“Picasso at the Lapin Agile” at Mud Creek Players

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Steve Martin’s play Picasso at the Lapin Agile had it’s first full public performance on October 13, 1993 in Chicago at the Steppenwolf Theatre. To quote Mr. Martin, “the play attempts to explain, in a light-hearted way, the similarity of the creative process involved in great leaps of imagination in art and science”. Martin does this in a truly unique and original way, presenting a chopped salad of interesting characters and ideas, imagining a meeting in 1904 of Picasso and Einstein. The plot never moves in one direction toward any gripping conclusion, but rather runs on a variety of courses, much like the “nimble rabbit” alluded to in the name of the bar it is set in.

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The cast of Mud Creek Players’ production of “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” on the set by Jay Ganz.

Mud Creek Players’ production of the piece is ably directed by Kelly Keller, in his directing debut, with assistance by Mason Odle. Keller does himself proud as all the facets of a solid production are put into place here, with strong character development, a rich understanding of their motives, and wonderful tempo, pacing and rhythms throughout.

The cast is full of new faces, new to me that is. Brad Root (Pablo Picasso) and Justin Lyon (Albert Einstein) present satisfying depictions, brimming with energy and life. Root’s Picasso is an impassioned man – a bit full of himself, but confident and very much alive in the moment. Lyon bears a strong resemblance to the young Einstein, and carries this through with a remarkably vulnerable characterization of the great scientist.

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Savannah Jay as Suzanne and Brad Root as Palo Picasso in Mud Creek Players’ “Picasso at the Lapin Agile”.

Collin Moore makes the most of barfly Gaston with a hilarious rendering of the man and his often absurd observations of life. Monya Wolf does memorable work in the featured role of Germaine, a waitress with strong points of view, and Eric Matters is deftly on the mark as her barkeep/partner, Freddy. Robert C. Boston, Jr. is perfectly cast as opportunist art dealer, Sagot, and Savanna Jay has some wonderful moments as Picasso’s young lover, Suzanne. Also noteworthy is Lexi Odle, who maximizes her brief time on stage with a humorous, well-timed, punch-lined exit.

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Justin Lyon as Albert Einstein in Mud Creek Players’ “Picasso at the Lapin Agile”

The play is performed on Jay Ganz’ authentic looking set, with adroit costuming by Tanya Keeler, and lights designed by Collin Moore.

Bottomline: As mentioned earlier, all the facets come together here for what is a thought-provoking, fast-moving and entertaining show. This was Mrs. K’s and my first visit to Mud Creek Players in many years and I hope that this type of production quality will have us returning soon.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile continues at Mud Creek Players through May 6. You can get information about the schedule and tickets by calling 317.290.5343 or by logging onto http://www.mudcreekplayers.org

  • – Photos by Colman Love

Note: this play is rated PG-13 for adult language and situations.

“DK & Friends” presented at IRT

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Last night Mrs. K and I had the privilege of attending the current offering from Dance Kaleidoscope which is being performed on IRT’s OneAmerica stage. Entitled DK and Friends, the evening was dedicated to coordinated efforts by the creative forces of DK, guest artists from Todd Rosenlieb Dance – which is based in Norfolk VA, and live performances by singer Doug Dilling and electric violinist Cathy Morris.

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The Todd Rosenlieb Dance troupe performs “Heavy Like Waits” – choreographed by Todd Rosenlieb – Photo by Freddie Kelvin

The Rosenlieb group took the stage first, sharing three of their company’s creations. Todd Rosenlieb’s “Heavy Like Waits” is an innovatively costumed set of dances done to the trademark growl of an assortment of Tom Waits songs. “Voiced” which features choreography by former DK performer Ricardo Melendez (now a Rosenlieb associate), has an experimental feel to it – the Rosenlieb dancers have only human voice sounds to set their movements to. Finally, another Todd Rosenlieb conception called “Suite Sammy” honors the great Sammy Davis Jr. with an energetic piece choreographed for several of Davis’ standard hits. Of the three, the Sammy number is my favorite – hitting home with nostalgic feelings. However all the pieces were well performed – the Rosenlieb dancers being exceptionally skillful with their group’s choreographic stylings.

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Megan Butler, Caitlin Cooley, and Janelle Spruill perform “Voiced” – choreographed by Ricardo Melendez – Photo by Freddie Kelvin

Act Two featured the world premiere of a short-form work by DK artistic director David Hocchoy entitled “End of the World”, featuring dancers Stuart Coleman and Timothy June with musical support by singer Doug Dilling. The eponymous song is by composer/singer Matt Alber from his “Hide Nothing” album. Portrayed as a lament by a gay man to his lover, the work was emotive and tender.

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Singer Doug Dilling, with dancers Stuart Coleman and Timothy June performing David Hochoy’s “End of the World”- Photo by Freddie Kelvin

Following, there comes “Skin Walkers”, a 1999 Hochoy piece. The Celtic (or Scotch) music base is wonderfully augmented by Cathy Morris performing fantastic improv licks on her electric violin. The dance itself is an uber-high-energy program full of struts and leaps which brought the crowd to its feet at the finish. This piece definitively shows off the high skills of the DK troupe, with each of the 11 dancers having a turn to be center. It is an explosive ending to a very entertaining evening.

