Theater Review | Thru Oct. 26 He Held Me Grand, the newest play by James Still to grace the Indiana Repertory Theatre stage, is a beautiful work. It"s the kind of piece that makes your heart hurt in a pleasurable way Ö it makes an unwed girl wonder if anyone is ever going to get down on one knee for that daydreamed-of proposal, and it makes her miss her daddy.
The company of the IRT production of James Still's He Held Me Grand
IRT playwright in residence Still (also author of last season"s Looking Over the President"s Shoulder and February 2000"s Amber Waves) interviewed senior citizens in Indianapolis and Malvern-Philadelphia for inspiration for this family/love story. April, oldest of four children and in her 80s, has been having an Internet relationship with a fellow senior, screen name 2Old4U. All in one day, her long-lost grandson, her two out-of-town sisters and 2Old4U show up on her doorstep. Add to the mix her next-door neighbor/best friend Grace and her daughter, as well as her roommate brother who lives in the past and a host of dead characters dating back to 1899 who lurk in the shadows. April is played by longtime IRT favorite Priscilla Lindsay, who is just as delightful here as always. April, even though she is brother Pete"s caretaker and Grace is always nearby, is alone. Her husband is dead and her son was killed in Vietnam. What"s more, she has always lived in the same house she was raised in. When she finally reaches out for something she desires - love - her sisters are horrified. May (Jacqueline Knapp) loves to discuss ailments and aches; she is a recent widow still grieving over the man she built her life around. Knapp"s May is serviceable, but not as interesting as June and Grace. June (Jan Lucas), the youngest sister, lost her lover in WWII and has traveled the world ever since, searching for closure. June is the wild one, saying that she was always "the drunkest." Lucas plays her well-traveled character with just the right amount of humor and hubris. Cathy Simpson"s Grace is a riotously sassy woman! Her lines are executed impeccably. Pete, christened August and played by Jonathan Gillard Daly, perpetually relives his memories, getting in everyone"s way and keeping the comedy flowing. Fleshing out the family is Jesse, played by Ryan Artsberger, grandson to April. He walks through the story with a mystified look- appropriate, as this young man is confronted by an extended family that he doesn"t quite know how to take, and memorabilia from a father he doesn"t remember. Hold tight during the opening sequence - it seems obscure but most of it will make sense by the end of the show Ö a show that has two intermissions due to its almost three-hour runtime. I believe Still had so much good material to work with, shaving the script was a delicate process, and hence we get the proverbial kitchen sink. But the three hours isn"t a tedious experience. Blocking is a bit cluttered at the end and the extras in the background are somewhat distracting, but these are not major issues. Set in another of the IRT"s striking sets with time-sensitive costuming (Russell Metheny and Gail Brassard, respectively), this is a result of love"s labor. He Held Me Grand, directed by David Bradley, continues through Oct. 26. For tickets, $29-$44, and information, call 635-5252 or go towww.indianarep.com