Bard and Poe

This weekend, get some Shakespeare at Bard Fest in Carmel. The productions include “Timon of Athens” by Casey Ross Productions, comedy “As You Like It” by First Folio and the tragedy of “Othello” by Garfield Shakespeare Company. Get details on the Carmel Theater Company website.

Meanwhile in downtown Indy, Q Artistry‘s “Cabaret Poe” opens at Theatre on the Square on Mass Ave. Since this is the first time for the show away from the usual Irvington digs, there will be a few changes — besides, creator (aside from EAP) Ben Asaykwee likes to keep it fresh. This fall treat runs through Halloween (of course).

We will do our best to keep this site going, but it must be noted that John now has another job, as Associate Editor of The Word. He will also be contributing arts news and reviews to the monthly paper and its website.

Happy October, everyone!

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Books and plays

Start this weekend early by seeing comic Bill Scheft, a writer for Late Night With David Letterman, as he signs copies of his book “Shrink Thyself” Thursday starting at 6:30 p.m. at Bookmama’s book store at 9 S. Johnson Ave. in Indy’s Irvington neighborhood.

For theatre, we have three openings:

The Phoenix Theatre presents the British Broadway comedy “One Man, Two Guvnors,” starting Thursday and running through Oct. 18 at 749 N. Park Ave., downtown Indy. This is the show that got James Corden (now the host of The Late Late Show on CBS) his Tony. But since Corden is in L.A., our show is locally cast.

Buck Creek Players present the comedic thriller “Cliffhanger,” opening Friday and running for two weekends, in which murder has rarely been so funny. The playhouse is out on Southeastern Ave. off the Acton Road Exit.

Over at the Hedback, 1847 N. Alabama in Indy, Footlite Musicals presents “Nice Work if You Can Get It,” a feel-good musical loaded with Gershwin numbers. It opens Friday and runs through Oct. 11.

See you in the audience!

Review: A ‘Fantastick’ show

By Wendy Carson

Once upon a time, there was a boy, a girl, their two fathers and a wall. Thus begins “The Fantasticks,” a little fairy tale of love, deception, desire, foiled plans and happiness presented by Actors Theatre of Indiana.

From the opening strains of the show’s most famous song, “Try to Remember,” you are whisked back to a time when the world was filled with dewy-eyed optimism, and happily-ever-afters can be found at every turn. Therefore, it is very easy to see why this show holds the unbeatable record of running continuously for 42 years and 17,161 performances.

In fact, the aforementioned song is performed by El Gallo, who serves as the narrator and possible villain of the story. Joining him in his unfurling of the story is The Mute, who not only sets the mood by providing props and ambiance to help set each scene but also presents our storyteller with a sounding board of sorts with which to judge the proceedings.

As the beginning of the show approaches, the audience is privy to the standard calls to the cast and crew that are generally kept backstage for only them to hear. All of the main characters enter wearing all black clothes and are provided with a few articles of color by our narrator and his assistant to wear in order to differentiate one from another. Only the two fools are actually allowed any more of a costume for themselves.

The basic story is hardly unique, a son and daughter of two feuding families fall in love despite being separated by a “grudge wall” and seek to marry. What sets this apart is that the fathers are actually best friends and are merely pretending to feud in order to get their children together. They even go as far as to hire a renowned robber to abduct the girl so that the boy can save her and they can drop the sham of a feud and all be joined together in happiness.

While it does appear that this is the outcome, after a bit the children grow jaded and restless for adventure so the boy leaves to seek his fortune and experience life. The girl is left to her daydreams and decides to run away with her would-be abductor in order to find her own adventures. The fathers now feud in earnest and the wall is resurrected.

Heedless of our narrator’s warnings, the world is a harsh place that scars and reshapes them both. They are reunited, worse for wear, with eyes fully opened to the bitter realities of life and adulthood.

Laura Sportiello’s portrayal of Luisa, the girl, is so beamingly bright one might need sunglasses to take it all in. Michael Ferraro’s subtle turn as the boy, Matt, seems almost wooden in comparison. Both Paul Collier Hansen and Michael Elliot do an excellent job of balancing the roles of Henry and Mortimer, the fools, somewhere directly between menacing and pathetic.

In an inspired stroke of casting genius, the roles for the fathers, Bellomy and Hucklebee are both portrayed by women. Judy Fitzgerald and Cynthia Collins excellently embody these roles and make you forget the roles could ever be played by men.

With this level of talent already present it is hard to believe that it could be surpassed, but Logan Moore and Holly Stults manage to do just that. Moore’s stunning portrayal of El Gallo brings menace, delight, snark, and morality to the mix. The ease in which he shifts from seductive to dangerous is wondrous to behold. Assisting him is his narrative duties is The Mute, brilliantly brought to life by Stults. She not only helps out keeping the action going but wordlessly gives the audience commentary and a voice throughout the show.

