IBJOpinion

LOU'S VIEWS: Hahn for the record books

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Lou Harry


This week, emptying the notebook on recent work at the ISO, the Phoenix and the IRT.

Who says you can't have a do-over at a symphony concert?

Virtuoso violinist Hilary Hahn called for just that after being lost shortly into the brutal third movement of Jennifer Higdon's world premiere violin concerto (which she played without sheet music) in the Feb. 7 concert with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. The typically animated Mario Venzago (at one point, I swear he was guiding the patrons in the boxes to play louder) and the ISO players willingly backed up with Hahn to the movement's starting point. And to the audience's pleasure, she returned with a fire that ignited the piece.

Not that things were going badly. In fact, Hahn expertly handled the challenges presented by Higdon's tough-on-initial-listening work. The first movement, "1726," seemed to play with sound more than it committed to forward motion, putting Hahn in the position of coaxing impressive but unpleasant sounds from her instrument. The second, calmer movement was a relief but not a distinct or memorable one. The final, "Fly Forward," seemed to shake off any ties to its predecessors and, instead, offer its soloist a series of challenges that, post-mulligan, Hahn not only reached but exceeded, leaving questions as to how much of the thunderous reaction of the audience was for the work rather than the violinist.

An appreciative Hahn, expressionless through most of the work, embraced the reaction and rewarded the crowd with two solo encores, the Prelude to Bach's "Partita in E Major" and Schubert's "Erlking." Both were jaw-dropping not only to the audience but also to the mesmerized orchestra players. Their bliss was tangible.

The key idea of "To Kill a Mockingbird"—you don't hurt the innocent—is also one of the key challenges to writing about Indiana Repertory Theatre's production of the show.

I could dodge the issue and just write about the trial scene that takes up the majority of the second act. Here, the players shine, particularly Melissa Fenton as an intense, sad, feral Mayella Ewell and Frederick Marshall as a knowing judge (one of a trio of memorable roles he plays). As Atticus Finch, Mark Goetzinger avoids archetyping and, instead, shows us the smarts and the sadness and the humanity of being a savvy lawyer and good man who knows even his best efforts won't lead to triumph. The story is played out on yet another smart, functional, attractive Robert Koharchik set, which, in its paint-peeled textures, avoids being literal while effectively serving as both a courtroom and a rural streetscape.

But anyone with previous knowledge of Harper Lee's classic novel or Robert Mulligan's impeccable film, knows that the story—a big, adult story—is filtered through the eyes and sensibility of a kid. If you don't love her, laugh with her, and ache for her, a vital window to the tale is closed. That is the challenge any production of the play faces.

The character, in the book, is between 5 and 9 years old. Those are some small shoulders to carry the weight of a play. So I'm sympathetic. And I'll move on.

• The Phoenix Theatre presents "The Seafarer" through Feb. 28. For more information, call 635-PLAY or visit www. phoenixtheatre.org.

• The Indiana Repertory Theatre presents "To Kill a Mockingbird" through Feb. 21. For more information, call 635-5252 or visit www.irtlive.org.

The Phoenix Theatre's production of Conor McPherson's "The Seafarer," playing through Feb. 28, has much to recommend it, including a commanding performance from Rich Komenich as the demanding, recently blinded Richard, a richly detailed set from James Gross, and well-modulated pacing that I'll credit to director Erik Allen Friedman.

There's also the script, by hot playwright Conor McPherson, a talent adept at creative meandering and whose stories get from point A to point B as directly as that of a drunken man trying to cross a road in a windstorm. He lets the characters live, not following a route to pre-planned revelations, and if they are sometimes maddening, they are also by turns—and often simultaneously—funny and moving.

With five inebriants weaving their comments, observations and stories together, the plot can't help but take a back stool. But these side trips, not the familiar deal-with-the-devil framework, are what make the land-locked "Seafarer" worthwhile.

Ultimately, there are two things I can't shake from the Phoenix production, one negative and one positive.

The first is the frustration that the main character's fate isn't determined by his own choices or actions. Passivity can take its toll on even the best of buildups, and I wanted Sharkey (Doug Johnson), a man attempting redemption, to somehow have some say in his outcome.

The second element—actually two elements—are Sharkey's eyes. Beyond world-weary, they reveal not just a life lived hard, but, more important, the impossibly thin bridge between unthinkable regret and nearly unimaginable hope. They start and end the production on just the right, haunting notes.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Hiking blocks to an office after fighting traffic is not logical. Having office buildings around the loop, 465 and in cities in surrounding counties is logical. In other words, counties around Indianapolis need office buildings like Keystone, Meridian, Michigan Road/College Park and then no need to go downtown. Financial, legal, professional businesses don't need the downtown when Carmel, Fishers, North Indy are building their own central office buildings close to the professionals. The more Hamilton, Boone county attract professionals, the less downtown is relevant. Highrises have no meaning if they don't have adequate parking for professionals and clients. Great for show, but not exactly downtown Chicago, no lakefront, no river to speak of, and no view from highrises of lake Michigan and the magnificent mile. Indianapolis has no view.

  2. "The car count, THE SERIES, THE RACING, THE RATINGS, THE ATTENDANCE< AND THE MANAGEMENT, EVERY season is sub-par." ______________ You're welcome!

  3. that it actually looked a lot like Sato v Franchitti @Houston. And judging from Dario's marble mouthed presentation providing "color", I'd say that he still suffers from his Dallara inflicted head injury._______Considering that the Formula E cars weren't going that quickly at that exact moment, that was impressive air time. But I guess we shouldn't be surprised, as Dallara is the only car builder that needs an FAA certification for their cars. But flying Dallaras aren't new. Just ask Dan Wheldon.

  4. Does anyone know how and where I can get involved and included?

  5. While the data supporting the success of educating our preschoolers is significant, the method of reaching this age group should be multi-faceted. Getting business involved in support of early childhood education is needed. But the ways for businesses to be involved are not just giving money to programs and services. Corporations and businesses educating their own workforce in the importance of sending a child to kindergarten prepared to learn is an alternative way that needs to be addressed. Helping parents prepare their children for school and be involved is a proven method for success. However, many parents are not sure how to help their children. The public is often led to think that preschool education happens only in schools, daycare, or learning centers but parents and other family members along with pediatricians, librarians, museums, etc. are valuable resources in educating our youngsters. When parents are informed through work lunch hour workshops in educating a young child, website exposure to exceptional teaching ideas that illustrate how to encourage learning for fun, media input, and directed community focus on early childhood that is when a difference will be seen. As a society we all need to look outside the normal paths of educating and reaching preschoolers. It is when methods of involving the most important adult in a child's life - a parent, that real success in educating our future workers will occur. The website www.ifnotyouwho.org is free and illustrates activities that are research-based, easy to follow and fun! Businesses should be encouraging their workers to tackle this issue and this website makes it easy for parents to be involved. The focus of preschool education should be to inspire all the adults in a preschooler's life to be aware of what they can do to prepare a child for their future life. Fortunately we now know best practices to prepare a child for a successful start to school. Is the business community ready to be involved in educating preschoolers when it becomes more than a donation but a challenge to their own workers?

ADVERTISEMENT