Indy Fringe: a consumer's guide 

Through Aug. 31
264 shows; six venues
$10 maximum price (cash only);
Festival badges (one-time purchase) $3
Various free performances

The reviewers for the Fringe guide are Andrew Roberts (AR), Lisa Gauthier (LG), Josefa Beyer (JB), G.C. Cristo (GC), Scott Shoger (SS) and Rita Kohn (RK).

27 Wagons Full of Cotton
Two stars
The Jesus Quintero Studio, Miami, Fl American Cabaret Theater
You can’t enjoy a play that you can’t hear. Due in part to the frustratingly audible rumblings of a cover band’s rendition of “Jessie’s Girl” next door at The Rathskeller, most of the audience had no idea what the hell was going on. The plot-comprehension was worsened by a hasty and nervous delivery of lines. Regardless, the stage action demanded my wishful craving to understand its motif. If you decide to give 27 Wagons a fair shake to deliver its presumed value, be sure to check The Rathskeller’s music calendar first, and make sure you won’t be hearing “Sweet Caroline” softly interjecting itself through the walls during a presumably gripping portrayal of sexual abuse. —AR
Aug. 29, 10:30 p.m.; Aug. 30, 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 31, 6 p.m.

Adventures in Mating
Three and a half stars
Merely Players, Inc., Owensboro, Ky. ComedySportz
When Jeffrey (Kevin Roach) meets his blind date at a restaurant, she is armed with pop quizzes and questionnaires to determine if he is marriage material. Despite his physical bumbling and boyish looks, the unemployed manatee sex expert tries to convince straight-laced Miranda (Rachel Simmons) that he is the dark and dangerous “bad boy” to upset her monogamous plans. The snooty, and therefore British, waiter (Alan Velotta) acts as referee, inviting the audience to direct scene changes. Will Miranda kiss Jeffrey or slap him? The audience decides. Joseph Scrimshaw’s likeable, if stretched, comic sketch is enjoying an open-ended run in Minneapolis and New York City. Here, Roach is super charming and all three players get the most out of references to dreaded locales with exotic names like Terre Haute and Bloomington. —JB
Aug 30, 6 p.m.; Aug 31, 9 p.m.

Alone and Testifying
Three stars

Loren Niem, Minnesota
Theater on the Square Stage 2
Each performance of Alone and Testifying features two men exchanging well-tuned orations premised on a different decade. It is entertaining and engaging, but lacking in any lasting value. The two middle-aged storytellers pull up the ol’ soapbox to spin yarns of personal blight, societal inadequacies and racial tolerance. While each segment seemed to conclude with a cleverly introspective afterthought, some segments failed to captivate audience attention, as they were lost in unnecessary detail and uninspiring motif. Think of a less-angry Lewis Black, passionately discussing his worldly experiences, while accompanied by your coolest college professor, “telling it like it is.” —AR
Aug. 27, 6 p.m Aug. 29, 9 p.m.; Aug. 30, 6 p.m.; Aug. 31, 1:30 p.m.

And He Ran Screaming
Two stars

Theatre Non Nobis, Indianapolis; Theatre on the Square Stage 2
Jeffrey Barnes presents an autobiographical show about growing up gay and Christian. The title comes from the idea that if he could travel back in time and meet his younger self, that self would run screaming from who he will become, because, for young Jeffery, being gay meant eternal damnation. The show is fine for what it is: a confessional piece of theater meant to lend strength to people who are dealing with similar issues. It ends with a talkback session, and it certainly has its funny and poignant moments. It premiered at last year’s Spirit & Place Festival, and Barnes’ other show, Remember Who Made You, is presented at conferences, churches, etc. But in a ticketed theater setting, the material in And He Ran Screaming has been presented many times in more interesting ways. I left the theater with a hot pink feather boa, though, which my cats enjoyed. —LG
Aug. 29, 10:30 p.m.; Aug. 30, 1:30 p.m.; Aug. 31, 9 p.m.

