IRT’s “A Christmas Carol” – 2017

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reviewed by Vickie Cornelius Phipps

Indiana Repertory Theatre celebrates Christmas 2017 once again with it’s warm, loving stage classic of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, directed by Executive Artistic Director, Janet Allen. The opening night celebration with alumni actors joining the festivities on stage for the final song, and the after show champagne toast was enjoyed by a full house to kick off this timeless tradition for the 25th year. The play, with a single stunning set by Russell Metheny, covered with snow and framed in iron, presents the story through multiple characters’ narration. The raked stage, trap doors, and clever set displays of villages brought in by sleds, add to the scene changes while the cast switches roles seamlessly.

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Joey Collins, Emily Ristine, Maddie Medley, and Ryan Artzberger in IRT’s 2017 production of “A Christmas Carol”.

Dickens’ story, written in 1843, has been called by some a “sledge hammer” against the ills of industrialism and consumerism. Dickens’ own father had been sent to debtors’ prison, and Charles Dickens himself, at the age of 12, bitterly remembered having to leave school and work in a boot blacking factory near Convent Garden. He modeled Bob Cratchit’s lifestyle from his own experiences living in Camden Town, London. Dickens demonstrates that even in poverty, the winter holiday can inspire good will and generosity towards one’s neighbors. He shows that the spirit of Christmas has not been lost in the race to industrialize, but can live on in our world.

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Ashley Dillard, Ryan Artzberger, Charles Pasternak, and Mark Goetzinger in IRT’s 2017 production of “A Christmas Carol”.

My two favorite rituals every Christmas are to watch “It’s A Wonderful Life” and to see a production of A Christmas Carol. IRT has been that tradition. Each performance has its own personality and each of the actors give a little of themselves to the roles. Ebenezer Scrooge, (Ryan Artzberger) returns as a youthful version of the sarcastic character but still possesses the cold hearted, miserly manners of a man who lives in isolation and does not enjoy Christmas. On the eve of Christmas, Scrooge is visited by his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley (Charles Goad), who died seven years prior. Being punished for his own stingy and greedy behavior, he warns Scrooge not to repeat the same behaviors, and to give up his selfishness and instead serve with a good heart so he doesn’t bear the results of his own greed in the afterlife.

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Ryan Artzberger and Charles Goad in IRT’s 2017 production of “A Christmas Carol”.

In serial order, Scrooge is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past, (Emily Ristine) whose delightful voice takes Scrooge on a painful remembrance of life as a boy. Followed by the Ghost of Christmas Present (Milicent Wright), who returns as the feisty and funny spirit showing Scrooge the plight of the Cratchit family led again by Jeremy Fisher and Ms. Ristine as Bob and Mrs. Cratchit. To complete the family, Gideon Roark, Miles M. Morey, Jordan Pecar, Nina R. Morey, Camil McGhee, Aidan Betts, Ali D. Boice, Elise Keliah Benson, Tobin Seiple, and Maddie Medley, share the roles as the Cratchit children. This year, Scott Greenwell portrays the silent Christmas Future who reveals the prospect of demise for Scrooge. I especially enjoyed his subtle comic relief. Jennifer Johansen as Mrs. Fezziwig and Joey Collins, (Schoolmaster, et al.) are creative scene stealers. Ashley Dillard plays the adoring Belle while Charles Pasternak is entertaining and energetic as the nephew Fred and as Young Scrooge. The audience is treated by being surrounded from time to time with acapella singing blended beautifully into the scenes, under the musical direction of Terry Woods. Michael Lincoln’s lighting design and Murell Horton’s costumes are picturesque.

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The cast of IRT’s 2017 production of “A Christmas Carol”.

You revisit the experience because you love the story and the characters. Out of all the versions, A Christmas Carol is best experienced on a live stage. It remains one of the most popular and enduring Christmas stories of all time. Check out IRT’s Special Events for the whole family, A Christmas Carol & Holiday Hoopla. Reserve your tickets soon at www.irtlive.com. This show continues through December 24th.

