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Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre
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The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

by Rita Kohn
January 2, 2011
Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre
9301 N. Michigan Road
Indianapolis, IN 46268
317-872-9664
3 stars

Continues through Jan. 30, 2011.

This review was originally published in NUVO Newsweekly, Indianapolis, IN.

Rita Kohn is a member of the Board of the Dance Critics Association.
Q: What's the most fun way to define and spell "vulnerability"?

A: An evening at Beef & Boards experiencing the 2011 season opener deftly directed by J.R. Stuart and choreographed by Doug King as a cross between "Saturday Night Live" and Edgar Lee Master's "Spoon River Anthology."

Six overachieving teenage misfits representing schools from around Putnam County vying for the trophy and $200 and a shifting number of questionable mature adults flash themselves in and out of past and present and reality and fantasy worlds to present a mosaic of characters whom you carry away, even though their revelatory songs aren't hum-able. The fast moving production features among its non-stop "shtick" a show stopping production number covering the gamut from acrobatics to Zen ("I Speak Six Languages"), a touching dysfunctional family portrait ("The I Love You Song"), insightful self-analysis ("I'm Not that Smart" and "Woe is Me"), and a daringly off-color admission ("Chip's Lament"). With updated touches (hand sanitizing at the top of the show) and references to local events, this decade-old Tony-award winning play blatantly offends and then turns around to make a couple of telling points about winning or losing, fitting in or being on the fringe, meanness and compassion. In the end, you recognize this testosterone, angst-ridden, interlude of pandemonium serves up an insightful slice of life. Bravo to the 3-piece combo, scenic, light, sound and costume designers, and the audience members willing to join the zany antics on-stage. The fine cast includes: Tiana Checchia*, Jayson Elliott*, Paul Hansen, Sarah Hund*, Dominic Sheahan-Stahl*, Kiyo Takami, Seth Tucker, Licia Watson*, and Daron Lamar Williams.

* = Equity member
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