Showing posts from February, 2022

Guest artists dominate (and literalize) ISO's 'Greetings from Germany'

Putting teeth into it: Kevin John Edusei Though the chief work on this weekend's Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra' s Classical Series is the orchestral crown of Johannes Brahms' long residency in Vienna,  his Symphony No. 4 in E minor owes its introduction to the world to the conductor Hans von Bulow's connection with Meiningen, Germany, and its famous orchestra. Advocacy of baton-wielders has long been central to new music's success. Further underlining of the authenticity of the program's "Greetings from Germany" title is the presence of two superb German guest artists: Kevin John Edusei, conductor, and Maximilian Hornung, cello soloist. Both are making local debuts, and the return of either to the Hilbert Circle Theatre stage would be welcome. The one repeat of Friday's program will be this afternoon at 5:30. Edusei favors an unconventional seating for the strings that is said to be widely preferred by German conductors. Left to right toward the

In 'Skeleton Crew,' Motor City woes surface in a break room where other breaks open up

Faye feels at home in break room. Banter among co-workers favors superficial joking, but over time can reveal personalities with a full range of ambition and peril. In Dominique Morrisseau's "Skeleton Crew," the joshing, gossip, and needling in the break room take place against a context of auto-industry shrinkage in Detroit that threatens jobs and the identities linked to them. Summit Performance Indy opens a run of the hard-wrought comedy tonight at Phoenix Theatre 's Basile Stage. Seen at dress rehearsal Thursday evening, the production elaborately ties together the playwright's crowded assemblage of insights and escape routes among four factory workers.  Between scenes, the repetitive routine of machines and workers is seen pantomimed through a translucent wall of glass. Credit to MeJah Balam's scenic design and Laura E. Glover's lighting for juxtaposing the two sides of life on "the floor." Reminders of the assembly line are never far away f

Toward midweek: Local jazz friends debut quartet focusing on leading guitarist

  Nick Tucker (from left), Kenny Phelps, Steven Jones, Charlie Ballantine They've all performed in various combinations before, but the quartet that Charlie Ballantine put together for two sets at the Jazz Kitchen Tuesday night was a new group. It made its debut in sets that relied on jazz standards and Great American Songbook items.  For the first time out, the quartet seemed thoroughly attuned to each other, as if they had everything to suggest a well-honed ensemble except originals.  No surprise about that rapport, once you learn who accompanied the guitarist in two well-designed sets: Steven Jones on piano, Nick Tucker on bass, and Kenny Phelps on drums — something of a local all-star lineup. This was enough by itself to promise something extraordinary. And, from "Alone Together" through Clifford Brown's "Sandu," that's what a large weeknight crowd got. There were fresh colors applied and each tune's personality imaginatively engaged with. &quo

Con brio: Focus on Italy in ISO's Classical Series features principal violist

German composer-conductor Matthias Pintscher  The welcome return of Matthias Pintscher as guest conductor to the Hilbert Circle Theatre podium set up expectations of insightful and fully characterized performances. Those expectations were met Friday night in a concert also bringing to the fore the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra 's principal violist, Yu Jin. Pintscher seems to have an immense interpretive range, suggested by two previous appearances with the ISO. Though there has been an unsurprising emphasis on the Austro-German tradition, his 2017 debut with the orchestra climaxed in  a vivid performance of Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Symphonic Dances." This weekend Pintscher guides the ISO on a transalpine journey titled "Greetings from Italy," which will be repeated this afternoon at 5:30.  In Friday night's performances of Rossini, Mendelssohn, and Berlioz, he got detailed but unfussy results in a manner that was neither choreographic nor excessivel

Burning questions: IRT's 'Fahrenheit 451' gets to the core of cultural transmission

Current attempts in state legislatures to regulate school libraries and narrow the range of available books give Indiana Repertory Theatre an obvious pitch for its production of "Fahrenheit 451," a stage adaptation of Ray Bradbury's novella about a society where books are banned and their readers are rooted out. The firemen maintain book-burning order in a future society. I'm a little cool to the genre of which Bradbury was a master. Stories predicated on a "What if...", where what fills in the space after "if" is a contrary-to-fact situation that governs the story, require a whole-hearted acceptance of the underlying condition controlling the characters.  I'm not a stickler for realism, but stories that presuppose a fundamentally different reality tend to cast people totally within its shadow. Allowing for my reluctance to readily accept "what-if" premises, a society in which book-burning is a matter of firm policy can clearly focu

Lonely island: Phoenix Theatre premieres 'Love Bird'

Nigel pitches woo to an unresponsive girlfriend. Phoenix Theatre feathers its nest with a gentle, intense spectacle about love for this Valentine's season, through Feb. 20. Solitude is in some sense the condition all of us share, but loneliness is a menacing distortion. K.T. Peterson's "Love Bird" draws its inspiration from the widely publicized true story of a solitary bird drawn to a small island off the coast of New Zealand and fixated on courting a group of concrete imitations of its kind. The gannet 's courtship in vain ended with the bird's death in 2018. Other gannets lured to the island in an attempt to restock the seabirds were not deceived, but Nigel stayed and persisted in his attempt to woo a mate. In extravagant style well-supported by Phoenix's technical team, two actors embody in human terms Peterson's spun-off rhapsody on the ways the need for love can overcome all sorts of discouragements. As seen February 11,  the production enchants