“Richard III” at IndyFringe Basile Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

First Folio Productions and Catalyst Repertory have combined forces to present the epic drama Richard III at the IndyFringe Basile Theatre.

Shakespeare’s tragic play offers up one of his most intriguing characters in Gloucester/Richard, the physically flawed, and notoriously hateful villain, who murdered all who stood between him and the throne of England. Skillfully adapted by Ben Power, Casey Ross and director Glenn Dobbs – the production begins with the 2012 discovery of Richard’s remains in a Leicester, England parking lot. This scene melds into Gloucester’s opening monologue, “Now is the winter of our discontent…” and we are off.

What follows is a compelling account of the King Richard III saga, augmented by Linda Schornhorst’s lush costume designs, a rich soundtrack designed by Brian G. Hartz, and fight choreography by Scott Russell, all on the simple set designed by Fred Margison and Andy Burnett.

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Matt Anderson as Richard in First Folio and Catalyst Repertory’s production of “Richard III”.

Matt Anderson is thoroughly masterful as Richard. He truly becomes the fated scoundrel in what is a very physical and methodical portrayal. Anderson leaves no doubt that this is a damaged man, his extreme awkwardness only amplifying his focused desire to achieve the throne. Richard’s words drip with desire and hatefulness, and his body reveals the pain of his being. The supporting cast has a great advantage by being able to react to the seething performance Anderson renders.

Carey Shea plays the dual roles of Richard’s brother Clarence and his opponent Richmond. Both are offered with confident, spot-on depictions. Allison Clark Reddick gives a stirring performance as the widow of Richard’s brother – Queen Elizabeth. Her sorrow at the tragedies in her character’s life is immense yet varied enough to be compelling and genuine. Matthew Socey is effective as the weakened husband of the queen, King Edward IV; Christina Howard is sad and lovely as the stricken Lady Anne; and Nan Macy projects her role as Richard’s mother, Duchess of York, with great authority.

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Matt Anderson (Richard), Allison Clark Reddick (Elizabeth), and Nan Macy (Duchess of York) in First Folio and Catalyst Repertory’s production of “Richard III” .

The various assignments given Jay Hemphill (Buckingham), Casey Ross (Queen Margaret), Doug Powers (Rivers/Sir Urswisk), Kevin Caraher (Hastings), and Ryan Reddick (Stanley),  plus John Mortell, Mark Cashwell and Mike Varick (each in various roles) are all well met. Also, Dalyn Stewart and Lex Lumpkin both do themselves honor with their portrayals of Richard’s young nephews, Prince Edward and Duke of York.

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Kevin Caraher (Lord Hastings), Matthew Socey (King Edward IV), and Allison Clark Reddick (Queen Elizabeth) in First Folio and Catalyst Repertory’s production of “Richard III” .

This is a strong presentation, filled with well-developed performances. Most everything that has been pieced together for the production emphatically meets the goal of conveying this complicated story to the minds of the audience in an understandable and potent way.

My only negative comment for this impressive show is that the background sound track, while well-chosen and effective in its result, was at times too intense in volume, keeping me from fully understanding the players. I think this could easily be corrected – as I believe the most important part of theatre is the actors’ conveyance to an audience.

Bottomline: Shakespeare fans, and indeed anyone who loves good theatre, will want to attend this high level Richard III. Director Glenn Dobbs has gained an impressive reputation with his well-researched, high quality productions of the bard’s works. This one is not to be missed.

Richard III continues weekends at the IndyFringe Basile Theatre near Mass Ave through July 9th. You can get information about the shows, and purchase tickets, by going to http://www.indyfringe.org/theatre-show/richard-111 .

  • – photos by Gary Nelson

 

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“Calder, the Musical” at IndyFringe Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Calder, the Musical, which opened as a full-length musical production last night (after wowing IndyFringe crowds last summer in a one hour version), is a grand testament to the talents and ingenuity of two local artists – Tom Alvarez, who wrote the book and the lyrics, and Dustin Klein, who wrote the music. Having fallen upon the story of mobile originator Alexander Calder in a children’s book about 2 years ago, the friends decided to work together and write an original story and score. The fruition of their endeavor, as witnessed in the packed house world premiere, is a colorful and well-tuned entertainment.

