Handily directed by accomplished actor Zachariah Stonerock, Ayres’s gripping play incorporates themes of honesty, bullying, personal accountability, retribution, and redemption. It tells the story of Beemer, an elder-care worker, who is assigned to work with Bill Harrison, a curmudgeonly, 79-year-old former wrestling coach, legendary for turning out champions at the local high school. It is not long after the two meet that Beemer realizes Harrison was his coach, which immediately triggers his intense resentment for the man who bullied him when he was a 15-year-old. Confronting his cantankerous former tormentor for being outright “mean,” Beemer sets out to turn the tables on his nemesis and proceeds to give him a taste of the same toxic medicine Harrison fed him and other wrestlers during his tenure as a coach. The results are often jarring.
Playing the adversarial roles effectively were well-known actor Mark Goetzinger, as the unrepentant, macho coach Harrison, and Jamaal McCrary, as his damaged, former charge, Beemer, now comfortable in his own skin. Both actors were impressive in portraying their character’s deep disdain for one another, creating a tension that was highly discomforting and even spellbinding at times.
Standing out in a supporting role as Milford, a police detective who plays a key role in the story, was character actor, Adam Crowe, with his signature booming voice, who once again conveyed formidable stage presence.
Completing the cast was Michelle Wafford as Harrison’s daughter Kim, who is frustrated at her father’s inability to cooperate with his caregiver, and Olivia Mayer, who plays Anna, a despondent, troubled teenager, who Beemer takes under his wing.
The compact Basile Theatre proved to be the ideal space for this gem of a show, with mostly furniture and no sets, produced by Catalyst artistic director Casey Ross. Creating a lighting scheme that aided in visualizing multiple locations was talented designer Kairon Bullock.
The only negative regarding the show was its meager attendance. The show deserves a full house to experience the excellence of the script, acting, and direction of the production. Among the fortunate few in attendance were Frank and Katrina Basile, for whom the theatre is named. Following the play, the three of us agreed that seeing “Lanista” was time well spent.
There are four more chances to see “Lanista” this weekend, July 7, 8, 9, and 10. For tickets and showtimes, visit indyfringe.org.