“What I Learned in Paris” at IRT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* – Photos by Zach Rosing

“Art” at Carmel Theatre Company

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Carmel Theatre Company
Well, it is guest reviewer time again. Here below, Adam Crowe does what I cannot do myself – review a show which I have directed. I told Adam, no holds barred. Let’s see what he wrote:

Thanks to Ken, I am once again given the opportunity to review for A Seat on the Aisle. This time, I have the potentially dicey task of reviewing a production that Ken has directed. It is one thing to review a show which includes Ken as one actor among many. But this assignment strikes me as much more perilous – since the Director has so much control over (and responsibility for) an entire Production. The good news is that Yasmina Reza’s Art, now playing at Carmel Theatre Company’s space on First Ave NE in Carmel, is a superior evening of thoughtful theater, with the bonus that it contains some wonderful laughs as well. Ken and his cast should be proud!

The winner of the 1998 Tony Award for Best New Play, Art quickly struck me as a bit of sleight of hand, since it was not quite what I expected. Unlike last year’s Red at IRT, Reza’s play is NOT an examination of the nature of “art”. Instead, the playwright is more interested in the nature of friendship and how we define our friends, and how that ultimately can define ourselves. The playwright introduces us to Marc (Larry Adams), Serge (Daniel Shock) and Yvan (Clay Mabbitt) – three friends about whom we are given very little background. What we do learn at the outset is that Serge has purchased a painting that will soon become an object of some contention.

Prior to seeing the play, I was expecting that the playwright would explore questions about what does or does not constitute “art”. Instead, Reza quickly makes it clear that she is more interested in human matters. Will these three men destroy their friendship over what appear to be “artistic” differences? What was the underlying basis of these friendships to begin with? Most importantly, the playwright asks the audience to consider questions about the very nature of these relationships that we call friendships. Do we make friends because of who THEY are or is it more about how WE feel? I don’t want to spoil anything by saying more, but I found myself leaving the theater with a lot to think about – undoubtedly more than if the play had merely been about the “nature of art”.

Marc (Larry Adams), Yvan (Clay Mabbitt) and Serge (Daniel Shock) discuss matters in CTC's production of "Art"

Marc (Larry Adams), Yvan (Clay Mabbitt) and Serge (Daniel Shock) discuss matters in CTC’s production of “Art”

Actors Adams, Shock and Mabbitt all acquitted themselves quite well. None had an easy task, since each of the three characters is at least somewhat unlikeable for a portion of the play’s 90 minutes. I found that each created a fully living character. I will note that the playwright (or her translator) gave Yvan the sometimes showier role. Mabbitt handled it beautifully.

Refreshments are served for Marc (Larry Adams), Yvan (Clay Mabbitt) and Serge (Daniel Shock) during CTC's production of "Art".

Refreshments are served for Marc (Larry Adams), Yvan (Clay Mabbitt) and Serge (Daniel Shock) during CTC’s production of “Art”.

The direction is subtle and succinct. The set, costumes and lighting are all just right. The three men (and the painting) are the show, and the Director makes sure your focus is on them. I will include one quibble – just so Ken doesn’t think I am shirking. The musical underscoring at the end of the show was unnecessary. I prefer that kind of touch be left to the movies.

The director notes in the Program that he and two of his actors have mounted this show before. If you missed it – here is your chance to catch an engaging production. If you saw & liked it before, a return visit is in order. Art continues its run through March 15th. You can find out more about the schedule online at http://www.carmeltheatrecompany.com and you may reserve tickets by calling the Carmel Theatre Company Box Office at (317) 688-8876.

“The Hound of the Baskervilles” at Indiana Repertory Theatre

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Only recently have I become a Sherlock Holmes fan – due mostly to the fine and modern British television series – Sherlock, that is shown on PBS, and which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the detective and Martin Freeman as John Watson. The books, frankly, have never caught my fancy, nor have the old films with Basil Rathbone in the title role. But I find the newer presentations to be quite engaging.

