Showing posts from August, 2019

'Bread and Roses' was a great union anthem; here's a drastic revision, just as fierce, against Presidential autocracy

Herod's Song is a snarling ode to a ruler's vanity and cruelty; I turn this back against our similar ruler

Storytelling in three modes: Indy Fringe Fest at the District Theatre

As different as their methods were, three shows I saw Wednesday night at the District Theatre exemplified a major Indy Fringe Fest value: storytelling. Narrative was even uppermost in the most abstract presentation of the evening: "Our America, " a collection of new pieces by members of Dance Kaleidoscope . Seven DK dancers each set a piece upon their colleagues — ranging from three to 14 of them, with a broad range of musical accompaniment. Artistic director David Hochoy introduced the program by recounting his charge to the choreographers to present their visions of the USA. The representation of the theme of a personalized America used the nonverbal language of contemporary dance to celebrate the country's potential as well as its actuality. Yet each choreographer's spoken introduction to his or her piece outlined aspects of storytelling to their choreographic perspectives. All seven pieces were worth seeing, in terms of the quality of the dancing, which so

"Fallen From the Toy Box" and "A Thousand Words": Conflict and community

The District Theatre is hosting a couple of Indy Fringe Fest shows that have little in common except C. Neil Parsons and his trombone. It's a remarkable turn-on-a-dime versatility that Parsons displays going from "A Thousand Words," a memorial to his combat photographer father Chris Parsons, to "Fallen From the Toy Box," which marks the highly anticipated return of the Fourth Wall , a multifaceted trio, to the Fringe Fest schedule. The shows are a half-hour and a few score feet apart. C. Neil Parsons lofts his trombone in "A Thousand Words" I'll get into "A Thousand Words" by raising a side issue, which turns out to be central the more I think about it. At the start, Parsons gives a curtain speech asking for audience indulgence of the script's use of an ethnic slur.  The word is "gooks," a derogatory reference to Vietnamese that had currency among American military during the Vietnam War. "Gooks" is ut

Indy Fringe Festival: A pre-Warren reminder of the benefits of persistence — pacifist/suffragist Jeannette Rankin

The redoubtable progressive Jeannette Rankin American history is loaded with mavericks who went against the grain, but few had the staying power — with an odd combination of great influence and marginalization — of Jeannette Rankin (1880-1973). A member of Congress for just two widely separated terms, the resolute Montanan wielded clout for several progressive causes over many  decades. In the 2019 Indy Fringe Festival ,  J. Emily Peabody impersonates the outstanding suffragist/pacifist in "Jeannette Rankin: Champion of Persistence." Seen Sunday night as a thunderstorm raged outside, the rage on the District Theatre's Cabaret Stage was controlled and self-contained in Peabody's performance. Yet Rankin's life exemplified continual outreach and activism, and Peabody's show (based on her own heavily researched text) never flagged in detailing her heroine's grit and determination, her curiosity and compassion.  These qualities, honed on the fron

He'll Tweet Again — Don't Ask Why! Don't Ask When!

Crowded third Indy Fringe Festival day: Series of four shows, ending in mind games

The people in "Orgasmo Adulto" are clownishly at odds with the world. Individuality throbs with lapel-tugging insistence at the Indy Fringe Festival, so it's not untypical that three of the four shows I saw Saturday afternoon and evening were solo showcases. The exception, which was welcome to me for its boisterous variety and consistent nose-thumbing at social norms, was NoExit Performance 's "Orgasmo Adulto Escapes from the Zoo," a collection of short pieces by the late Italian radical couple Dario Fo and Franca Rame. The troupe is fully invested in the Fo-Rame style of theatrical provocation and stylization of props, gesture, and costuming derived from commedia dell'arte.   There is no character development or nuance; rather, there's character exposure with heavy, thick outlines around the monologues. Carrie Bennett plays "A Woman Alone" who's kind of an oversexed, imprisoned version of Lucille Ball ditsiness. Religion and p

Second night Indy Fringe Festival 2019: Stunning 'Beyond Ballet' at the District Theatre

