“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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.”).


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.


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.


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.


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.

“Into the Woods” at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Fairy tales meet realities as Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre continues its 2016 season with Into the Woods – a musical featuring the intricate song and lyric patterns of Stephen Sondheim and a multi-faceted book by James Lapine. Based on stories by the Brothers Grimm and by Charles Perrault, the show takes some of the most familiar children’s fables from the 17th and 18th centuries and after showing entertaining accounts of them in the first act – goes on to reveal the more consequential results of all those “happily-ever-afters”.

Director Jeff Stockberger and choreographer Ron Morgan skillfully keep the action flowing using an all-star cast. Sarah Hund returns to B&B to portray the Witch. Ms. Hund’s impressive endowment of talents is on full display as she nails her character’s ambivalences and power in both her actions and her songs. Don Farrell, whom we most often see at ATI, plays the Baker with an energetic panache. His performance is full of hopefulness and despair as his character tries to balance his needs with his truths. Meaghan Sands is perfect as the Baker’s Wife. She provides the right blend of anxiety with and trust in her husband. Gifted as she is with superior vocal talents, we hope to see Ms. Sands on the B&B stage again very soon.


L-R: e Baker’s Wife (Meaghan Sands) and the Baker (Don Farrell) are confronted by the Witch (Sarah Hund) in B&B’s “Into the Woods”

Jaddy Ciucci is a joy to watch as the sassy Little Red Ridinghood. Ms. Ciucci nearly steals the show in her early scenes as her bouncy, physical portrayal and sharp delivery adds a  comic aspect to the familiar miss. Danny Kingston animates a cheerful, clueless Jack, and paired with his mother, boisterously played here by Suzanne Stark, we are provided with yet another side of yet another familiar tale.


Little Red Ridinghood (Jaddy Ciucci) meets up with the Wolf (Timothy Ford) in B&Bs “Into the Woods”

Amanda Downey brings us a lovely and gentle Cinderella, Gabrielle Harker is a Rapunzel in crisis, Timothy Ford and Mickey Rafalski blend their marvelous voices as the grandiloquent Princes – for Cinderella and Rapunzel, respectively. And Grace Sell joins Christine Zavakos and Lauren Morgan in playing Cinderella’s dysfunctional step-mother and sisters. A.J. Morrison is the unsteady Steward, while James Anthony completes the cast in the dual role of Narrator and Mysterious Man.

The entire ensemble works together to present both the recognizable and the meaningful spun-off stories. Great voices and terrific acting meld into a production that leaves you with a rather large WOW factor.


Cinderella (Amanda Downey) is surrounded by her step-sisters Florinda (Christine Zavakos) and Lucinda (Lauren Morgan) and step-mother (Grace Sell) as they leave for the King’s festival without her in B&B’s “Into the Woods”

The simple principle setting of the woods designed by Michael Layton matched up with a complex lighting design by Ryan Koharchik, immensely aids the storytelling. Jill Kelly Howe’s colorful costume designs illuminate the stage and Daniel Klingler’s makeup work adds a solid final touch.

I particularly want to give high marks to the B&B orchestra – a band of five led by Terry Woods. Sondheim is some of the most difficult music to produce and this group of fine musicians never missed a note or beat in their complex accompaniments. The addition scoring necessary to play most of the orchestra sounds on two electric pianos was especially well done, I thought.

Bottom-line: I was wowed – and I think you will be, too. Though I was not familiar with this Sondheim piece, I would have to say that B&B’s presentation of the show makes it one of my new favorites.

Into the Woods continues through November 20th. You can find out more about the schedule and reserve your tickets by calling the Box Office at (317) 872-9664, or by going to the B&B website at http://www.beefandboards.com.

* – Photos by Julie Curry

“Peter and the Starcatcher” at Phoenix Theatre

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reviewed by Adam Crowe

Indianapolis has an overwhelming amount of theater on its stages this Fall. It should come as no surprise that the Phoenix Theatre is opening their season with a show that was a Broadway hit not too long ago. But, the twist in this particular story is that the show in question is of the family-friendly variety. Peter and the Starcatcher, by playwright Rick Elice, with music by Wayne Barker, is based on a best-seller by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. Like the book, the play lays out a fantastical back-story to explain just how an orphaned boy becomes the one and only Peter Pan.

Starcatcher tells a big story, and does so without the special effects and technological razzmatazz that so many Broadway shows often seem to insist on using. Indeed, one of the play’s strengths is that it rests almost entirely upon the storytelling skills of its cast, who play a multitude of characters. In this department, the Phoenix production has an embarrassment of riches. The cast includes most of the city’s best actors, in addition to a couple of superb out-of-towners. These actors and their impeccable story-telling take a lovely script and turn it into an evening of fully realized adventure and entertainment.


