Indy Fringe: a consumer's guide 

27 Wagons Full of Cotton

Two stars

he 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 thi"


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