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Review: Shame

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3.5 stars

University of Indianapolis Department of Theatre, Ransburg Auditorium, Esch Hall; directed by Jennifer Loia Alexander. During Sunday night's performance, I continually weighed this original college production against a Broadway standard. In retrospect, this comparison was unfair, but Shame, adapted from Nathanial Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter by UIndy professors Pete Schmutte and Brad Wright with David Blomquist, often met and sometimes surpassed the standard. This 17th-century Puritan tale remains compelling for its strange love triangle, in which lust gives way immediately to killing passions like shame and vengeance. The adulteress Hester lives as an outcast apart from her secret lover Reverend Dimmesdale, who spends his days with Hester's plotting husband — he has hidden his identity to prey on the minister's crippling conscience. Songs tend toward simple rhymes and sentimental melodies, but many are undeniably moving, especially the love theme, "Far Away," sung powerfully by Andy Gipson and Arianne Villareal, and the town's harmonic apology to Hester, "She's a Caring Woman." Such stirring tunes are contrasted smartly by dissonant ones reserved for the twisted husband (Robert M. Absher) and accusatory choruses, like the opening, "Shame." More a play with music, Shame has no dance numbers. The chorus and orchestra are lean and the set consists of slanted wooden platforms and hanging wooden slats. Like many Broadway shows, Shame has too many songs, rushing us from one emotion to the next. In most ways, however, UIndy's production has the right Puritanical touch. Through Oct. 30; 788-3251, www.theatre.uindy.edu.

Read a full feature on UIndy's production of Shame on nuvo.net's A&E page.

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