IRT’s “The House That Jack Built”

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Indiana Repertory Theatre completes their Covid-19 induced virtual production season with the streaming of James Still’s award winning The House That Jack Built. This 2012 play is the first of three which collectively form The Jack Plays. The other two plays – Appoggiatura and Miranda were previously offered at the theatre in March 2018 and April 2017, respectively.

The House That Jack Built takes place during a Thanksgiving gathering in Vermont. Jack’s sister Lulu and her husband Ridge have traveled to meet family at the home of Jack’s ex, Jules. Jules has a male friend, Eli, who is also attending, and they all are eventually joined by Jack and Lulu’s mother, Helen.

From the start, it takes a while for the action to smooth out as the story’s exposition evolves from a knot of overlapping conversations, joking, competitiveness, and some abrupt misunderstandings. Things calm down a small amount upon Helen’s entrance, but not for long as we seem to be watching a prevalence of disfunction in the group.

Jennifer Johansen as Jules and David Shih as Ridge

Lulu has trouble being around her mother, and Jules, who shared an apartment with Lulu in their college days, is expected to feel the same but does not. Eli seems to turn off Lulu and Ridge and is adored by Jules. Helen also has an affection for Eli which further drives Lulu crazy. And that’s just the top layer. The play goes on to explore the disfunctions thusly set-up and results in an array of new understandings, new feelings and, in the very end – a clearing out of sorts – a resolution.

The House That Jack Built is a complex play, which finds it’s heart at around the 2/3’s mark and doesn’t disappoint in the end.

Jan Lucas and Constance Macy as Helen and Lulu, respectively

The cast, directed by Janet Allen, is immensely talented, with Jennifer Johansen in top-notch form as a deeply struggling Jules, Constance Macy as the multi-layered Lulu, Jan Lucas as an effervescent Helen, David Shih as the easy-goer of the group, Ridge, and Aaron Kirby as the mysteriously quirky Eli.

Especially satisfying are the striking scenes involving conversations and conflicts between Ms. Johansen and Ms. Macy. They delve into their characters’ interior struggles with aplomb and carry out the play’s emotional denouement with great skill.

Aaron Kirby plays Eli

Russell Methany provides an imaginative set design for the proceedings, and lighting by Betsy Cooprider-Bernstein as well as the costume designs by Yao Chen finish the picture.

Bottomline: If you enjoyed Appoggiatura and Miranda, you will want to complete the trilogy with The House That Jack Built. It must be noted that few theatres have met the challenges of the past year as well as IRT has. Their re-imagining of the theatre arts by providing streaming versions of their season has kept top level theatre alive in our city.

Tickets to stream The House That Jack Built are available by going to Indiana Repertory Theatre (irtlive.com) and clicking the BUY NOW button on the opening web page. The show will be available through June 20th.

  • – photos by Zach Rosing
  • – artwork by Kyle Ragsdale

Agape Performing Arts Company’s “The Sound of Music”

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

One could sense a feeling of deep relief and emotional satisfaction as opening night of Agape Performing Arts Company’s long awaited youth production of The Sound of Music came alive on stage at the Athenaeum in downtown Indianapolis last evening. The show had it’s original opening night on March 13, 2020, then was forced to close due to the onset of Covid-19.

Director Kathy Phipps never gave up on the musical, recasting where it was necessary, instilling patience and a sense of hopefulness into her cast and crew that the show would one day be accomplished. She won her battle – the show is on!

The von Trapp children

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music is certainly a familiar piece and a good one to bring this theatre company back into performance. Nearly everyone knows the tale of Maria and the von Trapps – the romantic aspects of Captain von Trapp and Maria’s coming together, plus the added successes of the singing family in Europe and around the world.

The story is told here by a cast filled with talented young people. These troupers are well drilled and developed. The many musical highlights include: the combined voices of the nuns and postulants in close harmony work for various hymns throughout the show, the featured performances by the children’s group – who work together so well on “Do-Re-Mi”, “The Lonely Goatherd”, and “So Long, Farewell”, as well as Jocelyne Brake’s strong voice for Mother Abbess’ “Climb Every Mountain”.