Such it was with IRT’s opening night presentation of one of the most famous of the Holmes stories, The Hound of the Baskervilles. Based of the original by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (of course), this offering is an enhanced adaptation by R. Hamilton Wright and David Pichette, who do an admirable job with it. (This version had it’s world premiere during the 2013-14 season at Seattle Repertory Theatre.) Presented in three short acts, the action was especially well presented by the extraordinary IRT technical staff. The story takes place in numerous varied locales, including Holmes’ rooms, train stations, and impressive Victorian homes, as well as outdoor settings. With immense sliding walls, drop down set pieces and tables that come up through the floor, the many set changes are quick and well devised.

The cast of nine is directed with an expert hand by Paul Amster, who in recent years directed IRT’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Game’s Afoot, (the latter of which receives a brief tribute in this production). As Mr. Amster has proven before, his director’s eye sees all things onstage. Every detail of his production seems to be assembled with great care and aplomb.

Dr. John Watson (Matthew Brumlow) confers with the great Sherlock Holmes (Marcus Truschinski) in IRT's "The Hound of the Baskervilles"

Dr. John Watson (Matthew Brumlow) confers with the great Sherlock Holmes (Marcus Truschinski) in IRT’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles”

Amster’s cast is an impressive collection of talent. Marcus Truschinski, in his IRT debut, takes on the iconic role of Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and does a fine job with him. It’s somewhat a credit to the script that Holmes is humorous and a touch ridiculous at times, and Truschinski manages to take on those qualities and add his own polish to the man. He is at once the remarkably observant, sharp-minded detective while just enough flawed attributes shine through. Matthew Brumlow brings the good Dr. Watson to life. Being Holmes’ steady sidekick, Watson must rely on his own forgiving qualities to stay alongside the great man. Brumlow plays it thusly and somehow reminded me of Martin Freeman’s portrayal, although I don’t believe he was copying that actor in any way. Both of their Watsons have a certain upstanding nature that strongly shows through and is spot-on.

Sir Henry Baskerville (Eric Parks) catches the eye of Beryl Stapleton (Cristina Panfilio) in IRT's "The Hound of the Baskervilles"

Sir Henry Baskerville (Eric Parks) catches the eye of Beryl Stapleton (Cristina Panfilio) in IRT’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles”

The remaining cast features Mark Goetzinger in several interesting characterizations, none as forthright as old Mr. Frankland – who is one of the suspects. Constance Macy is well cast as Holmes’ Mrs. Hudson and as Mrs. Barrymore – the latter being another of the suspicious ones. Robert Neal is solid as the manservant, Barrymore, while Ryan Artzberger does fine work in two widely varying roles as Dr. Mortimer, and an escaped murderer named only Selden. Will Mobley and Cristina Panfilio team up as brother/sister (and other things). They both make the most of their juicy roles and I believe I know what fun they must have had with the various nuances required to play them. Last but not least, Eric Parks appears as Sir Henry Baskerville, heir to Baskerville Hall. Parks does a noteworthy job creating a character who just cannot fit in with his new surroundings.

From left: Will Mobley, Marcus Truschinski, Mark Goetzinger, Cristina Panfilio and Ryan Artzberger do a scene from IRT's "The Hound of the Baskervilles"

From left: Will Mobley, Marcus Truschinski, Mark Goetzinger, Cristina Panfilio and Ryan Artzberger do a scene from IRT’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles”

All the aforementioned first-rate technical elements are created by the following team: Kevin Depinet, whose Scenic Design is of a striking scale; Tracy Dorman, whose Costume Designs are beautifully rendered and proper for this era; Thomas C. Hase, whose Lighting Design superbly enhances the mood, the occasion, and the many locales in the play; and Gregg Coffin, whose Incidental Music compositions set just the right spell upon us; as does the impressively arresting Sound Design by Todd Mack Reischman.

This Holmes tale is an immense and ambitious production, which results in a satisfying evening of mystery laced with moments of terror, yet balanced by just a touch of light-hearted humor. I enjoyed it completely.

The Hound of the Baskervilles will continue on the OneAmerica stage at IRT through March 15. Ticket information can be found by going online at http://www.irtlive.com or by calling the IRT box office at 317-635-5252.