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“Calder, the Musical” co-creators Dustin Klein and Tom Alvarez on opening night!

This original score is brim-full with emotional and spirited songs and compositions, including three standouts. The inspirational “A Path to Follow” encases Calder’s realization of where to head in his artistic life, while the especially romantic “Prize in the Sky” surrounds Calder and his soon-to-be wife Louisa with a passionate aura. I also thought the wonderful music written for “The Mobile Ballet”, which duplicates the many multi-colored parts of Calder’s early pieces, was delightfully noteworthy. Oh, and I could also add the lively and fun “Dance With Me” to this list. And while I am on the musical aspects of the show, let me just mention what a talented pianist Mr. Klein is proven to be. As the show’s rather small band consists of Klein’s piano, and a drum set (worked by Scottie May), with occasional input by an accordionist (Giselle Trujillo) – it falls to the piano to lead the way, and composer Klein provides a profoundly skillful turn at the keyboard.

Visually impressive, the Calder story features a cast of 14, many playing multiple roles, decked out in a large variety of colorful costumes designed by Cheryl Harmon and Nancy Fansler, in scenes impressively illuminated by Laura Hildreth’s delightful illustrations as rendered in Ben Dobler’s impressive projections.

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A scene in “Calder, the Musical” is illuminated by the talents of Laura Hildreth (Illustrator) and Ben Dobler (Projections).

Christa Runion plays Thalia the Muse, who is our guide and storyteller for the show. Her spunky approach to the part aptly provides much of the humor in the production. Logan Moore handles the title role with authority. His fine baritone voice is a pleasure to hear and his expressiveness in his interpretations both musical and emotional hit the mark. As Louisa, his wife, Katie Schuman varies well between a sweet softness and a frustrated strain. Moore and Ms. Schuman share the “Prize in the Sky” duet which, again, I feel was unquestionably a highlight of the show.

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The spectacular circus scene from “Calder, the Musical” at IndyFringe Theatre. (Costumes by Nancy Fansler)

The busy supporting cast members play their many parts with energy and focus. Danielle Carnagua is lovely as Calder’s artist mother while Jake McDuffee firmly provides the father role, though often in rather a too quiet voice. Among the featured dancers in Mariel Greenlee’s solid choreography, Matt Rohrer leads the way along with Ms. Carnagua. Among the smaller roles, Gabby Niehaus (who happens to be my dear niece) nails the comic facets of her cameo as Zelda Fitzgerald, Tianna Williams is remarkable as expatriate entertainer Josephine Baker, and youngsters Ian Gamble and Piper Murphy are a delight as the young “Sandy” Calder and his sister, Peggy. The stage is often filled with the supporting cast members, to the point where I think a larger staged venue might be the next logical step for any future productions of the show.

Bottom line: There was a magical feeling in the room as we gathered to watch this very original undertaking. It succeeded on most levels and is unquestionably a fine entertainment to put on your calendar. But Calder is a big musical, I think, and I would really love to see it produced at a full staged venue with all the accoutrements therein – room for a fuller orchestra, with miked voices, and expanded choreography and settings. I feel Mssrs. Alvarez and Klein’s big idea deserves big treatment.

Calder, the Musical continues at IndyFringe Theatre through February 12th. For ticket information go to http://www.indyfringe.org/node/106 or call the theatre at 317-522-8099.

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Footnote: Something was missing in the pre-show curtain speech which I know will be managed in the future. Obviously, people need to be reminded to silence or turn off their phones. No less than 6 (and possibly more) ringtones were heard during both acts of this show, just in my area. It was quite disturbing and as the number grew, very perplexing. (At one point an audience member’s phone hit the floor with a clatter as it fell off of their lap!) As we know, the public’s addiction to their so called “smart” phones has reached baffling levels, but these faulty occasions are still considered as more than slight gaffs in the world of theatre. Broadway shows have been stopped for less!

 

Upcoming shows: “Calder, The Musical” at IndyFringe Theatre

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by Ken Klingenmeier

Happy New Year, everyone!

It’s finally January and we are just days away from a theatrical world premiere here in Indianapolis! On Friday January 27th, IndyFringe Basile Theatre will be the site of the much anticipated opening night for Calder, The Musical. Written and directed by Dustin Klein and Tom Alvarez, and presented by Marianne Glick and Mike Woods, this portrait of American artist Alexander Calder had a preview at the IndyFringe Festival last summer and had the honor of being the #1 Best Selling Show for 2016 IndyFringe.

