Mailbox: Opening This Weekend…

Martha Jacobs (L) and Lauren Briggeman (R) in "The Housewives of Mannheim" - photo by Julie Curry

I leave for Boston in 15 minutes or so, to attend the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting and to help decide the ten winners of the Alex Award.  You may remember that I posted about last year’s winners here.

This means that I will not be able to see any of the many intriguing shows that are going on around Indianapolis this weekend.  So…I’ll just tell you that if I were going to be home, I would think about seeing the all-volunteer production of “Jerry’s Girls” at Footlite Musicals

I would also want to catch the opening of a new play called “The Housewives of Mannheim” at the Phoenix Theatre.   Doesn’t that photo, above, by Julie Curry make it look like an interesting show?  The actor on the left is Martha Jacobs.  The actor on the right is Lauren Briggeman.

Here is most of the press release that Phoenix Marketing and Media Relations Director Lori Raffel sent me:


Indianapolis – The Phoenix Theatre of Indianapolis announces The Housewives of Mannheim. Written by Alan Brody, this play starts Thursday, January 14 and runs through February 6, 2010 on the Phoenix Mainstage.

The Housewives of Mannheim takes its name from a mock Johannes Vermeer painting that depicts four 17th-century women enveloped in the warm camaraderie of shared domestic tasks. In The Housewives, it is 1944; World War II grinds on, and Jewish housewives May Black, Alice Cohen, and Billie Friedhoff, portrayed respectively by actresses Lauren Briggeman, Wendy Peace, and Allison Moody, reside in an apartment building in a working-class section of Brooklyn.

May is the neighborhood beauty, while Alice is the local yenta and self-proclaimed moral compass of the community. Their husbands are overseas battling the Nazis. Billie is a “bohemian” and entrepreneur who sells linens from her apartment. She is trapped in a loveless marriage; ironically, her husband is the only one of the three still at home. The three women are part of a tightly knit community in which everyone knows everyone — and everyone’s private business. These women care for their children, maintain their homes, shop and gossip, but at least three of the housewives wonder if there is a more challenging and rewarding life beyond their apartment building. 

The catalyst that sets things in motion is the arrival of new neighbor Sophie (Martha Jacobs), an older, more sophisticated Jewish refugee from Europe who offers a tantalizing glimpse of a larger world beyond the fire escapes of Flatbush. When Sophie is introduced, the dynamic among the trio of Brooklyn housewives is changed dramatically and the women yearn to break free of their self-imposed, safe existence.

The play evokes childhood scenarios for SuzAnne Barabas, NJ Rep’s artistic director, who directed Housewives in its New Jersey premiere and is directing the play at the Phoenix. “My mother in Brooklyn was the same as these women,” said Barabas, a resident of Long Branch, New Jersey. “This was the life they lived, built around family and shopping at local stores. Who they are drives this story. But this community doesn’t exist anymore — it’s moved to the suburbs.”

The playwright is Alan Brody, a novelist and theater professor at MIT whose many plays have won numerous awards — including the Rosenthal Award in 1989 and the 1990 Eisner Award from the Streisand Center for Jewish Culture. Housewives was cited as best play of 1995 at the Harvest Festival of Plays and subsequently won the Reva Shiner Award at the Bloomington (Indiana) Playwrights Conference.  Brody calls The Housewives of Mannheim a “memory play” because he lived in a Brooklyn apartment house that was an extended community very much like the one in Housewives until he was 12.

For Phoenix Producing Director Bryan Fonseca, who is producing Housewives, the show represents women “contemplating freedoms that would only truly be available to generations of women yet to come. Each of these women discovers something about themselves that their husbands never could. In spite of this play’s setting in 1944, the message is very modern.” When Fonseca met Barabas at a National New Play Network (NNPN) conference last June, he was “intrigued by SuzAnne’s passion for this period piece and the characters that bring it to life.” Fonseca went on to say that “the idea of working with a director from another contemporary theatre company has always been a draw for me.”  

The Phoenix has only produced five period pieces in the last 10 years, so Housewives, which takes place in 1944, is a real departure for the contemporary theatre. Long-time Phoenix “go-to” set designer James Gross has his work cut out for him in reproducing the heart of the family home in those days – the kitchen. In addition, Karen Witting will be designing costumes for the four actresses and Merek Press will be recreating the sounds of the era.  Laura Glover is designing the lights and Christopher Hansen, Technical Director at the Phoenix, is in charge of props.      

Ticket Prices

Thanks to the generosity of Duke Energy, our CheapSeats performances have expanded to Thursdays and Sundays, so our prices for the 2009-2010 Season are $15.00 per person on Thursdays and Sundays. In response to the economy, and because we know that there are only so many entertainment dollars to go around, we are offering a discounted rate of $20.00 per person on Fridays and Saturdays (down from $25.00 last season). The Phoenix continues to offer a youth rate of $15 for those 24 and under. All seating is general admission on a first-come, first-served basis. Performances are Thursdays at 7:00 pm; Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 8:00 pm. and Sundays at 2:00 pm. Doors open ½ hour prior to curtain for seating. The Phoenix Pub, located inside the theatre, offers beer, wine, soft drinks, coffee, and bottled water, as well as treats, and all refreshments may be taken into either theatre and consumed during the performance. 

For more information about any Phoenix productions or to purchase tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 317.635.PLAY(7529). Tickets may also be purchased online. The theatre’s website is 


So I won’t see you at the theatres this weekend, but I’ll see you when I get back.  There are several other shows running that I would still like to see as well.  If you go to the theatre this weekend, please let me know what you thought of what you saw!

Hope Baugh –

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