Opening April 26th: CCP’s “A Streetcar Named Desire”

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by Ken Klingenmeier

Well, it has been a heck of a long time since I was involved in the acting side of a production, over 2 years actually. But somehow I snagged the role of the doctor in director Brent A. Wooldridge’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams. This American classic is being offered by Carmel Community Players at The Cat venue in downtown Carmel. It opens Friday April 26th (7:30 curtain) and it has a terrific set of young cast-members. Laura Lanman Givens is taking the iconic role of Blanche DuBois, while Jonathan Scoble is Stanley Kowalski – these are two dynamic talents whom I have not worked with before. Mitty Award winner (2013) Addison Ahrendts presents Stella Kowalski, and Adam B. Workman handles the role of Mitch.

As I am writing this, we have gathered for “long Saturday”. Usually most community theatre productions kick off what is affectionately called “hell week” – the final, sometimes frenzied week of rehearsals, fittings, building, tech settings and, perhaps above all, memorizing, that leads to opening night – with a long Sunday full of prep work by the actors. Since Sunday is Easter, we are meeting today and taking tomorrow off.

All seems to be going well. My small part of the show occurs during the final 10 minutes or so – giving me a lot of wait time. It is probably the smallest part I have ever had in my theatre career, but I am totally fine just being a part of the production. I have experienced a few firsts in the process. Primarily, I’ve always wanted to act in one of Brent’s productions. I’ve seen more than a few of his shows and have found that he always manages to get a lot out of his actors and puts much thought into such things as production values and the like. It’s been a real pleasure to join his fine cast. He is open to suggestions from his actors and stays calm through all the many travails of building a production.

Jonathan Scoble (Stanley) and Addison Ahrendts (Stella) rehearse for CCP’s upcoming production of “A Streetcar Named Desire”

Speaking of building – the set is remarkable. Designer/builder Ron Roessler has taken the smallish Cat stage and filled it with a very genuine-looking flat that absolutely depicts the low-class digs of the Kowalskis.

So today we work away, fine tuning the actions, filling the gaps and creating what we all hope will be a memorable production of one of playwright Williams’ best plays. We hope you can attend our production. There are 7 performances – you can get schedule information and make your reservations by calling (317) 815-9387 or by going online: http://www.carmelplayers.org/tickets/ .

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“42nd Street” at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

42nd Street, which opened this week at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre, certainly has a long history. The 1933 film musical, which many of us are familiar with, was based on the eponymous 1932 novel by Bradford Ropes. In turn, a Broadway stage version, directed by Gower Champion, appeared in 1980 to great acclaim, winning awards for choreography and costuming. Some memorable tunes come from the show – namely “We’re in the Money”, “Lullaby of Broadway”, “Shuffle Off to Buffalo”, and the title song – “42nd Street”.

The show’s story arc is pure 1930’s idealism: a small town girl, Peggy Sawyer, arrives in New York City to chase her dream of being a Broadway star – but she is turned away at her first audition. Suddenly, as her talents becomes more evident, she’s offered a small role by famous director Julian Marsh. There is a clash with the salty established star of the show, Dorothy Brock. Eventually on opening night, Sawyer is blamed for an injury to the star and is fired on the spot. When Marsh finds he’ll need a replacement for his disabled lead, he chases after Peggy, finds her at the train station and coaxes her to rejoin the cast – which assures her meteoric rise into stardom. The thin plot amounts to the stylings of a revue, where traditionally we come to be entertained primarily by the inserted songs and dancing – and that is exactly what choreographer Ron Morgan and director Eddie Curry have achieved here.

The cast of “42nd Street” in the “Getting Out of Town” number

Mr. Morgan has gone all out, fashioning at least 10 rousing tap dance numbers – most of them employing the complete set of hoofers, which includes all the talented dance corps members and most of the leads. It makes for scintillating musical numbers, which wow us again and again!

Kaylee Verble (center) stars as Peggy Sawyer – with dancers (from left) AnnaLee Traeger, Jen Martin, Sally Scharbrough and Amy Owens.

