Showing posts from August, 2013

Lang Lang in recital: A super deal for students

The Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel announces student tickets at $15 each to "select Palladium seating areas" for Lang Lang's solo piano recital Sept. 19. Lang Lang, the Chinese-born pianist who has become a world citizen of classical music within the past decade, has been heard as soloist with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.  But the Palladium event marks his first solo recital in the area. On the 7:30 p.m. program: the four Ballades by Frederic Chopin and W.A. Mozart's Piano Sonatas No. 4 in E-flat, K. 282; No. 5 in G, K. 283, and No. 8 in C, K. 309. Students wishing to purchase tickets can go online or contact the box office, (317) 843-3800.

Something conclusive this way comes: The Sunday report, IndyFringe's final day

Part of the IndyFringe excitement is that no one has come between you and any show you're seeing.  That is to say, no jury made the selection. That's why you will encounter duds from time to time.  When you do,  you have no shadowy,  judgmental figure behind the scenes to be annoyed at. If you don't like a show, you have faced the source of your annoyance right there in front of you, within the allotted hour, as you took in the performance. I faced mine in the middle of Sunday afternoon. The University tWits, its self-deprecating name not quite disarming all criticism, is a six-person troupe from Bloomington specializing in sketch comedy on contemporary subjects. Its final show at the Phoenix Theatre' s Russell Stage was not well attended, with the audience just twice the size of the company. Word of mouth works both ways in guiding patrons' choices, apparently. An initial scene purporting to be full of disagreements about how to begin did not lead one to exp

Ancient, age-old, modern and silly problems at IndyFringe: The Saturday report

If you don't find something at IndyFringe to move you, then you have just scratched the surface. Sure, there's nothing wrong with staying on the fun side of the annual festival, but there's so much more. Susan's haul from successful bidding at "Going, Going, Gone(r)" To while away an hour watching the long-running "live auction comedy" contrived for the 2012 Fringe by Lou Harry and John Thomas always returns positive benefits.  Running out of play money to bid with is the closest thing to a worry you're likely to have at "Going... Going... Gone(r)." (Before she ran out of faux dough, my wife, Susan Raccoli, had acquired the treasures pictured here.) The show, a monthly staple on the IndyFringe Basile Theatre schedule since its premiere, takes donated castoffs and garage-sale rejects, then repurposes them as valuable forgotten items from the estate of a deceased auctioneer named Ed. His relatives and friends just want to move on

A miscellany of one-performer Fringe shows (plus an ISO tidbit): The Friday report

Not having binged on Fringe this year like some hardy souls, by Friday night I'd still become a little unhinged by Fringe. My choice of three one-person shows in a row may have had something to do with it.  It's hard for one person, even for one hour, to hold the stage well.  An exception can be made for a good actor's thorough command of a wonderful script, such as what Paul Hansen offers in "The High-Impact Infidelity Diet" and Pat O'Brien in "Underneath the Lintel." But original material in the hands of a single performer challenges an audience member to lock in instantly and stay hooked.  I will concede that, for most of the audience, Kevin Burke had that knack  at his evening show at ComedySportz , but not for me. "Sin City Stories" purports to be "true tales of Sin City" (Las Vegas) from a Zionsville resident who had a remarkable run there for six years, chiefly in the hit show "Defending the Caveman." But th

A superhero with flashy fleet and a putative savior in the nick of time: The Thursday report

Even casually made choices at IndyFringe can yield an entertainment package of the festival's variety in microcosm. My Thursday evening sampling indicated some of the contrasts that even a brief visit can set before you. In "Tapman: Origin" at the Cook Theater, Chicagoan Tristan Bruns has the wit to take his virtuosity as a tap dancer and link it to a story line. Instead of a recital showcasing in separate numbers his pinpoint balance, endless verve and supple feet, he plays the superhero Tapman, whose goodness has to be judged mainly by the nastiness of his enemies, chiefly the Mad Tapper (played with sinuous elan by a Bruns colleague). The dance display focusing on Bruns is hung on this story line, which is a little thin and deliberately derivative, to be sure. It's a flexible enough device  to be anchored (through narration) to sites in and around the home of IndyFringe, the Mass Ave Cultural District .  Of course, one of them has to be  (drum roll and cymba

More IndyFringe gems on the Phoenix Theatre's Russell Stage: The Wednesday report

Constant behind the wry, sad smile with which Kurt Vonnegut greeted the world — his face wreathed in smoke and wrinkles as he aged, crowned with tousled curly hair, an ageless look that made it seem he might be carrying a slingshot in his back pocket — was an abiding concern for resisting dehumanization. The spirit of mischief raised in his writing always pointed in the direction of something better for what his literary hero, Mark Twain, called "the damned human race." Humor might be the lingua franca of hope, but don't bet on it, Twain and Vonnegut would probably agree. "Welcome  to  the Monkey House," an adaptation of several Vonnegut stories by ShadowApe Theatre Company , is a performance as unswerving from this outlook as any you'll see at Fringe . It has the special virtue of turning some of Vonnegut's fable-like short fiction into vibrant action. That helps mute hints of whimsical sermonizing from such stories as "The Euphio Question,&quo

At IndyFringe, social life fizzles, Earth stewardship is shaky, but melodramatic love thrives: The Tuesday report