“The Fantasticks” won’t have an endless run here, playing through Sunday (Sept. 27) at The Studio Theater in The Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Carmel. Call 317-843-3800.

Review: Little Women – The Musical

Sisters Jo (Julia Bonnett, lower left) and Amy (Karen Woods Hurt) reconcile after the anger between them nearly led to tragedy, while friend Laurie (Ethan Litt) and sister Beth (Betsy Norton) look on in a scene from "Little Women: The Broadway Musical" at the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre in downtown Carmel. -- Civic Theatre photo
Sisters Jo (Julia Bonnett, lower left) and Amy (Karen Woods Hurt) reconcile after the anger between them nearly led to tragedy, while friend Laurie (Ethan Litt) and sister Beth (Betsy Norton) look on in a scene from “Little Women: The Broadway Musical” at the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre in downtown Carmel. — Civic Theatre photo

By John Lyle Belden

For anyone who enjoyed – or haven’t read and are curious about – the classic Louisa May Alcott novel, I highly recommend “Little Women: The Broadway Musical” at the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre through Sept. 26.

The story of the four March sisters coming of age in 1860s Concord, Mass., is told in a nicely-paced play that gives each moment its proper weight, then breezes to the next with the help of a song or two. We meet Jo (Julia Bonnett), the headstrong writer bursting with confident energy; beautiful Meg (Betsy Norton); musical and tragic Beth (Amanda Kennedy); and Amy (Karen Woods Hurt), whose brash immaturity at first makes her the least likable, but results in making her the most complex and interesting of these four characters – a credit to Hurt as well as the musical’s book by Allan Knee. Still, the narrative is from Jo’s point of view, and Bonnett is more than up to the task.

For the rest of the cast: Katie Schuman embodies wise mom Marmee. Dan Scharbrough perfectly balances menace and paternal kindness as gruff Mr. Laurence, who lives next door. Ethan Mathias ably handles the growing conflicting emotions of Professor Bhaer, Jo’s neighbor in New York. Ethan Litt and Justin Klein lend appropriate boyish energies to the roles of Laurie and Brooke, the young men in the girls’ lives. And Vickie Cornelius Phipps is excellent as fussy Aunt March, as well as Mrs. Kirk, Jo and Bhaer’s landlord.

This would be an excellent show for those with “little women” (or men) who could see themselves in the characters. Jo’s enthusiasm, especially, is contagious, perhaps encouraging those who would want to write up some stories themselves. The Tarkington stage is at The Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Carmel. Call 317-843-3800 for tickets.

Lots to celebrate

Angel Burlesque's ladies look good enough to
Angel Burlesque’s ladies look good enough to “nom-nom-nom” in their Tribute to the Muppets, Friday and Saturday night at the Athenaeum in downtown Indy.

As summer comes to an end, the festivals start piling up in the Indy area.

This weekend features (click links for details):

Meanwhile on stages, shows continue at the Civic Theatre, TOTS, Mud Creek and ATI. The only new feature is the two-day Angel Burlesque Tribute to the Muppets — a show aimed at grown-ups; it ain’t Sesame Street — which looks like it will be fun.

And, if all this wasn’t enough, Saturday is also International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Ahoy!

Have fun!

Big opening weekend

There is a lot happening around Indy this weekend, especially on stages.

Theatre on the Square opens “Enter Love” a new musical with book by local talents Kenny Shepard, Don Seybold and Ty Stover. First curtain is 8 p.m. Friday.

The Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Carmel sees two openings: “Little Women: The Musical” at the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre on The Tarkington stage, of course, and “The Fantasticks” presented by Actors Theatre of Indiana at The Studio Theater next door.

Meanwhile, the classic “The Odd Couple” opens the Mud Creek Players season in the Mud Creek Barn on east 86th Street near Geist.

For two shows only, Friday and Saturday, Indiana Performing Arts Centre presents “A Night on the Town With the ‘Rat Pack'” at the Athenaeum, 401 E. Michigan St. in downtown Indy.

See you in the audience!

Back to the routine

Now that IndyFringe is done and September is here, we’ll resume the weekly look-aheads.

This weekend we have just one stage opening: the two-weekend run of “The Prince and the Pauper” by Center Stage Productions at Southport Presbyterian Church.

There is also an encore performance of an IndyFringe favorite, “Jason Adams is a God Damn Mind Reader,” 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the IndyFringe Theatre, 719 E. St. Clair St. in downtown Indy, by the intersection of Mass Ave., St. Clair and College Ave. If you didn’t see one of the sold-out Fringe performances, and are not offended at the show’s title, then by all means go see this wild mix of comedy and mental magic.

This weekend is also Labor Day, and you can wear your white shoes one more time to Indy LaborFest Saturday in the heart of Downtown Indianapolis for free, all-ages fun.

However you do it, enjoy your weekend!