The sparkling cast is well-stocked with amazing voices and dancers. Kaylee Verble makes her B&B debut in the role of Peggy Sawyer, and she certainly fits the part of the uber-talented small-town girl. Unassumingly reserved and energetically focused, Ms. Kaylee’s Peggy is just perfect for the 30’s storyline. Countering her innocence is the aging star, Dorothy Brock, played to the hilt by B&B favorite, Sarah Hund. Ms. Hund’s undeniable talents are well featured here as she sails through her musical numbers with a seemingly effortless luster.

(foreground from left) Billy Lawlor (Dan Bob Higgins), Abner Dillon (jeff Stockberger) and Dorothy Brock (Sarah Hund) in a scene from “42nd Street”.
(background) – composers Maggie Jones (Lanene Charters) and Bert Barry (Brett Mutter)

The two male leads – director Julian Marsh and youthful star Billy Lawlor – are offered up by Mark Epperson and Dan Bob Higgins. Both return to B&B after recent successes here, and both carry on the high levels of performance we have previously noted from them. Epperson is commanding as director Marsh, while Higgins advances a set of glossy song & dance performances.

Notable supporting role turns are given by Jeff Stockbereger as a comic Abner Dillon – Dorothy Brock’s “sugar-daddy” – as well as, Brett Mutter and Lanene Charters doing fine work as composer/performers Bert Barry and Maggie Jones. Kristy Templet leads the B&B orchestra which turns in great sound and high energy – exactly what is needed for the show.

Peggy Sawyer (Kaylee Verble) and Julian Marsh (Mark Epperson) in the “Lullaby of Broadway” scene

On the tech side – Michael Layton has designed a very colorful and functional rotating set. Costumer Jill Kelly Howe has gone above and beyond her normally exceptional design work and has rendered an unbelievable volume of exquisite, dazzling and shimmering costumes for the cast – which one must see to believe.

Just one example of Jill Kelly Howe’s incredible costume design work as Don Bob Higgins (center) leads the dance corps in “We’re in the Money”.

Bottomline: I am afraid I may not have used enough superlatives to describe the gleaming extravaganza that B&B’s impressive 42nd Street is. The energetic cast provides a splendid array of musical entertainment that I doubt will be matched soon. Congrats to all involved in the effort. This is a true hit show!

42nd Street continues at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre through May 19th. Find show times and reservations at http://www.beefandboards.com or you may call the box office at 317-872-9664.

  • – Photos by Julie Curry

“Amber Waves” at Indiana Repertory Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

James Still’s evocative creation Amber Waves started it’s artistic journey as a one-act play focusing on the feelings and outlook of children whose family struggles with the possibility of losing their family farm. The expanded full-length version, which opened this weekend on IRT’s UpperStage, encompasses the entire family’s endeavor with the the uncertainties of a modern farm economy. To me, it is a masterpiece – the ideal of what a play about social struggle should endeavor to achieve.

Deeply poignant, without ever lapsing into sappiness, the story follows a year of high points and low edges as an Indiana farm family is caught in the
cycle of the many costs and ellusive profits of American farming. It displays for us how decent people face the turmoil of life’s struggles, highlighting their assorted anxieties, sacrifices, small joys and tight budgets. It explains how land is a member of the family and how farming is literally in a family’s bloodline. Playwright Still uses both monologue and scenework to convey the family dynamics and inner thoughts of his characters – to great effect.

Lisa Rothe directs a splendid cast, utilizing an imaginative set by Narelle Sissons augmented by Mary Louise Geiger’s sensitive lighting patterns and Todd Mark Reischman’s organic sound design. Theresa Squire adds a knowing touch with her spot-on costume choices.

Mary Bacon and Torsten Hillhouse as farm couple Penny and Mike in IRT’s production of “Amber Waves”.

