Of the 64 diverse shows listed on the 2015 IndyFringe Festival schedule, atombash.com can report on the following eight. Creators of some of the shows are locally known commodities, others were unknown out of towners and a few were chosen due to word of mouth. Here are some snapshot reviews.
“Speedthru”—Firefighter’s Hall – Friday, Aug. 21, 10:30 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 22, 7:30 p.m.
Kate Homan and Matt Anderson play multiple characters in this amusing farce written and directed by Jeremy Grimmer. Presented by ElecticPond Theatre Company, the premise of this comedy is a command performance by a theater group’s board of directors requiring two actors to do a run through of two-hour “The Importance of Jeff,” a (fictional) play by Oscar Wilde. The challenge for the two is that they have to perform it without the rest of the cast. The trick here is that to fit the Fringe show time length the performance was limited to 45 minutes. There was lots of broad comedy, costume changes, sight gags, mugging and general mayhem. The actors deserve props for memorizing pages of dialogue and transforming as much as they do. Though it’s at times very funny, the joke wears thins as quickly as the lighting speed delivery of the dialogue.
“Underneath the Lintel”—Indy Fringe Basile Theatre – Saturday, Aug. 22, 9:00 p.m.; Sunday, Aug. 23, 1:30 p.m.
If you love language, and tour de force acting, “Underneath the Lintel,” performed by Minneapolis-based actor Pat O’Brien, is a show you won’t want to miss. Written by Glen Berger, the award-winning play features a solo character, The Librarian, who makes it his mission to find out who returned a library book that is 113 years old. An unclaimed dry-cleaning ticket in the book along with a note written in the margin of it are clues that take him on a world-wide and historical journey which leads him to discovering that the items are related to the mythical Wandering Jew. O’Brien interpreted his hyperactive character with so much intensity that he was soaked to the bone with sweat by the time he completed his bravura performance of this thinky play that explores the purpose of life and other weighty matters.
“Holy Ficus”—Theatre on the Square Main Stage – Thursday, Aug. 20, 8 p.m.; Friday, Aug. 21, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 22, 4:30 p.m.
Zach Rosing Productions, whose “The Great Bike Race” was a huge hit in last year’s Fringe, scores again with its charmingly funny musical “Holy Ficus.” Written and directed by Zack Neiditch, who also fulfilled both roles in “Bike Race,” the story centers on kind and endearing Rod (Tim Hunt) who is in love with a Ficus plant named Martha. Upon her mysterious disappearance Rod goes on a quest to find her, searching Heaven and Hell to reclaim his lost love. Along the way he encounters a whole host of deliciously comic characters, including the Devil, God, and some seniors playing bingo who impart lessons about love. Featuring original music and lyrics by major talent Paige Scott, who is also a member of the show’s well cast players, “Holy Ficus” is, thus far, this writer’s favorite Fringe show.
“Bromance”—Theatre on The Square Stage Two – Saturday, Aug. 22, 4:30 p.m.; Sunday, Aug. 23, 1:30 p.m.
Tommy Nugent and Kurt Fiztpatrick, of Farewell Tour Productions, play stage persona versions of themselves in this comedy that explores their “bromance,” a pop culture buzz word that describes deep platonic friendships between heterosexual men. The title would have one presume that the primary theme of the show is intimacy between straight men which can either be easy or awkward depending on how secure each party is with himself. But as it turned out, Fitzpatrick, who is the more animated of the two, and Nugent (who formerly performed as Rev. Nue) spent the majority of time sharing their experiences as performers on the Fringe circuit. Utilizing multi-media which was often funnier than the show’s material, Fitzpatrick, making fun of himself, detailed his less than distinguished television career, placing special emphasis on a bit part on “Law and Order” in which he appeared for mere seconds. A scene during which the two reveal their feelings towards one another near the show’s conclusion was the best part of this commentary on male bonding. It’s too bad more time wasn’t spent on the sometimes awkward dance that affection between two hetero men can be.
“Velour”—Marott Center – Saturday, Aug. 22, 3 p.m.