Elijah Beasley and Elise Scrogham as Captain von Trapp and Maria

Undoubtedly, the most stunning performance is given by Elise Scrogham, who takes the role of Maria to a high plane. Ms. Scrogham’s beautiful, full voice – which she seems to offer in an effortless manner – is truly a treat as she performs Maria’s catalogue of songs – “The Sound of Music”, “My Favorite Things”, the many songs she teaches the children, and a quite lovely rendition of “An Ordinary Couple”. Her program notes state that she will soon be entering college as a business major. I do hope she will find some way to continue to entertain us with her outstanding performance skills.

Others offer well-formed characterizations: Elijah Beasley is a strong and stern Captain von Trapp, Maura Phipps is both coquettish and comical in her rendition as the Captain’s fiancée Elsa Schraeder, and Nathan Ellenberger fills the stage will his angular, stylized Max Detweiler. Finally, Rebekah Barajas and Aidan Morris give spirited performances as Louisa and Rolf, respectively.

Nathan Ellenberger and Maura Phipps as Max and Elsa

The supporting cast is large and very proficient – always seeming to know where to go and what to say there. And the deck crew, which performs the task of setting and resetting the stage for the many locations in the show, deserves special mention for a flawless job.

The one area that seemed lacking was a technical one – we were too often treated to microphones either that weren’t turned on or were not cued on time. This led to a character’s first words upon entry onstage being blocked out, then subsequently heard after a switch was belatedly turned on in the booth. Entire renditions of songs were missed as several performers’ mikes did not work at all. I feel bad for those who had to endure this in their performance, and worse for the crew people trying to find out what was the matter.

Indeed, I have just learned that the theatre company has hired technicians from the venue to handle the sound cues and the mike operations. That is truly a problem. Above all however, this is something that can be corrected and likely will be.

Bottomline: Director Phipps has once again pulled resources from all over our area, managed to outlast the pandemic, and has given opportunities to young people to build a show and create memories that will last a lifetime. Agape is a wonderful theatre company and I look forward to future productions.

Agape Performing Arts Company’s The Sound of Music is only offering performances through June 6th. For tickets and information, please go to https://agapeshows.org/ .

  • – Photos by Antonio Chapital

“Mrs. Harrison” from Indiana Repertory Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

IRT continues their 2020-21 virtual season with R. Eric Thomas’ very interesting Mrs. Harrison. The play is directed by Mikael Burke, who offered last season’s much appreciated The Agitators at Phoenix Theatre, and performed by Celeste M. Cooper and Mary Williamson, in their IRT debuts. The story is an examination of truth, memory, and perception as two former college classmates reminisce (in a ladies’ room) about their shared experiences and how their lives and successes have been shaped by them.

One mistook, the other is mistaken – but which is which?

Mary Williamson as Holly, and Celeste M. Cooper as Aisha in IRT’s production of “Mrs. Harrison”

Ms. Cooper, as successful playwright Aisha and Ms. Williamson, as struggling comedienne/storyteller Holly, are both convincing in their roles. In their long conversation, both aptly portray their character’s undercurrent facets with ease. And that is what is remarkable – one can see from the beginning that something hidden is at stake here – something that will come out as the story unwinds and bubbles.

The entire play is open to interpretation, and I applaud director Burke for the course he has plotted for us. We are sent through various stages of understandings and misunderstandings, remembrances and misconceptions. Aisha seems to perceive that Holly is the bathroom attendant at one point. Holly has a notion that Aisha is able to rub elbows with the rich and famous.

And when the crux of the matter finally lifts its head, we observe disturbing accusations of racism, stolen ideas, ownership, misperceptions. One mistook, the other is mistaken – it is all open to interpretation.

Tickets to stream Mrs. Harrison are available by going to Indiana Repertory Theatre (irtlive.com) and clicking the BUY NOW button on the opening web page. The show will be available through May 30th.

  • – Photos by Zach Rosing

Beef & Boards is back!

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At last, a crack in the Covid Curtain – Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre has announced its long awaited reopening with Smoke on the Mountain beginning May 4 and running through June 20. Limited-sized audiences will be offered performances at first, but there is hope that the theatre can get back to more normal operation as soon as is possible.

Several common sense restrictions will be put into place for the reopening as per these points from B&B:

•Seating remains distanced to maintain a minimum of 6′ spacing between parties.
•Masks are required at all times unless eating or drinking.
•Dinners will be plated and brought to your table.
•Arrival times are staggered to avoid crowding in the lobby area.
•Individuals will have their temperature checked upon arrival.
•Ample hand sanitizer is available throughout the theatre.
•Daily cleaning and sanitizing protocols are in place throughout the theatre.
•The cast of Smoke on the Mountain will be vaccinated by the show’s opening.
•We are utilizing the services of Enviro-Master, to kill viruses on all surfaces.
•We have installed UV lighting in all of our air handlers to kill any viruses in the air.
•Our air handlers have been adjusted to provide 25% higher rate of air exchanges per hour than the minimum recommended by the CDC.
•The rate of air exchanges includes 2.5 outdoor air changes per hour.