Torsten Hillhouse joins Mary Bacon to portray the farm couple, Mike and Penny Olsen. Hillhouse has Mike’s farmer persona down to a T – with his loping stride, his hungdown attitude about most things that aren’t farm related, and his shy and prideful countenance. Ms. Bacon’s Penny is the peppy million-things-at-once wife and mom – holding together the family, supporting everyone through the crisis, while keeping her own dreams just slightly at bay. Both these fine actors are as genuine as you could imagine Indiana farmers to be, giving us a moving vision of the challenges our country’s farm families face.

from left: Deb (Jordan Pecar), Scott (William Brosnahan), Mike (Torsten Hillhouse, and Penny (Mary Bacon) in IRT’s production of “Amber Waves”.

Their two children – teenager Scott and junior high schooler Deb – are offered up in surprisingly adroit turns by William Brosnahan and Jordan Pecar. Both young performers show that they know their way around emotional roles as they render sharp portrayals of two kids with little control over what their futures may hold. Every one of their appearances onstage adds to the feeling of honesty in Ms. Rothe’s direction.

Johnny (Charles Dumas) and Deb (Jordan Pecar) in a scene from IRT’s production of “Amber Waves”.

Two important smaller roles are perfectly done by veteran actor Charles Dumas as neighboring farmer Johnny and young actress Riley Jaria as Deb’s friend, Julie. Both add to the fabric of the story and once again the natural qualities of the entire cast’s portrayals are further enhanced with their contributions.

from left – foreground: musicians Tim Grimm and Rachell Eddy perform in IRT’s production of “Amber Waves”.

An essential piece of the onstage emotions and themes is brought out by the in-show musical recitals provided by Tim Grimm and Rachel Eddy. Grimm wrote the musical punctuations (along with Jason Wilber) – and his performances with Ms. Eddy are enchanting, especially their blending of voices. Ms. Eddy is proficient on violin, guitar, banjo and dulcimer – which adds much to the depth and richness of this important musical facet of the show.

Bottomline: Director Lisa Rothe has pulled together the talents of more than a few creative people to produce what I believe to be one of the best, most eloquent shows of the local theatre season. Mr. Still’s work here rivals his fine Appoggiatura. This is a must-see.

Amber Waves will continue its run at Indiana Repertory Theatre through April 28th. For specific information on dates, show times, and ticket orders, visit IRT’s website at http://www.irtlive.com/.

  • Banner artwork by Kyle Ragsdale
  • Photos by Zach Rosing

Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s “The Importance of Being Earnest”

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Civic Theatre opened its production of Oscar Wilde’s clever, but dated, classic piece The Importance of Being Earnest Friday night in The Studio Theatre’s black box space. The smaller scaled production venue works well considering the extremely edited version the company has rendered. Adapting the script from the original 3 act, 3 hour length into a tidy 3 scened 90 minutes was accomplished by director Michael J. Lasley and assistant director Parrish Williams.

Wilde’s original presentation opened in London in 1895 to immediate acclaim. In a time where serious plays abounded, the preposterous farcical plot was truly an unexpected delight, and it became the playwright’s most successful venture.

Gwendolen Fairfax (Carrie A. Schlatter) and John “Ernest” Worthing (Ethan Mathias) in a scene from Civic Theatre’s “The Importance of Being Earnest”.

Civic’s adaptation features all the original characters and unwinds through the core of the original plot without too much confusion. John Worthing, who sometimes uses the name Ernest when it is beneficial, is admirably played by Ethan Mathias, and Bradford Reilly takes the part of Worthing’s friend, Algernon Moncrieff. Mathias is solid in the more grounded role of Worthing, while Reilly plays his character to the broadest limits. It all works and is a nice combination of leads. The other male characters are featured roles with Craig Kemp doing a fine job as the quiet Reverend Chasuble, and Matt Anderson having considerable fun with two butler roles, the surly Lane, and the meekly flighty Merriman.

Cecily Cardew (Sabrina Duprey) and Algernon Moncrieff (Bradford Reilly) in a scene from Civic Theatre’s “The Importance of Being Earnest”.

