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LOU'S VIEWS: No mystery why IRT closes season with whodunit

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Lou Harry

The mystery/thriller used to be a stage staple. Such populist hits as “The Mousetrap” and “Sleuth” stayed put for long runs in New York and London with audiences looking for little more than fun characters and a few clever plot twists to justify an evening of theater.

They’ve become rare, though, at least in big Broadway houses. Too frivolous to justify the big ticket prices? Best writers migrated to TV and movies? Whatever the case, you don’t find Sherlock Holmes or others of his ilk traipsing around Times Square these days.
 

ae-mainzrp-8899-15col.jpg Among the five suspects in “The Game’s Afoot” is former IRT mainstay Priscilla Lindsay, left. (Photo/ Zach Rosing)

Yet they remain a key ingredient in the regional theater mix, as evidenced by the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s “The Game’s Afoot” (through May 18) … and next season’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” There’s something comforting about these efforts, where there’s a kind of innocence to the murder and mayhem. It’s contained (usually in a stately mansion), the characters are well-dressed, and the evil-doers (usually) punished.

Sure-footed and with no real desire to explore new territory, Ken Ludwig’s “The Game’s Afoot” grafts a fictional mystery onto the real-life character of William Gillette, who played Sherlock Holmes on stage. During the curtain call for one such Holmesian adventure, Gillette (Matthew Brumlow) is shot from the balcony, one in a series of deadly acts that lead to the gathering of suspects at Gillette’s estate on Christmas Eve. (The play’s subtitle, “Holmes for the Holiday,” has been dropped for obvious seasonal reasons.)

Among the suspects/potential victims are his fellow actors, an oddball police detective, a low-life theater critic (aren’t they all?), a pair

of newlyweds (including one who’s also newly widowed) and Gillette’s dotty mother.

Ludwig, best known for the door-slamming farce “Lend Me a Tenor,” is as interested in the comedy as he is in the thrills. And IRT has assembled a cast that gamely complies. Real-life couple Rob and Jennifer Johansen prove particularly nimble as Act II opens. I’ll refrain from revealing specifics, but suffice it to say a weekend at the Gillette estate isn’t far, experientially, from a weekend at Bernie’s.

They’re all playing types rather than rounded characters. Jennifer Johansen’s Daria isn’t far removed from the self-centered actress she played earlier in the season in “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” at the Phoenix Theatre. Matthew Brumlow’s Gillette shows echoes of the actor-ly actor he embodied in the IRT’s “Who Am I This Time?”. Priscilla Lindsay’s Martha might have walked in from “Arsenic and Old Lace.” But Ludwig and Director Peter Amster keep the characters busy enough that there’s little time to notice how paper-thin they’ve been written.

In stage thrillers, context can be as important as character. Here, key accomplices in the show’s success are Scenic Designer Russell Metheny and Costume Designer Tracy Dorman, both of whom anchor the play in rich detail. The revealing of the main set garnered as much clapping as the entrance applause for longtime IRT staple Lindsay, returning to the stage for a visit after four years in academia. Her return is as comforting as this production.
__________

Rarely does a brand-new play—unless penned by playwright-in-residence James Still—find its way to the IRT stage. But thanks to Associate Artistic Director Courtney Sale, the first in what is hoped to be a series of satellite readings of new work took place at Indy Reads Books April 27. The play is Sherry Kramer’s “How Water Behaves,” which concerns an economically challenged couple who stumble into a moral quandary over a fictional do-gooding charity.

Since this was a script-in-hand, free reading of a still-in-development play, it’s not fair to offer a critique of the work. But I will say that the cast—including Josh Coomer, Thomas Cardwell and Lisa Ermel—gamely met the challenge, and the small crowd that gathered seemed fully engaged, although public post-show discussion was not encouraged because the reading pushed against store-closing time.

Sale said she’s hoping to schedule two or three of these next season. I’ll try to keep you posted as they are announced.•

__________

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

The mystery/thriller used to be a stage staple. Such populist hits as “The Mousetrap” and “Sleuth” stayed put for long runs in New York and London with audiences looking for little more than fun characters and a few clever plot twists to justify an evening of theater.