And I Am Not Making This Up
Five stars

Nell Weatherwax, Bloomington, Ind. Theater on the Square Main Stage
Each of Nell Weatherwax’s shows is an original, a mesmerizing blend of physical improvisation and spontaneous monologue. Last Saturday, she created bravely impressionistic images of a pneumonia-induced delusion that nearly drowned her as a child — at least I think that’s what I witnessed. She shifted next to the embarrassing, corrective saddle shoes she wore as a girl and found far more debilitating than the pneumonia. Finally, Weatherwax dove into a series of tense and hilarious scenes about saving college co-eds from suicide and finding her own savior therapist. Through her performances, Weatherwax exposes her deepest self, as in therapy, and yet we are the ones who feel explored, guided and saved. With no mirrors or strings, and nothing up her sleeves, Weatherwax offers proof of a collective consciousness and soothing relief to a grateful audience. —JB
Aug. 29, 10:30 p.m.; Aug. 30, 9 p.m.; Aug. 31, 1:30 p.m.

Andrea Merlyn’s Magic Show: Glamour Redux
Four and a half stars

Taylor Martin, Indianapolis
Phoenix Theatre
Mr. Taylor Martin is a highly skilled showman and his magic and comedy routine is a rare case where neither the magic nor the comedy suffers at the expense of the other. Maybe his greatest illusion is in his portrayal of three distinct female personalities, each as convincing and unforgettable as the next. The first and most endearing of these is the mystical gypsy, Madame Esmerelda Fallendo. The moment she takes the stage, one feels transported to a small town where a vaudevillian troupe has stopped. Beginning with a retelling of the history of the gypsy people, Fallendo establishes the tone for the magical burlesque that follows. Thus begins the journey into the carnivalesque, where Martin’s magic preys upon the audience’s sense of uncertainty until the result is sheer wonder. —GC
Aug. 27, 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 30, 3 p.m.; Aug. 31, 7:30 p.m.

Assholes and Aureoles
Four stars

Interaction Theatre, Inc., Indianapolis Theatre on the Square Main Stage
This ludicrous series of shorts, created by performers Diane Kondrat and Karen Irwin, as well as playwright Eric Pfeffinger, is one of the funniest things you will see at the Fringe Festival. Belly laughs will mitigate the shock you feel over such topics as adults who breast-feed, the sexiness of Chris Hanson (from Dateline NBC’s To Catch a Predator), avoiding rape, role-playing at the women’s shelter, office supplies as sex toys and the N-word. Irwin and Kondrat don’t shirk their roles — they own them, and dare the audience to have a problem with it. At the women’s shelter, Irwin and Kondrat play multiple roles to riotous effect. Come prepared to laugh at things you know are intrinsically wrong. —LG Aug. 28, 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 30, 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 31, 4:30 p.m.

The Babbling Banshee
One star

StarryNight Productions, Indianapolis; ComedySportz
Striving for authenticity should be applauded. But authenticity can and should be sacrificed if it impedes a show. The Babbling Banshee is set in Ireland, and the two actors use Irish accents … thick Irish accents. The kind of accents that are subtitled in documentaries. The story, about a gadabout father and angry son, revolves around drinking and storytelling — the elder O’Brien mainly handles both while his son storms about the bar. The show lacks coherency (not just verbally) and the reason behind the son’s animosity is just unsettling. —LG
Aug. 29, 10:30 p.m.; Aug. 30, 9 p.m.; Aug. 31, 1:30 p.m.

