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BWW Review: APPOGGIATURA Explores Love and Grief in Venice at the Indiana Repertory Theatre

BWW Review: APPOGGIATURA Explores Love and Grief in Venice at the Indiana Repertory Theatre Music and plot are so closely intertwined in Appoggiatura, that you can't mention one without the other. Even the title reflects this, it means: a grace note performed before a note of the melody and falling on the beat. The play, part of a trilogy written by playwright-in-residence James Still, follows three travelers on a sojourn through lovely Venice. On their journey they wander the canals finding pieces of their hearts as they go. The city feels like one of the main characters in the story. As one actor notes, "Venice is as old and broken as the rest of us.".

Like most of Still's work, the show is not driven by plot, but instead it focuses on the characters' interaction and self-discovery. There's Helen (Susan Pellegrino) whose forced optimism hides the tender memories of her own honeymoon in Venice. Helen's granddaughter Sylvie (Andrea San Miguel), for whom the confusing maze of Venice reflects her current feelings about life and love. Finally there's Aunt Chuck (Tom Aulino) a cranky gentleman feeling discombobulated by his new surroundings.

The trio are connected through their shared devotion of Gordon, a man who recently passed away and left them all mired in their grief. It's amazing to me that grief simultaneous unites and isolates us. We can feel connected by a shared loss, but we all grieve in such distinct ways. It's often hard to see through our own pain. Casey Hoekstra provides comic relief and Italian wisdom in the form of the tour "guider" Marco. He's the outsider in the group, but reminds us that heartbreak needs no translation. Peter Amster directs this symphony, pulling all the stories together to present a powerful meditation on grief and love.

Lee Savage's set design manages to transport us to Venice without ever leaving the Midwest. Towering three-story set pieces move on the stage to create narrow streets through the city. A turquoise, reflective floor mimics the water, and a gondolier even makes an appearance. The effect is enchanting. I can't forget to mention the three musicians: Paul DeBoy, Andrew Mayer, and Katrina Yaukey. They make an appearance in almost every scene and provide live music to enhance the Italian ambiance.

The other two plays in the trilogy, The House That Jack Built and Miranda, were both produced by the Indiana Repertory Theatre as well. They all work as stand alone productions, but the main characters are part of the same family. Appoggiatura gives IRT audiences a chance to celebrate the two decades of work done by Still at the theatre. One of his first Indiana-based plays, Looking Over the President's Shoulder, opens next week on the Upperstage.

Don't Miss the Show

The Indiana Repertory Theatre is located at 140 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, one-half block west of the Circle Center Mall between northbound Illinois St. and southbound Capitol Ave. "Appoggiatura" runs until March 31 on IRT's Main Stage. Times for performances can be found at or by calling the IRT box office at (317) 635-5252. To purchase tickets call (317) 635-5252 or order online at

*Photos courtesy of Zach Rosing

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