* – Photos by Zach Rosing

**- Banner artwork by Kyle Ragsdale

“Crazy for You” at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre

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When I was just a kid, nothing seemed more entertaining to my young sensibilities than a good tap dancer on TV or in a film. Donald O’Connor was probably my favorite, with his easy style – and Fred Astaire was unbelievably brilliant to me. It seems that this old penchant for the clattering of taps hasn’t left me. Watching Beef and Boards’ second show of their 2015 season, Crazy for You , which is filled with sparkling tap numbers, made it all come back to me.

The show is an adaptation of the original Gershwin brothers’ production, Girl Crazy, and features a ton of Gershwin tunes, some I was really not at all familiar with. This adapted version first appeared on Broadway in 1992 and wound up winning a Tony Award for Best Musical that year. Frank Rich, reviewing for the New York Times, wrote that it provided (the) “American musical’s classic blend of music, laughter, dancing, sentiment and showmanship” and indeed the show has all that. Not only are we treated to songs by the great Gershwin brothers, the script was the work of Ken Ludwig, whose writings include B&B’s 2014 production, Lend Me a Tenor, as well as Moon Over Buffalo, Leading Ladies and a musical version of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The show is full of Ludwig’s witty comeback lines which provide many of the laughs.

Blake Patrick Spellacy (Bobby Child) and Hillary Smith (Polly Baker) star in Beef & Boards' production of "Crazy for You"

Blake Patrick Spellacy (Bobby Child) and Hillary Smith (Polly Baker) star in Beef & Boards’ production of “Crazy for You”

Douglas E. Stark directs and Ron Morgan provides the dynamic choreography, propelling the multi-talented cast to a remarkable level. Leading the way is Blake Patrick Spellacy as Bobby Child, a young banker from a wealthy family whose real passion is to dance onstage. Rejected in his NY audition, Child is sent by his mother to Deadrock, Nevada to foreclose on a theatre. There he meets the girl of his dreams, Polly Baker, played by Hillary Smith, whose family owns the failing theatre. Mr. Spellacy’s seemingly effortless dancing and singing styles may have been what triggered my youthful memories. He is a delight to watch, and his boyish approach to his role (a la Robert Morse, I thought) is just what is needed. Ms. Smith is a wonderful surprise as Polly – having seen her work in The Sound of Music (Liesl) and Church Basement Ladies (Beverly) here at Beef and Boards, I had no idea of the completeness of her talents for song and dance; not that she wasn’t good in those roles, it’s just that this role allows her to fill the stage with her artistry, and fill it she does! I truly hope this is the beginning of a long string of leading roles for this gifted young lady. (Here’s a fun-fact: Hillary is a second generation Polly, her mother having played the role at Civic Theatre in 1997.)

Blake Patrick Spellacy (Bobby Child) and Eddie Curry (Bela Zangler) share a delightful song in Beef & Boards' "Crazy for You"

Blake Patrick Spellacy (Bobby Child) and Eddie Curry (Bela Zangler) share a delightful song in Beef & Boards’ “Crazy for You”

There is lots to like in the supporting roles as well. Eddie Curry is his usual brilliant self as Bela Zangler – a NYC theatre impresario. His mirrored duet with Spellacy is a high point of the show. Jeff Stockberger provides laughs and even spends time as a straight man as Lank Hawkins, a Deadwood innkeeper, and Bob Payne, Erin Cohenour, Vickie Cornelius Phipps, John Vessels and Carol Worcell all fill their roles quite admirably. Outside of Spellacy and Ms. Smith, I’d have to say the hardest working people in this show business venture are the corps of dancers who are featured in most of the musical numbers – tapping, singing, beautifully costumed (great work again by Jill Kelly) – the epitome of which is the act one closer, “I Got Rhythm”, which is a breath-taking show stopper. (At intermission, I heard more than one person say they were out of breath after watching the spectacle.)

The brilliantly talented chorus swings through "Slap That Bass", one of many top-notch numbers in B&B's "Crazy for You"

The brilliantly talented chorus swings through “Slap That Bass”, one of many top-notch numbers in B&B’s “Crazy for You”

Last but never least is the wonderful musical support for the performances provided by the B&B Orchestra, led by the brilliant Terry Wood. They really do sound incredible, especially for being only six musicians!

All in all, Crazy for You is a toe-tapping, light-hearted, scintillating show that provides a great two-hour getaway from winter doldrums and spring anticipation. And included in the experience is the pleasing buffet provided by Chef Odell Ward, this time featuring Chicken Parmesan (loved it!)

