Theater Review: ‘Indian Blood’ — a memory of teen-age years in Buffalo

By Edith McCauley
Theater Critic

Rockford’s Artists’ Ensemble presents A.R. Gurney’s memorable story of a teen-ager, his family and the difficulties faced during that transitional period of life. Patterned on Gurney’s own memories, we soon understand the puzzling title. Indian Blood refers to a story told by his grandfather. The family heritage gives Eddie (Michael Palmenderi) the perfect excuse for outrageous behavior. Everything can be blamed on his “Indian Blood.”

John Chase is Eddie’s teacher, Mr. Kenyon, who confronts him with the drawing that is causing all the problems. Later, Chase appears as Uncle Paul, a confirmed bachelor still living with his mother, played by Jessica MacDonald. Susan Gosdick and Stephen F. Vrtol III are Eddie’s parents, and Jim McCance is his grandfather.

From Chicago, this is McCance’s first appearance at AE. Seemingly the only sensible one in the family, he lends an air of sanity to the disparate group. Carolyn Cadigan plays several roles and displays Patte Armato Lund’s wigs to great advantage.

Eddie’s nemesis, his cousin Lambert, is played by Andrew Harth. Both he and Palmenderi received their theater training at Rockford College. AE’s relationship with the college gives students an excellent opportunity to pursue their careers with a professional company.

Gurney’s work requires the audience to use their imagination. In Sylvia, the story of a man and his dog, the dog is played by a human actress. Much like Our Town, the current production uses no sets or props. Six chairs and a piece of paper provide the only objects to represent members’ place and setting.

The cast meets the challenge of Gurney’s work beautifully. His words and stage directions make the story a reality. Richard Raether directs. He says, “It was a pleasure to direct this talented cast in this lovely Christmas memory play.”

The company continues with Gurney’s work for a benefit for Rockford College Feb. 10, 2012 (8 p.m.), Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012 (8 p.m.) and Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012 (2 p.m.) at Maddox Theatre with Linda Abronski and Stephen Vrtol reviving the memorable Love Letters. Tickets are $25. Call (815) 226-4100.

It is always so much fun to attend the performances of Artists’ Ensemble. Seeing old friends and renewing those friendships is a joy. For more about the current show, which runs through Dec. 18, call (815) 904-2277, or purchase tickets online at

From the Dec. 7-13, 2011, issue

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