Following Smoke on the Mountain, Beef and Boards has scheduled these popular shows:

The Sound of Music – June 24 – August 15

NewsiesAugust 19 – October 3

Phantom – October 7 – November 21

A Beef and Boards Christmas – November 26 – December 23

You may order tickets online for any upcoming shows by going to Home (beefandboards.com) or by calling the box office at 317-872-9664.

“Cyrano” by Indiana Repertory Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Indiana Repertory Theatre continues their 2020-21 virtual theatre season with Cyrano, adapted for the stage by Jo Roets, and based on the original play by Edmond Rostand. Rostand’s story is known to be a fictionalized account of a real person – Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac (1619-55), who himself was a novelist and playwright. The original five act production was all in verse and was a throwback to Romanticism against the burgeoning Modernism style of the times. It is said that at the opening (December 27, 1897) the audience stood and applauded for a full hour at the play’s conclusion.

Roets’ compact, modern, eighty minute, three actor adaptation relates the essential story arc of the eloquent Cyrano, whose undying, unattainable love for his cousin, the beautiful Roxane, is traversed through the man she most admires – the handsome, yet tongue-tied Christian de Neuvillette.

Stylistically staged by director Janet Allen, on a conceptual set by Russell Metheny, the noteworthy cast plays their parts in a fittingly naturalistic vein, which provides for striking portrayals in contrast to the background choices.

Roxane (Melisa Pereyra) in a scene with Cyrano (Ryan Artzberger) from IRT’s production of “Cyrano”

Veteran IRT actor Ryan Artzberger adds to his impressive roster of roles with his very human Cyrano. He takes the text to new levels of honesty as he unravels the ardent soldier’s conflicting feelings of love and lack of self-value due to his large nose. It is through this portrayal that we encounter most of the play’s themes – love, loyalty, selflessness, honor, and sacrifice. Cyrano’s heart’s delight is palpable as he quietly celebrates his love’s hearing his words of deep affection, albeit through another man’s presence.

That other man, Christian, is well-offered – along with several other characters – by Jeb Burris. Burris sharply conveys the young lover’s lack of depth, his eagerness, and his reaction to opportunities that fall his way. Burris’ added duties as various soldiers, a monk and especially Cyrano’s rival, Count de Guiche, are all well-met with the varying styles and senses necessary to delineate the corps of characters.

Roxane (Melisa Pereyra) meets her love Christian (Jeb Burris) in a scene from IRT’s production of “Cyrano”

The beautiful Roxane is skillfully offered by the beautiful Melisa Pereyra. Ms. Pereyra’s portrayal brings all the woman’s aspects to account. No obedient, obligated female she, Roxane is seen as an advanced lady – needy only for the eloquent speech which she believes Christian has written and spoken to her. Roxane’s intensity on that facet of the story comes through with emotional clarity and Ms. Pereyra’s finishing touches in her realization that it was Cyranos’ words that moved her are indeed heartbreaking.

Christian (Jeb Burris) and Cyrano (Ryan Artzberger) plan a romance in a scene from IRT’s production of “Cyrano”

Added effects of the costumes by Linda Pisano, lighting designed by Xavier Pierce, and an evocative score by Michael Keck, all play a large part in this piece’s impact. And once again, the technicians and camera operators from WFYI television do precise work in the endeavor.

Bottomline: IRT has combined the talents of many to present this classic story in an exceptional presentation. Although we all long to return to our seats in their fine theatre, the attention to quality as is offered by this production is fully appreciated.

Tickets to stream Cyrano are available by going to Indiana Repertory Theatre (irtlive.com) and clicking the BUY NOW button on the opening web page. The show will be available through May 9th.

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

Indiana Repertory Theatre’s “NO. 6”

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

“Ripped from today’s headlines!” is a dated adage often used to sensationalize a movie or show – overly emphasizing the relevance of a story. But playwright T.J. Young’s NO. 6, which is based on a 2001 incident of racial imbalance and it’s aftermath, can be described thusly without any sensational intent. The play offers views of the devastation of communities, lives and, indeed, souls which derive from events that have all too often been reported and re-reported in today’s minute-quick media outlets.