Indianapolis Ballet extends a beckoning index finger by titling its Indy Fringe Festival show "Beyond Ballet." The hint is that whatever the general public's vision of ballet may be, chances are it's too narrow. Perhaps a seductive "come on!" is called for with the promise that the show indeed stretches beyond ballet. Of course, given the informal audience poll that founding artistic director Victoria Lyras conducted Friday night, just about everyone occupying seats at the District Theatre Main Stage had previous experience of actual ballet. Presumably, familiarity with the range of dance coming under that heading nowadays is extensive among savvy Fringers. Nonetheless, the emotional payoff of this year's showcase of brief ballets is vast, given the variety among the half-dozen pieces presented.  The technical virtuosity of the company was as impressive as the dancers' expressive range. The droll finale of "Mountain Medley" in &qu

My opening night of Fringe Festival 2019: Approxima Productions' 'Vinny the Pooh'

Most of us can readily come up with favorite first lines of novels we liked. For me, such sentences succeed in catching the attention as well as, retrospectively, hinting which way a work of fiction is headed. They form a kind of aura around the experience that glows to the end. So, like many people, I admire "Call me Ishmael" ("Moby Dick"), but also a few others that don't seem stagy but are still resonant throughout the adventure of reading. Hence, "They threw me off the hay truck about noon" ("The Postman Always Rings Twice") and "Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo" ("A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man"). That choice brings us neatly to early childhood. Another first sentence that's stuck with me (full disclosure: I returned to the text to get it right) is t

Brutal, intense '1984' represents full-length debut of Monument Theatre Company

Among dystopian novels, "1984" seems to be the most enduring. The fantasy elements may be more deftly Nathan Thomas plays the aggrieved victim of state terrorism in '1984.' brought off in Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" and in Yevgeny Zamyatin's "We," but George Orwell's novel of a totalitarianism more widespread than ever has captured the collective imagination better. True, there's a certain dutifulness about the book's case against oppression and a dearth of pure literary magic in the storytelling. But, as has been commonly asserted, no 20th-century writer more than Orwell has had so thorough a set of insights into politics in the modern era. And all of that vision is bluntly, almost obsessively, detailed in "1984." The production of a stage adaptation that opened Friday night at Indy Convergence ramps up for the stage the novel's atmosphere of paranoia and all-encompassing oppression, which has wowed

Pianist Zach Lapidus pays us a visit and revives the trio format he enjoyed during his time here

Zach Lapidus put together his formerly active local trio for a reunion Wednesday night at the Jazz Kitchen . Zach Lapidus's brief return to Indianapolis was a welcome highlight. The New York musician, who spent several years in Indiana (first at Indiana University, then based in Indianapolis) after his youth on the West Coast, always had something original to say at the piano. When he reharmonized familiar pieces, he made alter egos out of the originals. He moved into the front rank of Indiana jazz pianists with two finalist finishes in American Pianists Association competitions. In reconnecting with the musicians he appeared with regularly at the Chatterbox , the pianist created the impression of a still-active working band. You would never know there'd been an interruption in their collaboration. Bassist Jesse Wittman and drummer Greg Artry displayed instantaneous rapport with the pianist in one set of nine tunes. "Wig Wise" (known from one of just about

Beach Boys song spoiled: Is there a way to cut through anti-regulation rhetoric about advanced weaponry in private hands, or will we have guns, guns, guns forever?

Don't you wonder what the President may be tweeting tonight? If we're lucky, his re-election anxiety is well-founded

Summit Performance Indianapolis' 'Mary Jane' displays parenthood put to the ultimate test

Any parent can justly claim that parenthood is challenging, but some who take on that role with the same optimism as their peers find themselves not merely challenged, but in a perpetual iron man contest. There's no victory in sight, and the competition is mainly internal. Amy Herzog 's "Mary Jane," the second full production of Summit Performance Indianapolis , is in the middle of a three-weekend run at Phoenix Theatre. The title character is a single mom to a toddler who can't toddle, a severely disabled boy whose needs are daunting and whose "good days" are a matter of luck and unceasing commitment. When we first see her, she's talking a mile a minute to her apartment building's super, Ruthie, who's trying to fix a stopped-up kitchen sink. The thought crossed my mind: Oh, watch out!  This is going to be one of those protagonists we need to get over being annoyed with, but she'll grow on us. We'll get used to her. She'll w

Who needs the adventurous, imperiled life of Secret Agent Man when you can be Nine-Eleven Man?