IBJOpinion

LOU'S VIEWS: Going back for seconds … or more

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Lou Harry
Attend a rock, pop or country concert and, chances are, you already know a fair number of the songs. That’s how it works: You go because you’ve been exposed to the material and have liked what you’ve heard. And so have those around you.

Theater is different. Even at an oft-produced show like “Arsenic and Old Lace” or “Guys and Dolls,” you are likely to find a high percentage of audience members who don’t know what’s going to happen next. Even in “Hamlet,” you should give a spoiler alert before mentioning that most of the characters shuffle off this mortal coil before the curtain call.
 

ae-midsummernigh-15col.jpg This “Midsummer Night’s Dream” takes the title literally. (Photo/ Zach Rosing)

I was reminded of that while attending the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (through May 12), where I was surprised and pleased to hear a mixed audience of students and adults react with surprise when they found out where pesky fairy Puck was mistakenly applying magical eye drops. Their joy at Shakespeare’s plot twists added an extra layer of pleasure to an already pleasant production of a show I’ve seen too many times to count (including one earlier this season at Butler University).

Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I love the “Dream” and am happy to re-experience it when I’m in good hands—as I was here.

For those of us who have seen the play before, the IRT’s take still offered some surprises. Director Peter Amster (who has also helmed “Dracula” and “The 39 Steps” here) has taken the title literally: The action occurs not in a faraway fantasyland but in the dreams of a young boy (Ethan Halford Holder), who is silently present through most of the action.

As with most worthy directorial concepts, this one filters the material in interesting ways. The histrionics of the play’s quartet of lovers makes a different kind of sense when seen through the eyes of a pre-pubescent child. The battling king and queen of the fairies echo the conflict he’s overhearing from his own combative parents. Elements in the boy’s bedroom transform into the wider dreamscape—magical flowers take the shape of his Victrola, the play-within-a-play echoes his toy stage. And, in perhaps the production’s smartest move, troublemaker Puck (an energetic if obvious Gerson Dacanay) becomes a doppelganger extension of the boy himself.

(Of course, if you are one of those people who don’t believe William Shakespeare wrote his own plays because of his lack of education, you’ll probably have trouble buying that this kid dreams in brilliantly nuanced lines, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Not that “Dream” needs added concepts. As hundreds of years of theatergoers know, smart casting and brisk direction are the primary ingredients needed to make this soufflé rise.

The best choices here have been made with “the Mechanicals,” the group of characters who are unsophisticated tradesmen crafting an amateur play. Henry Woronicz finds a fun balance of ego and cluelessness for Nick Bottom. Rob Johansen brings sly traces of Tim Gunn into his Robin Starveling. And what a pleasure to see Scot Greenwell, in his IRT debut, shine as Francis Flute, the bellows-mender who, in a wonderful instant, turns cross-dressing farce into the show’s deepest, most tender moment.

While accomplished, other actors seem a bit miscast. There’s an “aw, shucks”-ness about Ryan Artzberger that takes weight away from both his Theseus and his Oberon. Alex Hugh Brown is a lackluster Lysander. And too much work is required to try to make the necessary case that Sarah Price’s Helena is less appealing to her potential suitors than Kelsey Brennan’s unpleasant Hermia.

On the other hand, here’s hoping we see more of Alex Goodrich who, in another IRT debut, makes the seemingly thankless role of Demetrius into one of this “Dream’s” many charms.
__________

So this little white guy gets arrested and thrown into a jail cell with a big black man …

Got your attention? So does “Clybourne Park,” a play not about two guys in a jail cell but seven people (well, technically 14 people—I’ll get to that), trapped in a loop of prejudices, miscommunication and misinterpretation. The jail-cell joke is in there. And so are some other doozies. But who says them and why and the reactions of the others in the room is the source of the comedy and drama in this show, which I also saw on Broadway before its local debut at the Phoenix Theatre (through May 5).

Here, as there, “Clybourne Park” starts off as a comedic sidebar to “A Raisin in the Sun” (but you don’t need to know that play to appreciate this one). In the first act, a white neighborhood in 1959 is shaken by the impending arrival of its first “colored” family. Post-intermission, it’s half a century later and the house has been sold again, this time to a white couple about to demolish it to make room for their new home in what has become an all-black neighborhood.