  • Banner artwork by Kyle Ragsdale
  • Photos by Zach Rosing
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“The Originalist” at IRT

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reviewed by Mark Kamish

When I began law school in 1996, Antonin Scalia was a third of the way into the almost 30 years he would spend on the bench as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. By then, Scalia had amassed a body of opinions that were becoming legendary. I was assigned to read many of them. They were unparalleled – brilliant in legal analysis, sharp, witty and biting in prose. But the times they were a-changin,’ and Scalia’s words were being more frequently found in dissenting rather than majority opinions. But Scalia held firm. Until his passing in 2016, his career was marked by a conservative ideology and an originalist judicial viewpoint: the belief that the interpretation of the Constitution should be based on what it originally meant to the people who ratified it 230 years ago.

In the past two decades, that judicial philosophy was at odds with an ever-growing number of Scalia’s more liberal colleagues on the High Court, who viewed the Constitution as a living document – one that was written by its framer in flexible terms that would allow and even encourage an evolving interpretation as society grows and changes. Scalia’s originalist creed informed his legally conservative interpretations – many of them seen as “heartless” – opposition to affirmative action or any law that made distinctions by race, gender or sexual orientation, support of capital punishment, favoring states’ rights over federal authority and police power over Fourth Amendment rights of citizens, to name a few.

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Ayanna Bria Bakari, Henry Woronicz and Jeb Burris in IRT’s 2017 production of “The Originalist”.

But while John Strand’s drama, The Originalist, spotlights this iconic and polarizing figure, the play (100 minutes without intermission) is not biography; it is a question. And that questions is this: Can our fervently-believed and deeply-held “truths” allow us to ever make room for the alternate and opposing “truths” of others (just as fervently believed and deeply held)? Can we “suppress our fear and distrust, take a step toward the middle, and sit down with the monsters?”

This incredibly timely piece (originally produced in 2015) centers on the relationship between Justice Scalia and a fictional left-wing Harvard Law graduate named Cat who, after initially interrupting Scalia at a public presentation and arguing with him, is hired as one of his law clerks. Cat is Scalia’s “counterclerk” – a liberal who serves as his in-chambers sparring partner.

SCALIA: Just how liberal are you anyway?

CAT: Sir, I fall into the ‘flaming’ category.

SCALIA: Probably every liberal’s fate in the afterlife.

The two rant and ramble over a broad range of legal and policy issues, ending with Scalia’s dissent in United States v. Windsor (the 2013 Supreme Court decision holding unconstitutional a federal interpretation of “marriage” and “spouse” as applying only to opposite-sex unions).

And as those heated, soul-revealing debates unfold, something interesting begins to happen. As time is spent together and passionate, intellectual (and often loud) debates take place, trust is developing and defenses are dropping – a little at a time. Soon, inexplicably, polar opposites are attracting, pulling one another toward middle ground.

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Ayanna Bria Bakari and Henry Woronicz in IRT’s 2017 production of “The Originalist”.

Despite Scalia’s belief that the heart has no role in constitutional interpretation (“Cat, you’re arguing from emotion. Words have meaning. And their meaning doesn’t change. Emotion is what you had for breakfast yesterday.”), his law clerk draws him to matters of the heart. He reluctantly describes his devastation and the personal, privately-held pain of not being nominated for Chief Justice by President George W. Bush after the death of Scalia’s friend and ideological ally, Chief Justice William Rehnquist. He shares his fondness for and friendship with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose contrary views on controversial issues are just as outspoken as his own. And he brings consolation, empathy and fatherly love to his law clerk when Cat is left broken and reeling by a family member’s death.

The arc of Cat’s move to the middle bends, of course, toward “the monster” who is her boss.

SCALIA: Why do you want to work for me?

CAT: Well, you are probably the most polarizing figure in American life.

SCALIA: Probably? I hold the title, thank you. Strike the probably.

