CCP’s “Boeing Boeing” at the CAT

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Carmel Community Players opens their 2021-22 season with Marc Camoletti’s comic farce, “Boeing Boeing”. The play is set in 1960s Paris and concerns the outlandish life style of Bernard, who keeps a rotation of three airline stewardesses as fiancées. His ill-conceived plan to keep each girl from knowing about the others works amazingly well – until it doesn’t. Then, of course, typical farcical mayhem ensues and the fun, for the audience, begins.

Daniel Scharbrough directs the action and the actors on a multi-doored set, with costumes by Toni Scroggins. The cast of 4 women and 2 men provide a rather uneven array of portrayals in what is a quite difficult script.

The ladies do better than average turns with their roles. Karen Webster, who plays Bernard’s invaluable housekeeper/cook Berthe, does a wonderful job. Her unfailingly-accented, much-put-upon character comes off as a winner as she takes good advantage of every comic line she is given by the playwright. The three stewardesses, Rachel Kelso (as Gloria, the American), Jessica Hawkins (as Gabriella, the Italian) and Monya Wolf (as Gretchen, the German), all provide interestingly varied women who believe they are Bernard’s one true love. Ms. Kelso is sharp as the self-assured American, Ms. Hawkins brings passion to her romantic Italian, and Ms. Wolf goes from Brunhilda to German kitten in her arc.

The cast of “Boeing Boeing” – from left, Rachel Kelso, Kirk Donlan, Jessica Hawkins, Karen Webster, Monya Wolf and Eric Dixon.

Their male counterparts have a much different and more difficult assignment in the story. Kirk Donlan sets up his sophisticated Bernard as a self-confident womanizer, a real I’m-beating-the-system type individual. His good friend Robert, offered by Eric Dixon, shows himself to be a touch less cultured, as hinted by being Wisconsin born. Robert admires Bernard’s dangerous set-up though he seems reticent to adopt it. From there, we are led into the chaos they face together as the three fiancées enter into collision courses.

Farce is written with lots of need for reactions, because characters continuously learn new factors as the story builds – new complications, new realizations, new unexpected circumstances. Actors’ reactions are a big part of the entertainment for the audience – which knows everything that is going on, and delightedly sees what could be the trouble that is on its way. That’s where I believe (IMHO) this company’s efforts fall apart a bit.

As the problems grow for the men and the unexpected elements unfold, Bernard, and especially Robert, fall into a pattern of thick schtick. It’s a bit overdone and a lot repetitious. For example, draping yourself across an entrance you don’t want a lady to go through (because of the secret that is on the other side) while putting on a casual countenance might be okay to do twice or even thrice. Here, it is repeated about a dozen times. Pinching the top of your nose to show that one is thinking or confused or surprised is likewise okay in moderation – but it seems to be Robert’s go-to action throughout. Those are just some of the plethora of odd reactions. Others that are repeatedly employed are so broad, and cartoonish, they just don’t fit in the format.

This, of course, is all MY reaction and singular opinion, I suppose. The actors got the laughs they were looking for, but the choices were (dare I use the word?) amateurish. A big variety of options are available for this type of thing, and I wished that Mr. Scharbrough and his crew had explored them a bit more. It would have made, for this reviewer at least, a more well-developed show.

Bottomline: Although the audience in general was quite captivated by the eccentricities of the action, I was mainly underwhelmed. Simply put, a bit more attention to variety of reactions would have made a sizeable difference in this production for me. On the plus side, the story-telling was paced at an appropriate clip which helped immensely and energy was certainly never lacking.

Boeing Boeing continues it’s short run with performances September 23 & 26. The CAT is located at 254 Veteran’s Way (formerly 254 1st Ave SW) in Carmel. Tickets may be purchased by visiting  http://www.carmelplayers.org or by calling (317) 815-9387.

Epilogue Players’ “Arsenic and Old Lace”

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Epilogue Players opens their 2021-22 season with the classic dark comedy – Arsenic and Old Lace, written by Joseph Kesselring. The play opened on Broadway over 80 years ago on January 10th 1941 and closed in 1944 after 1,444 performances.

