else – This IS for you. Seating is limited, so get tickets sooner rather than later.

The Grove Haus is located at 1001 Hosbrook Street in the Fountain Square neighborhood.

Tickets for Tooth of Crime may be purchased by visiting http://www.Brownpapertickets.com. The play runs February 10th – 26th. Friday and Saturday curtain at 8 pm. Sunday’s curtain is at 5 PM. Tickets are $20.

 

 

 

 

“The Sunshine Boys” at Westfield Playhouse

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Mrs. K and I attended a second weekend showing of Neil Simon’s 1972 award-winning classic comedy The Sunshine Boys, currently running at Main Street Production’s Westfield Playhouse in Eagletown. The play is directed by Pamela Kingsley, and stars Duane Leatherman as the cantankerous Willie Clark, and Jeff Maess as Clark’s former vaudeville partner, Al Lewis. Scott Prill takes the role of Clark’s nephew, Ben Silverman, and Adrienne Reiswerg picks up the two nurse roles as the sketch nurse, Miss MacKintosh, and registered nurse, Mrs. O’Neill. Production stage manager Lydia Bowling comes on briefly as TV stage manager, Edie. The proceedings are set on a perfect looking run down apartment design by Ms. Kingsley and John Sampson.

This well-worn storyline is certainly a dated one and I suspect the comedy gods are still pulling for its success. But, The Sunshine Boys is Simon’s 11th show (in an amazing catalogue of 34 plays) and comedy has evolved in the 45 years since it was the toast of Broadway. I’m not saying its production is a futile effort – I’m saying it is certainly a large challenge.

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(From left) Duane Leatherman (as Willie Clark) and Jeff Maess (Al Lewis) in a scene from “The Sunshine Boys” at Westfield Playhouse.

WP’s edition of the script is at best a bit uneven. There are some noteworthy turns – Mr. Prill brings excellent energy and a sense of credibility to his portrayal of Silverman. The east coast accent he lightly employs seems accurate and even. His emotions, running from caring to mild frustration to exasperation and hopefulness are all fully on the mark. Ms. Reiswerg creates a playful sketch nurse and doubles down with her later private RN – nailing the right mood and flat voiced delivery. And young Ms. Bowling seems relaxed and natural in her brief cameo appearance.

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Adrienne Reiswerg (as Nurse MacKintosh) and Duane Leatherman (Willie Clark) in a scene from “The Sunshine Boys” at Westfield Playhouse.

In the larger roles, which plainly are tougher, the unevenness shows it’s face. Part of what seems to me to be missing from time to time is my old favorite essential – pacing, and the idea of suiting the tempo of a scene to it’s content. Some of this falls on the director – but perhaps this being a second weekend “get-back-to-it” performance contributed to this dilemma.

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(From left) Scott Prill (as Ben Silverman) and Duane Leatherman (Willie Clark) in a scene from “The Sunshine Boys” at Westfield Playhouse

Don’t get me wrong, Maess and Leatherman do share some nice moments together at times. There are real belly laughs to be enjoyed here – but the “classic” quality of the comedy, and an approach which I felt was short on pacing and tempo, takes some of the humorous intentions off the stage.

Bottomline: As so often occurs, the goodness outweighs the concerns here and attending the comfortable and easy to reach (now that the Keystone Pkwy/US 31 highway project has been completed) theatre still provides an entertaining evening.

The Sunshine Boys continues through February 19th. You can get theatre information and reservations at http://www.westfieldplayhouse.org or by calling 317.402.3341 .

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Footnote: Anyone who has ever attended a play at Westfield Playhouse knows about a very special distinction which exists there – the lack of indoor plumbing, which results in the necessity for port-a-johns outside of the building. Granted , this is a distinction the theatre would rather not have, but to their credit, it is referred to openly and light heartedly in their pre-show greeting and in their references to the building. Still, it has been this way for a long time, so I took the opportunity of this visit to do a little investigative reporting. John Sampson, the president of the theatre, answered my questions openly and honestly. The theatre has been actively doing plays in the old church since 2002 – so 15 years ago they set up a stage area, cleaned up the property and opened for business, with temporary portable bathrooms outside the doors.