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The DK dancers perform David Hochoy’s “Skin Walkers” (1999) – Photo by Crowe’s Eye Photography

This DK concert only runs thru Sunday April 9th, so you will need to get your tickets rather quickly. You can get performance and ticket information by going to http://dancekal.org/features/concerts/dk-friends-april-6-9 or by calling the IRT Ticket Office at 317.635.5252.

“Les Misérables” (School Edition) offered by Agape Performing Arts Company

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

17554029_1278609212226718_2292847556785370800_nThursday evening saw Mrs. K and I attending opening night of the school edition of Les Misérables. The show was held at McGowan Hall on the old Northside of Indianapolis. A very large audience, mostly family members, saw a wonderful performance of this world famous musical brought forth by a platoon of 69 young actors and actress ranging in age from 4th graders to high school seniors. Add the 20 set-change/backstage crew members and you have 89 young people who work hard to make this show happen!

You would be mistaken to assume that this was some charming little effort, with cute kids attempting adult roles. On the contrary, Director Dr. Kathy Phipps has managed to instill her young charges with a gravitas of dignity and emotion that runs through the presentation.

Led by a bevy of top-notch turns by the lead actors and actresses, this offering ranks high on stage essentials such as focus, interpretation and integration. It can be said it is among the very best of shows I have seen from any youth theatre company.

Luan Arnold, a Herron HS senior, portrays Jean Valjean with a heroic persona furthered by his tremendous vocal talent. Arnold is on the mark throughout the immense role and delivers on all points. As Valjean’s adversary Javert, Eli Robinson, a senior from Center Grove HS, renders a strong voiced offering. Never overdone, his fine character choices present a man convinced that his is the right way, even to the end.

Other main roles are equally well-crafted. Samantha Koval leaves few dry eyes with her “I Dreamed a Dream” as Fantine. Katherine Sabens puts her clear, sweet voice to excellent use for Little Cosette’s “Castle on a Cloud”. Thomas Tutsie and Hannah Phipps enliven the proceedings as the dastardly Thenardiers. Alex Bast (Enjoiras), Christopher Golab (Grantaire) and Connor Cleary (Marius) are tenacious in their action as revolutionaries, joined by 4th grader Aaron Sickmeier, who is a feisty Gavroche. Olivia Renee Ortmann uses her remarkable voice talents as the forsaken Eponine. And operatically voiced Christina Canaday joins with Cleary’s Marius for some very fine romantic moments.

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Some of the fine supporting cast of “Les Miserables” in The Beggars scene.

The overall effect of the gigantic cast and the preponderance of talented voices and acting skills make for a truly outstanding evening of theatre entertainment. A few points were lost on some nagging technical concerns, which I am known to notice. Lighting issues and mike problems seemed to run throughout the performance and I certainly hope that these things can be brought under control – but the night belonged to the talented young performers who put on a notable display of theatre. I hope that some of these fledglings will keep theatre as a part of their lives, either professionally or as an avocation, at local venues or theatres afar.

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Luan Arnold (center) as Jean Valjean, rescues Marius in the Barricade scene in “Les Miserables”

One final impressive aspect of the show needs mention – the fine orchestra, led by David Turner, which provided an exceptional sounding background for the many songs. This is a difficult score and the 17 member group of musicians are to be congratulated on a superior job.

One major unfixable problem with this Les Misérables is that it only runs through a single weekend! Even as I write this on 4/7/17 – a Friday afternoon show is getting ready to launch at 1 pm and then only Friday and Saturday evening shows and a late afternoon Sunday program remain. You are urged to go to http://www.thelittleboxoffice.com/agape for ticket information. I encourage everyone to see this remarkable hit show.

  • – Photos from Director Kathy Phipps

 

“My Fair Lady” at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

When the production of Lerner and Lowe’s new musical My Fair Lady opened on Broadway in 1956, it starred Rex Harrison in the role of speech professor Henry Higgins, and Julie Andrews as flower girl Eliza Doolittle. These stage depictions of George Bernard Shaw’s creations from Pygmalion, along with Harrison’s and Audrey Hepburn’s turns in the roles in the 1964 film version, have long been the benchmarks against which others are measured. If you saw either the original play or the film, you likely reveled in Harrison’s style as Higgins, with his articulated way of delivering lyrics and his conveyance of Shaw’s bluntly selfish character. And both Ms. Andrews’ or Ms. Hepburn’s sweetly vulnerable Eliza no doubt won your heart as the girl changed through her and Higgins’ efforts. They are the standards, tried and true.