The preview has since been expanded into a full length offering featuring Logan Moore in the role of Calder. You may have seen the 2014 Butler grad when he appeared in the Calder preview or in ATI’s productions of The Fantasticks, as El Gallo, and The 39 Steps as Richard Hannay.

Others in the cast include: “Christa Fleming-Runion as The Muse, Kate Schuman as Louisa Calder, Ian Gamble and Teddy Rayhill alternating as young Alexander Calder, Jordan Pecar and Piper Murphy alternating as Peggy Calder, Jake McDuffee as Stirling Calder/Piet Mondrian, Danielle Carnagua as Nanette Calder. The ensemble includes Leslie Gaudreau as Gertrude Stein, Gabby Thurman Niehaus as Zelda Fitzgerald , Tiana Williams as Josephine Bakerand Jenna McGregor Jarvis, Mark Whetstone and Matt Rohrer in various supporting roles.” ¹

The show “traces the life of Calder and brings his art to life on stage through a theatrical experience of drama, music, dance, and visual art. Narrated by an unlikely muse, the show chronicles his beginnings as a young boy through nearly eighty years of artistic creation. The story opens in 1976 at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City at the opening of Calder’s Universe, a major retrospective of his career and is followed by flashbacks to major turning points in Calder’s life. The evolution of his whimsical creations beginning in his childhood workshop, to the streets of Paris, to his movable wire circus of the 1920s and 30s, new loves and paths to follow on ship journeys, hardships as a struggling artist and creation of his mobiles and stabiles and more—are all explored. Amid the dark influences, ongoing conflicts and times of the 20th century, audiences will be transported to Calder’s imaginative world where art has the ability to bridge ideas of peace, hope, and harmony.” ¹ This show marks Klein and Alvarez’ first musical theatre collaboration.

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Composer Dustin Klein (right) and lyricist Tom Alvarez

Dustin Klein composed the music for the show. He has worked as an actor, musical director and producer, and currently serves as the chairman of the Department of the Arts at The Orchard School in Indianapolis, where for the last 15 years he has been the choir director and drama teacher.

Tom Alvarez provided the lyrics for the show. He is familiar to many for his regular appearances on IndyStyle on Wish TV – Channel 8. Alvarez has over 40 years experience as a free-lance journalist covering productions of theatre, dance and music. He produced the Emmy-winning documentary James Dean And Me, which aired nationally on the TLC network.

Performance dates and times are: Friday Jan 27, 7:30 p.m., Saturday Jan 28, 7:30 p.m., Sunday Jan 29th, 2 p.m., Friday Feb 3, 7:30 p.m., Saturday Feb 4, 7:30 p.m., Sunday Feb 4, 2 p.m. Friday Feb 10, 7:45 p.m., Saturday Feb 11, 7:30 p.m., and Sunday Feb 12, 2 p.m.

Tickets are priced at: $20 for adults, $15 for seniors/students and $12 for children under age 12.

IndyFringe Theatre is located at 719 E St Clair Street, Indianapolis in the Mass Ave District.

You can go online to buy tickets at Calder tickets . For other ticket information, call 317-522-8099

Mrs. K and I are so looking forward to seeing this original production by our friends, Dustin and Tom. I know they have worked very hard on the show and when I last talked with them about it – they both gave me the feeling they have put together something very special.

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      1 – from the Calder press release

  • – Photos from Klein/Alvarez

 

 

 

 

Wisdom Tooth Theatre Project’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor”

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Last night, Mrs. K and I traveled to the Indyfringe Basile Theatre (which has been much transformed since our last visit in 2011) for Wisdom Tooth Theatre Project’s season ending production of The Merry Wives of Windsor, directed by Bill SimmonsWe were met there by a very satisfying and well-constructed performance of what is often considered one of Shakespeare’s weaker comedies.

The tale deals mainly with Sir John Falstaff’s need for quick monies and quicker romances. His faux pas of writing duplicate letters to his two targets for said benefits, with the added factor of the targets being very good friends, sets the ball rolling through a rousing story of lively revenge plots, comical jealousies, and mischievous misunderstandings.