Crazy for You continues through April 4th with shows at various times on Tuesday-Sunday. For a complete calendar of dates and times you can go to http://www.beefandboards.com or call the B&B Box Office at 317-872-9664.

* – Photos by Julie Curry

“The 39 Steps” at Actors Theatre of Indiana

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ATI continues it’s 2014-15 season of surprises with The 39 Steps, a show that has been on my list of “must sees” for quite a long time. Am I ever glad it was ATI’s production that I waited to see. Presented at The Studio Theatre at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, under the brilliantly open-minded direction of Richard J. Roberts, with an uber-talented quartet of actors, this outrageous spoof of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 film of the same name is a high-energy, hold-no-bars sensation!

Don Farrell, Ian McCabe, Lisa Ermel and Logan Moore star in ATI's "The 39 Steps"

Don Farrell, Ian McCabe, Lisa Ermel and Logan Moore star in ATI’s “The 39 Steps”

Cleverly staged by Mr. Roberts, who directed an innovative My Fair Lady for ATI earlier this season, the show, which was comically adapted from the movie by Patrick Barlow, features the four member cast intently performing 40+ characters. Logan Moore takes the part of Richard Hanney, the hero who must stop the plans of a ring of spies who are trying to steal a cache of secret plans. Moore is movie-idol handsome in his role, and manages to project an elegant 30’s acting style as well a spoofish comedic mannerism, perfectly placing his character throughout the performance. Lisa Ermel is an absolute knockout in her three roles which range from femme fatale to comically put-upon wife to the leading lady character, Pamela. Ms. Ermel’s talent for versatility gets a workout in these 3 widely varied roles, but she pulls them off with ease and balances Moore’s portrayal wonderfully.
Ian McCabe, Lisa Ermel, Don Farrell and Logan Moore take a "car-ride" in a scene from ATI's "The 39 Steps".

Ian McCabe, Lisa Ermel, Don Farrell and Logan Moore take a “car-ride” in a scene from ATI’s “The 39 Steps”.

Don Farrell and Ian McCabe provide the large array of remaining characters with adroit stage work. Literally flying across stage at times, with but a hat to define a change of character in some instances, this hilarious duo runs through their gamut of characterizations with a precise set of voices, accents, facial expressions and body types (wait until you see their two old geezers at a political rally). Their thoroughly dynamic approach to these many roles adds even greater pacing to the rapid action. (I never once saw a bobble or miss-step from either of them as they whirled through their parts.) I can only imagine the controlled mayhem backstage as they accomplish full costume and wig changes in astonishing speeds. It all makes for a very enjoyably fun presentation, full of comic lines and comic bits: the cast was rewarded with lots of applause after scenes and even one rare sustained applause after a particularly clever and well-done bit of comic business. The full house’s standing ovation at the end was more than justified and I am sure it was gratifying to the hard-working actors. This is an actor’s script and they make the most of it.

Nifty technical details abound as well, with excellent costuming and sound design by Amanda K. Bailey and Joe Court, respectively. Bernie Killian’s set design is ingenious and fills the very demanding bill. Erin Meyer’s lights, Katherine Gering’s props and the many wig designs by Daniel Klinger complete the picture. And I must mention the center-stage, all-purpose, scenery screen which itself renders many clever laughs.

I feel that making plans in advance to see this stage gem is a must as it will very likely be a hot ticket! You can find out more about the schedule, which continues through February 15th, and reservations by logging onto http://www.actorstheatreofindiana.org or by calling the reservation number at 317-843-3800. Don’t miss this excellent show!

* Photos by Zach Rosing

“The Giver” at IRT

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GIVER_title_posterImagine a place where there is no pain, but also no pleasure; no choices, nothing but routine; a safe, challenge-free, well-behaved place with no war or color or sickness or stirrings of love. And, even more significant – no memories of these emotions and freedoms, except in one person – the Receiver of Memory.