When asked why this was still the status of things, Sampson told me they had the following situation. The building had had a septic system which, due to age and lack of maintenance, had fallen out of usefulness. The theatre was not allowed by Westfield to put in a new system because a sewage system was in the planning stages for the “near future”. So Westfield Playhouse has been asking certain government types “when?” on an annual basis and have been told “in about 2 years” for the past nine years or so. I must say, they are a patient lot. As I said, Sampson and the other good folks who helm the organization are nothing but good-natured about the status quo, but John told me he would be glad to have this information given out to my readers. A little knowledge goes a long way – especially when you have to pee outside.

Dance Kaleidoscope’s “Divas” at IRT

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

DK’s latest collection of dances, entitled Divas, opened to a packed house audience on IRT’s OneAmerica Stage for its very limited run. The compilation features dances by eleven choreographers including artistic director David Hochoy and guest choreographer Nicholas A. Owens, who present their new works entitled “Janis” and “Franklin”, respectively. Add to that the creations of nine members of the DK troupe, whose workshop pieces are offered as a first act.

That first act consists of an assortment of divas’ recordings put to dances which range from romantically sentimental to pragmatically humorous with stops in between. All nine offerings show creative savvy and style that someday may lead to major opportunities. Indeed, some of the dancer/choreographers have already had their works seen in local theatre productions.

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Zach Young (left) and Stuart Coleman in Timothy June’s “Enlightenment”, part of Dance Kaleidoscope’s “Divas”.

Of the nine, my favorites include a dynamic styling of Barbara Streisand’s “Don’t Rain on My Parade”, choreographed by Stuart Coleman and danced in a sparkling solo by Aleksa Lukasiewicz. Also, Brandon Comer’s design for Patti LaBelle’s haunting rendition of “Over the Rainbow”, danced by a group of eight, is pleasing in its evocative emotional blendings. It serves as a touching salute to our personal loses of loved ones.

Conversely, Timothy June puts his sense of humor to work in a hilarious piece entitled Enlightenment, which deals with personal discovery and self-acceptance. A delightful veil of a storyline enables June’s dancers to go from self-protective to fancy free – for Shirley Bassey’s “I Am What I Am”. Finally,  Jillian Godwin’s First Touch,  Adele’s “I Miss You”, illuminates the “first spark,…first glance,…first yearning,…first touch” of a relationship. It is indeed truly touching and poignant.

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(From left) Aleksa Lukasiewicz, Brandon Comer, Caitlin Negron and Timothy June in David Hochoy’s “Janis”, part of Dance Kaleidoscope’s “Divas”.

The second act consists of the full dance company in Mr. Hochoy’s Janis and Mr. Owens’ Franklin – both of which are tributes to these legendary ladies’ music and message. Janis is a hard rockin’, joyful set of Joplin’s earthy song renditions highlighted by dancer Jillian Godwin’s powerful solo for “Me and Bobby McGee”, and a group of 6 mixing it up for an impassioned “Cry Baby”. Joplin’s performances of “Move Over” and “Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)” round out the work.

Franklin features five of Aretha’s stirring recordings. The three more recognizable to this writer are the familiar “A Natural Woman”, “You’re All I Need to Get By” and, of course, “Respect”. The framework of these dances strongly covered human needs, human love, and the pervasive longing for respect. “You Are My Sunshine” and “First Snow in Kokomo” complete the piece.

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Stuart Coleman and Caitlin Negron in Nicholas A. Owens’ “Franklin”, part of Dance Kaleidoscope’s “Divas”.

Both of these top level choreographers provide great understanding of the emotion inherent in the Joplin/Franklin music. The DK troupe of dancers, a premier group who seem to gain in their artistry each time I see them, provide the wonderfully emotional and concise performances that their choreographers seek. For these reasons, Dance Kaleidoscope again proves itself a valuable treasure in this city’s wealth of artistic riches.

Finally, the excellent costumes by Cheryl Sparks and Guy Clark, with additional costume pieces provided by Barry Doss and Lydia Tanji – coupled with impressive lighting designs by Laura E. Glover – lend sensation and sensitivity to the proceedings.

Bottom-line: This is a fantastic evening of dance you won’t want to forego. Unfortunately, this is a very brief offering, so be sure to get your tickets soon. You cannot plan to go to this wonderful production next weekend; it’ll be gone.

Dance Kaleidoscope’s Divas continues only through February 12. Get information and tickets at http://dancekal.org/features/concerts/divas-february-9-12 or by calling 317.635.5252.

  • – Photos by Crowe’s Eye Photography

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