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Sir John Falstaff (Adam O. Crowe, left) encounters jealous husband Ford, (Rob Johansen) “disguised” as Brook in a scene from “The Merry Wives of Windsor”.

Simmons writes in the program’s Director’s Notes that this was his first try at directing Shakespeare, or if fact – any classic text, and that he faced the challenge by deciding on a feminist angle, which was indeed on the mark. His precision in guiding his actors’ intentions, and the variety of characterizations allowed, ultimately led this cast to a wonderful understanding of their roles and the ways in which they would personify them. Simmon’s placement of the action at the 1950’s Windsor Hotel & Resort also gave the latitude necessary for a set of ’50s sensibilities and styles, which worked very well.

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Mistress Ford (Amy Hayes, left) and Mistress Page (Claire Wilcher) devise a plan of revenge against the lecherous Flastaff in “The Merry Wives of Windsor”

The cast is led by: Adam O. Crowe – magnificently lecherous and opportunistic as the fat knight, Sir John Falstaff; Amy Hayes and Claire Wilcher – scheming and hilariously giddy as gal-pals Mistress Ford and Mistress Page; and Rob Johansen – a tour de force as the jealous husband Ford (and as his disguise wearing alter-ego, Brook). Overall, this was a most evenly talented group – with memorably devised depictions by Carrie Schlatter as sultry “concierge” Mistress Quickly; Chelsea Anderson as the hula-hooping ingénue, Anne Page; Michael Hosp, as a shorts and collar-wearing clergyman, Sir Hugh;  and Josh Ramsey, whose sporty, nifty Page all but swished through his swank actions. In an ironic twist of Shakespearean practice, several woman played men’s roles, with aplomb. Gari Williams was remarkable as an aggressive Dr. Caius; Frankie Bolda took the role of the doctor’s much put-upon servant, Rugby; and Kelsey VanVoorst wooed the young Anne Page as the indefatigable Slender. Rounding out the well-suited cast was Zack Joyce, as Shallow; Benjamin Schuetz, as Anne Page’s persistent suitor, Fenton; and Adam Tran as Falstaff’s somewhat devious servant, Pistol.

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Some of the unfettered action in “The Merry Wives of Windsor” as the cast breaks into a song, and Page (Josh Ramsey, left) dances with Pistol (Adam Tran)

The action was played on Sara White’s inventive set design, while costume designer Peachy Kean Costuming provided just the right period-look for what sometimes seemed like a 50’s sit-com.

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From left: Dr. Caius (Gari Williams) is urged away by Shallow (Zack Joyce) as Rugby (Frankie Bolda) looks on in “The Merry Wives of Windsor”

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Fenton (Benjamin Schuetz, left) courts young teen Anne Page (Chelsea Anderson) in “The Merry Wives of Windsor”

Bottom-line: It seemed like all the right decisions were made regarding style, casting, designing, direction and feel resulting in a highly enjoyable evening of priceless laughs and depictions. The sit-com relevance is strong in this one, and it works like a charm. Go see it – you will be glad you did.

The Merry Wives of Windsor continues at the Indyfringe Basile Theatre weekends through May 28th. Call 317-522-8099 or go to http://www.wisdomtooththeatreproject.org for ticket and schedule information.

  • – Photos by Zach Rosing

Cast for “Calder – The Musical”

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Klein & Alvarez Productions, LLC proudly announces the cast of “Calder,The Musical.”

Alexander Calder-Logan Moore
Thalia the Muse/Narrator-Maggie Held
Young “Sandy” Calder-Mitchell Wray/ Ian Gamble
Peggy Calder-Jordan Pecar/Piper Murphy
Louisa Calder-Virginia Vought
Nanette Calder/Ensemble-Emily McDuffee
Stirling Calder/Piet Mondrian/Ensemble-Jake McDuffee
Zelda Fitzgerald/Dancer/Ensemble-Chelsea Anderson
Josephine Baker/Dancer/Ensemble-Ashley Saunders
Gertrude Stein/NYC Times Editor/Dancer/Ensemble-Christa Runion
Dancer/ensemble/Trapeze Artist/Acrobat-Erin Fiandt

Congratulations to all of the cast members! And remember the show dates for the IndyFringe production of this brand new show will be Aug. 18th-28th 2016.