This show was chosen on the basis of its description in the Fringe program which promised a story about an aspiring lounge singer and his “side-splitting stories, spirited songs and amazing audience-chosen variety acts.” Unfortunately, “Velour,” written and directed by Kevin Halladay, did not even come close to meeting that description. Halladay also played Vinnie Velour, the title character, as well as Todd Gordon of the Todd Gordon Agency. Jesska Pinyon played Lux Lame, the manager of a performance venue. Both performers deserve an A for effort. Unfortunately, neither Halladay nor Pinyon possess the acting chops to pull off what might have been a funnier script in the hands of more experienced performers.
“Cabaret of Puppetry”—Firefighter’s Union Hall – Saturday, Aug. 22, 4:30 p.m.; Sunday, Aug. 23, 4:30 p.m.
This writer’s second favorite show was “Cabaret of Puppetry,” presented by Peggy Melchior, Debbi White and Heidi Shackleford of Peewinkles Puppet Studio. Visible, except for a few instances when they were manipulating sock puppets, the three artists who operated the handcrafted full size puppets or marionettes were masterful. So much so that it was easy to ignore them and focus on the puppets they brought alive. Presented as a variety show, some of the acts included puppet facsimiles of Michael Jackson (who even did MJ’s signature moon walk), Cher, Elvis and Diana Ross, with each lip synching and moving to hit songs of each of those icons. One of the funniest acts was a full scale puppet depicting a Parks Department Official performing to a recording of Tom Leher singing “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park.” An audience favorite was a sexy worm made from a feather boa that crawled out of an apple and slithered across the floor before making her way out to the audience where she crawled to flirt with various audience members. An opera singer, a Can-Can and a belly dancer filled out a program that was as captivating and it was thoroughly entertaining.
“I Am Not Gay”—Marott Center – Thursday, Aug. 20, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 22, 9 p.m.; Sunday, Aug. 23, 3 p.m.
Matthew Baron wrote this drama, directed by Amanda Grube, about a conservative Indiana Senator, Bobby (Russell Lee Watson) who “doth protest too much” as he struggles with his sexual identity as a gay man. Bobby is also conflicted about his feelings for his loyal wife, Margaret (Kerra D. Wagener), who he loves, and his male assistant, George (Aaron Cleveland), with whom he is also emotionally involved. Complicating matters is a scandal that erupts and threatens his political career when a rent boy comes forward to reveal their illicit relationship. Playing a world wise confidant to both the Senator Bobby and his assistant George was Daniel Klinger as Billie Joe, a bartender in a gay bar. Certainly timely in this post RFRA era of homophobic right wing politicians and their hypocrisy, “I’m Not Gay” offers insight and humor to make its point. While the production suffered from uneven performances and shabby stagecraft, the script itself made for a vehicle that could prove informative for anybody struggling with their acceptance of LGTBs or with their own sexual orientation.
“An Indian Comedian: How Not to Fit In”—Firefighter’s Union Hall – Thursday, Aug. 20, 6 p.m.; Friday, Aug. 21, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 22, 7:30 p.m.
Probably one of the most difficult forms of entertainment is standup comedy and Krish Mohan, who was born in India but immigrated to the U.S. as a child, showed he was more than up to the challenge in an act that showcased not only his offbeat personality but also an intellect that is sharp as a razor. Saying that the most frequent question he gets asked is “How did you get here?,” Mohan covered topics such as race, sex, religion, politics, adjusting to American culture as an immigrant and even physics. Peppered throughout Mohan’s monologue were plenty of f-bombs, but delivered in such a manner that they came off innocuous. Like any comedian, some of Mohan’s jokes fell short, but one certainly could not dispute that he is a thinking man’s comedian and an astute one at that.
IndyFringe tickets are $15 for Adults, $12 for seniors/students and $8 for children under twelve. Purchase tickets online at indyfringe.org up to two hours before each performance or by phone at (317) 616-8558 or (317) 478-7848 with credit card. Venue box offices are CASH ONLY. Programs are available at the IndyFringe Festival office located at the Broken Beaker on 643 Massachusetts Avenue which is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.