Best of the Blizzard
Three stars

Bloomington Playwrights Project, Bloomington, Ind.
Phoenix Theatre
The Bloomington Playwrights Project brings its unmatched enthusiasm to the Phoenix in Best of the Blizzard, its hour-long show made up of ultra-short sketches. In acknowledging that some of these sketches may not cater to all tastes, the players offer the consolation that “if you don’t like one, it’s already over.” Such lighthearted and self-deprecating humor is at the heart of many of the sketches the troupe presents. One has a disgruntled publishing house employee defending their right to author a book about a fellow employee entitled Jack Burkhead is a Dickhead. Another comically comments on French culture while, at the same time, revealing something about humans and the irrational justifications we often use in order to rationalize xenophobia and hatred. Perhaps the best performance is a soliloquy on the formulaic nature of political propaganda, delivered in an address to the nation that consists of the formula itself. —GC
Aug. 30, 1:30 p.m.; Aug. 31, 9 p.m.

The Birdmann
Trent Baumann, Surfer’s Paradise, Austrailia
Theatre on the Square Main Stage
Editors note: We were unable to get to Baumann’s feats of wonder are delightful: knife-throwing, plastic bag juggling or nostril tea, anyone? Called an odd combo of Houdini, Chaplin and Dada, Birdmann is a surreal circus sideshow that’s all-ages appropriate.
Aug. 27, 6 p.m.; Aug. 28, 9 p.m.

The Caverns
One and a half stars
Brand X Theatre, Indianapolis Theatre on the Square Main Stage
The basic concept for The Caverns is that there are people who have been living in caves for so many generations that the outside world has become a myth. In the caves with them dwell unseen gods. The idea for this play is intriguing, but too skeletal. It has too many abstractions and not enough substance — characters are just vehicles for nebulous ponderings. It is also afflicted by a few flat performances. The choreographed movement — the goddess Ay-Lee (goddess of light) holds the tether of O-Na (god of liberty) and repeats a series of dance-like movements with the rope — was unnecessary. Overall, it seems like the play is trying to be esoteric and profound, but it felt pretentious. —LG
Aug. 30, 3 p.m.; Aug. 31, 9 p.m.

Christmas In Bakersfield
Two stars

Traveling Kurkendall Productions, Ca
Theater on the Square Stage 2
It is a banal turn of events, wrapped in tired language and an unsurprising revelation that America is, in fact, full of dumb white people. The orator tells a story of going to meet his boyfriend’s conservative family over the holidays, in a segregated community in California. Predictably, they make several unintentionally racist and sexist comments, despite their well-meaning nature. The writer’s choice to tell the story as a one-man narrative rather than in a staged portrayal is either bold or lazy, but regardless, it was told with an underwhelming amount of creativity and cleverness. The orator is, however, engaging and animated in his comedic efforts. —AR
Aug. 28, 9 p.m.; Aug. 29, 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 31, 4:30 p.m.

Clown at Work
Three stars

Brent McCoy, Vermont
Theater on the Square Main Stage
Dressed in super-sized jeans, orange suspenders and a hard hart, Brent McCoy is a modern, blue-collar clown, shy and a little saucy, in the vein of Charlie Chaplin or Harpo Marx. His oversized yo-yo (three spinning wheels on one string) got away from him more than once during last Sunday’s performance, but he juggled traffic cones ably, and proved his potential, changing a hanging light bulb while perched on a board, atop a ball, upon a box, using two audience heads for balance. Except in the light bulb finale, McCoy was too tame for me. Still, I could imagine the number of laughs increasing exponentially with a larger, kid-heavy audience — my 10-year-old son loved him. As it was, even adults seemed to enjoy the way he smoothed their hair fondly and begged for kisses. Perhaps it’s ancient clown wisdom that a little affection goes a long way. —JB
Aug. 29, 6 p.m.; Aug. 30, 1:30 p.m.; Aug. 31, 10:30 p.m.

Common Humanity
Two and a half stars

Fireball Dance Theatre, Indiana American Cabaret Theatre
An ambitious, philosophically-driven quest for the purpose of life through words, movement and instant art, the work’s ultimate revelation remains a question. A work-in-process more than a finished performance, the episodes explore a range of emotions, exhibited as much through creative costuming and inclusive casting as through choreography. —RK
Aug. 27, 6 p.m.; Aug. 30, 10:30 p.m.; Aug. 31, 4:30 p.m.

