INDIANAPOLIS -- If you love Lucille Ball, there’s a two-hour excursion you may want to take in this Valentine’s Day weekend that travels back in time into the comedienne’s world of TV comedy.
Running through Sunday at Old National Centre in Indianapolis, “I Love Lucy: Live on Stage” works hard at capturing the tenor of the original show as well the era surrounding the 1951-57 black-and-white series.
The stage production -- of course it’s in color -- takes the audience inside the Desilu (Desi Arnaz-Lucille Ball) studios where “I Love Lucy” was filmed. Two shows, “The Benefit” and “Lucy Has Her Eyes Examined,” are re-enacted as are many of the advertisements that aired (Alka Seltzer and Brylcreem for example). That concept is stretched out for about one hour and 50 minutes without intermission. It leaves behind some pleasant reminiscing and light-hearted chuckles.
The four main performers are about as dead-on to the original characters as possible. Joanna Daniels captures Ethel Mertz with warmth and a fitting snippiness. Bill Mendieta is playful with Ricky Ricardo’s Cuban accent. Kevin Remington rounds out the cast as Fred Mertz; a vaudeville performance by Fred and Ethel is captivating.
As Lucy, Sirena Irwin goes through all the transformations we expect. She captures that whining voice Lucy would give Ricky when she wanted something. Irwin dons the walk of a true TV star when she talks off-screen. And she does a lively, physical jitterbug, even when she can barely see following an eye exam.
Two sets are used: the couple’s New York apartment and Ricky’s nightclub. During pauses, about a dozen performers re-enact TV commercials and backstage banter. The tone of the play certainly feels like its the 1950s but, let’s be honest, we may have memories of the TV shows being far funnier.