Nathan Robbins stars as Peter in Phoenix Theatre’s “Peter and the Starcatcher”

The large cast works as a true ensemble, with Joshua Coomer, Ian Cruz, Dan Scarborough, Paul Nicely, Michael Hosp, Paul Hansen, and John Vessels, Jr. carrying much of the weight as assorted pirates, soldiers, island natives, orphanage residents and mermaids. Yes, I said Mermaids. Hosp and Vessels are especially memorable as the love-sick pirate Alf and Mrs. Bumbrake, the nanny to young Molly Astor, (played by the delightful Indy native Phoebe Taylor) who is instrumental in transforming a lost boy into Peter Pan. Nathan Robbins has turned in a series of terrific performances at the Phoenix, including starring turns in The Cripple of Inishmann and Hand to God. Here, as the boy who becomes Peter, Robbins adds another wonderful performance, making Peter’s confusion, joy and disappointments raw and real in every moment. Joining Peter are other orphaned (lost) boys, played by Peter Scarborough and Tyler Ostrander and they are Robbins’ equals in character creation and storytelling. And since there can be no Peter Pan without a Captain Hook, Eric J. Olson creates a memorable one, who starts his career as the owner of a fully foliaged lip, the Pirate Black Stache.


Nathan Robbins as Peter and Eric J. Olson as Black Stache in Phoenix Theatre’s “Peter and the Starcatcher”

A fantastic story, told under the beautiful lighting of Jeffrey Martin, on an incredibly creative set by James Gross, Peter and the Starcatcher also features several musical interludes, brought to brilliant life by Brent Marty. Artistic Director Bryan Fonseca seems to effortlessly handle his large cast and sets them to telling this story in a sharp, but low-tech fashion. In a crowded field of theatrical options, this is a production that I cannot recommend highly enough. The Phoenix suggests the play is appropriate for ages 13 and up, but I tend to think that precocious 11 and 12 year-olds will also find it immensely enjoyable. This 53 year-old certainly did!

Peter and The Starcatcher continues its run through October 23rd. With only a short time left, I would strongly urge you to get your tickets soon. You can find out more about the performance schedule and reserve tickets by calling the Box Office at (317) 635-7529, or by going to the website at http://www.phoenixtheatre.org.

  • – Photos by Zach Rosing

“The Three Musketeers” at IRT

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Indiana Repertory Theatre opens the 2016-17 season with The Three Musketeers – a play by Catherine Bush, adapted from Alexandre Dumas’ eponymic 1844 novel. Ms. Bush has produced a mostly faithful reflection of the original, dramatizing the famous story with an adventurous styling that presents the tale’s heroes with all the necessary flourish and swash. I especially enjoyed her use of the portrayals of memories, which include the story-telling in words shown beside the action of said story.

Set on the ultra-adaptable scenic design of William Bloodgood, with actors dressed in perfect costumes designed by Devon Painter, director Henry Woronicz has laid down a smooth presentation that is sweeping and seamless. Scene changes happen before our eyes as if turning a page. No chance for humor is ever lost in the ultimate drama of the story, and Woronicz has made certain any of Ms. Bush’s alterations to the original as presented without question. Striking sound elements by Barry G. Funderburg and impressive lighting designed by Ann G. Wrightson add much to the final product.


Jeb Burris (d’Artagnan), Nathan Hosner (Aramis), Robert Neal (deTreville), David Folsom (Porthos) and Ryan Artzberger (Athos) in the IRT’s production of “The Three Musketeers”.

A rather large cast of 17 portray the population of the play, most supplying a number of roles. Standouts include Ryan Artzberger, David Folsom and Nathan Hosner as the three musketeers – Athos, Porthos and Aramis, respectively. Jeb Burris joins in as the hopeful d’Artagnan. All four display themselves as agile and worthy heroes. Their swordplay, excellently choreographed by Paul Dennhardt, is lively and realistic. Dan Kremer is excellently villainous as Cardinal Richelieu, joined in like force by Rob Johansen as his nefarious henchman Rochefort and Elizabeth Laidlaw as a conniving Milady de Winter.


Dan Kremer (Cardinal Richlieu) and Elizabeth Laidlaw Milady de Winter) in the IRT’s production of “The Three Musketeers”.

Amanda Catania is lovely as d’Artagnan’s sweetheart, Constance, while Charles Goad and Scot Greenwell generate most of the tale’s laughs as Goad’s King Louis XII minces about self-centeredly, and Greenwell’s Planchet shows surprising fight skills. The remainder of the ensemble members contribute first-rate skills in what looks to be an enjoyable endeavor for them all.

The total combination of excellent staging, dynamic depictions of familiar characters and a heroic story of romance plus intrigue fills the IRT stage to the brim.