Confessions of a Fringe Technician
Two stars

American Cabaret Theatre
This pale imitation of Kiss Me Kate and Noises Off doesn’t measure up to previous Fringe offerings. Three actors and a technician bandy about the show they’ll bring to IndyFringe, throwing in local references and revealing their individual quirks while “breaking down the fourth wall” at the same time that they’re trying to build it with a mocking script stitched with bits and pieces of bad theater across time. —RK
Aug. 27, 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 30, 1:30 p.m.; Aug. 31, 9 p.m.

Cool Table
Chicago, Illinois
Editors note: We were unable to get to this show for a review. Cool Table’s entertaining short-form comedy sketches have wowed IndyFringe-goers in the past. David Hoppe reviewed them last year and here is what he had to say: “Cool Table’s sketches are to comedy what acid jazz is to music: They start out fast and speed up; the bits don’t finish, they stop. The ensemble brings unfailing exuberance to material that careens between unflinching witness and lazy cynicism.”
Aug. 27, 9 p.m.; Aug. 28, 6 p.m.; Aug. 29, 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 30, 4:30 p.m.

Dr. Goddard and Mr. Angst
Two and a half stars

Lanky Wood Productions, Indiana Phoenix Theatre
This comedy about a pompous psychiatrist and an angry young analysand riffs on one too many clichés drawn from the history of psychology to seem fresh, unless someone seeing wacky things in a Rorschach blot seems original and funny. Patrick Koenig plays things low-key then outraged as Angst, while playwright Larry Manion starts off red-faced and shouty as Goddard, with nowhere to go for the next hour. The script, while often not quite funny, is at least snappy. It’s just that neither character was all that interesting or clever; with Angst playing straight man to Goddard’s arrogant know-it-all turned mad scientist routine, Goddard gets the best lines, but those aren’t nearly as smart or crazy as they should be. Demerits for gratuitous use of an air horn in a small space. —SS
Aug. 29, 9 p.m.; Aug. 30, 6 p.m.; Aug. 31, 1 p.m.

Good Grief, Sidney
One star

Sidney Unlimited, Indiana ComedySportz
Who to blame? There was no program and no credits listed in the Fringe schedule, which (in the cruelest sort of false advertising) features a photo of a sensitive-looking Mediterranean stud, who never appears! According to the Philadelphia Dramatists Center, the playwright is Pat McGeever. His wife really died in 2007 and he really thought it would be funny to write his second play about his horny alter ego taking over his life. Professorial, grey-bearded Walter grabs our hearts for two minutes, describing the emptiness he feels after his wife’s death. Poof! Sympathy vanishes when Sidney appears. Sidney is not a character but a series of physical ticks: grab crotch, wipe nose, caress belly. In affected nasal tones that would makes Sly Stallone blush, he describes his sexual urges in the crudest language. McGeever gives lip service to the need to balance the id and the ego, but here it’s 90 percent id. —JB
Aug. 29, 6 p.m.; Aug. 30, 1:30 p.m.; Aug. 31, 10:30 p.m.

The Honeymoon Suite
Mikelangelo and Undine Francesca, Hobart, Tasmania
Phoenix Theatre
Editors note: Mikelangelo and Undine didn’t give their first performance until after we’d already gone to press, so we aren’t sure what to expect. Billed as “Kabaret Noir,” the show is described as “a collection of brooding, sensual and darkly humorous songs and stories ... [that] take on romance and rock ’n’ roll from behind the iron curtain.” They’re huge in the U.K., for what it’s worth.
Aug. 28, 9 p.m., Aug. 29, 10:30 p.m., Aug. 30, 7:30 p.m., Aug. 31, 10:30 p.m.

Two stars

Carter Productions, Susanne Carter, Milwaukee, Wis.;
Phoenix Theatre
Exaggerated mime-type repetitive movements to six situations relating to a middle-aged woman’s body image fills the hour. Each episode is introduced by a monologue explaining the theme of the piece, which allows for an extravagant costume change. —RK
Aug. 29, 6 p.m.; Aug. 30, 4:30 p.m.; Aug. 31, 6 p.m.