Brent Wooldridge returns to Epilogue to direct and, with his talented cast of players, puts on a very enjoyable evening of crazy fun. Most of us have seen the play or very likely have seen the film version which starred Cary Grant as Mortimer Brewster. Mortimer is the put-upon nephew of Abby and Martha Brewster, two kindly old ladies who “help” lonely old men get past their struggles with a glass of homemade elderberry wine. Add in Mortimer’s eccentric brother – Teddy, who believes he is President Theodore Roosevelt, and his older brother Jonathan, who happens to be a homicidal maniac, and we have the makings of a comedy you won’t soon forget.

Mortimer Brewster (Jaime Johnson) confronts his Aunts Abby (Serita Borgeas – in gold) and Martha (Hazel Gillaspy – in blue)

Jaime Johnson stars as Mortimer and brings a polished characterization to the stage. Blessed with excellent comic timing and a wealth of appropriate facial expressions to enhance the mirth, Johnson was a great choice for the role. Serita Borgeas and Hazel Gillaspy join him as Abby and Martha, respectively. These two experienced actresses work very well together, mixing their sweet kindliness with an innocent psychosis to produce more than a few laughs.

Scott Prill is a perfect Teddy in looks, manner and energy. He does his brilliant turn without taking over his scenes and adds much to the hilarity. Daniel Scott Watson is a terrific villain, playing Jonathan as the fully evil, scary, and dangerously murderous character he is meant to be. Watson is joined by Mike Harold, as Dr. Einstein. Harold brings an interesting sympathetic honesty to the side-kick malefactor, which plays very well.

Dr. Einstein (Mike Harold, left) and Jonathan Brewster (Daniel Scott Watson, right) discuss the future with Mortimer (Jaime Johnson, center)

Featured supporting players Caity Withers as Mortimer’s fiancée, Elaine Harper, and Tom Meador as Police Lt. Rooney both do excellent work. Ms. Withers brings a winningly playful feistiness to her role, while Meador seems to have walked off the streets of Brooklyn to appear in his scenes, so authentic are his Brooklynese demeanor and comic delivery. Ron Pittman adds his dour Dr. Harper in the earliest scenes with convincing mannerisms.

Mortimer Brewster (Jaime Johnson) enjoys a talk with his fiancée Elaine Harper (Caity Withers)

In total, the show is a well-done rendering of the classic – once we slog through the longish old-style exposition, which is indeed complicated for this busy plot. Afterward, the zanier scenes play quite well and were nicely received by the sold-out audience.

Bottomline: This dear old play, which has no doubt been done at least several million times around the world, is still a funny, clever, plot-twisted gem. The Epilogue company does it proud with their production.

Arsenic and Old Lace continues at Epilogue Players through September 16th. For more information about dates, times and reservation go to http://www.epilogueplayers.com or call 317.926.3139.

  • Photos provided by Epilogue Players

Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre’s “Under the Big Top” at Tarkington Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre opens their 2021-22 season at Tarkington Theatre in Carmel with a splendid collection of choreographies entitled Under the Big Top. Offered with an old-time European traveling circus as it’s central theme, the GHDT troupe presents a full array of scenes which range from the hilarious to the poignant – some to advance the underlying tale of a young girl’s hope to be a lion trainer, and others as excellent portrayals of the circus’ many performance acts.

The choreography by Mr. Hancock – who also designed the many colorful costumes – is fresh and alive, innovative and precise. His performers pick up on all these aspects, resulting in a high quality evening of exciting entertainment.

The 24 dances which make up the program show a fine diversity in choreography as well as in the talents of the exceptional dance troupe. They are imaginative, beautiful to watch, and driven by some of the most original music I have run across in dance production. Lighting designs by Ryan Koharchik add moods and textures.

Camden Lancaster as The Backyard Girl

Standouts performers among the varied show pieces include Camden Lancaster, who is flawless in her lead portrayal of “The Backyard Girl”, Adrian Dominguez and Zoe Maish, who astound us in their “The Knife Thrower and his Lovely Assistant”, Chloe Holzman and Thomas Mason in a stunning rendition of “Send in the Clowns”, as well as Josie Moody and Olivia Payton in their surprising “Siamese Twins”. Hannah Brown portrays a sultry Fortune Teller, Abigail Lessaris is evocative as “The Veiled Lady”, and Rebecca Zigmond and Vincent Kitchen are pure fun as the “World’s Oddest Couple”. Finally, young dancers Arden Brothers, Violet Kitchen and Hazel Moore are the cutest set of “Big Cats” you may ever see!