Set in Cincinnati after the acquittal of a police officer involved in the shooting of a young black man, NO. 6 examines many sides of the emotions and troubles rendered by the verdict. Although the story unfolds in a forthright manner, it is full of sudden surprises which I feel leaves me unable to reveal much of it in this critique. The themes, however, are easily identified: distress, lack of trust, change, frustration and hope. I believe it may be noted that the titular No. 6 refers to a theory that a sixth extinction is on its way, wiping out human-kind if it cannot be stopped.

Michael Stewart Allen as Kelly and Milicent Wright as Ella in IRT’s production of “NO. 6”

Milicent Wright leads the cast as Ella, the widowed mother of twin teens – Felix (Jamaal McCray) and Felicia (LaKesha Lorene) whose neighborhood and business eventually become preyed upon by angry protesters. We first meet the family as they set plans to survive the onslaught as best they can. Michael Stewart Allen soon joins the scene as Kelly, a surprising man who is deeply snared in the circumstances in the streets. The cast is solid through a longish exposition, then blossoms in the more intense sections. Especially notable is a scene between Ella and Kelly which reveals the depth of emotions on both sides of the issue in a balanced outburst of feelings and ideas.

Jamaal McCray as Felix and LaKesha Lorene as Felicia in IRT’s production of “NO. 6”

Dwandra Nikole Lampkin directs the action with a deft hand at tempo and pace, and allows the story to unroll even-handedly, with artfulness rather than agenda. Technical aspects are all in order, including Rob Koharchik’s straightforward set, and LeVonne Lindsay’s costuming. Matthew Tibbs inserts sounds of the street with economy. IRT’s virtual production of the play, with a huge assist from local PBS station WFYI, is well-done and easily accessible online.

Bottomline: Although the play shows the anger, hardships and griefs that are damaging our society, it cannot show a solution. Perhaps it can act as the playwright intends: to “open us up to the conversations that are needed to filter out whatever bile is in the waters of our nation”.

Tickets to stream NO. 6 are available by going to Indiana Repertory Theatre (irtlive.com) and clicking the BUY NOW button on the opening web page. The show will be available through April 4th.

  • – Photos by Zach Rosing

Cardinal Stage Company’s “Ordinary Days”

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Mrs. K and I have just finished watching Cardinal Stage Company’s excellent virtual production of Adam Gwon’s sung-thru musical – Ordinary Days – in the comfort of our living room. A stellar cast works through the show’s 19 song catalog with endlessly fine performances, unerringly portraying the coupled stories of the arc of a modern romance and the discovery of a diverse friendship. Mr. Gwon’s popular creation began it’s journey as an Off-West End production in 2008, followed by an Off-Broadway run the following year, before being produced around the globe in the 2010’s.

Director Kate Galvin takes advantage of our theatre community’s challenging Covid-19 misfortune by choosing to stage the musical in film style using both in-home settings and green-screened backgrounds to put her actors in a variety of locales. Her methods give an increased clarity to the numerous places and environments in the show.

The four member cast shines throughout. Julian Diaz-Granados and Kayla Marie Eilers play the romantic couple, Jason and Claire. Their storyline runs the course of a typical twosome’s tale of getting together, growing apart and resolving what their relationship means. They tell their feelings and thoughts with superior vocal talents in both their duets and their solos. Diaz-Granados is gifted with an amazingly versatile range of stylings, while Ms. Eilers can sing sweetly or when necessary belt with the best. Together they provide an engaging account of their characters’ encounters and growth.

Kayla Marie Eilers and Julian Diaz-Granados portray Claire and Jason in Cardinal Stage Company’s production of “Ordinary Days”

Nina Donville and Henry Miller are Deb and Warren, two dissimilar people who come together for friendship’s sake. When Warren finds Deb’s lost dissertation notebook, they begin a comedy of coupling that is filled with both hilarious and meaningful moments. Ms. Donville melds her impressive character acting prowess with a truly wonderful voice. Miller’s talent for playing charm and unyielding idealism are likewise matched by his vocal skills.

Nina Donville and Henry Miller play Deb and Warren in Cardinal Stage Company’s production of “Ordinary Days”

Music director Ray Fellman, who also plays piano as the single accompaniment for the program, must feel very blessed to have the highly diverse and adept cast he inherits here. The sound design by Robert Hornbostel was top-notch, as was the video design and editing by Co-Op Productions.