In Rehearsal
Two and a half stars

Alison Vodnay, Ohio
Theatre on the Square Stage 2
This performance art monologue flies in the cross current between the artistry of Joan Rivers and Ruth Draper, never quite landing for us to fully know Akiva, although Vodnay speaks as Akiva and speaks about her through relationships with six men and another woman in their voices and mannerisms. In constant lithe movement, the character Akiva gives the impression that if you keep changing body positions and do fast talking you can avoid learning who you are and just float through life in the comfort of therapy. Vodnay is a skillful mimic of characters we meet in everyday life. —RK
Aug. 27, 9 p.m.; Aug. 30, 3 p.m.; Aug. 31, 10:30 p.m.

Jealous Sky
Two and a half stars

Blue Sky Productions, Michigan Theatre on the Square Stage 2
A talky, speculative foray skirting what really did happen when the plane carrying Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan was lost in the Pacific Ocean July 2, 1937, the script skips into an out-of-body meeting between Earhart and Harriet Quimby, who made headlines in 1912 as the first woman to fly the English Channel. July 1, 1912, Quimby plummeted into Boston Harbor. Their in-common demise and “woman-first-to-do” leads to snippy dialogue. Feminists will find precedents in these aviatrixes’ words and deeds. History buffs and psychologists will enjoy the script’s device. —RK
Aug. 28, 6 p.m.; Aug. 30, 10:30 p.m.

The Magic of Jared Sherlock
Four stars

Jared Sherlock, Indianapolis
American Cabaret Theatre
Jared Sherlock’s characteristic ease of manner while on stage tells of the long and winding road he must have travelled in order to arrive at the ACT. This confidence is contagious and quickly spreads to his audience, who are eager to participate and be spellbound by the charismatic illusionist. In his act, Sherlock proceeds through all of the standards in magic (card and rope tricks, juggling), but always adds an unexpected twist where timing and delivery are concerned. He also introduces fresh elements to his show that the audience is unlikely to have ever encountered. The best example of this is his awesome display of bullet-catching, which must truly be seen to be believed and fully appreciated. (Jared’s time at IndyFringe was limited to last weekend due to his departure for college. For more information about future performances check —GC

Magical Cabaret
Roland Sarlot and Susan Eyde, Tucson, Ariz.
American Cabaret Theatre
Editors note: We were unable to get to this show for a review. Last year, Jim Poyser gave this show three stars and said the following: “Sarlot the magician and Eyde the dancer/magician combine humor, magic, dance and music for a pleasing, polished, but still intimate show. There are enough ‘wow, how did they do that’ moments to make this a worthwhile Fringe experience.”
Aug. 27, 9 p.m.; Aug. 28, 6 p.m.; Aug. 29, 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 31, 10:30 p.m.

Meet the Rock!

Sam Harper, Indiana
Theatre on the Square Stage 2
Editors note: We didn’t make it to Sam Harper’s performance art, music, variety, art history and talk show bringing together of Norman Rockwell, Grandma Moses, Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol for a round-table Q&A.
Aug. 29, 6 p.m., Aug. 30, 4:30 p.m.; Aug. 31, 7:30 p.m.

Mental Shock
Four stars

Christian and Katalina, Indianapolis
Theatre on the Square
Christian and Katalina belong to the genre of magic that has been popularized by the likes of David Blaine and Criss Angel. Minus much of the corniness of Blaine and Angel, Mental Shock leaves the audience just as dumbfounded, using typical and atypical means. Card-guessing is one such mean. The difference between Christian and Katalina’s form of card-guessing, however, lies in their acknowledgement of all of the possible variables that they could be exploiting in order to fool the audience, and then their systematic elimination of these variables. The result is the sort of mental shock after which the show has been named. Another mind-reading game involves lengthy books from which random audience members must select a single word for the performers to guess. The magician’s guesses are then revealed in a most surprising and magical way. —GC
Aug. 27, 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 30, 6 p.m.; Aug. 31, 7:30 p.m.