Bruce Norris’ play gets a more grounded production from the Phoenix than it did in New York, with the absurdist edge of the characters seemingly sandpapered away. That, I would have thought, would make the situation seem even more combustible. But the opposite happens. On Broadway, these seemed like characters who could never connect and much of the humor came from seeing them hopelessly try. Here, Norris doesn’t seem as nihilistic—which makes the play seem less ground-breaking. •

__________

This column appears weekly. Send information on upcoming arts and entertainment events to lharry@ibj.com.

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. Uh, sorry Johnnie, but you are incorrect. Despite the assertions by yourself and various defenders and captains, sports attendance is NOT off significantly at most sporting events in the US. Variances in attendance has been in the range of single digits, both + & - for years now. MLB has had most of its best overall attendance nubers in the last decade, and that trend has been consistent for most major sporting events. The number one issue cited by most fans when asked about attendance is the overall cost of attending. The presence of HD and big screen televisions in home doesn't even register, as a factor for not attending an event. VALUE in the product is the key, and apparently is something lacking in the current ICS. What other explanation is there when with what is routinely touted as the "best" racing on the planet, fans are staying away in DROVES. A "close" title battle into the last event at Fontana, with the "cars and stars" of the ICS, and who showed up? MAYBE 8K. Sorry, but HD TV isn't to blame for that kind of fan apathy.

  2. Do you need finance to establish your business ? Are you interested in getting a loan at 3% from our private company? If so please Email: suntrust_oil@blumail.org

  3. If she was worth the $ the public outcry over direct tv dropping them would have kept them on their dishes as we have seen with other companies. I too quit watching channel 13 after she showed up since I left channel 8 because of her all show rather than production results. When Randy on 8 corrected her she had a big head and incorrectly challenged his correction for pronunciation of a city. Other antics while she matures was too much for me with her very inaccurate forecasts. All the forecasters were predicting rain until Thursday except Chris. They predicted sunny on Thursday but instead of rain until Thursday upon which the sun would finally make it out in full glory Chris was right on the money just as I too predicted looking at the radar on weather.gov. One thing I love about Angela is the fear you can see in her every time it thunders in the winter. It far exceeds the entertainment value of her body language (high heel noise drags, depression, etc) when her forecasts are so incorrect. Her hair stands on end, you have to see it!!!

  4. Good Day, Apply For A Loan I am Mr Fernadez Antonio, a private Loan lender and a cooperate financial for real estate and any kinds of business financing. I also offer Loans to individuals, Firms and cooperate bodies at 3% interest rate We offer any kind of loans. email us via fernadezloaninvest@outlook.com LOAN APPLICATION FORM First name:......................... Middle name:......................... Last name:........................................ Date of birth (yyyy-mm-dd):....................... Gender:........................................... Marital status:................................... Total Amount Needed............................... Loan Duration.................................... Address:.......................................... City:............................................. State/province:................................... Zip/postal code:.................................. Country:.......................................... Phone:............................................ Fax:.............................................. Mobile/cellular:.................................. Monthly Income.................................... Occupation:....................................... Best Regard, Mr Fernadez Antonio.

  5. i will love to share my testimony to you all the people in world i got married to my husband about 2 year ago we start having problems at home like we stop sleeping on the same bed,fighting about little things he always comes home late at night,drinking too much and sleeping with other women out side i have never love any man in my life except him. he is the father of my child and i don't want to loose him because we have worked so hard together to become what we are and have today .few month ago he now decided to live me and the kid,being a single mother can be hard sometimes and so i have nobody to turn to and i was heart broken.i called my mom and explain every thing to her,my mother told me about DR.okoro how he helped her solve the problem between her and my dad i was surprise about it because they have been without each other for three and a half years and it was like a miracle how they came back to each other. i was directed to DR. okoro on his email:okorospell@gmail.com and explain everything to him,so he promise me not to worry that he will cast a spell and make things come back to how we where so much in love again and that it was another female spirit that was controlling my husband he told me that my problem will be solved within two days if i believe i said OK So he cast a spell for me and after two days my love came back asking me to forgive him i Am so happy now. so that why i decided to share my experience with every body that have such problem contact Dr okoro the great spell caster on his email addresses spellcasterforlove@outlook.com

ADVERTISEMENT