Clever casting lends depth to ‘Hollow’

By John Lyle Belden

There is something unusual about “Two Mile Hollow,” the play by award-winning writer (and Butler alum) Leah Nanako Winkler at the Phoenix Theatre, as well as the titular estate, a mansion in the rich neighborhood of East Hampton – home to the family of a Hollywood legend.

Years have passed since the death of Oscar-winning movie star Derek Donnelly, but his widow Blythe (Milicent Wright) still holds fast to his memory. Their children – Joshua (Eddie Dean), Mary (Paige Elisse), and Emmy-winner Christopher (Jay Fuqua) – want to get hold of Derek’s possessions. Christopher arrived with his personal assistant, Charlotte (Arianne Villareal), which becomes an additional complication.

It quickly becomes evident that this is a clever comedy, taking its swings at elitism and lifestyles of millionaire performers, done with heavy-handed melodrama. But it is in its intended casting that this play becomes a brilliant work of satire. It’s not just the uncomfortable things said by these characters that deliver the desired punch, but who we see saying them.

If you find yourself confused – “Are they…?”— just note that they are as they present themselves, and go with it. Immerse yourself in the layers of meaning, let yourself laugh at the goofy things you find there. If more serious aspects soak in, that was the intended effect.

I would go into detail on the excellence of the performances, but I don’t want to give too much of a hint of what is happening. Wright’s casting brings big expectations, which she and company exceed. Mikael Burke returns to direct another provocative piece of theatre art.

Scenic design by Inseung Park makes the house at Two Mile Hollow its own character, complete with the smiling face of the late patriarch, the serious whimsy of Post-its, and signs of decay that the characters either ignore or fail to notice.

Appropriately, the big concept comes with big laughs, like if a “Dr. Strangelove” style film were made by the Wayans Brothers and directed by Wes Anderson. To see what we mean, performances run through April 30 at the Phoenix Theatre Cultural Centre, 705 N. Illinois St., downtown Indianapolis. For info and tickets, see


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