Monkey Poet: The Big Brown Number Two
Matt Panesh, United Kingdom ComedySportz
Editors note: We were unable to get to this show for a review. Last year, David Hoppe gave this show four stars and said the following: “Beneath Matt Panesh’s unabashedly raunchy exterior beats a heart in search of common human decency. Whether he’s sending up prog rock, celebrating a morning wank or excoriating Blair, Bush and the world’s supposedly great religions, Panesh does a splendid job of turning his performance space into a bullshit-free zone.”
Aug. 27, 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 28, 9 p.m.; Aug. 30, 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 31, 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Three and a half stars

The Re(Collective) Company, Indiana American Cabaret Theatre
A multimedia performance for dancers, live musicians and projected slideshow that feels like a campfire dance circle. While Moved is separated into four acts and distinct scenes about an artist’s journey, according to the program, because there’s little text and the dance is rarely mimetic, the piece blends together into a series of solo and group dances against a shifting soundtrack. Kate Lamont sounds clear and brilliant as ever on her piano-based “Suspended,” T.J. Reynolds delivers programmatic rhymes about movement and energy and Grover Parrido ties it all together on resonant cello and propulsive electric bass. Dance figures recur throughout — tight spins, a reach-for-the-stars jump out of a crouch — with group dances appropriately unsynchronized, leading towards a free-form close. Sarah Zuckerman’s African-influenced turn on “Kengh Kengh” was the most kinetic and exciting solo turn. —SS
Aug. 29, 9 p.m.; Aug. 30, 6 p.m.; Aug. 31, 7:30 p.m.

My Friend Hitler
Three stars

Zehra Fazal, Virginia
Theater on the Square Stage Two
Given that when Hitler was first staged in 1969, it was only months after Japanese playwright Yukio Mishima created his emperor-worshipping youth brigade and a year before he ended his life by seppuku following a failed, quixotic coup d’etat, this could have been a lot more deranged. As is, it’s a fairly talky and somewhat arcane piece that digs into the formative year of 1934 in German domestic politics. An already dry text for a full cast loses even more energy when adapted for a single performer, with some dull memories shared with an imaginary friend. But plenty disturbing is the piece’s sympathetic, at-home-with-Hitler characterization of a failed artist whose reunification of the Rhineland becomes performance art writ large. Fazal’s solo, cross-dressing performance as Hitler eschews grand gestures — little of the Fuhrer’s nervous energy and charisma in the opening speech — to depict a rather neurotic and reluctant leader. —SS
Aug. 28, 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 30, 9 p.m.; Aug. 31, 3 p.m.

On The Rag: Heavy Flow
Three and a half stars

Unplugged, Indiana
Phoenix Theatre
In their comedy sketch show of epic proportions, Kate Ayers and Sara Locker allow very few taboos to escape their scrutiny and hilarity. Beginning with a lighthearted discussion on the history of feminine hygiene, and proceeding through a labyrinthine maze of off-the-wall subjects, this production is guaranteed to elicit laughter from even the most stubborn humors. Ever wonder about the potential difficulties encountered by Siamese twins while dating? Well, Ayers and Locker have. The result is as funny a sketch as you’re ever likely to see. Another explores a bizarro world in which males menstruate and compare their flow as they would the size of their biceps. Most impressive are Ayers’ and Locker’s seamless transitions from character to character. —GC
Aug. 28, 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 30, 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 31, 3 p.m.