Bottomline: It was very interesting to see a theatre company take the action off the stage and delve into what amounted to a film-making endeavor. I applaud the methods, which all worked very well for this particular production. Everything comes together quite nicely and we are provided with a very worthwhile entertainment.

Tickets can be purchased for Ordinary Days at Cardinal Stage Company’s webpage Shows | Cardinal Stage . The show is available for streaming through February 21st.

“Tuesdays with Morrie” from Indiana Repertory Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

It has been many years since I last read Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom’s exceptional account of his days visiting his old professor Morrie Schwartz during the man’s final months of life. The book was highly regarded and resulted in an Emmy award winning TV movie in 1999, as well as the 2002 play by Mr. Albom and Jeffrey Hatcher.

Of course, the play presents the noteworthy outlooks of Albom’s old professor, who is dying of ALS, in a rather more immediate way than the book could. Two of my favorite IRT actors, Ryan Artzberger and Henry Woronicz, take the roles of Albom and Morrie, respectively. Both are excellent in their turns, taking Albom’s memories and transforming them into solidly built portrayals of the men and their meetings.

Artzberger accomplishes Albom’s progression from cynical student to coldly successful journalist and on into humanistic advocate through a series of noteably measured steps. As he becomes dutifully bound to his dying teacher, we note that many of the changes suggested by Morrie’s ideas appear in his personality.

Morrie Schwartz (on left, played by Henry Woronicz) and Mitch Albom (Ryan Artzberger) became friends as professor/student at Brandeis University in the late 70’s.

Woronicz also portrays changes, far more severe. Morrie’s path from highly regarded sociology professor, through diagnosis and surrender to his ACL disease, is well marked and effective. It is often painful to watch the actor portray the demise of the man as he loses function and ability. Through it all, Morrie’s high regard for finishing a meaningful life, and his dedication to teaching “to the last” are the triumphant aspects of his being.

Director Benjamin Hanna organizes the action, with assists from scenic designer Ryan Koharchic, costume designs by Guy Clark, plus Xavier Pierce and Melanie Chen Cole, who provided designs for lighting and sound, respectively. The venture leans toward a simplistic approach and results in a very telegenic production, perfectly captured by a crew from local PBS station – WFYI.

Tuesdays with Morrie explores themes of loving, living and dying in a humanistic way.

Bottomline: It is remarkably meaningful to revisit the ideas and thoughts put forth by the piece, especially as a seasoned septuagenarian, which is my circumstance. Morrie’s uncomplicated ideas about living, loving and, finally, dying are strongly conveyed. IRT’s presentation of this virtual play, with an eye on continuance of their mission to entertain and educate in meaningful ways, is perfectly placed in these times.

Tickets to stream Tuesdays with Morrie are available by going to Indiana Repertory Theatre (irtlive.com) and clicking the BUY NOW button on the opening web page. The show will be available through February 21st.

  • – photos by Zach Rosing
  • – artwork by Kyle Ragsdale

“The Dealer Smiles” – the movie

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Today, I am very excited to write about a new film adaptation of a popular play by a local actor/playwright.

It was the summer of 2012 when a good friend of mine, Larry Adams, sent me a DVD of a performance of a play he had written – The Dealer Smiles. When I got around to watching it, it immediately had a surprising impact on me. Later the same day, I asked Mrs K to watch it with me, and she too was duly impressed. The story is about one Matt Pierson, a recently divorced man who is having trouble facing a spiral of regret and bitterness until he meets Josh, a very special man with some powerful insights. It spoke to us in a rather unique and clear way.

What my friend had written, and performed, was an uncommon excursion into some high-level questions which have been posed forever. I wrote about it at the time thusly: “What develops in the arc of the play, is an entertaining, yet deep conversation about life, God, faith, enduring one’s problems and making more of what we are given in this world. There are so many enriching “ah-ha” moments, mixed in with a lot of clever, funny and even ridiculous humor. The subject matter deals with questions we have all asked ourselves. Where is God? Is there a God? – How does He allow such evil to be in our midst?… (but) let me be clear – this is not a religious play – it is more a philosophical discourse. While it does not give any definitive answers – it allows our own interpretations. We do not get conclusions – and yet, we somehow are left with a new understanding – of ourselves among other things. It is a powerful, intelligent, non-judgmental examination of the questions of the ages.”