The most comical (but representative) depiction of Cat’s evolution in tolerance involves scenes that begin on a Virginia rifle range, with Scalia teaching the gun-control advocate Cat how to fire a semiautomatic AR-10 assault-style rifle.

CAT: <BANG!> Did I hit anything.

SCALIA: Something in Maryland, I’d suspect.

By the end of the show, Cat is scoring bullseyes on the range, as well as on the battlefield of ideas. She admits she has matured in her self-understanding and tells Scalia that when liberals depict him as a monster, they’re just seeing their own fears in the mirror. The English language has words to describe projecting one’s own fears onto ideological and political opponents: “demonization,” “prejudice” and “bigotry,” to name a few.

Of course, the hidden qualities each character reveals as they move toward the center have always been there. Scalia indeed has heart, as well as a weakness for opera and the music of Mozart. And Cat has a great legal mind; the ability to apply law to facts and very effectively write summaries and arguments her boss will use to write opinions that conflict with her personal beliefs and world view.

Plays like The Originalist, comprising almost exclusively monologues and dialogues between two characters, are tricky. If the performances on stage don’t quickly create believable characters the audience cares about, and if those characters don’t as quickly and effectively transport the audience to emotional experiences, it can be a long night. Thankfully, both John Strand’s script and the three talented actors performing it succeed on both counts; an hour-and-forty minutes seems to fly by.

IRT veteran actor Henry Woronicz (whom I enjoyed in last year’s IRT production of The Mousetrap) more than makes up for what I felt was not a strong physical resemblance of Justice Scalia, with a spellbinding performance that captures the charm, eloquence, wit, self-assuredness and self-awareness (not taking himself too seriously) the late Justice is said to have been blessed with. Woronicz creates the endearing antagonist the Scalia character was surely meant to depict.

Cat was portrayed by IRT newcomer Ayanna Bria Bakari. Her bio expresses excitement in “kicking off” her professional acting career with this role. In this reviewer’s opinion, last night was one hell of a kickoff. For me, memorable performances by a stage actor are not crafted from splendid line delivery, but from the splendid way in which the actor actively listens to the other characters. Perfect reactions in body, face and voice to other characters and to situations seem to follow. Ms. Bakari nails this role – “living truthfully under imaginary circumstances” (as actor and acting coach Sanford Meisner was fond of teaching). Her performance alone is reason to check out this show.

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Jeb Burris in IRT’s 2017 production of “The Originalist”.

The supporting role in this play, a straight-laced, hard right-winged, young Republican sycophant named Brad (another of Scalia’s clerks) does his own sparring with Cat, and seeks to undermine her growing relationship with the boss. Actor Jeb Burris does a great job in portraying a hateful character with no openly-redeeming qualities (including a refusal to let his boss and ideological hero be influenced by the temptress, let alone consider positions contrary to his own). The heated debates between Brad and Cat didn’t work for me as well as the Scalia-Cat exchanges, however. Maybe there seemed to me less depth in smart exchanges between 20-somethings than between characters separated by 50 years of life and experiences; or maybe it was because there seemed little point to hearing the same ideological arguments between two people who the audience knew would never be able to see beyond their differences (especially after a betrayal that shatters the trust needed to come together).

We seem to live in a very divided nation these days. However, as I watch Burns and Novick’s film The Vietnam War, things don’t seem a great deal different from the way they were 50 years ago in this country. I don’t know if there is value in compromising one’s deeply-held convictions and beliefs to reach consensus with the “other side.” But maybe in recognizing those qualities of sameness that connect us as human beings in the very ways our thoughts and ideas divide us . . . , maybe by attempting to do that, we can all become better off for the effort.

The Originalist will continue its run at Indiana Repertory Theatre’s Upperstage through November 12. For more specific information on dates, show times, ticket orders, plus back stories of the play, the cast and crew, visit IRT’s website at http://www.irtlive.com/.

 * – Photos by Zach Rosing

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” at IRT

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reviewed by Larry Adams

Does that mean I can do anything?”