Peace on Terror
One star

Theater of the People, Bloomington
Theatre on the Square Stage Two
“I have no particular suggestions,” says Albert Powell in his playwright’s note to Peace on Terror. “I certainly have no answers.” At least he’s honest. He’s given the barely amateur Theater of the People an excruciating, pointless, juvenile, subliterate reflection on geopolitics in nine parts, something like Team America: World Police but without any of the humor or emotional range of the puppets. Whole sections are played in pidgin English for no apparent reason, and when characters find whole sentences, they only string together platitudes or self-centered observations: a soldier compares war to “throwing up in your mouth and swallowing it” before screaming, “Give peace a chance!” in the middle of a battlefield. Borderline heartless is the resetting of No Exit in a burning World Trade Center, a scene that depicts a paper-pushing secretary blithely stapling away while awaiting her death. —SS
Aug. 27, 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 30, 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 31, 6 p.m.

Phil the Void: Comedy Over Quality
Four and a half stars

Phil Van Hest, Los Angeles, Calif. ComedySportz
The best of Fringe and indeed one of the best comedians of 2008, Phil Van Hest is able to pull off a sincere conversationalist comedic style likened to Pryor, if only in tone and sustainability. His language is original, his demeanor is authentic and his delivery is refreshingly inimitable. Not every line needs to be a joke for comedians who know they’re funny, and Van Hest delivers a complete experience through a performance more adequately described as a hilarious monologue of acerbic observations, rather than customary stand-up. —AR
Aug. 29, 9 p.m.; Aug. 30, 10:30 p.m.; Aug. 31, 6 p.m.

Potpourri Potluck Kitchen Sink Meatloaf

Shantz Theatre Co., Chicago, Ill. Theatre on the Square Main Stage
Editors note: We were unable to get to this show for a review. But we’ve seen the very funny Matt Fotis, the founder and writer behind Shantz Theatre, in previous years and feel confident this year he’s just as hilarious. Note the adult content and adult language warnings for those doing Fringe as a family.
Aug. 27, 9 p.m.; Aug. 28, 6 p.m.; Aug. 29, 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 30, 4:30 p.m.; Aug. 31, 3 p.m.

Rash Lumpball Lights the Lights
Two and a half stars

Volcanic Theatre, Indiana ComedySportz
A clever, Swiftian satire in verse tells of how all manner of hot air is expelled through the orifices of a certain radio talk show host. The staged reading has some very funny moments, although it felt like one-man performer Mark Fearnow was often rushing, and he gave himself very little to do but stand and deliver — aside, that is, from a variety of raspberries he blew into a microphone on the side of the stage (the only time a mic is used in the show). The wordplay was very smart and literate — covering Rash’s life from infancy to drug addiction in 10 parts with an epilogue — but it feels like a lot was missed (with 20 minutes remaining on the clock). Could be a very impressive piece with a few more lines and some thought given to dramatization and blocking. —SS
Aug. 30, 3 p.m.; Aug. 31, 7:30 p.m.

Squashamole! The True Cost of Things
Three stars

In Forma Theater, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Remember when you were in junior high, and those hip “comedy” troupes came to your school, and enacted scenes in which an adolescent at a party would succumb to peer pressure and make a bad choice, and then the moderator would yell “freeze,” and some brown-noser would raise their hand and say what they would have done differently to stay drug/sex/booze/fun free? Squashamole is like that, but funnier (although slightly cheesy) and less condescending. It may not be the funniest or most engaging performance of Fringe, but it is one of the most noble, as it is bravely ambitious in its environmentalist purpose, and is wholly devoid of any self-importance. It is theater with genuine and selfless motive for positive change. —AR
Aug. 27, 6 p.m.; Aug. 28, 7:30 p.m

Stinky Flowers and the Bad Banana
Four and a half stars

WTE, New York, N.Y.
Phoenix Theatre
This is one of the sweetest and most touching shows ever presented at IndyFringe. SPOILER ALERT: The character of Sinclair, a third-grade boy, deals with the death of his grandfather through stories. You don’t realize this is what’s happening until near the end of the show, though. END SPOILER ALERT. Sinclair — an “Army brat” who has been described as having an overactive imagination — elaborately recites his grandfather’s stories of the Stinky Flowers, Moonkeys and Moankeys, Gunkerville, the Silent Prophet, New Bird and Old Bird and the Wailing Boy. The stories take the audience through a steady progression that leads us back to the beginning, and Sinclair’s revelation. The only props are an overhead projector, hat and two small bird toys. This is storytelling at its best, and suitable for all ages — the children in the audience were mesmerized, as were the adults. And to top it off, you get a home-baked cookie at the end. —LG
Aug. 27, 9 p.m.; Aug. 28, 6 p.m.; Aug. 29, 7:30 p.m.