One of the things I like most about theatre is the opportunity directors, actors and actresses have to bring their own fresh ideas about characterization and performance to their work. Beef and Boards’ current production of My Fair Lady, directed by Eddie Curry and choreographed by Ron Morgan, gives us freshness in high level performances. Kimberly Doreen Burns stars with B&B favorite David Schmittou in the two iconic roles and both bring their very own approaches to their offerings. Ms. Burns is a feisty and fiery Eliza, never backing down and seldom bruised by the treatment of her mentor. Her powerful singing style only augments this choice and she is a top-notch performer. Schmittou’s Higgins is stylish, to be sure, but far more melodic in his delivery than Harrison and perhaps, at times, more assailable than his charge. He puts his own well-formed set of skills to work and produces an adroit counterpart to Ms. Burns. As a result, the frequent scenes between the two main characters prove brightly captivating.

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As part of her lessons to speak proper English, Professor Henry Higgins (David Schmittou), right, put marbles in the mouth of Eliza Doolittle (Kimberly Doreen Burns), left, and tells her to speak a line from her book in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of “My Fair Lady”.

Mark Goetzinger adds much to the action with his sturdy Colonel Pickering. Kinder and gentler than Higgins, he is as most of us would have acted had we been there. Director Curry adds the role of dustman Alfred P. Doolittle to his workload, and pulls off his usual energetic rendering, full of lively movement and excellent comic timing. Also noteworthy is Vickie Cornelius Phipps who, as Higgin’s aristocratic mother, makes the absolute most of her dozen or so lines with an aptly droll delivery.

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Eliza Doolittle (Kimberly Doreen Burns), center, sings “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of “My Fair Lady”.

A huge aspect of this show is it’s need for a large assortment of beautiful costuming and Jimm Halliday steps in to do impressive work with his designs and construction. The set by Michael Layton, especially the Higgins study where much of the action takes place, is polished and innovative. Finally, Kristy Templet flawlessly leads the B&B orchestra through the famous and familiar score.

Chef Odell Ward’s buffet offerings are highlighted by a delicious baked chicken recipe and a simple but tasty tilapia, along with the usual assortment of veggies as well as fettuccini alfredo. And great table service abounds as the B&B wait staff is thorough and attentive.

Bottomline: Top level performances by the leading characters as well as by the supporting players make this a superb presentation of a show not seen on the Beef and Boards stage for 20 years. And it is truly suitable for all ages.

My Fair Lady continues at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre through May 14th. Show times and reservations can be viewed at http://www.beefandboards.com or call the box office at  317-872-9664.

  • – Photos by Julie Curry

“Miranda” at IRT

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

James Still, IRT’s playwright-in-residence for the past 19 years, authors the company’s latest offering for The Upperstage – Miranda. The play is the final installment in Still’s trilogy about an extended family. Previous pieces were The House that Jack Built, and Appoggiatura – the latter being listed as one of IRT’s productions next season.

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Jennifer Coombs, Mary Beth Fisher and Torrey Hanson in IRT’s production of “Miranda”.

Miranda is an exploration of many things in today’s world including: the lives of CIA field operators, their assortment of circumstances in a dangerous Middle Eastern country, the suspicious feelings toward Americans in that region, and the relationships of people from diverse cultures including those of like or different genders. In a tale where no one is who they seem to be, we watch a sort of “slice-of-life” presentation of the title character’s situations as she moves through identifying her status in her work, in her relationships, and in her future.

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Arya Daire and Jennifer Coombs in IRT’s production of “Miranda”.

Henry Godinez makes his IRT directorial debut guiding a stellar corps of actors led by Jennifer Coombs as Miranda. Ms. Coombs’ naturalistic approach to her character is on the mark and genuine. She shows that the agent has great strengths and weaknesses, but primarily comes through with a balanced persona. Rarely leaving the stage, Miranda faces a collection of acquaintances, co-workers, an informant and a delightfully quirky youth. Torrey Hanson and Mary Beth Fisher render strong depictions in double roles as friends and co-workers. Arya Daire is impressive as Dr. Al-Agbhari, whose intelligence is of great value to Miranda. And Ninos Baba is engaging as young Shahid, whose interest in Shakespeare, and especially in Othello, forms a compelling undercurrent in the story arc. (All, except Ms. Fisher and Mr. Hanson, make their IRT acting debuts.)

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Arya Daire, Jennifer Coombs, Ninos Baba and Torrey Hanson in IRT’s production of “Miranda”.

Although I, in my viewing of the play, did not ever feel much sense of the “mystery” and “thriller” which was advertised for this event, the production was both fascinating and pleasing. Director Godinez’ staging on the multi-location setting, designed by Ann Sheffield and lit by Alexander Ridgers, was interesting and seamless. Linda Pisano’s costumes had an authentic feel, as did the sound design by Andrew Hopson. What intrigue there was seemed more a product of the setting than any rising action in the plot. The climax in the action seemed to be quite subtle – merely allusive. As I say, I was entertained, to be sure, but the play seemed less mysterious than I expected and to that end, it was a surprise.

Miranda continues on IRT’s The Upperstage  through April 23. 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

“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

 

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