reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Indiana Repertory Theatre continues its 2017-18 season with James Still’s completely wonderful Appoggiatura, directed by Peter Amster, with musical direction and arrangements by Gregg Coffin. This delightfully original piece takes us on a trip to Venice, filled with music, longings, laughter and fresh encounters with the past.

Amster’s superb staging, with significant assists by scenic designer Lee Savage’s immense Venetian set, alongside Alexander Ridgers quite magical lighting design and Tracy Dorman’s perfect costumes, guides us on the outing and its compelling storyline of three travel companions, lost at times, and looking for answers to a variety of important questions.


from left: Tom Aulino, Casey Hoekstra, Susan Pellegrino, and Andrea San Miguel in in a scene from IRT’s production of “Appoggiatura”.

Susan Pellegrino takes the role of Helen, who is traveling with granddaughter Sylvie – played by Andrea San Miguel, and old friend Chuck (“it’s Charles”) – offered by Tom Aulino, on their grand tour to memories and discoveries. Casey Hoekstra’s native Venetian, Marco, joins the trio as “tour guider”.

Ms. Pelligrino and Mr. Aulino are impeccable as two elder tourists, linked by their love for a common person, Gordon, who first married Helen, then later partnered with Charles. His passing has had a profound effect on them both and they have traveled to Europe in the hope of finding something to perhaps fill that void – an understanding, a recollection, a new consciousness. Andrea San Miguel tenders her Sylvie as a lively and open-to-anything type traveler: different from her companions – younger, freer, while discovering she is not quite ready for a commitment at home. She handles well a dual role, in fact, as she also appears as another Venetian visitor – Helen, who is on a honeymoon trip with her new husband, Gordon.

Mr. Hoekstra’s Marco is both comic relief and truth-sayer. Hoekstra does a complete job with the accented character, making him a sort of lovably earnest man, searching for elusive successes in his worklife and in his lovelife. He also plays a duel role – portraying the honeymooning Gordon as well.


Helen (Susan Pellegrino) meets honeymooning couple Helen (Andrea San Miguel) and Gordon (Casey Hoekstra) in a scene from IRT’s production of “Appoggiatura”.

An enchanting trio of musicians wanders the streets of Venice for our pleasure – enriching this setting with some exquisite performances with vocals and on violin, guitar and accordion. Talented musicians all – Andrew Mayer, Paul DeBoy, and Katrina Yaukey, offer various minor characterizations as well – everything from an amusing array of international tour guides, to Ms. Yaukey’s plaintive online Kate, DeBoy’s memory-losing Gordon and Mayer’s waiter, gondolier and Vivaldi.


from left: musician/actors Paul DeBoy, Katrina Yaukey, and Andrew Mayer in IRT’s production of “Appoggiatura”.

“Appoggiatura” is a term for the musical technique of adding a tone, usually sustained, which delays the cadence and often leads to the resolution. It is an unusually hard word to title a play with, but it entirely suits its purpose – labeling exactly what is happening as the story unfolds.

Bottomline: James Still’s Appoggiatura is magical in its presentation, moving in its story-telling, delightfully charactered, and noteworthy in its production values, with first-rate acting and design. Mrs K recognizes it as “one of the best plays I have seen”. It is undoubtedly a “must-see” – if you can see it, do yourself that favor!

Appoggiatura will continue its run at Indiana Repertory Theatre through March 31st. For specific information on dates, show times, and ticket orders, visit IRT’s website at

  • Banner artwork by Kyle Ragsdale
  • Photos by Ed Stewart