Showing posts from January, 2019

Take a seat and join the list-making: IRT finds a thread of humor in a young man's processing of family woe

Long ago in another city, I was hoping to get back on the theater beat and looking on with bemusement at the Marcus Truschinski (The Man) calls on an audience member to name another brilliant thing. reporter who was our superiors' latest favorite on the arts beat. Once I was especially struck with wonder overhearing how he had to be talked out of accepting a gift of crystal stemware from the producer of a high-profile theater series. I think I could have passed that ethics test unassisted, but never mind. As a critic I've never been cajoled to accept a gift, neither when I was restored to covering the arts for the Flint Journal nor since then during many years at the Indianapolis Star. Ditto in retirement over the past five-plus years. But Thursday night there I was in an onstage seat at a performance of "Every Brilliant Thing" at Indiana Repertory Theatre. And suddenly I was being bribed with a candy bar. Let me explain: I was a minor participant in a prod

A throwback to the romantic recital: Drew Petersen plays solo piano music with insight and panache

Long ago, the age of what Franz Liszt pioneered as the solo recital soon acquired a format to be shared by pianists, Drew Petersen: Breadth of youthful mastery violinists, and singers — the most desired musician categories the public was willing to  hear under an individual spotlight. The format stipulated progress starting from serious and "heavy" repertoire, shifting to "light" stuff after intermission (still demanding enough to sustain a link with the program's first half) and ending with a bravura showpiece. It long satisfied the connoisseurs as well as what might be called (without disparagement) more casual music-lovers. Drew Petersen ,  by temperament, repertoire choice, and technical aplomb, reminded me Sunday afternoon of that time-tested program structure, which dominated concert life long before I matured as a listener. Even in its heyday, there were exceptions: the revered pianist Artur Schnabel sustained the public's love despite his unwi

January in Paris: ISO says "bienvenue" to Dance Kaleidoscope in first classical program of 2019

Something to look at as well as to listen to gives special luster to the first weekend of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra 's "Paris Festival," which bridges the pops-classical divide through Jan. 19 at Hilbert Circle Theatre. Dance Kaleidoscope , a notable collaborator with the ISO in re-creating the turmoil that followed the 1913 Paris premiere of Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring," returns to the stage to enact artistic director David Hochoy's choreographic vision of George Gershwin's "An American in Paris" as the orchestra plays the score. With a depth of only ten feet to work with, Hochoy has created a broad, varied vision of the work, which itself varies from a kind of rondo to a melodic miscellany. The picture hangs together, embracing the excitement of a stranger's visit to a celebrated world capital as well as the tug upon him of homesickness and loneliness.  The foreshortened vision of the stage I had from my seat engendere

A mother's pain, baked to a turn: "Apples in Winter" opens the 2019 portion of Phoenix Theatre's season

Phoenix Theatre marketing of its latest production from the National New Play Network, with which it's been affiliated for many years, reaches out well beyond the essence of "Apples in Winter." Ingredients ranged before her, Miriam prepares to make her last apple pie. Understandably, the company is ramping up efforts to have mainstream appeal by emphasizing the resonance its productions may have beyond traditional theater fans. So Jennifer Fawcett's one-act, one-actor drama speaks with relevance to the opioid crisis (or is it an epidemic?), but the cost to society is narrowed to prismatic focus here. The wider meaning must be supplied by those in attendance, including personal reflection on the unanticipated costs of parenting, which usually fall far short of dealing with a son's horrific act and subsequent reputation as a monster. One young man's addiction is reflected through his mother's suffering as she bakes an apple pie for him in the kitche

The late Neil Simon's celebration of music and love opens Beef & Boards 2019 season

Master composer and burgeoning lyricist start forging a bond. The old knock on the late Neil Simon is that his plays were brief jokes (some of them actual one-liners) strung together and displayed across a thin plot by shallow, undeveloped characters.  Maybe that was because the jokes were pretty good, on the whole, and the sprightliness of the dialogue seemed to dwarf everything else. Without getting into an examination of Simon canon here, more than a few of his plays refute the dismissal. "They're Playing Our Song" falls somewhere in between. Some substance is supplied by the songs of Carol Bayer Sager and Marvin Hamlisch, whose real-life relationship formed the basis of Simon's show. The rest comes from exploring the friction inevitable when two disparate personalities attempt to achieve professional and personal accord at the same time. In its opening weekend at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, "They're Playing Our Song" exhibited its en

BOLT upright: New company with LGBTQ focus debuts at District Theatre

Less than a year from conception to parturition,  Be Out Loud Theater Company wailed healthily out of the neonatal unit Friday night with its first production, Tennessee Williams' "...And Tell Sad Stories of the Death of Queens." A slight but poignant and sometimes funny drama, the 1955 work takes its title punningly from a line in Shakespeare's "Richard II," with female monarchs substituted for the original's "kings." Directed by BOLT founder Michael Swinford, the production focuses on the ornamented anguish of an almost middle-aged gay transvestite in thrall to an illusory sense of what he deserves out of life. Candy Delaney, the main character's preferred identity, sees himself as person of business and a landlord hungering for both self-expression and respectability. We have recently seen another local production of a little-known Williams play , also set in New Orleans, with a kind of miraculous twist that distinguishes it from &qu