All the pieces come together to make a really extraordinary program. From start to finish, this offering is yet another top-level product by this innovative dance company.

Chloe Holzman and Thomas Mason in “Send in the Clowns”

Bottomline: One small problem exists with this delightful production and that is: it only plays for two more days. Do yourself a favor and treat yourself (and some kids – this is right up their alley) to a remarkable evening of dance.

Under the Big Top will be presented at The Tarkington in The Carmel Center for the Performing Arts August 27 – 28 at 7pm. Call for tickets: 317-843-3800 or go online at thecenterpresents.org/ 

Up next for GHDT: There’s No Place Like Home at The Tarkington – October 28-30 2021

  • – Photos by Lydia Moody

“Newsies” at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre

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reviewed by Adam Crowe

Hello to all of the ASOTA Crowd. Thanks be to (insert your diety here), we are still here and able to talk about all things Indianapolis Theater. And as always, thanks to Ken for the chance to share thoughts about what is playing on local stages.

When I last saw Beef and Boards Dinner Theater, it was 2019. Like all of us, the Theater has gone through trials and tribulations since then. On the bright side, they were most recently able to produce a full run of an audience favorite (hint: the Hills were Alive). On August 20th, the B&B opened a first time production – “Newsies”, directed by Elizabeth Payne.

Based on the 1992 Disney film of the same name, this Tony Award winner is credited to Harvey Fierstein (Book), Jack Feldman, (Lyrics) and Alan Menken (Music). The musical follows a group of orphaned newsboys, living in a Lower Manhattan lodging house, and their ostensible leader, Jack Kelly. These newsboys lives are upended when ruthless publishers (like Joseph Pulitzer), demand price increases for their newspapers in order to offset declining sales. The “Newsies” respond by calling for a strike.

Both musical and film are based loosley on historical fact, as there was a real life newsboys’ strike in 1899 in New York City. Given the complexities of the issues and of the era itself, it is not surprising that Disney distills the story into a somewhat two dimensional tale of good orphans versus evil Titans of Industry – and even manages to throw in a love story with a tiny twist. Still, the energy and talent of this cast pulled the audience in and held them from start to finish.

Joshua Schwartz as Jack Kelly in B&B’s production of “Newsies”

Led by terrific performances from Joshua J. Schwartz as Jack Kelly, and Sarah Daniels as Katherine, the cast was uniformly strong. The Tony winning music and lyrics were delivered with verve, as was the dancing, choreographed by Ron Morgan. Aside from the two leads and a few other characters, nearly every member of the cast was called upon to portray multiple characters and did so with ease. (Special mentions in this Department go to Mark Fishback, Brett Mutter, Annalee Marcee and Christine Zavakos).

Sarah Daniels as Katherine in B&B’s “Newsies”

Beef and Boards’ design elements served the story well, with costumes designed by Michael Bottari and Ronald Case, and Andrew Elliot’s wigs being my personal standouts. Terry Woods and the orchestra were in fine form and the entire evening ran as smoothly as I’ve come to expect from B&B.

Fans of the 1992 film and Disney-philes will find the energy and enthusiasm of “Newsies” infectious. If your household includes members of either group, I suggest you get your tickets soon. “Newsies” runs Tuesdays through Sundays Until October 3rd. Beef and Boards Dinner Theater is located at 9301 Michigan Road, in Indianapolis. Ticket information can be found at http://www.beefandboards.com or by calling (317) 872-9664.

Please note that Beef and Boards Dinner Theater has issued the following advisory – Masks are strongly recommended for all guests but are not required at this time. We respectfully request that unvaccinated guests continue to wear masks when moving throughout the building and during the performance. Beef & Boards reserves the right to adjust these restrictions in the future should there be a need for stricter safety protocols.

  • – Photos by Julie Curry

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

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