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Theatre Review of "Holes" presented by the Indiana Repertory Theatre.

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  1. 1. HOLES<br />A Professional Theatre Review by Elizabeth Luper<br />
  2. 2. The Program<br />The program was actually a booklet that contained many pages. Here are just a couple of them—the front cover and the cast list.<br />
  3. 3. The Story of Holes<br />The play “Holes” is based on the book of the same name by Louis Sachar. The story is about Stanley Yelnats, a boy whose family is mysteriously cursed with bad luck. Because of this curse, he finds himself sentenced for a crime he did not commit and sent to work at Camp Green Lake—digging holes to “build character.” It soon becomes apparent that the Warden of the camp is not as interested in building the character of the inmates as she is in finding a hidden treasure—one that is linked back to Stanley’s own ancestors.<br />
  4. 4. The Story of Holes (continued)<br />The story involves many flashbacks of the past. It goes back to Latvia where Stanley’s ancestors reveal the history of why they were cursed. It also takes us back to the history of Green Lake, when it used to be a town on a lake instead of a dry desert. The tale traces the story of a young white teacher who falls in love with a black man. The town disapproves of this relationship and kills him. The teacher becomes an outlaw—the infamous Kissin’ Kate Barlow. One of her victims is Stanley’s grandfather, and it is his treasure that the Warden is looking for.<br />
  5. 5. Theme: Fate and Destiny<br />Director David Bradley’s vision in directing his play centered around the idea of the way the past decisions of those in our lives impact us, and how we can turn around and make other choices that impact our futures and the futures of others. In the program, he quotes a friend of his as saying, “Fate is what you are given, destiny is what you make of it.” That is the theme of this play—fate and destiny.<br />
  6. 6. Style--Abstract<br />David Bradley chose to use an abstract style to bring the story to life. The many flashbacks and plot complications are all portrayed with simple sets. He uses elements of non-realism in his play, such as symbolism by mixing characters from time periods in the same scene, and by having characters functioas narrators to move the story along. The issues addressed in the play, however, are real, such as racism and bullying.<br />
  7. 7. Structure and Genre<br />Structure: “Holes” follows a climatic structure. It starts far into the plot of the story; chronologically near the end of it. The whole length of the story encompasses generations and is told through the play in flashbacks.<br />Genre: It is classified as a comedy, but there are some tragic elements in it as well. The scenes where Sam is killed because he is a black man who fell in love with a white woman were an unexpected shock in the middle of a comedy.<br />
  8. 8. The Indiana Repertory Theatre<br />My husband and I watched “Holes” on Saturday, November 6, at the Indiana Repertory Theatre in Indianapolis, Indiana. The IRT is in it’s 39th season. It is one of the top theatres in the region and was recognized as Indiana’s “Theatre Laureate” in 1991 by the General Assembly. The IRT employs over 100 workers and produces ten shows per year. Currently it occupies the historic Indiana Theatre which was built in 1927. It has three performance areas—the Mainstage, Upperstage, and Cabaret. The production of Holes was performed on the Mainstage.<br />
  9. 9. The Mainstage<br />Our seats<br />The Mainstage is a combination of a thrust stage and a proscenium stage. The floor is rounded like a thrust stage with a semi-circular seating arrangement, but it is framed in like a proscenium stage.<br />
  10. 10. Mechanical Stage<br />Holes utilized a mechanical stage. The set contained corrugated metal walls that could be extended across and dropped from the fly loft, and then pulled back out of sight. These were used for indoor scenes. There were peach tree branches in the fly loft that were lowered during the scenes in the town of Green Lake. A conveyer belt ran across the width of the stage. This was used to bring in sets for scenes, such as a pool table, the Warden’s living room, and the back-end of Mr. Sir’s truck. It was also used rather like a treadmill when the characters needed to walk somewhere. Another part of the stage was a lift in the middle where various elements appeared out of nowhere, and then disappeared as needed, such as Madame Zeroni’s porch.<br />
  11. 11. Mechanical Stage: The Holes<br />The floor of the stage was brown with a scratchy- looking pattern. Towards the back of the stage, it was built up slightly with real holes. Towards the front of the stage, there were two additional holes, but these holes were square and were actually trap doors. These trap doors were closed during scenes that did not take place out on the lake where they were digging so the actors could walk across them. When Stanley, Zero, and the others would start to dig with their shovels, they would slowly open, revealing the holes.<br />
  12. 12. The Holes, continued<br />This play relies on many flashbacks to the past to fill in the history of Camp Green Lake and Stanley’s ancestors in Latvia. Many of these flashbacks utilize the trapdoor holes in front of the stage. While Stanley is talking about his no-good, dirty rotten, pig-stealing great-great-grandfather, ElyaYeltnats(Stanley’s great-great-grandfather) and other characters from the past pop in out of the holes and intertwine their own story with Stanley’s. Elya even carries a pig across the stage, right across the desert lake through where Stanley and the others are digging their holes.<br />
  13. 13. Lighting<br />The lights are used extensively to portray different scenes. In the desert, orange lights are directed onto the stage, and the textured pattern of the brown stage looks just like sand. When the scene changes to the old-fashioned town of Green Lake, the lights shining on the floor change to green, and the textured pattern looks amazingly like grass instead of sand. Again, when Sam and Katherine sail away in Sam‘s boat across the lake, the lights change to blue, and the stage floor looks quite like water, complete with ripples.<br />Lights are also used to create the passage of days. When Zero and Stanley walk across the desert, they walk on the conveyor belt (so they basically are walking in place) and the lights shine on the back wall, showing sunrise, day, sunset, night, and then repeating several times to show how long they walked.<br />“I have always found that location changes on stage, in front of our naked eyes, have the potential to be more exciting, invigoration, and even athletic.”<br />--Lap Chi Chu<br />Lighting Designer<br />
