Phoenix and B&B score big

 

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End Days

Phoenix Theatre

Directed by Bryan Fonseca

Through Feb. 3

End Days may be about a weirdly dysfunctional family that finds its soul by waiting for the Apocalypse together, but this play, part of a rolling world premiere at the Phoenix Theatre, has heart: It’s engaging, funny as hell and even touching.

Sylvia, the mom, is best buds with Jesus. He brings her coffee while she holds prayer vigils outside XXX stores. Arthur, the dad, has survivor’s guilt and can’t get out of his bathrobe: He escaped Sept. 11 with his life while all his co-workers died. Rachel, their daughter, has adopted a Goth lifestyle in order to keep people away: “I hate happy,” she says. Nelson, a new kid in Rachel’s class who dresses like Elvis, ambushes the family with pure optimism, helping the healing to begin.

The dialogue is snappy and the characters well-formed. The cast, under Bryan Fonseca’s direction, is excellent. Nelson, played by Matthew Van Oss, is a sweet, lovable geek of a teen who needs index cards to prompt him into proper conversation and combines singing the Torah with Elvis’ pelvis. Arthur, played by Bill Simmons, is the picture of detached depression: Face sprawled on the table in sleep, he can’t be roused to buy food for his family, and has no idea what cereal his 16-year-old daughter ever ate. Sylvia, played by Martha Jacobs, is disturbed in her own way: Her fanaticism is frantic and frightening to her family. Conversely, Matthew Roland as Jesus, and later as Steven Hawking, Rachel’s own delusion, is the picture of serenity, and he does a great impression of Hawking. Finally, Phebe Taylor as Rachel captures the grit of a confused teen just trying to make sense of her family, her upbringing and the world.

An exceptional show, End Days continues through Feb. 3 at the Phoenix, 749 N. Park Ave. Tickets are $25, or $15 for those ages 24 and under. Call 317-635-PLAY or go to www.phoenixtheatre.org.

Run for Your Wife

Beef & Boards

Directed by J.R. Stuart

Through Feb. 3

Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre opened its 35th year with the British farce Run for Your Wife last weekend. But before looking at the show, here are a few pieces of B&B trivia in honor of its anniversary. Did you know: When B&B was built in 1973, the 465 beltway wasn’t even finished; B&B was part of a chain; famous actors who have taken the B&B stage include Don Ameche, Adam West and Cesar Romero, among many others; meals were catered until 1981, when the first in-house chef was hired; musicians who have performed at B&B include Tina Turner, The Smothers Brothers, Jan & Dean, Carol Channing, Ray Charles, Chubby Checker, Donny and Marie Osmond and many more; and the theater’s biggest show to date is Cats, which was staged in 2004 and sold 27,000 tickets? Neat.

Run for Your Wife maintains B&B’s legacy of entertainment. The zany, slapstick comedy about a man who is married to two women who don’t know about each other is consistently funny, and even had the audience, myself included, in stitches many times. Directed by J.R. Stuart, the cast keeps up the British act convincingly (only Adam Crowe’s accent seems to be missing). Eddie Curry as the ubiquitous John Smith is spot-on, literally throwing himself into the show almost as much as his hilarious sidekick, Jeff Stockberger, who gets hit in the head with a duffle bag and thrown to the floor on several occasions. Of course, Curry does ingest a newspaper; that’s dedication to your art. Sarah Hund plays the sweet wife while Jill Kelly is the kittenish one, and Michel Haws and Crowe are fine as the police agents. Sean Blake as upstairs neighbor Bobby, though, is an absolute riot! He steals every scene he is in, chewing scenery as an effeminate, flamboyant homosexual.

Funny stuff: Run for Your Wife continues through Feb. 3. Tickets are $33-$55. Call B&B, 9301 N. Michigan Road, at 317-872-9664 or go to www.beefandboards.com.

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