Two stars

Twilight Productions, Indiana Phoenix Theatre
Good intentions abound in Amy Pettinella’s story of a stripper who could have been a contender. Beverly could have been a beret-wearing bookstore clerk, if only a bad mother and a string of stepfathers hadn’t ruined her chances. A kindly high school teacher almost changes her course to a life of letters, but Beverly ends up schlepping liquor at a “gentlemen’s” club — where she meets her now jaded teacher and debates stripping as a lifestyle (demeaning vs. empowering). The plot is worn, the script heavy with expository voice-overs and Pettinella is too old to play 20-something Bev. As the teacher, poor Greg Browning is frequently left on stage, nodding in agreement with his recorded narration. Pettinella needs to strip this play back to the idea that originally excited her and build original characters with believable dialogue and absolutely no narration. —JB
Aug. 27, 6 p.m.; Aug. 30, 10:30 p.m.; Aug 31, 4:30 p.m.

Tastes Funny
Three stars

The Great Gondos, Australia
A mildly entertaining romp of party tricks built upon a menial premise, Tastes Funny labors its way to three sweaty stars by the end of the show. The first half hour is like spending an afternoon with your weird, funny and mildly creepy uncle — sitting at the kids’ table, doing juggling tricks and making dirty jokes. Eventually, the female lead, played by Ranik Huszar, straps the weight of the performance on her slender shoulders and carries it through to an enjoyable close, while her counterpart struggles to decide if his character is “Balky” from Perfect Strangers, or just mildly handicapped. The performance is perfect for kids, with enough silly slapstick for a grade-schooler, and enough suggestive humor for a teenager. —AR
Aug. 29, 9 p.m.; Aug. 30, 10:30 p.m.; Aug. 31, 6 p.m.

The Time Machine
Two stars

Arden Theatre and CTI, Indianapolis American Cabaret Theatre
This is an uber-condensed version of the H.G. Wells story told with two actors. While it’s quaint enough, it isn’t a compelling piece of theater. It begins with the recorded voices of guests speaking around the manservant Wentworth (Jameson App). Most of this segment has App staring above the audience, waiting for the “guests” to acknowledge him. After the Traveler (Kent Livingston) moves to the future, App is the puppeteer for the Eloi … while still wearing his butler’s tux. Something less obtrusive would have been nice. The puppets seem to be bodiless mannequin heads with clothes hanging from them, and hands poking from the sleeves. Effective enough, but, again, not terribly compelling. App and Livingston are fine in their roles. On a side note, it is odd, and disturbing, that when a Morlock abducts one of the Eloi, dance music is played. —LG
Aug. 29, 6 p.m.; Aug. 30, 3 p.m.; Aug. 31, 1:30 p.m.

Wicked Dreams, Pleasant Nightmares
Three stars

MOTUS Dance Theatre, Indianapolis American Cabaret Theatre
As a fast-paced absurdist depiction of a collection of bad nights, this engrossing work-in-process makes Alice’s fall down the rabbit hole seem like a Sunday school picnic. Fasten your seat belt and be prepared for the stuff Shakespeare dis-allowed us to dream on. Ever-evolving choreography matched by costuming, lighting and sound engineering keeps us in the story with its relentless sleep-disturbing episodes. —RK
Aug. 26, 9 p.m.; Aug. 28, 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 30, 9 p.m.; Aug. 31, 3 p.m.

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