Review: “Spring Cleaning”

On Valentine’s Day evening, my sweetie and I sat in the cabaret space of Theatre on the Square for their production of Spring Cleaning, eight short one acts. Each play was penned by an Indiana author. The production, sponsored by the Rachel McGeever Fund, is a touching tribute to one woman’s former love and support of the arts. Though the production quality was low, the acting was amateur, and the scenic design was very basic, Spring Cleaning is a perfect example of the opportunities that ought to be afforded more to Indianapolis artists. I loved every minute of it!

The Rachel McGeever Fund was founded by the Wing Arts and Humanity Fund. Rachel and Pat McGeever, members of Indy Playmakers, had a wonderful life together sharing and supporting Indianapolis performing arts. After Rachel McGeever was diagnosed with incurable cancer, she shared her worries with family friend, Donna Wing, that her husband Pat would stop writing, a love of his that provided a great emotional and artistic outlet. Even during her illness, Rachel continued to avidly support the Indy Playmakers and theatre across all of Indianapolis. When she died in January of 2007, Donna Wing helped to established the Rachel McGeever Fund, which would produce a biannual presentation of plays by Indiana playwrights. Spring Cleaning is the second production mounted in honor of Rachel McGeever, since her death three years ago.

One woman’s passion and love of theatre and Indianapolis theatre is still alive, endorsing the passion and love of theatre artists across Indianapolis. The playwrights on stage at Theatre on the Square have very limited opportunities to be seen by the public, to hear their words in other peoples mouths and to receive feedback from audiences and critics. What a lovely chance to be a part of the betterment of Indianapolis culture by engaging with Hoosier artists taking a risk and putting their work out in the world. Congratulations to all involved!

In two acts, Theatre on the Square shares eight short plays. Four in the first act and four in the second. Eight plays by five playwrights directed by two directors and staring ten actors in twenty four roles. What a way to spend two hours! The staging of each play aligns more closely with a workshop, rather than a full scale, production. Minimal scenic design consisting of only the necessary props created eight different functional playing spaces. Though the scene changes were a bit long, the business was clearly choreographed, with actors working in ensemble to make changes happen. The costumes reflected the same utilitarian amateurish look, clearly pulled from closets and costumes stocks.

The first play, Pandora’s Other Box by Robert Morse was a sketch of a comedy troupe attempting to get psychiatric help. A cute idea not fully realized by the actors, who worried more about coming up with bits than with listening to each other. In a ridiculous cacophony, five different actors gave one note performances. Regardless, the playwright’s idea shined through, and with a little more work on focusing plot and motivation, could easily be very entertaining.

Alice Caroline’s Making Friends was next. In it a poor crazy woman holds up a business man in a park. Ken Ganza and Marty Essig played the man and woman. Together the pair had fun, what more can you really ask for? The plot was crazy and unexpected in a good way, though it did begin to ramble towards the end. Backed by decent performances from Ganza and Essig, the idea of the story came through, garnering some whole-hearted guffaws from the entire audience.

Beneath the Water Lilies by Madge Dishman was a well written romantic farce. In it a couple exchanges gifts for their anniversary. The young Daniel Earle paired nicely with Butler University grad Catherine Nadig. Though their chemistry was lacking and their performances verged on shallow, the show was sweet and silly overall. This short burst of romantic comedy kept the mood very light, as Dishman showed real writing prowess.

The Tragedy of McCain by Greg Ellis closed out the first act. Written to mimic Shakespearean language, complete with rhyming couplets, The Tragedy of McCain was an attempt at political satire a la Macbeth. The language was extremely hard to follow, but it is unclear whether the fault lies with the actors or the writer. Regardless, this political farce had a twist that is guaranteed to make Indianapolis people chuckle.

Act Two began with Pat McGeever’s Confiteor. This drama set in turn of the century Ireland was the first really strongly written offering. However, the script became quickly bogged down by Irish accents, rudimentary staging and lagging cue pick ups. Overall the direction lacked clarity, and the performances (through heartfelt) fell flat, causing the plot to suffer.

Next up was Robert Morse’s A Dream Fulfilled. This quirky yet dark comedy centered on the sweet yet misguided character Gene Curry, whose habit of speaking in the third person had me in stitches. Jim Trofatter as Gene Curry had a superb look of bewilderment throughout his performances in Spring Cleaning. His casting as Gene Curry was near perfect. Though the play was sweet, it dragged, again a result of lagging cue pickups.

Three Letter Words by Madge Dishman wins my vote for favorite script in Spring Cleaning. A daughter faces the charge of dealing with her ailing mother at her father’s funeral. The performances were fairly strong, especially Pat McKinley as the mother and again Marty Essig as a concerned neighbor. Dishman’s script was definitely a three letter word: S-A-D. This touching story was a sweet and melancholy look at what happens when children must care for their own parents.

Last but not least was Nasal Hygiene by Pat McGeever. McGeever’s fun and silly script set in a failing Indianapolis salon presents the latest innovation in pampering one’s self: Nasal Hygiene. The quartet of actors peopling this script had fun, and so did the audience as McGeever suggested a gross and engrossing topic for discussion.

For additional information about Spring Cleaning visit Theatre on the Square’s official website. Theatre is important to the cultural welfare of this city. And supporting local playwrights, directors, actors and designers is even more important. The biannual production by the Rachel McGeever Fund is an admirable reminder of this important fact.

Make your outing in Indy complete with a trip to any of these great Indianapolis restaurants or Indianapolis bars. Located with prime Indianapolis real estate in the Indianapolis cultural district, Mass Ave, Theatre on the Square is close to everything in Indianapolis downtown. Stay tuned to Fun City for all the latest on fun things to do in Indianapolis. We cover everything from Indianapolis art to Indianapolis sports and more!

Spring Cleaning
Now through February 21, 2010

Theatre on the Square
627 Massachusetts Ave
Indianapolis, IN 46204