Wednesday, April 14

The Phoenix Theatre: Yankee Tavern

The difference between art and entertainment, according to my former professor of theater appreciation, is that art broadens your thinking, entertainment merely amuses you. Others have likened it to the difference between healthy and junk foods.

I believe both are correct and would like to state that sometimes a spoonful of sugar truly does help the medicine go down. Mine comes in the form of Jessica's Magic Cookie Bars at The Phoenix Theatre's snack bar. Purchasing a couple of her baked goods is an absolute must for every one attending a performance at Indy's off-Broadway theater. Hey, we all support the arts however we are able, and the proceeds benefit the theater.

Yankee Tavern, another Stephen Dietz play, opened at Phoenix, 749 N. Park Avenue. You will remember my fondness for IRT's version of Dietz' Becky's New Car. This piece is set in a NYC tavern near Ground Zero, post 9/11.

Bar regular Ray, who is depressed and lives in the abandoned upstairs, is portrayed by Stephen Hunt, and is the over-the-top-everything-is-a-conspiracy personality. The tavern’s owner is graduate-student Adam, played by Shane Chuvalas.
Chuvalis comes into his own strengths in this play, giving a solid performance as the guy who has secrets of his own, as well as demons to deal with concerning his father's death.
Hunt turns in a superior performance as the emotional conspiracy zealot. The interpersonal exchanges between Chuvalas and Hunt are, by far, the best quality in this show, with these two actors keeping the flow of the show zipping along. Dietz' speedy dialogues are part of his gift and finding actors able to keep up the pace is a big plus.

A bothersome point is when Ray, who up to this point believes all conspiracy theories, doesn't believe Palmer, played by Doug Johnson, when he offers a hard-to-believe theory. It’s a little out of character and rather noticeable, at least to me.

The extra story lines, Adam's father, the wedding plans, and a couple of others, tends to misdirect the focus and muddies up what could have been an exciting ride. The thrill and momentum is lost a little when an affair is brought into the mix and ghosts of the tavern are discussed.

However, the ins and outs are less important than the final message in this work. It brought up excellent points and caused one to reconsider a few others.

Bottom Line: Yankee Tavern should be seen so as to create a need for answers in each of us and to reopen questions we asked ourselves on 9/11 and immediately afterward, but left unanswered and forgotten.

Looking ahead: I will be attending the 17th Annual Stutz Artists Open House Friday and Saturday, 1060 N. Capitol Avenue.

If you have an event, performance or restaurant you would like reviewed, please send an e-mail to Me, I'll be right here, thinking about my favorite conspiracies.

*All photos are courtesy of Julie Curry Photography
This post was originally published under "Gotta Go" in the West Side Community News in Indianapolis, and the West Indianapolis Community News.

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