"Indianapolis Civic Theatre; directed by Robert J. Sorbera
Civic’s fine production of an old favorite, directed by Robert J. Sorbera, brings humor and poignancy to aging, family relationships and sense of place. Ernest Thompson’s 1979 Broadway sensation is in its third reincarnation: film in 1981, on television in 2001 and Broadway revival in 2005. On the Civic stage, Bernard Wurger, a master of simultaneous physical hyperbole and nuance, is a delight in the opening scene. For a full three minutes, without spoken word, we get to know more about Norman Thayer than our own neighbors. His wife Ethel, portrayed with the right pinch of spunk by Robina Zink, is also the right soul mate for this curmudgeon. Annette “Missie” Hirsch is at turns loving, defensive and taciturn as their daughter Chelsea. Jack Dynes weaves a winning Billy, the son of Chelsea’s new boyfriend, Bill Ray. Ray gains our sympathy in the hands of Tobin Strader as he struggles with Norman’s barbs. Charlie Martin, as the affable postal carrier Parrish Williams, is a counterpoint to Norman, but also a portrait for a way of life central to why audiences continue to fill the seats. Memory of 28 years ago may be suspect, yet it seemed that the original longer script allowed more space for developing the relationships between Norman, Chelsea and Billy. Ryan Koharchik’s set and lighting, Jean Engstrom’s costumes, Michael J. Lasley’s sound design and Joanne Johnson’s deft stage management add to the enjoyment. Through Nov. 18; 317-923-4597, www.civictheatre.org. —RK"""