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Two local theaters offer contrasting entertainment experiences

Lawrence Pressman & Paige Lindsey White in "Other Desert Cities"
Lawrence Pressman & Paige Lindsey White in "Other Desert Cities"
Zach Rosing

On any given weekend there are a wide variety of performing arts experiences available in central Indiana, running the gamut from serious to comic and everything in between. This past weekend was no exception, as evidenced by a musical comedy seen Friday titled “Bomb on the Bus, a Speedy Musical” presented by Q Artisty at the Irvington Lodge, and a play attended Sunday at Indiana Repertory Theater called “Other Desert Cities.”

"Bomb on the Bus"
Q Artistry

“Bomb on the Bus”

Q Artistry’s artistic director, Ben Asaykwee, produced and directed this adaptation of the 1994 action film “Speed,” starring Sandra Bullock, Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper and Jeff Daniels.

Paige Scott, who wrote the book and music for “Bomb on the Bus,” took significant liberties in this parody of the “Speed” script, so much so that upon seeing “Bomb on the Bus,” don’t be disappointed if the show doesn’t match the plot of the movie. It’s a straight up farce about which Asaykwee, in a program note, says: “This is a musical about a bomb on a bus. Just laugh and don’t over think it.”

The set for “Bomb on A Bus” is a structure on which most of the show’s action takes place. It is painted to look cartoonish. Resembling the bottom half of a bus, it protrudes from the elevated stage area, on which secondary action takes place. The show is held in the ballroom of the historic Irvington Lodge which serves as the home for Q Artistry, one of Indy’s most intrepid community theaters.

The cast, all of whom were talented comic actors, included Logan Moore (Jack), Carrie Morgan (Annie), David Ruark (Walter Payne), Clay Mabbit (Harry/Josie), Kristie Heintz (Helen), Pat Mullen (Spencer), Tiffanie Bridges (Pam) and Brian G. Martz (Ortiz). Each member of the ensemble exhibited flawless timing as they delivered Scott’s wacky dialogue and performed sturdy vocals while rendering Scott’s absurd lyrics and archetypal but solid music score.

Accompanying the performers was a band of musicians that included conductor Michael Block on piano, Tim Barratt on bass and Becca Carter on drums.

Standouts were Ruark as Walter, the diabolical terrorist who threatens to blow up the bus by remote control unless the bus passengers can answer questions in a trivia game he oversees.

Moore is hilarious as half-witted Jack, the clueless hero cop who shoots his own boss during a hostage situation.

Heintz is amusing as the timid, odd-duck passenger, Kristie, who is partial to wearing sweaters adorned with kittens and works at an occupation one would never guess.

Bridges is hysterical as brash and territorial Pam whose kingdom is the bus she drives which ultimately becomes a careening weapon.

“Bomb on the Bus” was funny, ridiculous, over-the top entertainment featuring a mad-cap cast of characters played by actors who clearly enjoyed playing against one another. There is nothing thought provoking about it, and if you want mindless, tickle your funny bone diversion, this show’s for you. Get your tickets soon though, because the show only runs one more weekend, Friday, April 4 and Saturday April 5, with both performances starting at 8 p.m.

For tickets and information about Q Artistry’s “Bomb on a Bus,” call (317) 677 – 5317 or visit www.qartistry.org.

“Other Desert Cities”

If it’s thought provoking theater that you prefer, then don’t miss “Other Desert Cities.” Though it opened March 12, Examiner.com finally was able view it Sunday. The play, by Jon Robin Baitz, directed by IRT playwright-in-residence, James Still, continues through April 5, so see it before it closes.

Other Desert Cities” premiered Off-Broadway and was later transferred to Broadway in 2011 and was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2012.

Playwright Baitz, who was the creator of ABC’s comedy-drama “Brothers & Sisters,” which ran for five seasons starting in 2006, knows a thing or two about dysfunctional families—their interpersonal relationships, their conflicts and the secrets they sometimes carry.

The richly entertaining story which balances comedy with intense family interaction centers on liberal Brooke Wyeth (Paige Lindsey White). A resident of Sag Harbor, N.Y., she returns home after six years, to Palm Springs, Calif., on Christmas Eve, 2004, to visit her Republican parents Lyman Wyeth (Lawrence Pressman) and his wife Polly (Anne Allgood). Also present is Brooke’s young brother Trip (Will Mobley) and Polly’s sister Silda Grauman (Robin Moseley).

Brooke, a young novelist, announces that she’s written a tell-all memoir which promises to unearth a family tragedy that her prominent family fears will expose them to unwanted press and public scrutiny. Deep wounds are reopened, accusations made and betrayals are uncovered as Brooke’s family processes her decision to publish—an action that threatens to tear them apart.

Making the most of Baitz’s critical commentary on American culture and politics with its often sharp and biting dialogue was this production’s stellar cast.

White is superb as the emotionally fragile but self-absorbed writer, determined to share her point of view about a traumatic event in her family’s past that she hopes will help her to move forward.

Allgood’s characterization of strong-willed conservative and controlled Polly, the all about appearances, rigid family matriarch who counts Nancy Reagan as a friend, is thoroughly riveting—such are the skills of a seasoned actor who makes it all look so effortless.

Pressman, whose credits encompass performances on Broadway and roles in scores of regional productions, but who is best known for his role as Dr. Benjamin Canfield on TV’s “Doogie Houser, M.D.,” is also impressive as former movie star and Reagan era U.S. Ambassador Lyman Wyeth, whose daughter’s book threatens to demolish his carefully constructed image.

Mobley convincingly plays Brooke’s younger brother Trip, a television producer. He sticks up for his parents as he confronts his sister, who feels victimized by them, about her self-centered behavior and refusal to take responsibility for her own part in the family’s dynamics.

Moseley is excellent as Polly’s smart aleck but likeable sister Silda, a recovering alcoholic fresh out of rehab whose ardent liberalism clashes with that of her sister and brother-in-law who protect and support her despite the fact that she derides and criticizes them.

A sixth character of “Other Desert Cities” is scenic designer Ann Sheffield’s spectacular set which features the minimalist living room of the Wyeth’s mid-century modern desert home. Effectively capturing the ambience of Palm Springs wealth, it also speaks to the values of its occupants and their privileged status.

For tickets and information regarding Indiana Repertory Theater’s “Other Desert Cities,” call (317) 635 – 5252 or call www.irtlive.com.

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