IRT’s latest Upper-stage offering, The Giver, is based on the 1993 homonymous children’s novel by Lois Lowry. It deals with a 12 year old boy’s existence in such a place and his efforts to cope with or escape from it’s tenets. The adaptation for the stage, by Eric Coble, does a good job setting up this choice-free world for the audience. I found it interesting to note the ways that “Sameness”, the societal plan that eliminates pain and strife and choice, was shown to be both advantageous and emotionally crippling. The people living under the Sameness plan know no other way and, as I said, have no memory of a way before.

This is the story of Jonas, who on his 12th birthday receives his assignment for life as the new Receiver of Memory. He is tasked with a training regimen under the present holder of that position. As he must now know all memories, he is required to experience all the past’s pleasures and terrors. So, he comes to the truths of his society, one of which – the true meaning of “being released” – stirs a wanting to escape.

Jonas (Grayson Molin) receives a memory from The Giver (David Alan Anderson) in IRT's "The Giver"

Jonas (Grayson Molin) receives a memory from The Giver (David Alan Anderson) in IRT’s “The Giver”

All the elemental aspects of depicting such a place and it’s people are accomplished with IRT’s usual amazing richness and succinctness. A concise set (by Scenic Designer Robert Mark Morgan) is dominated by seemingly endless file drawers which hold the locked away past memories of everything from the glorious blaze of a sunset to the horrors of war. Lighting and sound techniques (by Betsy Cooprider-Bernstein and Tom Horan, respectively) lead us to imaginings of feelings both pleasing and tension-filled. Costumes (by Guy Clark) and props have a colorless, style-free quality and the actors steadily portray the organized, featureless world of the Sameness society.

Jonas (Grayson Molin), Mother (Katie deBuys), Lily (Jordan Pecar) and Father (Bill Simmons) are a family in IRT's "The Giver"

Jonas (Grayson Molin), Mother (Katie deBuys), Lily (Jordan Pecar) and Father (Bill Simmons) are a family in IRT’s “The Giver”

All that said, this amply presented piece leads us to an incomplete conclusion that is neither specific nor satisfying. We are left to wonder the final fate of our hero, and the effect of his courageous disobedience. All we are shown in the last scene is that he feels an icy chill of the weather, has a vision of a sled and a hill, and hears music. Many may say that this is as it should be – that the author and playwright have left a myriad of possibilities in this way. (I have not read the novel, but my understanding is that a resolution to it came in the form of a follow-up book, called “Messenger”.) All the same, I may have liked more of a settling ending – but perhaps that’s just me.

Father (Bill Simmons), Lily (Jordan Pecar), Fiona (Lola Kennedy) and Asher (Joseph Hock) in a scene from IRT's "The Giver"

Father (Bill Simmons), Lily (Jordan Pecar), Fiona (Lola Kennedy) and Asher (Joseph Hock) in a scene from IRT’s “The Giver”

This is not to say that the journey to this incomplete ending is anything less than pleasurable. The actors’ work, under the sensitive direction of Courtney Sale, is finely done. David Alan Anderson returns, following his triumphant turn as Dr. King in last season’s The Mountaintop, to take on the title role here. He gives the outgoing Receiver of Memory all the sensitivities he must have, including a weary countenance and a longing for completion. Bill Simmons’ and Katie deBuys’ portrayals of Jonas’ parents are steady and well-defined. Jordan Pecar gives a finished performance as Jonas’ little sister, Lily; Joseph Hock is completely credible as his friend, Asher; and Lola Kennedy does a lovely job with the role of his female friend, Fiona. But most incredible in this cast is 7th grader Grayson Molin, who positively owns the stage as Jonas. This is a major role for so young an actor, and Molin has a sure feel for the many emotional experiences he must project in the portrayal. He gives as sure-footed a performance as I have seen a young man deliver. I truly hope this is one of many times we get to experience his acting abilities.

So – my final perspective of this IRT offering is that although there was a lacking in the ending, which did not fully suit me, I greatly enjoyed the premise, the artistic undertaking and the performances of this production. The experience led me to many musings and an interesting discussion with my wife, Donna. What if…? What if that was the way we lived. What if we did not know any other ways? Are we living now in a “no other ways” existence? Well – are we?

The Giver continues at Indiana Repertory Theatre through February 21. To find show times and ticket information, you may go to http://www.irtlive.com or phone the box office at 317.635.5252.