The two leading female roles go to Carrie Ann Schlatter as Mr. Worthing’s romantic target, Gwendolen Fairfax, and Sabrina Duprey, as the young and quite quixotic object of Mr. Moncrieff’s affections, Cecily Cardew. Ms. Schlatter is always a marvel to watch – her innate skills of timing and characterization are a true pleasure. Ms. Duprey is endearing in her portrayal of Cecily and partners well with Ms. Schlatter and Mr. Reilly.
Vickie Cornelius Phipps adroitly portrays the snobbish Lady Bracknell, and Miki Mathioudakis is quite a serious Miss Prism.

Lady Bracknell (Vickie Cornelius Phipps), Reverend Chasuble (Craig Kemp) and Miss Prism (Miki Mathioudakis) in a scene from Civic Theatre’s “The Importance of Being Earnest”.

The simple set is the work of Ryan Koharchik, and Adrienne Conces’ costumes have just the right period flair. Andrew Elliot’s work with wigs goes unnoticeable, other than the nice decorative touches of beadwork in the designs.

Gwendolen Fairfax (Carrie A. Schlatter), Merriman (Matt Anderson), and Cecily Cardew (Sabrina Duprey) in a scene from Civic Theatre’s “The Importance of Being Earnest”.

Bottomline: Civic’s The Importance of Being Earnest is notably light fare, and although the play itself was rather popular in its day, it tends to be a bit less shiny now. Mr. Lasley has assembled a brilliant cast, but to me, the piece lacks the spark which I have grown accustomed to from the Civic’s offerings. I nonetheless expect however that the production may grow as the run progresses.

The Importance of Being Earnest continues at the Studio Theatre in the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel through April 6th. For ticket information and reservations call 317.843.3800 or go online at http://www.civictheatre.org .

  • – Photos by Zach Rosing

“A Doll’s House – Part 2” at Indiana Repertory Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

When Henrik Ibsen first produced his 1879 play A Doll’s House, it created a great stir. Presenting the frustrations of Nora, a woman stuck in the societal locks of a traditional 19th century marriage, and having her final act be leaving her husband and children behind to pursue a more substantial life, left many in his audiences agasp. Indeed, before the play could be presented in Germany, Ibsen was forced to write an alternative ending in which Nora sees her children and thus cannot leave. The expression of such female effrontery, in an age some years before the earliest feminist campaigns, was earth-shaking. The questions frequently asked by Ibsen’s followers were: What happened to Nora? Did she ever come back?

A scene from IRT’s “A Doll House – Part 2”, highlighting Ann Sheffield’s wonderful set.

Enter Lucas Hnath’s 2017 “sequel” to the play – A Doll’s House – Part 2 – which opened this weekend on IRT’s OneAmerica Mainstage and is directed by James Still. Here is Nora – 15 years later – knocking on the very door she slammed behind her in Ibsen’s classic, seeking to clean up a somewhat flawed and troubled life. Playwright Hnath imagines his heroine as being a great success in what is still a man’s world. Shying from specifics, let me merely say that she has managed to parlay her beliefs of marriage oppression into quite a far-reaching campaign affecting women the world over. From this centerpoint, the play discusses those beliefs, their ramifications, their virtues, their short-comings, and the effect all of this has had on the people Nora left behind. It is, to say the least, an intriguing treatment of the characters’ outlooks. Hnath has employed an interesting modern feel for the language his characters use and with that, director Still has led the attitudes in the portrayals to match it.

Nathan Hosner as Torvald, and Tracy Michelle Arnold as Nora, in a scene from IRT’s production of “A Doll’s House – Part 2”.

The entire cast is sensational. Tracy Michelle Arnold makes her IRT debut in the lead role. Not only is she remarkable in her portrayal, she sustains the play’s entire 1 hour 40 minutes onstage. Dressed in a beautiful creation by designer Alex Jaeger, Ms. Arnold is aptly powerful or weakened, pleading or defiant, convincing or lacking in fortitude – as the role demands. Nora’s husband Torvald is offered by Nathan Hosner, last seen on the IRT stage as one of the prisoners in last September’s Holmes and Watson. Hosner is effectively affected as the left behind husband, showing his own weakened countenance, while displaying the likely reasons Nora left him in the first place.