  • Christopher, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Shortly before his untimely death some years ago, famed local pediatric neurologist Dr. Brad Hale stopped me in the hall of our office and handed me a thin, red book. “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” the title proclaimed, complemented on the cover by a simple silhouette of a dead poodle. The present sat on my desk for some weeks amidst piles of papers and journals, but for some reason refused to go away on its own. I could not imagine why such an odd little book had caught the attention of one of the smartest, funniest men I had ever known, and so, if for no other reason than that, I finally opened the cover and turned to the first chapter:

“2.”

I was hooked from the start, and thus began my long love affair with this strange, first-person account of an unusual adolescent’s quest to “do detecting” and venture into a frightening and confusing world, a book I in turn have recommended to as many as I can. Any attempt to turn it into a play, I felt certain, could not possibly do it justice.

That wasn’t just a play. That was an experience!”

(Overheard from a patron leaving the theater)

The Indiana Repertory Theatre has started its 46th season with an authentic feat of theater: the Tony Award-winning Curious Incident is a star vehicle for the leading man to be sure, yet it is also a true “ensemble” piece- one that stretches the meaning of the word to its limits to include the music, the set, the props and even the choreography of the play, each interacting with the other to enhance the themes and emotions at work. It is indeed “an experience,” and one not to be missed in its four-weekend run in downtown Indy.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time follows the struggle of Christopher Francis Boone, age “15 years and 3 months and 2 days,” as he attempts to solve the murder of a neighborhood dog. The dog, a black poodle named Wellington, is nearly- but not quite- a McGuffin in the story, as the audience slowly learns that there is so much more to this tale- the depths of loss, the limits of relationships, the cruel and arbitrary unfairness of life, and the drive for independence and accomplishment. If all that seems a bit heavy for a weekend entertainment, fear not: the Dog in the Night-Time boasts numerous surprisingly large and refreshing doses of humor to help the audience catch its breath- humor that is, with one notable exception, neither forced nor out of place in this emotionally exhausting show.

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Christopher (Mickey Rowe) with his father Ed (Robert Neal) in a scene from IRT’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”

Leading the cast as Christopher, “a mathematician with behavioral problems” (his condition is purposefully neither named nor fully delineated in either the book or the play) is Seattle-based actor, Mickey Rowe, “the first American actor with autism” to take on the role. I must admit, IRT’s rather blatant and frequent parading of his condition in their promotional pieces initially made this casting seem more a self-congratulatory gimmick than an artistic choice, but Mr. Rowe quickly and easily sweeps such impressions aside. In what could have been an unsympathetic and emotionally one-note role (think Dustin Hoffman in Rainman – and, yes, I know he won an Academy Award, but really now), Rowe’s portrayal of Christopher almost immediately has the audience eating out of his hand, simultaneously rooting for him, put off by him, admiring him and pitying him as he struggles to conquer a world he cannot truly comprehend. Through voice and manner, the 28-year-old Mr. Rowe pulls off a surprisingly convincing 15-year-old on stage (though I must admit that he appeared just as young in a brief conversation I had with him after the show- maybe everybody just looks young to me these days), while his attention to the details of physicality- the lack of eye contact and his frequent finger fidgeting- signal both the character’s discomfort and his disability to the audience. Mr. Rowe’s evident experience in choreography and his nearly acrobatic skills are used heavily here, though with somewhat uneven results. While his graceful contortions contribute greatly to the mood and tone of an extended sequence in which he imagines being weightless as an astronaut, at other times they seem rather pointlessly added into the action, as if during rehearsals the director said, “Hey, this guy can do circus moves! Let’s throw some more in!” This at times has the unfortunate effect of distracting from what is otherwise a mesmerizing and nearly flawless performance.

