IU, Sapphire Co. theater productions falter

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Lou Harry

This week, two attempts at stage bawdiness come up short.

Sapphire Theatre Co.'s first production, an adaptation of Aristophanes' "Lysistrata," has the coolest programs I've seen in a long time. These ring-bound cards feature not just the show's groovy poster and the requisite supportive ads and donor list, but also genuinely funny cast bios, including turn-ons and turn-offs for its sizable company.

These actors, unlike many you'd find on area stages, are paid. Part of Sapphire's mission is to help create an environment here in Indy in which professional thespians can earn "livable wages."

Applause all around for that goal. The more paid jobs there are for actors here, the better the acting pool is likely to become. The launch of a handful of professional theaters over the last few years is a positive sign for the city and, on average, a plus for audience members.

In this case, though, I just wish the actors were given more than a paycheck. Specifically, I wish they had stronger material to work with — material that didn't leave them awkwardly stranded on their minimalist, single-set stage. "Lystrania"' has long been the go-to play for producers who want to demonstrate that anti-war sentiments go back a long way. It's served a similar purpose for feminism. Written in 411 B.C., the play concerns a group of women who band together to stop a war by withholding sex from their warrior husbands and taking over the treasury. Productions around the globe have found ways to make it work for contemporary audiences — often, involving accentuating the sex, which Sapphire purports to do. (Its posters feature an A-for-Adult rating and warning of "sexual innuendo, strong language and heightened states of arousal.) But the alleged raciness of the show—toga raising erections and all—seems neutered. None of what happens on stage is likely to feel even remotely scandalous to anyone who has seen so much as a TBS-edited rerun of "Sex in the City." The result is more like having your aunt tell you a series of dirty jokes, occasionally dropping in a political cliche or two. Fun? No. Insightful? Not really. Awkward? Yep.

The cast is often stuck standing around, with little to do. Some try gamely to make some sort of connection with their fellow performers. Others seem to be just waiting around for their next line.

 It didn't have to be this way. The Circle Centre mall venue serves its purpose. The tech side is professional. And the new company clearly has some smarts behind it. But as liberally adapted by company heads Bonnie Mill and David Orr and directed by Mill, this "Lysistrata" comes across as a mid-level Fringe Fest show stretched to nearly double its ideal size. Yes, I complained last week about the too-short "Macbeth" at Indiana Repertory Theatre. Now it's a too-long "Lysistrata." That's not inconsistency — it's acknowledging that every show has its "fighting weight." This one's about 45 minutes.


Sexuality was also center stage at Indiana University Theatre's production of Andrew Lippa's off-Broadway musical "The Wild Party" (Oct. 24-Nov. 1), based on the Prohibition-era poem by Joseph Moncure March. Key body parts remained covered (barely), but simulated sex proved a core element in this gritty lust-and-violence tale.

The party-throwers are Queenie, a vaudeville dancer, and her lover Burrs, a clown, whose relationship is defined by the quality of their sex. Sparks are meant to fly when prostitute Kate, who has a thing for Burrs, arrives with Mr. Black, a guy who arouses interest in Queenie.

The primary problem is the material itself. Lippas has penned some terrific songs for his "Party." Kate (the suitably harrowing Lovlee Carroll) gets a lively entrance number, "Look at Me Now" and the high-energy dance craze tune "juggernaut" followed closely by "Wild, Wild Party" certainly get the adrenaline flowing. But the show falters when focusing on the main characters, who are richer in March's poem.

The attempt at introspection in songs such as "Maybe I Like it This Way" and the would-be climactic "How Did We Come to This?"are as trite as their titles. Supporting characters are introduced in song, but Lippa's interest in them seems to drop quickly in favor of the ciphers at the center.

Granted, a poem is a tricky thing to biggie-size into a full-scale musical. Don't get me wrong. I'm a believer that source material needs to be just that: source material. If something doesn't work in translating original material to the stage, by all means, make changes. But if you're going to alter a fundamental element —you'd better have a very good reason.

In the poem, the party arises out of a destructive game between Queenie and Burrs. In the musical, it's her attempt to humiliate him after a rape. Big difference. And one that leaves us thinking "Just leave the bastard," instead of compelling us to care about this all-night lust/hate dance.

Still, director/choreographer George Pinney (who also choreographed the Indiana-to-Broadway production of "Blast!") and the ace design team remind us of a key reason theatergoers should frequent college theater: It's where some of our area's most creative professionals do their thing. While I take issue with the writing, the production itself was never short of solidly professional.