* – Photos by Zach Rosing
**- Banner artwork by Kyle Ragsdale

“Good People” at Indiana Repertory Theatre

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Good People logo
David Lindsay-Abaire, the playwright who penned IRT’s wonderful current main stage production, Good People, happens to be one of my favorite playwrights. His play Rabbit Hole moved me a great deal and, indeed, moved most everyone who saw it. Rabbit Hole‘s subject matter was gut-wrenching – the loss of a very young child through a car accident – a loss most of us can feel a painful empathy for. Good People‘s main plotline, the seemingly impossible struggles of a single mother with a handicapped adult child, isn’t quite so gut-wrenching, yet it also seeks an empathetic reaction, at least at first.

Margie (Constance Macy) tries to explain to her boss Stevie (Nick Abell) why she is so often tardy.

Margie (Constance Macy) tries to explain to her boss Stevie (Nick Abell) why she is so often tardy.

When we are introduced to Margie (with a hard ‘g’ sound) she is suffering her latest setback – losing her low paying job due to frequent tardiness, due mainly to care-giving problems for her daughter Joyce. But she is ‘good people’ – never blaming anyone else for her plight – called ‘too nice’ by her friends. Lindsay-Abairre presents a very real-life problem here – the single mom’s quest to keep her head above water, while managing childcare, bills, growing older, and a string of minimum wage jobs due to her lack of education or skills. With limited job opportunities, Margie is compelled to see a childhood friend, Mike, who somehow got out of the Boston area Southie neighborhood which she languishes in. He not only got out, he became a doctor, an M.D. specializing in fertilization procedures. What follows shows Margie’s desperation (and how she may not be as nice as we thought) for a job, but possibly also for justice, and for a future that would salve the wound of her poverty.

Good People is an examination of a swath of American culture, and the class division between the “haves” and the “have-nots”. It lets us look at possible reasons for the chasm – two people from the same Southie background, living in two widely diverse worlds due to what(?) – luck, hard-work, good or bad decisions, their parents’ influence on them? Though we are not told the answers, we are left with questions to ponder, and that, to me, makes for a great and enjoyable play.

Margie (Constance Macy) meets with old friend, Mike (Sean Patrick Reilly) and his wife, Kate (Nicole Lewis)

Margie (Constance Macy) meets with old friend, Mike (Sean Patrick Reilly) and his wife, Kate (Nicole Lewis)

Mark Cuddy deftly directs his amazingly talented cast through their paces here. IRT favorite Constance Macy delivers a remarkable, spot-on performance as Margie. Her character’s journey of hope mixed with desperation is fully rendered as Ms. Macy finds all the levels necessary to project Margie’s many struggles. Sean Patrick Reilly nails the difficult role of Mike, the man who “got out” of Southie. Never at a loss for just the right reaction, Reilly does battle with Margie in a brilliantly honest and adroit performance. The remaining roles are perfectly filled by Nick Abell, as the put upon Stevie; Dee Pelletier as Margie’s supportive friend Jean; Peggy Cosgrave as their wacky landlady, Dottie; and Nicole Lewis, as Mike’s mostly understanding young wife, Kate.

Margie (Constance Macy)  discusses her work problems with her landlady, Dottie (Peggy Cosgrave) and her friend, Jean (Dee Pelletier.

Margie (Constance Macy) discusses her work problems with her landlady, Dottie (Peggy Cosgrave) and her friend, Jean (Dee Pelletier.

One of the stars of the show has to be the inventive multi-faced set, splendidly designed by Jo Winiarski, made up of 4 revolving triangular structures (called periactoids) that handled the five varied stage settings in a quite remarkable and expedient way. Other well-done stagecraft designs were the work of Devon Painter (Costumes), Lindsay Jones (Sound), and Ann G. Wrightson (Lighting).

IRT’s production of Good People makes for an interesting 2 hours of a timely story, marvelous performances and it provides you with the leftovers of a thoughtful meal of actions, conflicts and ideas. You should not miss it.

Good People continues at IRT through February 1, 2015. You can reserve tickets by going to http://www.irtlive.com or by calling the box office at 317-635-5252.

* – Photos by Zach Rosing

**- Banner artwork by Kyle Ragsdale

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