Talk is plentiful at a Fringe Festival, so a show that mimics silent films has an immediate chance of standing out. Fortunately, there is a lot more that "The Beast, the Lady, & the Sanguine Man" has going for it besides a paucity of chatter. And it isn't a mime act, either. It's the creation of NoExit Performance , ensemble-directed, from a script by Bennett Ayres. We are in the  world of silent films — not the comedies that have endured as an influential style, but the melodramas that seem too dated  to have made a long-lasting impact on popular culture. "The Beast, the Lady, & the Sanguine Man" changes all that: An elaborate, classically effective style of acting has been reclaimed to suit post-modernist sensibilities.  Subtitled "a live-action silent film," the show is also a technical marvel, even as it replicates and amplifies the flickering titles, streaky film, cheesy soundtracks and projector whir from technology long since s

Workaday Fringe takes us to new places: The Monday report

The annual IndyFringe Festival is a reminder that Indianapolis' cultural life needn't be reserved for weekends. You can cap every workday this week with an evening of provocative theater and performance art in and around the Massachusetts Avenue Cultural District. Monday, Monday... I had the pleasure of seeing those artistic triathletes — Fourth Wall Ensemble — in 'Fruit Flies Like a Banana." It's a fast-moving show keyed to a running clock, recalling the unused first half of the show's punning title: "Time flies like an arrow." The Fourth Wall blends contortions and counterpoint. Hilary Abigana (flute), Greg Jukes (percussion and accordion) and C. Neil Parsons (bass trombone) cram as much of their 20-item repertoire into the maximum allowable Fringe running time of one hour.  In that sense alone, every patron gets his money's worth. With luck, at least several times in the course of each show, everybody will be wowed by the trio's ski

Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival takes another bow in the temperate paradise of an Indianapolis August.

Two shows to start off my encounter with this year's Fringe Festival presented at least one of the polarities the festival offers: a local ensemble musical made from scratch out of deliberately offensive material contrasted with an out-of-town veteran of stage and screen in a one-actor play confronting mysteries of myth and history. Both "de Sade" ( Q Artistry ) and '"Underneath the Lintel" ( Pat O'Brien's Vanity Theatrics ) are being presented at the Phoenix Theatre, on the Russell and Basile stages, respectively. Pat O'Brien is spellbinding in Glen Berger's wide-ranging play recounting a cashiered librarian's quest to find the borrower of a book returned 123 years overdue. The librarian quickly draws us into his obsession; O'Brien made even the sadly heroic figure's muttered digressions fascinating. His voice ranging from a whisper to a roar, the actor darted about the stage, pulling one piece of evidence after another from

Oregon Shakespeare Festival finds the essence of 'A Streetcar Named Desire'

The most remarkable thing about "A Streetcar Named Desire" may well be its demonstration of how much sexuality saturates Americans' attempts to master social and class relations. Too often, the behavior of people in the bedroom is seen as reflecting their individual psychological makeup. Not in this play, however: The personal dynamics connect with troubled self-consciousness about social standing at every significant point in the action. Tennessee Williams' New Orleans, as portrayed in this 1947 play, shows a Southern society with its pretensions to gentility in tatters. Traditional relationships must have been especially threatened in the Big Easy, where so much social mixing across barriers took place historically. And Americans adjusting to peacetime have always had to confront upheaval in values. This context is exploited to the full in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival production, which I saw last week. As directed by Christopher Liam Moore, the play had an a

Music director candidate Abrams impresses in two concerts at Britt Festival

With a marketing campaign quite sensibly titled "Passing the Baton," the 2013 Britt Classical Festival in Jacksonville, Ore., is gathering audience and musician impressions of three candidates to succeed Peter Bay as music director of the annual series, which ends Sunday. That's in addition to the usual search committee of prominent supporters of the festival;  the decision process is obviously structured to allow for maximum buy-in to the eventual choice. Teddy Abrams Britt couldn't do better, I feel certain, than tap the candidate who was on the podium Aug. 9 and 10. Attending last weekend to hear our son Theodore Harvey , a member of the cello section for the current season as well as last year's, Susan and I were moved and excited by the manner in which Teddy Abrams , the 26-year-old assistant conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, led the orchestra and soloists through two challenging programs. [He conducted a concert in Indianapolis last month t

Indy Jazz Fest gets a new stage to herald its return next month

Jazz fans can feel well-served by the efforts that have gone into keeping Indy Jazz Fest alive over nearly a decade-and-a-half. There is plenty to be grateful for, despite the likelihood that most of us feel there's nothing like a club setting for hearing the music. As it turns out, smaller indoor venues are the primary focus of the 2013 festival, scheduled for next month (Sept. 12-21). Thus, another reason for gratitude. Still, jazz festivals tend to become viable in the long term by reaching out to welcome musicians of related genres.  This is more than shrewd marketing, because however you define "jazz,"  you can't revise history so as to suggest the music has developed without imbibing at a variety of artistic wells. Even so, there was something a little too miscellaneous about the program, with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra as host (but not playing), presented Aug. 2 and 3 at Conner Prairie under the rubric "Symphony on the Prairie." Par

Dance Kaleidoscope brings back three strong pieces for its northern fan base

Perhaps it should  take longer than a couple of years for anything to be dubbed "classic," but we live in a fast-paced world in which our electronic devices become great-grandfathers to the latest gizmo before we can get the hang of them. In any case, the three pieces David Hochoy created for Dance Kaleidoscope in 2011 and 2012 that make up the "Classic Hits" program deserve some special designation. They were certainly accorded a special reception by the enraptured audience that nearly filled the Tarkington Theater Friday night. (There will be a repeat performance at 7 p.m. today in the Center for the Performing Arts hall.) Three different aspects of Hochoy as a choreographer — and thus three aspects of the company he has directed for 23 years — constitute the program. The centerpiece is "Romeo and Juliet Fantasy," the most substantial of the three works. Hochoy often seems to be at his best focusing on relationships — working from the emotion out t