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Robert Shears (Eric Parks), Christopher (Mickey Rowe) and Christopher s mother Judy (Constance Macy) in a scene from IRT’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”

Other standouts in the ensemble are Christopher’s father and mother, played by Robert Neal and Constance Macy respectively. These two absolutely shine in their portrayal of the pain of broken relationships and unrequited parental love. There is nothing in this play more heartbreaking than watching Neal’s Mr. Booth desperately try to touch fingertips with a son who will not be hugged, and there is no scene more emotionally charged than Macy’s Judy wrenchingly attempting to explain her abandonment to a child who is all the while trying to shield himself from her feelings.

Though the remainder of the cast masterfully weaves a tapestry of interesting and effectual supporting characters, the one somewhat disappointing thread is Elizabeth Ledo’s portrayal of Christopher’s teacher Siobhan. The perhaps somewhat overly dramatic and personable style Ms. Ledo injects into the character of Siobhan admittedly serves as a nice contrast to Christopher during their scenes together, but seems terribly ill-suited for her mystifyingly frequent role as the play’s narrator; her expressive and enthusiastic recitations of Christopher’s writings unfortunately serve only to diminish the sense of his emotional disconnect and isolation, attributes that are among the most important themes of the book.

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Christopher (Mickey Rowe) confronts Mrs. Alexander (Margaret Daly) in a scene from IRT’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”

It seems a cliché anymore to claim “character” status for sets, lighting, visual effects and music in a review, but in this case the approbation is well-deserved. Designers Russell Metheny, Michael Klaers, Todd Mack Reischman and Katherine Freer, along with the original music of Michelle DiBucci, have created a setting in which scenes flow seamlessly from one to the next, as well as an all-encompassing, almost surreal environment which pulls the audience into the story as it attempts to transcend the written word. In what are typically somewhat thankless jobs in any theater production, these talented individuals deserve a bow at curtain call as much as the fine actors gracing the stage.

No production is perfect, however, and, despite my raves, this one does have its flaws. Playwright Simon Stephens admirably follows the book closely until the opening of the second act, when, from out of nowhere, he derails the story with a “play-within-a-play” gimmick for no apparent purpose other than a few, “winking-at-the-audience” laughs. In a production that tries so hard to bring the audience into the reality of the characters’ world, I cannot for the life of me understand why he would chose to dispel that illusion.

Though the staging of Christopher’s odyssey to London is magnificent (whoever envisioned and then executed the masks for the faceless throngs Christopher encounters is a bloody genius), the second act tends to drag at times, primarily from a lack of the first act’s extended emotional set pieces (though an absolutely ponderously long, nonverbal scene in which one character downs four beers in succession while another listens to static on a radio certainly doesn’t help either).

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The ensemble in a scene from IRT’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”

If the playwright has accomplished one great thing in steering this book to the stage, though (and, in fact, he has accomplished many), it is in the final moments. In the last three lines of his play, Stephens has tacked on a powerful coda which quite frankly tops the book- by adding a question mark to what has frequently been interpreted (erroneously, I think) as a “happy ending.” Unfortunately, after the curtain, a bizarrely energetic, interactive, slap-happy and fanciful staging of the book’s Appendix (which, in the book, consists merely of Christopher’s characteristically dry answer to a particular math problem, illustrating his continued disconnect from personal relationships), pointlessly blunts the emotional impact of these final lines. But if one can erase from one’s mind this final lapse in theatrical judgment, the message remains clear: Christopher’s story is not over. This will not be his last Curious Incident. Life, unlike this mystery, is not so easily solved.

Despite a marvelous cast, a powerful story and an inspired staging, there is one facet of the book which the play simply cannot match. Written in the first person, the book forces the reader to see the world through Christopher’s eyes, experience the world and relationships as Christopher experiences them. This is a place that, watching Christopher as a third person presence on the stage, the theater goer simply cannot reach. So yes, run to your library or Amazon or your Kindle and read this unique, gem of a book that I have treasured for over a decade. But do not pass up this opportunity to see IRT’s production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It’s not just a play. It truly is an experience.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time will continue its run at Indiana Repertory Theatre through October 14. 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

 

 

“Dial ‘M’ for Murder” at IRT

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Cast 10 November - Sept. 2001

reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Indiana Repertory Theatre ends its 2016-17 season with a production of Frederick Knott’s unique suspense thriller Dial ‘M’ for Murder on the OneAmerica Mainstage. Considered by many to be one of the finest and most original stories in the genre, “Dial ‘M'” is unusual in that we, as audience members, are privy to the murderer’s plans and motives. Instead of wondering who did it, we get to experience the planning, undertaking and results of the plot to kill, the question being – will they get away with it!