Tracy Michelle Arnold as Nora, with Kim Staunton as Anne Marie, in a scene from IRT’s production of “A Doll’s House – Part 2”.

Kim Staunton is marvelously inventive as the family nanny, Anne Marie. Left to raise Nora’s abandoned children, she has her own issues with the wayward erstwhile lady of the house. Ms. Staunton’s strengths are her originality and creativity for a role which, in some hands, might have a much diminished effectiveness. She makes her Anne Marie interesting and thoughtful and empathetic. Nora’s daughter Emmy, grown to marriage age, confronts her mother – not for not being there, but for what the principles that drive her have done to the world. As played by Becca Brown, she is strong, wiser than her years and not in the least coquettish.

Tracy Michelle Arnold as Nora, and Becca Brown as her daughter Emmy, in a scene from IRT’s production of “A Doll’s House – Part 2”.

Mr. Jaeger’s costume designs fill the stage with shapes and colors, Ann Sheffield’s beautiful set design gives mere indications of walls, stairways and windows, while the lighting and sound designs by Michelle Habeck and Tom Horan, respectively, enhance the storytelling.

Bottomline: IRT presents a most entertaining show, provoking both thought and conversation. The direction is very effective, especially as it addresses the audience and their feelings in an almost confrontational way. As I stated, the performances are all top-notch. If you like mindful theatre, this one is for you.

A Doll’s House – Part 2 will continue its run at Indiana Repertory Theatre through April 7th. For specific information on dates, show times, and ticket orders, visit IRT’s website at http://www.irtlive.com/.

  • – Photos by Zach Rosing

Dance Kaleidoscope’s “Funny Bones” at IRT UpperStage

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by Ken Klingenmeier

In the three years that I have been attending Dance Kaleidoscope’s performances, I have continually been beguiled by the awesome talent which comes together in their various productions. The grace of the peformers, the innovative choreography, the steadfast presentations of classic pieces such as Martha Graham’s Appalachian Spring – all have shown what a fantastic company DK is.

Last night, the troupe flipped the script a bit by presenting Funny Bones, a “Make ’em Laugh” set of short dances, choreographed by eight corps members – plus a longer piece by DK’s artistic director, David Hochoy. For the most part, these efforts further extend my appreciation for the group. (It may be worth noting that the first act’s dances, created by company members, had been offered at the 2018 IndyFringe festival last August.)

From my onstage experience, I know – comedy is hard! As actors, we make our comic attempts with the aid of a playwright’s scripted humor, adding in our details of body expression, and vocal interpretation. Conversely, these dancers have almost no vocal stylings to promote their intent – no scripted jokes to tell. It mostly comes down to the skill of the choreographer to find humor in the human condition through dance steps and movement, affected by the music chosen to accompany the work, and interpreted by the cadre of dancers.

Emily Dyson (center) leads prom goers as they take the floor in Paige Robinson’s “Prom” – a part of DK’s “Funny Bones”.

The results here are, frankly, mixed and somewhat uneven, given the difficult themes of comedy and humor. But several of the selections hit the mark with aplomb. My favorites include “Prom” – a spot-on expression of the many emotions, attitudes and complications of that magic high school night. Choreographed by Paige Robinson, it highlights some of the characters we can recognize from our school days: the Prom King and Queen, the jock, the nerd, the rebel. It is a universal memory – part of who we all are, and therefore a familiar subject to portray.

Kids cavort during Manuel Valdes’ “Recess” as part of DK’s “Funny Bones”.

Likewise, Manuel Valdes’ “Recess” plays to our memories. In a brilliant move, Valdes employs Bach’s energetic Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G to fuel the movements of his cast with vitality. We encounter schoolyard youngsters in boundless activities – playing, scraping, running – always running – and dancing, of course.

from left:
Emily Dyson, Aleksa Lukasiewicz and Brandon Comer sit and wait, while Paige Robinson dances in Mariel Greenlee’s “The Waiting Game”.