They’ve become rare, though, at least in big Broadway houses. Too frivolous to justify the big ticket prices? Best writers migrated to TV and movies? Whatever the case, you don’t find Sherlock Holmes or others of his ilk traipsing around Times Square these days.
 

ae-mainzrp-8899-15col.jpg Among the five suspects in “The Game’s Afoot” is former IRT mainstay Priscilla Lindsay, left. (Photo/ Zach Rosing)

Yet they remain a key ingredient in the regional theater mix, as evidenced by the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s “The Game’s Afoot” (through May 18) … and next season’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” There’s something comforting about these efforts, where there’s a kind of innocence to the murder and mayhem. It’s contained (usually in a stately mansion), the characters are well-dressed, and the evil-doers (usually) punished.

Sure-footed and with no real desire to explore new territory, Ken Ludwig’s “The Game’s Afoot” grafts a fictional mystery onto the real-life character of William Gillette, who played Sherlock Holmes on stage. During the curtain call for one such Holmesian adventure, Gillette (Matthew Brumlow) is shot from the balcony, one in a series of deadly acts that lead to the gathering of suspects at Gillette’s estate on Christmas Eve. (The play’s subtitle, “Holmes for the Holiday,” has been dropped for obvious seasonal reasons.)

Among the suspects/potential victims are his fellow actors, an oddball police detective, a low-life theater critic (aren’t they all?), a pair

of newlyweds (including one who’s also newly widowed) and Gillette’s dotty mother.

Ludwig, best known for the door-slamming farce “Lend Me a Tenor,” is as interested in the comedy as he is in the thrills. And IRT has assembled a cast that gamely complies. Real-life couple Rob and Jennifer Johansen prove particularly nimble as Act II opens. I’ll refrain from revealing specifics, but suffice it to say a weekend at the Gillette estate isn’t far, experientially, from a weekend at Bernie’s.

They’re all playing types rather than rounded characters. Jennifer Johansen’s Daria isn’t far removed from the self-centered actress she played earlier in the season in “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” at the Phoenix Theatre. Matthew Brumlow’s Gillette shows echoes of the actor-ly actor he embodied in the IRT’s “Who Am I This Time?”. Priscilla Lindsay’s Martha might have walked in from “Arsenic and Old Lace.” But Ludwig and Director Peter Amster keep the characters busy enough that there’s little time to notice how paper-thin they’ve been written.

In stage thrillers, context can be as important as character. Here, key accomplices in the show’s success are Scenic Designer Russell Metheny and Costume Designer Tracy Dorman, both of whom anchor the play in rich detail. The revealing of the main set garnered as much clapping as the entrance applause for longtime IRT staple Lindsay, returning to the stage for a visit after four years in academia. Her return is as comforting as this production.
__________

Rarely does a brand-new play—unless penned by playwright-in-residence James Still—find its way to the IRT stage. But thanks to Associate Artistic Director Courtney Sale, the first in what is hoped to be a series of satellite readings of new work took place at Indy Reads Books April 27. The play is Sherry Kramer’s “How Water Behaves,” which concerns an economically challenged couple who stumble into a moral quandary over a fictional do-gooding charity.

Since this was a script-in-hand, free reading of a still-in-development play, it’s not fair to offer a critique of the work. But I will say that the cast—including Josh Coomer, Thomas Cardwell and Lisa Ermel—gamely met the challenge, and the small crowd that gathered seemed fully engaged, although public post-show discussion was not encouraged because the reading pushed against store-closing time.

Sale said she’s hoping to schedule two or three of these next season. I’ll try to keep you posted as they are announced.•

__________

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

The mystery/thriller used to be a stage staple. Such populist hits as “The Mousetrap” and “Sleuth” stayed put for long runs in New York and London with audiences looking for little more than fun characters and a few clever plot twists to justify an evening of theater.

They’ve become rare, though, at least in big Broadway houses. Too frivolous to justify the big ticket prices? Best writers migrated to TV and movies? Whatever the case, you don’t find Sherlock Holmes or others of his ilk traipsing around Times Square these days.
 

ae-mainzrp-8899-15col.jpg Among the five suspects in “The Game’s Afoot” is former IRT mainstay Priscilla Lindsay, left. (Photo/ Zach Rosing)

Yet they remain a key ingredient in the regional theater mix, as evidenced by the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s “The Game’s Afoot” (through May 18) … and next season’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” There’s something comforting about these efforts, where there’s a kind of innocence to the murder and mayhem. It’s contained (usually in a stately mansion), the characters are well-dressed, and the evil-doers (usually) punished.

