Theatre Review: “The 39 Steps” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre

On Saturday afternoon I drove to downtown Indianapolis to see the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s production of “The 39 Steps.”  It was adapted by Patrick Barlow from the novel by John Buchanon, from the movie of Alfred Hitchcock licensed by IV Global Entertainment Limited, and from an original concept by Nobby Dimon and Simon Corble.  Peter Amster directed it for the IRT, where Janet Allen is the artistic director and Steven Stolen is the managing director.

I now know that the stage show was nominated for the 2008 Tony Award, and I now know that one of mystery master Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous noir films is “The 39 Steps,” but I didn’t know anything about either of these two facts going in to the IRT on Saturday.

And it didn’t matter.  This show is very accessible and so much fun!  It is a suspenseful, funny treat for stage fans and film fans alike, not to mention mystery fans.

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Theatre Review: “The Gospel According to James” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre

 

Last Friday I drove to the Indiana Repertory Theatre in downtown Indianapolis to see the opening night performance of the world premiere of “The Gospel According to James.”  It was written by Charles Smith and directed by Chuck Smith.  It was commissioned by the IRT and its artistic director, Janet Allen, after she read two books by Indiana historian James Madison:  The Indiana Way and A Lynching in the Heartland: Race and Memory in America.  It is the tenth new play in the IRT’s Indiana Series.

It is a powerful, richly layered, surprisingly multi-issue drama that left me exhilarated.

I agree whole-heartedly with what some person I don’t know (@Dime30) tweeted right after the Friday night performance:  “OMG,” he wrote.  “Go and see ‘The Gospel According to James’ @IRTlive. Powerful, gripping, awe inspiring, emotional, it’s not what u think, it’s better.” (bolding is mine)

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Theatre News: “The Velvet Rut” published

Here is another piece of Indy theatre news that I’ve been keeping in my mailbox for a while – this one since September (eep!) – but a) I think it is still interesting and b) you may not have heard about it yet and c) there are only a few days left in 2010, so here goes.

I received this “Announcement of Publication” from playwright James Still.  You probably already know that he is the playwright-in-residence at the Indiana Repertory Theatre.  He mentioned this play, “The Velvet Rut,” when I first met him, back in 2008.  Someone pitched it at the annual meeting of the National New Play Network when it was here in Indianapolis a little later that year, and I heard about the world premiere of “The Velvet Rut” when I learned that James had received the Medallion award from the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America.

So I was delighted to learn this fall that “The Velvet Rut” has been published.  Now anyone (directors, producers, theatre bloggers) can buy a copy and read it for themselves. 

Here is the full announcement that James sent me:

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Theatre Review: “A Christmas Carol” at the IRT

On Saturday, November 27, 2010 I drove to downtown Indianapolis to see the professional Indiana Repertory Theatre’s production of “Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol,” adapted by Tom Haas and directed by Richard J. Roberts.

It was the opening night of this annual holiday treat AND “alumni night” so every seat was filled.  The seat I was given was at the far end of the very last row of the balcony, so the actors’ faces were blurry and I could only see 2/3 of the stage.  I couldn’t see the entrances of the first two ghosts at all and the very dramatic entrance of the third ghost was barely within my line of sight.  I was glad that I had not paid for this seat or chosen this night to introduce a friend to the IRT, and I confess that I spent the first few minutes of the show muttering “Bah, humbug!” and trying to breathe through my resentment instead of paying attention to the performance art itself.

However.

Even from a bad* seat, this year’s “Carol” is enchanting.

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Theatre Review and News: “Holes” and “Mary’s Wedding” at the IRT

On Tuesday, October 26, 2010 I drove to downtown Indianapolis to see the professional Indiana Repertory Theatre’s production of “Holes,” by Louis Sachar.  It is based on a novel, also by Louis Sachar, which I enjoyed very much when I read it a few years ago.  Louis Sachar also wrote the screenplay for the movie, but I have not seen the movie.

The IRT’s production was directed by David Bradley.  It was presented by the IRT’s artistic director, Janet Allen, the IRT’s managing director, Steven Stolen, and Oxford Financial Group, Ltd.

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Theatre Review: “Around the World in 80 Days” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre

Last Friday I drove to downtown Indianapolis to the Indiana Repertory Theatre to see the opening night performance of “Around the World in 80 Days,” adapted from Jules Verne by Mark Brown, and directed by William Brown.

It is a DELIGHTFUL show.