“The Waiting Game”, by Mariel Greenlee, has a story to tell, straight out of everyday life. Set in a waiting room, its comical aspects and characters are nicely conveyed – both through dance, and through acting. In fact, I think it is interesting to note just how well these accomplished dancers can manage the art of stage acting. I was impressed, to be sure!

from left: Mariel Greenlee, Brandon Comer, Stuart Coleman, Emily Dyson, Jillian Godwin take flight in David Hochoy’s “Merry Mozart”.

In Act Two, we are treated to David Hochoy’s updated work from 2001 – “Merry Mozart”. Utilizing segments from eight of Mozart’s pieces, the company is sure-footed in their renderings, and achieve the wild comedy facets of the choreography with great success. The frivolity is further supported by Guy Clark’s costumes and Laura Glover’s lighting design.

Bottomline: A good deal of fun is presented and it was well appreciated by the audience. This skillful group seems to know no limit on the styles and formats they can carry out.

Funny Bones continues through this weekend and the next, with a final performance on March 3. Go to https://dancekal.org/features/concerts/funny-bones-feb-21-mar-3 to find performance schedules and to reserve tickets or call the IRT Ticket Office at 317.635.5252.

  • – Photos by Crowe’s Eye Photography

“Almost Maine” at Mud Creek Players

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

It’s always a bit difficult to review a play which you have directed or been in with a clear sense of purpose. And for me, trying to review Mud Creek Players’ production, maybe any production, of John Cariani’s brilliant play about love – Almost Maine – is likely to be a struggle. A struggle with my own memories, and ideals.

When I first read the script in 2011, I was immediately taken by the thoughtful and original concepts put forth in Cariani’s writing – simply put, I loved it! It is such a unique play – 9 vignettes, each portraying some aspect of love. Along the way, it shows us love that is sweet, or complicated, or star-crossed, or taboo, or dismaying – with characters from all over the map of humankind. I was so taken on that first reading that I immediately set about planning to direct the show. The production was a wonderful experience for me with some of the hardest work I had ever done for a local show. In the end, I felt I loved the play even more.

Mason Odle and Jennifer Poynter work together in a scene entitled “Her Heart”

As it turns out, I had no reason to think I wouldn’t be pleased. Mud Creek Players’ Almost Maine is a charmingly entertaining journey through these stories of love. Just as I remembered, John Cariani indeed provides an unbeatable script in terms of humor, sweetness, and originality. I guarantee you that you have never thought about love in the same way Mr. Cariani writes about it.

Kyrsten Lyster and Matt Hartzburg in a scene called “Getting It Back”

The nine stories in the play are brought to life by director Andrea Odle and her impeccable cast of players – all of whom do near flawless work onstage. Jackson Stollings and Lexi Odle make up one of the four duos director Odle has employed, working in a scene which is visited periodically through the play. Mason Odle and Jennifer Poynter team up for four of the tidy scenes, while Matt Hartzburg and Krysten Lyster appear together in three others. Mssrs. Odle and Hartzburg share a scene called “They Fell”, which is perhaps the most inventively written offering. All these scenes come off so well due to the fine work of the director and the actors – it would be impossible to presume to name a best one, let alone a favorite. Let me just say that I am especially thrilled to have seen this play which I love so much – done so well.

Jackson Stollings and Lexi Odle share the stage in MCP’s production of “Almost Maine”

The vignettes are played on a variety of sets designed by Ms. Odle and they too work very well. Music, which the author offers as a part of producing his show, is a great fit.

Bottomline: Andrea Odle’s directorial debut with MCP’s Almost Maine is an unmitigated success. Her choices for her actors and for the production in general were both innovative and correct. Furthermore, the quality of acting is seamlessly superior. The result is a wonderfully full entertainment which is a must see! This is top-notch community theatre!

I’m betting that seats for this production of Almost Maine will go fast – do yourself a large favor and get to their web page at https://www.mudcreekplayers.org/reservations . (BTW – they no longer take reservations by phone.)

  • photos by Duane Mercier

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