Nothing sounds more banal than a play set in a small-town city county meeting, right? But when it is written by actor-playwright-screenwriter Tracey Letts, best known for the Pulitzer and Tony winning “August: Osage County (2007), and presented by the intrepid American Lives Theatre, you know it will be an experience that is anything but pedestrian. Directed by ATL founder and artistic director, the 90-minute (sans intermission) comedy-infused drama that opened Thursday at the Phoenix Theatre Cultural Centre and runs weekend through Feb. 11.
The play which premiered at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago in 2017, is set the fictional town of Cherry Tree. The seemingly routine council meeting depicts a group of elected officials who address items on the agenda which include discussion of a special event called “The Lincoln Smack Down,” and its History Heritage Festival which highlights an incident in which a white girl was captured by Native Americans, the town’s original inhabitants. Later, the meeting, which on the face it appears innocuous, turns dark in a way that is unexpected, if not completely shocking. For fans of surprise-filled story lines that are thoroughly unpredictable, Lett’s comic drama has special appeal.
The cast features a well-oiled ensemble of some of Indy’s most well-known actors that include Suzanne Fleenor (Ms.Innes), Chuck Goad (Mr. Carp), Scot Greenwell (Mr. Hanratty). Ian Cruz (Mr. Blake) and Paige Robinson (Ms, Matz). The seasoned company of superb actors, each of which has their own moment in the spotlight, also consists of Josh Ramsey (Mr. Peel), Stephen Roger Kitts II (Mayor Superba), Susannah Quinn (Ms. Johnson), (Raymond Kestor (Mr. Breeding), Tristan Ross (Mr. Assalone), and Len Mozzi (Mr. Oldfield). Like Lett’s tragicomedy “Osage County,” this group of mostly eccentric characters is similar to those of the dysfunctional family who engage during a tumultuous dinner party in Act 2.
Standing out was Mozzi as dotty Mr. Oldfield, Robinson as clueless, “over medicated” Ms. Matz and Goad as principled Mr. Carp.
In regard to the show’s top notch production elements, they feature the work of widely admired costume designer Anthony James Sirk and lighting designer Tim Dick. They are among the finest craftsmen in local theatre and their creativity is unmatched.
During an era when the history of the marginalized has been sanitized by those invested in revisionism, is being restored to factual accuracy. “The Minutes,” is relevant, timely and appropriate. Theatre, which has always been in the vanguard of social and political change, and specifically ATL is to be applauded for its recognition of those brutalized for centuries. In the bigger picture of local theatre in general, The Phoenix Theatre and Indiana Repertory Theatre are to be commended for their recognition, in printed programs, of Indiana’s Native tribes, such as members of the Miami, Potawami, Delaware nations upon whose land we all now reside. It is only right and necessary that history be told as it actually transpired for those whose voices were silenced.
For tickets and information about “The Minutes” visit phoenixtheatre.org