The play succeeded on many levels – as an entertainment, as a thought-provoking experience – and it spoke to people in a way that was unusually direct and understandable. Larry and his fellow cast member Jaime Johnson began a journey with the play that went through a reworking for Westfield Playhouse, and onto an IndyFringe stage in August of 2013. Again, their efforts drew positive attention. One further readaptation took place at the Westfield venue in 2016.

Laurence Adams as Matt Pierce (right) and Jaime Johnson as Josh – from The Dealer Smiles

Now, Larry has gone to another level with his creation and, with the guidance of film-maker Nathan Crowder (of SILO Cinemaworks), he has produced a movie version of the story. When asked about taking this next step, Larry told me this:

“The impact I’m hoping for is the same as for the play: I’m hoping to stimulate conversation and, I suppose, contemplation of ideas of faith. A great many people have drifted away from faith (whatever the religion) because the very questions this show asks are not only never answered in their churches, synagogues or mosques, they’re not even allowed to be asked. Many people, faced with this dilemma, have simply thrown it all out and walked away, and I believe this leaves a huge hole in the lives of many people, a whole facet of existence left unexplored. I wanted people to know that these questions are legitimate, it’s ok to ask them, and that the journey toward answering them can be a fulfilling and life-altering one.”

After viewing the film, I am very impressed with the Crowder/Adams results. They have melded all the original enriching, entertaining, thought-provoking facets of the play, into a solidly paced, visually attractive piece. The story has been expanded in the film with added scenes – of Matt’s youth, of his dismay during his father’s passing, even scenes of the Dealer himself. Plus the cutting action of video-storytelling adds appeal to the story arc.

Larry Adams and his acting partner, Jaime Johnson are impressive in their roles. Transferring the elements of a play – timing, characterization, emotion – from stage-acting to an on-the-screen performance is tricky stuff, but the duo keeps all the components in fine working order and are top-notch in their portrayals.

Bottomline: Taken all together, this video production richly hits the mark with an inspirational, humorous, sharply dialogued tale we ALL can relate to and learn from.

You can gather more info about the DVD and about the production at The Dealer Smiles (thedealersmilesmovie.com) . The disk is available for purchase for $10 plus mailing.

Indiana Repertory Theatre’s “This Wonderful Life”

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

With Indiana Repertory Theatre’s revered, traditional holiday fare A Christmas Carol set aside this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the venerable theatre company has moved on to a virtual entertainment with playwright Steve Murray’s This Wonderful Life, an adaptation of the screenplay for Frank Capra’s iconic holiday film, It’s A Wonderful Life. Directed by Benjamin Hanna and starring IRT regular Rob Johansen, this re-imagining of the beloved story is full of both familiar moments and surprises.

Mr. Johansen is in top-notch form in the role of The Storyteller, springing through characterizations, story points and side bars. Energetically playing every single citizen of Bedford Falls, his creative powers are as elastic as his facial expressions and body movements. His rendition of our hero George Bailey is offered with a deft nod to Jimmy Stewart’s portrayal, while Mr. Potter holds a sharp likeness to Lionel Barrymore’s efforts. Mary Bailey comes through as a gentle spirit, the children are all sweet and endearing, Uncle Billy is as outrageous as we remember him to be, and Angel 2nd Class Clarence Odbody is lovable and charming. Taken all together, Johansen has constructed the Masterwork of his career and hopefully, preserved in video form, we will revisit it for many years to come.

Rob Johansen is chameleon-like is his array of portrayals in IRT’s “This Wonderful Life”

Adding to the grand experience is the thoughtful set design by Rob Koharchik, the skillful costume design by Junghyun Georgia Lee, lighting by Xavier Pierce, and sound designs by Todd Mack Reischman. WFYI television provided the video production, which was coordinated by Nathan Garrison.

Bottomline: Everything comes together for a truly remarkable and commendable undertaking resulting in an immensely pleasurable holiday special. Johansen’s moving, humorous and skillful performance is a triumph. What we lost due to the cancellation of A Christmas Carol, we gained ten-fold with this new IRT classic.

Virtual tickets can be purchased at irtlive.com or by calling the IRT Ticket Office at 317.635.5252 Tuesday – Thursday from 11 am – 5 pm. 

  • – photos by Zach Rosing
  • – artwork by Kyle Ragsdale

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