One of the many fight scenes choreographed by Paul Dennhardt in the IRT’s production of “The Three Musketeers”.

Bottom-line: All in all, this is quite an engaging adventure accented by the usual stunning stagecraft designs one comes to expect from any IRT production. It makes for a very entertaining and worthwhile evening.

IRT’s The Three Musketeers continues on the OneAmerica Mainstage through October 15. For more information about tickets and show schedule call 317.635.5252 or go online at http://www.irtlive.com.

  • Banner artwork by Kyle Ragsdale
  • Photos by Zach Rosing

“The Dealer Smiles” at Westfield Playhouse

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reviewed by Mark Kamish

Friday night was my first-ever visit to Main Street Production’s Westfield Playhouse (the 150-some-year-old theater just north of Indy – yes, still no running water indoors) where I enjoyed The Dealer Smiles, a thought-and-feeling-provoking play written by, starring and directed by local playwright, actor and guest reviewer for “A Seat on the Aisle,” Larry Adams.

Although Larry’s “comedy of Biblical proportions” and philosophical look of religion has been around for a few years – once before in Westfield, once at IndyFringe and for several church groups (there are even a couple YouTube clips out there) – it was a brand new opening night on Friday for this three-weekend run. See it for the first time, or see it again! The show is not too long (about an hour), but in that relatively short time, much “heavy” ground is covered in this two-man show, albeit in a light and easy way.

The plot and set are pretty simple. Matt Pierson (Larry Adams), recently divorced and in the thick of guilt over his role in his marriage’s demise (he’s noticeably still wearing his wedding band), is in the self-help section of a small local bookstore (where have those all gone, by the way?). There, he seeks answers to the struggles and losses he is dealing with in the crosshairs of middle-age.


From left: Larry Adams and Jaime Johnson in Main Street Production’s “The Dealer Smiles”

In walks Josh (masterfully played by Jaime Johnson), a bubbly but odd fellow wearing a red “smiley face” shirt and matching red tennis shoes. After bumming some change from Matt for a cup of the bookstore’s own elixir of hot chocolate, Josh, by way of conversation (uninvited by Matt), goes on about the history of chocolate. Taken out of his self-absorption by Josh’s cocoa monologue, Matt is ready now to engage in a discussion with Josh that becomes much more.

What develops is a conversation we all seem to have at different points in our lives: Is there a God? If there is, who is She? What am I doing here? What purpose do I serve? How do I deal with this loss? Why is everything always changing? What did I do to deserve this? Am I the only person having these weird thoughts?

And, as in real life, Matt’s open, candid conversation with Josh (who seems to have an inside track with the “Almighty Dealer”) ultimately reveals no answers and resolves very little, other than to cause Matt (and the audience) pause; to be open to greater self-awareness and the peace that comes from being present and not resisting what life brings our way.

Very organized, light-hearted, certainly laugh-out-loud funny in some spots, and fast-paced, The Dealer Smiles will likely lead to discussions that continue long after you leave the theater.

In fact, Larry and Jaime take some time at the end of the show to launch those discussions, holding a “no-holds-barred” Q & A with the audience. I found this 30 minutes or so as interesting and entertaining as the show itself.

In a similar free-for-all discussion about religion I once had with a high school teacher of mine, I remember that teacher telling me, “I’m not Catholic because I think Catholicism is the second-best religion.” Religion and faith play such vital roles in our lives. Somehow, whether we are members of a particular church, spiritual seekers unaffiliated with any particular dogma, or even atheist, our beliefs, pursued in search of meaning and deeper connection, become very, very personal. These faiths and beliefs do, in fact, become part of our identity in many cases.

I think Larry’s play reminds us of a danger brought about by our strong-held spiritual faiths and religious beliefs. Unfortunately, our commitment to following those faiths and beliefs, purportedly in the pursuit of recognizing the interconnectedness we all share with one another and with our Source, can ironically separate us from each other (and from our Higher Power). The inevitability of the ego to begin to view “my church,” “my spiritual belief,” “my faith” to distinguish our “right ways” of thinking and believing” from all of those “lost souls” who believe differently, doesn’t unite; it divides. One of many beautiful things about The Dealer Smiles is the way Larry’s script appears to make room at the table for people of all spiritual beliefs (and even disbeliefs) to participate in this greatly-needed human conversation.

The Dealer Smiles continues its run at Main Street Production’s Westfield Playhouse through October 9. For more on specific dates, show times and to order tickets, call the reservation line at (317) 402-3341, email the box office at info@westfieldplayhouse.org or visit Main Street Production’s website: http://www.westfieldplayhouse.org/.

And remember to stick around after the show to talk with Larry and Jaime about all things spiritual and to discuss bringing this show to your church or spiritual group.

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