Much of the early section of the script is spent in rather dry British patter as the exposition is laid out. But, once the actual criminal steps are engaged in, the plot takes off with unexpected twists and turns.

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Matt Mueller as Tony Wendice, and Sarah Ruggles as his wife, Margot in IRT’s production of “Dial ‘M’ for Murder”.

James Still directs the action on Kate Sutton-Johnson’s exquisitely wrought apartment setting, with added textures from innovative lighting and sound designs by Michelle Habeck and Lindsay Jones, respectively. Tracy Dorman’s costumes were the finishing touch.

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The action for “Dial ‘M’ for Murder” at IRT takes place on Kate Sutton-Johnson’s magnificent set.

The main cast consists of Sarah Ruggles and Matt Mueller, both making their IRT debuts, as the targeted Margot Wendice, and as her scheming husband, Tony; Christopher Allen as Margot’s American “friend” Max Halliday; and IRT veteran, Robert Neal in the role of Chief Inspector Hubbard. Steve Wojtas plays the hired killer, Captain Lesgate, in his first IRT appearance. Their actions are kept rather low-key, albeit naturalistic, a bow to the easy-going style of upperclass Brits, no doubt. All the actors employ a very pleasant and legitimate accent for their roles.

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Steve Wojtas as Captain Lesgate, and Matt Mueller as Tony Wendice in IRT’s production of “Dial ‘M’ for Murder”.

Using some interesting technical choices, tension is often brought out by the excellent music selection, while visual representations of the many phone calls in the program are projected on upper areas of the set walls, as are depictions of time passage.

Overall, the well drilled cast presents us with a cozy thriller, much akin to reading a novel as the characters move about, not so much in a presentational manner, but as if indicated to do things by a line of prose. This makes the show seem rather slowed down at times, but one never loses the feeling of intrigue nor of danger. If intentional, it is an awesome choice by Mr. Still, the director.

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Robert Neal as Chief Inspector Hubbard, Christopher Allen as Max Halliday, and Sarah Ruggles as Margot Wendice in IRT’s production of “Dial ‘M’ for Murder”.

Dial ‘M’ for Murder continues on IRT’s OneAmerica Mainstage through May 21. For more specific information on dates and show times visit IRT’s website at http://www.irtlive.com/ or call 317.635.5252.

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

 

“Miranda” at IRT

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

James Still, IRT’s playwright-in-residence for the past 19 years, authors the company’s latest offering for The Upperstage – Miranda. The play is the final installment in Still’s trilogy about an extended family. Previous pieces were The House that Jack Built, and Appoggiatura – the latter being listed as one of IRT’s productions next season.

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Jennifer Coombs, Mary Beth Fisher and Torrey Hanson in IRT’s production of “Miranda”.

Miranda is an exploration of many things in today’s world including: the lives of CIA field operators, their assortment of circumstances in a dangerous Middle Eastern country, the suspicious feelings toward Americans in that region, and the relationships of people from diverse cultures including those of like or different genders. In a tale where no one is who they seem to be, we watch a sort of “slice-of-life” presentation of the title character’s situations as she moves through identifying her status in her work, in her relationships, and in her future.

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Arya Daire and Jennifer Coombs in IRT’s production of “Miranda”.