Addendum: I just wanted to add some important info and clarification given to me by Tom Alvarez, who is the lyricist for this show. – First of all, the dates above are the dates for the 2016 IndyFringe and of course every Fringe show gets a total of 6 shows during those dates – Calder’s  six dates are TBA. Also, I am pleased to note this: Tom informed me that Klein and Alvarez Productions is planning a full-length offering of “Calder – The Musical” – date and venue info is also TBA.

“Almost Heaven” at IndyFringe Theater

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Thursday night, Mrs. K and I took our first trip out to the IndyFringe Theater near downtown Indy to see the premiere of Amy Pettinella’s new offering  Almost Heaven. Presented as part of  the 2011 Spirit & Place Festival,  the play is about an elderly stroke victim, Otto Klommerman, who is eager to be out of his present residence in a nursing home. He is a widower and a retired welder and misses the years past – when he was in his prime. More than that, he is angry about being old and about all his losses, including a dead wife and daughter, and an absent son. Ms. Pettinella directs.

The play is set in Otto’s room at the home and follows his encounters with his daughter, Justine: who is faithful to, but disdained by her father – his nurse, LaVerne: who tries to heal his “wounds” to mixed results – the spirit of his dead wife, Claudia: who reminisces about better times – and Mrs. Mayfair: Otto’s dementia-ridden, down the hall neighbor, who wanders about and who briefly believes Otto is her long dead husband.

The Players (from left): Christina King, Joanna Winston, Larry Haworth, Vickie Smith and Mary Zurfas

Veteran actor Larry Haworth takes on the part of Otto and finds a steady measure of cantankerous regret to fuel the role. He is expressive and inward-turned in all the right places as his Otto unhappily rides the situation he is stuck in. The script certainly shows that much of Otto’s problem is himself and we get to know that fully in Haworth’s portrayal.

Justine, is masterfully played by Vickie Smith, who shows a deep range of emotions as she reacts to and parries with her dad. We see the dismay of dealing with the difficult father who discounts her visits and longs instead to see her departed sister and impossibly busy brother. She is steadfast in her caring for this unfair Dad and we can feel her sorrow in a moody performance of Justine’s frustration and sorrow. Ms Smith leads us to an emotional high point with action and voice. It was a very enjoyable performance.

Joanna Winston as LaVerne and Christina King as Claudia are effective in their roles, but I did not think the script gave them enough of a circumstance to make their turns as dynamic as Ms Smith’s since we lack the conflict we have in the first scene. For the most part, Otto gets to repeat what we already have heard about him, with some variances of course, but not many. Ms. Winston’s facial expressions as she reacts to Otto’s density and disgust expand her role a good deal and Ms. King’s airiness and hot pink toned, breezy costume added to the enjoyment of her portrayal.

The final visitor, Mrs. Mayfair, is played by Mary Zurfas, who does a good job with a brief, one-faceted role. Her visit results in a bit of turnaround for Otto, but it comes from a not very emotional giving over of self on his part.

You might be able to tell I was disappointed by a lack of depth in this uneven script. The first scene showed so much promise and emotion, but the following scenes unfortunately did not live up to that promise. This is Otto’s story and the 3 later scenes do not advance that story with many new meaningful facets or information. There is a lack of shape to this part of the play and I am afraid I was expectant of more of what we saw in the first scene.

Also, pacing was uneven in many places, unnecessary slow in others. At first I thought it might have been to set up Otto’s older, slower inner pace, but if that was the idea, it did not carry.

One possible solution might have been for the playwright to have recruited another theater-savvy person to direct this work. Often that can provide the second set of eyes needed to uncover possible problems and inspire changes. And it is especially nice when the playwright is on hand to work side-by-side with a director.

It isn’t that I did not enjoy these characters and the theater experience. The first scene between Otto and Justine alone was worth the price of admission (a very thrifty $10, by the way). I just think that there could have been more there. I believe the script needed more time to gel.

Almost Heaven continues through the weekend with shows Saturday night at 8 pm and a Sunday matinee at 2 pm. The theater is located at 701 E. St Claire St. in Indianapolis. Doors open one half hour before curtain and parking is available behind the theater.