Upcoming at IU Theatre: a November "Hamlet," a December "Marisol," a Spring "Oklahoma!" and more. Even bigger news: Legendary composer Stephen Sondheim will be engaging in on-stage dialogue with former New York Times critic Frank Rich in an April event. You can bet I'll be hitting the road to Bloomington a number of times in upcoming months. For IU Theatre info, visit www.theatre.indiana.edu.


This column appears weekly. Send information on upcoming events to lharry@ibj.com. Visit ibj.com/arts for additional reviews, previews and art discussions.



Post a comment to this story

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

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Good Day I am Mr (Victoria Wright) from United state of America, i stayed in NEW YORK, and i have a broke up business, until i found this company email who help me to gain a loan for business,, and now i want to used this short medium to congratulate the below company for the fast and safe money they loan to me without any form of collateral, i loan 500,000USD from the company to save my business and lots more, i saw their mail on the internet, everyone always give testimony for what they did, so i quickly contacted them and they all did everything for me without stress and my money was sent to my account just 3 days later, i was surprise and i feel so glad, now i have a standard business control agent who help me, now i will advice those who need urgent loan to contact him at the bellow email:zenithfirm12@gmail.com

  2. NOTICE:This is to inform the general public that Vampires are real. My name is James Franklyn.,am an agent of vampire,am here to introduce our new world trend to you,a world of vampire where life get easier,we have made so many persons vampires and have turned them rich,you will be assured long life and prosperity,you shall be made to be very sensitive to mental alertness,stronger and also very fast,you will not be restricted to walking at night only even at the very middle of broad day light you will be made to walk.In case you are wildly oppressed by some unscrupulous persons we can still help you fight them.Your protection is assured immediately you join.Just contact the bellow email if you are interested we are here to attend to you anytime you want us. Contact the bellow email for more details. Email:vampirescreed@hotmail.com Sincerely: James Franklyn.

  3. Bravo! Someone else that is willing to speak the truth! Bravo!_____NBCSN is available in almost 2 MILLION more homes than just a few years ago, but Indycar STILL gets less total viewers than it did just a few years ago when NBC took over Versus. Attendance and ratings cratered with the end of season races (just when the title battle got "interesting" HAH!__________And now...new race in Basilia, where Miles celebrated the "rich history" of Indycar racing there. Rich history? What, 7 events in the 100 years of AOW? Yep, some history. Well, at least its an oval. It's not??? Are you kidding me??? Gosh darn road racin furriners.

  4. PURITY RAY LOAN OFFER........ Have you been denied by your banks,or are you in need of of an urgent loan to pay of your bills we are capable of giving loans @ cheaper rate to interested individuals, student, companies and members of the public in need of finance to settle bills, we do offer considerable loans which you can count on. For more information on our various types of loan,then you will have to contact PURITY RAY LOAN FIRM, to help you achieve your desire LOAN APPLICATION FORM TO BE FILLED BORROWERS INFORMATION * Full name:………………………. * SEX * ……………………………. * Country………………………….. * State:……………………………. * Land:…………………………….. * Occupation:…………………….. * phone number:…………………. * Telephone: ………………………….. * Age:………………………………. * Amount needed as loan:……… * Loan Duration:………………….. * Propose of Loan:……………….. * Annual revenue:………………… * Monthly Income:……………….. * Guarantee:………………………. * Payment: monthly or annually Email.....purityrayloanfirm@gmail.com Thank you and God bless Mr Purity Ray PURITY RAY LOAN FIRM we tend to serve you better

  5. Problem: most of the people responding to this article don't know about this service AT ALL! Why? Lack of awareness. This isn't IndyGo. This is CIRTA: might as well be the mattress company because they are asleep at the wheel - something like 3 directors over the last year? Playing with federal grant money is great! This "region" wants commuter rail service, has spent MILLIONS on Transportation studies yet can't even support a commuter bus line? This is largely for suburban riders to get to downtown - not for "service people to work in our hotels and restaurants" ! Get your head out of your backside!! These are professionals, students etc. that don't want to fight traffic, save some money on parking, gas, stress.... if CIRTA would put their federal money into widely promoting the sevive to Greenwood, Fishers & Carmel instead of finding directors and studies - this would be a successful service. Our family uses(d) it daily for the last several years - but the recent uncertainty & now unreliability due to cuts from Carmel has been a problem. Now, costs us an additional $350/month for gas & parking ( $4200/year) plus vehicle wear, service, environmental impact ... YES - this REGION needs this this type of service in order to keep growing and getting the people it needs to fill skilled positions in downtown Indianapolis. Think outside of your own car !!!