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Theatre Review: “Becky’s New Car” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre

I saw “Becky’s New Car” when it opened here in Indianapolis at the Indiana Repertory Theatre on Friday, March 26, 2010.  It was written by Steven Dietz and directed by James Still.

Dear Reader, I LOVED IT. 

My friend did, too.  We stayed “high” on it all the rest of the weekend.  And I have been saying “Becky’s New Car!” without equivocation whenever anyone asks me “what’s good?” rather than first asking my usual cautious theatre advisory questions about what kind of show they are in the mood for and so on.

“Becky’s New Car” is so funny and well done, and I think it appeals to a wide variety of people.  If you like to talk about shows and/or relationships, for example, this piece offers a lot to talk about at intermission and afterwards:  there is good stuff about love, grief, infidelity, inevitability and more to chew on, plus it is a pleasure to re-hash the show’s interactivity and other fun design elements.  However, you can also just enjoy the show, too, without having to talk about it.  It moves fast and there are all kinds of situations in the show that both men and women can relate to easily. 

Best of the all, the tension in the serious moments is deftly released – but not diluted – by smart humor that doesn’t make you feel guilty for laughing at/with these very human and likable people.

I didn’t want it to end.  I went back to see “Becky’s New Car” again the following weekend by myself and loved it just as much the second time.  There is only one weekend left, starting tonight (Wednesday); I may try to squeeze in a third visit before the show closes.

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Theatre Review: “The Heavens Are Hung In Black” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre

Jason Bradley (L) and Nicholas Hormann (R) in "The Heavens Are Hung In Black" - photo by Julie Curry

Last Friday night I drove to the Indiana Repertory Theatre – a professional theatre in downtown Indianapolis – to see a new play about Abraham Lincoln.  It is called “The Heavens Are Hung In Black.”  IRT playwright-in-residence James Still wrote it on commission for Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.  It premiered there last spring as a three-act play.  Indianapolis is only the second place for it to be produced, and this time it is a two-act piece, so in a way, this is another world premiere.  We are the first audience to see it in its tightened form.

At the end of the performance on Friday night, I was not the only one who made an affirmative little moan before leaping to my feet to applaud.  I think that both theatre buffs and history buffs would enjoy this piece.  I loved it because I am both.

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Theatre Review: “Interpreting William” at the IRT

Delana Studi and Tim Grimm in "Interpreting William" at the IRT

On Friday I drove downtown to attend the opening night festivities of the world premiere of “Interpreting William” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre.  The play was written by James Still, the playwright-in-residence for the IRT, and directed by Lisa Rothe.

The show made me cry because it reminded me of why I majored passionately in history as an undergrad, and why I still enjoy reading, writing, talking, and hearing about history.  As the play’s youngest character, the defiant 19-year-old Naomi (Lena Hurt), says, “History is really about us!”  It is personal, it is relevant, and it is multi-dimensional.

In this show – which is also personal, relevant, and multi-dimensional – David Alan Anderson stars as a jovial history professor named Bill who is trying, here in 2009, to finish the definitive book on William Conner.  If you live in the Indianapolis area, you probably already know that William Conner was the man who in 1820 was helping to “settle” the area that eventually became the state of Indiana.  Bill has written quite a bit of the book, but he just can’t seem to nail the ending.  He visits his former teacher, his hero, a woman named Anna (Carmen Roman), for help. 

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Dance Review: “Magical Mystery Tour” by Dance Kaleidoscope

Dance Kaleidoscope - Magical Mystery Tour - photo courtesy of Crowe’s Eye Photography

On Sunday, January 11, 2009, my friend Chris and I met at the Indiana Repertory Theatre downtown to see Dance Kaleidoscope’s presentation of “Magical Mystery Tour,” choreographed by David Hochoy.  This was a repeat of one of DK’s most adored pieces, but it was my first time to see DK at all.

It was a real treat.  Apparently, based on what I heard from the man sitting on the other side of me (I think his name was Ron) and from other long-time DK fans that I met during intermission, this was DK’s best performance yet – an intoxicating mix of veteran dancers and newcomers bringing new life to what was already an exciting program.  The exuberant costumes designed by Barry Doss also yielded additional delights in a second viewing, or so I was told.

It was all new to me except for the also-beloved Beatles songs that informed the dancers’ movements.  I was enthralled by all of it, including the glorious wit of the costumes and the mystical, jewel-like lighting design by Laura E. Glover.  I loved the shamanic, trance-like feel of the whole piece, and the touches of humor within it.

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