Henry Godinez makes his IRT directorial debut guiding a stellar corps of actors led by Jennifer Coombs as Miranda. Ms. Coombs’ naturalistic approach to her character is on the mark and genuine. She shows that the agent has great strengths and weaknesses, but primarily comes through with a balanced persona. Rarely leaving the stage, Miranda faces a collection of acquaintances, co-workers, an informant and a delightfully quirky youth. Torrey Hanson and Mary Beth Fisher render strong depictions in double roles as friends and co-workers. Arya Daire is impressive as Dr. Al-Agbhari, whose intelligence is of great value to Miranda. And Ninos Baba is engaging as young Shahid, whose interest in Shakespeare, and especially in Othello, forms a compelling undercurrent in the story arc. (All, except Ms. Fisher and Mr. Hanson, make their IRT acting debuts.)

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Arya Daire, Jennifer Coombs, Ninos Baba and Torrey Hanson in IRT’s production of “Miranda”.

Although I, in my viewing of the play, did not ever feel much sense of the “mystery” and “thriller” which was advertised for this event, the production was both fascinating and pleasing. Director Godinez’ staging on the multi-location setting, designed by Ann Sheffield and lit by Alexander Ridgers, was interesting and seamless. Linda Pisano’s costumes had an authentic feel, as did the sound design by Andrew Hopson. What intrigue there was seemed more a product of the setting than any rising action in the plot. The climax in the action seemed to be quite subtle – merely allusive. As I say, I was entertained, to be sure, but the play seemed less mysterious than I expected and to that end, it was a surprise.

Miranda continues on IRT’s The Upperstage  through April 23. For more specific information on dates and show times visit IRT’s website at http://www.irtlive.com/ or call 317.635.5252.

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

“Boeing Boeing” at IRT

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

The Indiana Repertory Theatre hits its mid-season stride with Marc Camoletti’s classic 1962 farce, Boeing Boeing. The production draws together the considerable talents of director Laura Gordon, in her first foray with IRT, with a wonderfully matched corps of actors and actresses, resulting in a precisely staged and genuinely hilarious occasion.

Boeing Boeing, which ran for 7 years after its opening on London’s West End, is the story of a swinging 60s bachelor named Bernard who lives in an upscale Paris apartment which he shares with a French housekeeper, Berte, and his 3 air hostess fiancées – American Gloria, Italian Gabriella and German Gretchen. (Well, just reading that premise gives you the idea that mayhem is bound to ensue here, right?) A visit from an old school friend, Robert, gives Bernard the chance to tout what a wonderful arrangement it is to have a loving trio of rotating girlfriends who do not know the others exist. As you can imagine, things soon get complicated and, well, farcical!

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Chris Klopatek (Robert), Hillary Clemens (Gloria), and Matt Schwader (Bernard) in IRT’s production of “Boeing Boeing”.

Matt Schwader, returning to IRT after his 2015 Mitty Award winning stint as Gatsby in The Great Gatsby, is the perfect Bernard – handsome, self-assured and oh so ripe for his comeuppance. Schwader’s real-life spouse, Hillary Clemens, also returning from her engagement in Gatsby as Daisy Buchanan, enlivens Gloria, the rather self-centered American fiancée. Melisa Pereyra is a tender but fiery Gabriella, while Greta Wohlrabe gives a mix of innocence and dominance to her portrayal of Gretchen.

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Greta Wohlrabe (Gretchen) and Elizabeth Ledo (Berthe) in IRT’s production of “Boeing Boeing”.

Chris Klopatek plays the clumsily nebbish Robert with relish, and Elizabeth Ledo wins the audience’s hearts as the much put-upon housekeeper Berthe, savoring every last bit of her character’s grumbling nature.

In farce, exactness in blocking, pratfalls and reactions must be explicit and uninhibited. Aided by Rob Johansen’s clever ideas for movement and flow, the entire ensemble works through the play’s often harried activity with precision. Director Gordon has sharpened the action and reaction to a fine point, and the resulting comic turns by her cast are a great reward for the audience.

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On the set by Vicki Smith – Elizabeth Ledo (Berthe), Melisa Pereyra (Gabriella), Matt Schwader (Bernard), and Chris Klopatek (Robert) in IRT’s production of “Boeing Boeing”.