Sure-footed and with no real desire to explore new territory, Ken Ludwig’s “The Game’s Afoot” grafts a fictional mystery onto the real-life character of William Gillette, who played Sherlock Holmes on stage. During the curtain call for one such Holmesian adventure, Gillette (Matthew Brumlow) is shot from the balcony, one in a series of deadly acts that lead to the gathering of suspects at Gillette’s estate on Christmas Eve. (The play’s subtitle, “Holmes for the Holiday,” has been dropped for obvious seasonal reasons.)

Among the suspects/potential victims are his fellow actors, an oddball police detective, a low-life theater critic (aren’t they all?), a pair

of newlyweds (including one who’s also newly widowed) and Gillette’s dotty mother.

Ludwig, best known for the door-slamming farce “Lend Me a Tenor,” is as interested in the comedy as he is in the thrills. And IRT has assembled a cast that gamely complies. Real-life couple Rob and Jennifer Johansen prove particularly nimble as Act II opens. I’ll refrain from revealing specifics, but suffice it to say a weekend at the Gillette estate isn’t far, experientially, from a weekend at Bernie’s.

They’re all playing types rather than rounded characters. Jennifer Johansen’s Daria isn’t far removed from the self-centered actress she played earlier in the season in “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” at the Phoenix Theatre. Matthew Brumlow’s Gillette shows echoes of the actor-ly actor he embodied in the IRT’s “Who Am I This Time?”. Priscilla Lindsay’s Martha might have walked in from “Arsenic and Old Lace.” But Ludwig and Director Peter Amster keep the characters busy enough that there’s little time to notice how paper-thin they’ve been written.

In stage thrillers, context can be as important as character. Here, key accomplices in the show’s success are Scenic Designer Russell Metheny and Costume Designer Tracy Dorman, both of whom anchor the play in rich detail. The revealing of the main set garnered as much clapping as the entrance applause for longtime IRT staple Lindsay, returning to the stage for a visit after four years in academia. Her return is as comforting as this production.
__________

Rarely does a brand-new play—unless penned by playwright-in-residence James Still—find its way to the IRT stage. But thanks to Associate Artistic Director Courtney Sale, the first in what is hoped to be a series of satellite readings of new work took place at Indy Reads Books April 27. The play is Sherry Kramer’s “How Water Behaves,” which concerns an economically challenged couple who stumble into a moral quandary over a fictional do-gooding charity.

Since this was a script-in-hand, free reading of a still-in-development play, it’s not fair to offer a critique of the work. But I will say that the cast—including Josh Coomer, Thomas Cardwell and Lisa Ermel—gamely met the challenge, and the small crowd that gathered seemed fully engaged, although public post-show discussion was not encouraged because the reading pushed against store-closing time.

Sale said she’s hoping to schedule two or three of these next season. I’ll try to keep you posted as they are announced.•

__________

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

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  1. The deductible is entirely paid by the POWER account. No one ever has to contribute more than $25/month into the POWER account and it is often less. The only cost not paid out of the POWER account is the ER copay ($8-25) for non-emergent use of the ER. And under HIP 2.0, if a member calls the toll-free, 24 hour nurse line, and the nurse tells them to go to the ER, the copay is waived. It's also waived if the member is admitted to the hospital. Honestly, although it is certainly not "free" - I think Indiana has created a decent plan for the currently uninsured. Also consider that if a member obtains preventive care, she can lower her monthly contribution for the next year. Non-profits may pay up to 75% of the contribution on behalf of the member, and the member's employer may pay up to 50% of the contribution.

  2. I wonder if the governor could multi-task and talk to CMS about helping Indiana get our state based exchange going so Hoosiers don't lose subsidy if the court decision holds. One option I've seen is for states to contract with healthcare.gov. Or maybe Indiana isn't really interested in healthcare insurance coverage for Hoosiers.

  3. So, how much did either of YOU contribute? HGH Thank you Mr. Ozdemir for your investments in this city and your contribution to the arts.

  4. So heres brilliant planning for you...build a $30 M sports complex with tax dollars, yet send all the hotel tax revenue to Carmel and Fishers. Westfield will unlikely never see a payback but the hotel "centers" of Carmel and Fishers will get rich. Lousy strategy Andy Cook!

  5. AlanB, this is how it works...A corporate welfare queen makes a tiny contribution to the arts and gets tons of positive media from outlets like the IBJ. In turn, they are more easily to get their 10s of millions of dollars of corporate welfare (ironically from the same people who are against welfare for humans).

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