  14. 14. Sound<br />There was no sound amplification. All of the actors had to project their lines and they did very well at that. Even though my husband and I were sitting in the back, I was able to hear every word. There were sound effects throughout the play. Some of the dialogue was pre-recorded and played, such as when the judge sentenced Stanley for stealing the tennis shoes. It was much louder than the dialogue of the actors.<br />
  15. 15. Costumes<br />The boys at Camp Green Lake are dressed in orange jumpsuits. The Warden wears jeans and cowboy boots, as does Mr. Sir. The characters from the town on Green Lake are dressed in period clothes, such long flowing dresses and bonnets for the women. Stanly’sLatvian ancestors wear multi-colored ethnic clothes.<br />
  16. 16. In this scene, the Warden examines a gold lipstick tube that belonged to the infamous Kissin’ Kate Barlow that Stanley unearthed while digging holes.<br />
  17. 17. Katherine Barlow meets Sam, who comes to town to sell his sweet, miracle onions that he grows in his secret garden on God’s Thumb.<br />
  18. 18. The Acting<br />The actors all did a very good job. I could tell they were professionals. Often they portrayed different actions without the use of props, but they were so believable that the props were unnecessary. For example, when Stanley was on the bus on the way to camp, there was no bus, just a platform with benches. The driver pretending to have his hands on a steering wheel that wasn’t actually there. When the boys dug the holes, there was no dirt on the shovels—essentially, they were shoveling air. But they bent their backs and flexed their muscles and lifted the shovels as if they were full of heavy dirt. <br />All of the actors were very good. The younger actors—especially Zero and Magnet, were a little bit stiffer, since they didn’t have as much experience as the older actors, but they still did an outstanding job. There wasn’t any of them that I felt did a bad job, and I couldn’t pick out which ones were the best, either. They made an awesome team.<br />
  19. 19. An Example of a Creative Scene<br />One of the scenes that really stood out to me was when the ElyaYelnats got married, had a son (the first Stanley) and the son grew up. All of this was portrayed symbolically. Elya’swife danced onto the stage, twirling a long, green scarf. She wrapped the scarf around Elya and kissed him. As Elya narrated his own story in second person, his wife folded up the scarf and cradled it in her arms like a baby. Elya talked about how they had a child, Stanley Yelnats the First, and how he grew up and left home. At his point, the actor who has been playing Elya all this time transformed into Stanley, all grown up. There was no costume changes and no one left the stage—in fact, he just continued narrating the story as Stanley instead of Elya. To help the audience understand this character change, Elya’s wife took the scarf that had represented baby Stanley, unfolded it, and draped it around Stanley’s neck protectively, signifying that her baby was all grown up and leaving home.<br />
  20. 20. The Audience’s Reaction<br />We saw the play on the last day it was showing, and the theatre was packed. It was full of families with children. I was a little concerned that we wouldn’t be able to hear, because we were way in the back and some of the kids were very young and noisy at first. But when the play started, everyone hushed up and listened. During the intermission, I heard some of the kids discussing whether or not Zero was going to die in the play. They seemed to enjoy it, although you could just about feel the shockwaves through the audience when Trout Turner declared that God would judge Sam and Kate for kissing each other, and then again when Sam was murdered. Even though I had watched the movie and read the book and I knew what was going to happen, I must admit I cried a little.<br />
  21. 21. Another Theatre Review<br />The Indiana Repertory Theater opened its 39th season with “Holes.” Originally a young adult book by Louis Sacher, the story was turned into a movie in 2003. Now brought to life on IRT’s stage, audiences can see in the story of Stanley Yelnats unfold in person.A teenage boy is wrongfully convicted of a crime and shipped off to a correctional camp in the middle of the Texas desert. There he meets an odd collection of misfits who spend each day digging holes in the desert.The set is an impressive feat. It takes a particular talent to turn an intimate stage into an expansive desert filled with deep holes. It also has to accommodate a pick-up truck, couch and boat moving on and off during various scenes. Scenic Designer Robert M. Koharchik managed to design something that worked beautifully, giving the feeling of limitless space despite the restrictions.Ben Tebbe and Jennifer Johansen, both regular IRT players, are wonderful as Stanley’s doting parents and in the many other roles they took on throughout the show, including Stanley’s grandfather and Kissin’ Kate Barlow. Newcomer Mauricio Suarez was also a delight as the soft-spoken Zero. He brought a quiet intensity to the role and I look forward to seeing him perform in future productions.If there’s one show this season that would appeal to teenage boys, this is it. It has adventure, outlaws, stinky sneakers and treasure. And for boys, you can’t go wrong with that combination of elements.<br />Review by Melissa Hall, blogger for Stage Write.<br />
  22. 22. What I Would Have Done Differently<br />This play was a masterpiece, so it was difficult to find areas that I would have done differently. The only thing I can really criticize is the sound effects. The ones they had were good, but there were places that needed a sound effect that didn’t have any. When the Warden slapped Mr. Sir (or scratched him—I wasn’t really sure which) he fell to the ground in pain, but I never heard a slap. She could have just gently wiped his face for all I knew. I would also liked to have heard some water running when Mr. Sir filled the canteens. Overall, I really enjoyed the play. My husband was amused at me, because after the play I kept saying over and over, “That was so cool! That was really, so, so, cool!” <br />