IF welcomes you to ‘Pooh Corner’

By John Lyle Belden and Wendy Carson

Most of us have spent at least part of our childhood in the Hundred Acre Wood, or even in an acre of our own with some dear plush pals. Return to that wonder-filled place at “The House at Pooh Corner,” presented by Improbable Fiction Theatre Company at the Ivy Tech auditorium in Noblesville.

In pajama-esque costume, Winnie-the-Pooh and friends from A.A. Milne’s books come to life, adapted by Bettye Knapp, directed for IFTC by Dana Lesh. 

Today’s adventure starts with an Emergency Meeting, with much to address. Eeyore is tired of standing out in a field at 3 a.m. and wants a house. A mysterious and frightening new creature has appeared, wreaking havoc on Pooh’s chair and Owl’s home. Who or what is the mysterious “Backson”? Most concerning, though, is that Christopher Robin’s parents are intent on sending the boy away to “Education.” 

This calls for action – perhaps an excursion to the South Pole, as the North Pole has crocodiles.

In this production, what would have been just a charming experience for young audiences has been made truly exceptional by near-perfect casting: 

  • Daniel Shock has not only the constantly contemplative look but also the familiar classic voice of Pooh Bear down solid. 
  • Diann Ryan masters Piglet’s mix of energetic, neurotic, and eager-to-please. 
  • Scott Prill exudes all the gentlemanly gravitas of Owl. 
  • Jennifer Poynter is endearingly maternal and germaphobic as Kanga, dealing with Sean Wood as hyper and eager-for-fun Roo. 
  • Barb Weaver has the take-charge attitude of Rabbit, who also watches over bunny relatives Early (Evelyn BeDell) and Late (Paxton Shock). 
  • Geoff Lynch embodies the blustering braggart force of nature that is Tigger, complete with animated giggle.  
  • Ryan Shelton brays as discontented, depressed Eeyore so well, it’s a wonder he isn’t on the others’ nerves. 
  • Gabrielle Morrison seems to have stepped off the page as Christopher Robin. The voice of his father (one of “them”) is provided by Jeff Bick. 

The commitment by the actors to their plush alter-egos helps immerse us in the whimsy of their world, making this a nice experience for theatre-goers of any age. As an added treat, the cast comes out to greet and take pictures with fans at the front of the stage after each performance. 

Visit “The House on Pooh Corner” April 22-24 – 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday – at Ivy Tech, 300 N. 17th St., Noblesville. Find information and tickets at iftheatrecompany.org.

Mud Creek: Where ‘Almost’ seems exactly right

By Wendy Carson

On the heels of their hilarious Christmas show, (“Inlaws, Outlaws, and Other People Who Should Be Shot”) Mud Creek Players give us another sweet laugh-fest with their latest production, “Almost Maine.”

The title comes from the “not-quite” town in extreme northern Maine, small in population, but overflowing with quirkiness.

There are two people who are either close together or vastly far apart; a woman whose defenses keep her from seeing what’s right in front of her; a misspelling possibly leading to love; the answer to a question asked a very long time ago. Plus, you have two people literally falling in love, the other shoe literally dropping, a couple literally returning their love for each other, a man who literally feels no pain, and an actual broken heart.

All this happens on a cold, wintry Friday night. Those of us of a certain age will feel like we are watching a romantic update of “Northern Exposure,” with all the whimsy on display under the Northern Lights.

This series of scenes is brought to life by Matt Harzburg, Kyrsten Lyster, Lexi Odle, Mason Odle, Jennifer Poynter and Jackson Stollings in multiple roles, directed by Andrea Odle with Amanda Armstrong. They all embrace the charm, wonder and weirdness of the stories, aptly acting as though these odd northwoods happenings occur every day. Thus they make the accompanying feelings seem natural – and somehow relatable to us, watching from a “barn” in the woods near Geist.

While this is a perfect show to bring a date, singles and families will find it just as enchanting. Also, each lady in attendance was given a long-stemmed rose. So brave the cold, and warm up to the sweet charm of “Almost, Maine.”

Performances run through March 2 at 9740 E. 86th St.; call 317290-5343 or visit www.mudcreekplayers.com.

Mud Creek hosts hilarious holiday hostage hijinks

By John Lyle Belden

Christmas should not be this funny, should it?

From the beginning scene, Mud Creek Players’ “In-Laws, Outlaws, and Other People (That Should Be Shot)” starts firing off the zingers, as holiday host Thomas Douglas (Ronan Marra) and teen daughter Beth (Audrey Duprey) discuss frankly the odd behavior of the relatives who will gather for their traditional Christmas Eve dinner.

There will be redneck Bud (Tom Riddle), his wife Bunny (Jennifer Poynter), a Jersey girl with no sense of personal space, and their super-achiever daughter Tracy (Alaina Moore); as well as elderly New Yorkers Aunt Rose (Kerry Mitchell) and Uncle Leo (Robert C. Boston Jr.) who never stop talking — either to bicker at each other or to name-drop and reminisce from days gone by. Tom’s wife Janet (Margie Worrell) is also expected, but her business flight from Vermont is late.

The Douglas home is caught in an unexpected snowstorm, but that doesn’t stop neighbor and local busybody Mrs. Draper (Veronique Duprey) from coming over to complain that Tom hasn’t turned on his holiday lights. Soon, they have bigger problems — unexpected guests Tony (Brock Francis) and Vinny (Connor Phelan), a pair of robbers hiding from police patrols. At gunpoint, Tony insists that everyone have a normal evening meal, but he soon finds that “normal” has no place in this house.

The home becomes more crowded with hostages as neighbor kid Paul (who is sweet on Beth) shows up, followed later by his sister Emily (Rylee Odle), then their mother (Jennifer Kaufmann). The robbers try to contain the situation by putting men and women in separate rooms, but that only spreads out the madness. Also, good-natured Vinny seems to be succumbing to a sort of reverse Stockholm Syndrome.

Add Aniqua ShaCole’ as the inevitable visiting police officer, and you have a situation ripe with comedy.  Yes, being a Christmas play, the Steve Franco script does include a bit of heart — and maybe a happy ending — but I also found a lot of moments of laughing until I nearly passed out. Francis, Phelan and Moore especially get to stretch their comic muscles, as this whole ensemble shines in an uproarious good time. You may even see a little of your own relatives in this bunch, or at least have something to compare to when holidays at home get extreme.

Find this farce at the Mud Creek Players Barn, 9740 E. 86th St. (between Castleton and Geist), through Dec. 15. Call 317-290-5343 or visit mudcreekplayers.org.