As usual with IRT productions, the technical aspects are eye-popping. Vicki Smith’s clean 60’s set, featuring a vibrant Calder mobile, is beautifully rendered. Mathew Lefebvre admits influence by the series Mad Men in his choices for costume design. He provides colorful and clean-lined fashions in his work here.

It is pleasing to have IRT at last embrace farces, with Boeing Boeing offered this season and Noises Off scheduled for next. The genre is perhaps the trickiest to pull off and many are the attempts that falter and fail. But IRT’s reputation for excellence is good reason to look forward to more of this type of comic show.

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Greta Wohlrabe (Greta), Chris Klopatek (Robert), Matt Schwader (Bernard), and Melisa Pereyra (Gabriella) in IRT’s production of “Boeing Boeing”.

Bottomline: Comedy is hard, especially the farce genre, but the tireless work of these players provides a rich entertainment full of belly laughs.

Boeing Boeing continues on IRT’s OneAmerica Mainstage through April 2. For more specific information on dates and show times visit IRT’s website at http://www.irtlive.com/ or call 317.635.5252.

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

 

“The Cay” at Indiana Repertory Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

IRT continues their 2016-17 season with The Cay, which is based on the eponymous children’s novel by Theodore Taylor, and is adapted for the stage by Gayle Cornelison. The story is told from the viewpoint of an 11 year old boy named Phillip who gets caught up in events of World War II which lead to his being shipwrecked and marooned on a small island, the cay. Sharing the devastating circumstances with him is an elderly West Indian man named Timothy, and a cat named Stew Cat.

The tale works its way through various themes of race, friendship and transformation, and in the end, leaves the boy with a far more mature view of the world than his peers.

Director Richard Roberts and his designers have done an amazing job crafting the environment for the two actors, Dalyn Stewart as young Phillip and David Alan Anderson as Timothy. Eric Barker has wrought a simple but stylized setting for the play, dominating the scene with two large metal structures which become trees and a perfectly sand colored, freestyle shaped island. We are forced to use our imaginations often, (for instance – there is a “cat” onstage) which plays into the idea that we are, after all, seeing things through a child’s eyes.

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David Alan Anderson (left) portrays Timothy, and Dalyn Stewart plays Phillip, in IRT’s production of “The Cay”.

Another powerful aspect of the piece is the lighting design by Michael Jackson. Exact placements and dynamic coloring for various explosions plus a wholly effective swirl of light during a hurricane sequence are especially noteworthy in a wonderful array of effects.  Matthew Tibbs’ fine sound design goes hand in hand with these lighting efforts to complete the often dangerous environment.

Of course, the actors bring sizable contributions to the storytelling. Young Mr. Stewart is perfect as Phillip. His having to play a major portion of the role with a harsh disability is taken quite in stride. I have seen this young actor on several occasions and I am always impressed with his pleasing command of a youthful theatrical presence, which he again offers in this portrayal. He has natural skills and we can only hope to see these develop over time. Mr. Anderson has always impressed us in his other IRT roles and his work here can only be called precise and compelling. Though thickly-accented at times, his Timothy is a good man to be ship-wrecked with.

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Phillip (Dalyn Stewart) climbs a coconut palm while Timothy (David Alan Anderson) guides the effort in IRT’s production of “The Cay”.

All the action of the play is offered with a kind of remarkable normality – using a natural style of effort to meet the needs of surviving each long day. I guess what I am trying to get at is this was a dramatic story told without the usual flutter of dramatic effect. Certainly there are chaotic events is the storyline, but those are the rare high points which contrast greatly with a normal flow of living on this island. Director Roberts gives a well-paced structure to what I believe is meant to be, above all, a moral lesson.

Bottom line: Once again, the IRT technical staff has added their unique ideas and renderings to the fine acting we see on IRT’s stages. Although it is a child’s story, this is a terrific show for all ages.

The Cay continues on IRT’s UpperStage through February 26. For more specific information on dates and show times visit IRT’s website at http://www.irtlive.com/ or call 317.635.5252.

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

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