Arts & Entertainment, etc. and Indianapolis Opera and Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and Indianapolis Museum of Art and Tobias Theatre

IMA, $3 Bill, symphony and opera deliver drama, comedy, fine music

May 25, 2009

This week, challenging work at the IMA, an impressive operatic collaboration, and laugh-out-loud silliness.

Stunningly beautiful and infuriatingly smug, isolating and compelling, baffling and smart, "Rape of the Sabine Women" is, in theory, the anchoring work of the Indianapolis Museum of Art's current "Adaptation" show.

I say "in theory" because, unless you plan carefully and seek it out, you might not even find it.

The 80-minute film by artist Eve Sussman and a group known as the Rufus Corp. is an updating of and reaction to the episode in early Roman history when, the story goes, male soldiers abducted women from the Sabine tribe in order to populate the city. (While the rape of the story's title is commonly thought to mean kidnapping, the film includes a disturbing but not overtly graphic sequence of sexual assault.) Set vaguely in the '60s, it begins coldly in a museum, ends with a provocation-free battle in an amphitheater and, in between, delivers a parade of remarkably controlled and composed images ... that could well put you to sleep. Stay awake, though--and avoid looking too hard for narrative threads--and the experience has many rewards.

The fact that you could visit the IMA and a) not even notice that the "The Rape of the Sabine Women" is part of the show or b) not pre-plan enough to time your visit to the beginning of the film, points to the challenges of long-form video art in a gallery setting. The makeshift screening room is hidden around a corner. Once you find it, you still have to go through two curtains and around a dark corner. Given the logistics, I would be surprised to hear that more than a few people a day are seeing the work from beginning to end.

Just a few months ago, I reported on the first sketch comedy revue by local group $3 Bill at the ComedySportz Theatre on Mass Ave.

Blink.

Now the company is on its fourth such original revue, and being prolific isn't the only reason to admire them. Big, big laughs arrived in the latest show, "Facetweet," courtesy of smart sketches that included a scene set at an Indy 500 restaurant (a little predictable, but hilarious nonetheless), a skewering of Jared ("the galleria of jewelry"), a kids-party-from-hell featuring "Mr. Tickleman," a justified blast at Fandango.com, and a wide range of Facebook- and Tweet-based humor. Watch out for stalactites, brush up on your Burgess Meredith trivia, forgive a few sketches that don't quite know how to end, and enjoy.

A greedy troll. Water-logged hotties. A pair of building contractor giants. A magic invisibility helmet. There are more fantastical characters and crazy plot devices in three hours of Wagner than in an all-day Dungeons and Dragons game. You'd be forgiven if you confused Wagner's Ring cycle with "The Lord of the Rings."

On May 15 and 17, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra joined forces with the Indianapolis Opera for the first-time-in-Indy performance of "Das Rheingold," the first part of Wagner's Ring epic. With on-stage orchestra, minimal staging, and projected video images as backdrop, the production did justice to the music while staying wonderfully unintimidating.

At the Sunday performance, Greer Grimsley, in imposing voice as Wotan, seemed uncomfortable in his minimalist surroundings, as did Elizabeth Byrne as Fricka (the formalwear costuming gave an unwanted dinner-party ambiance to the fantasy proceedings). But Richard Paul Fink as the larcenous Alberich, Adam Klein as a James Woods-ish fire god Loge, and Rod Nelman and John Ames as the giants, adapted well to the non-traditional surroundings.

Mario Venzago, usually the focus of attention during an ISO performance, let the singers have center stage, but his enthusiasm during the curtain calls was infectious. I had high hopes for this ISO/ IO collaboration, but I wasn't expecting joy.

The biggest problem, I believe, is that attendees now will be clamoring for the rest of the Ring, which is unlikely in budget-conscious times.

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