IndyFringe 2011: Our Fringe review guide 

click to enlarge The quintessential Fringe show: "fricative," a Dada-esque vocal performance.
  • The quintessential Fringe show: "fricative," a Dada-esque vocal performance.

They said it couldn't be done... Okay, that's hyperbole; sorry about that. Everybody knows we can do it because we do it every year: review every single Fringe show. We sent seven reviewers out to the seven theaters to get the job done. Fringe continues through Aug. 28, mostly along Mass Ave. Shows are only $10 a ticket, and all proceeds go back to the performers.

Playing at ComedySportz
Reviews by Matthew McClure (except where noted)

The Return of The Great Nickolini
Nick Abeel, New York
2.5 stars
Indianapolis native Nick Abeel revisits his younger, awkward self in an unpolished but promising performance. He takes to the stage nattily dressed in a suit; but after hopping in and out of an on-stage trunk, he's transformed into 11-year-old Nick, donning baggy shorts and a King Kong t-shirt. Abeel questions why we always look upon our former selves as something lesser than our current selves. Ultimately, he concludes that we can't escape our former selves -- nor should we try. Abeel occasionally references his notes, breaking the show's pacing. But his message is heartfelt and relatable, and his show likely will improve considerably as he gains experience through future performances.

The Day I Ate Wombat
David Quirk, Australia
3.5 stars
David Quirk engages his audience from the start with a personable, offbeat wit that he readily admits on stage is not for everyone. He tells tales of growing up in Australia, getting "pantsed" by his peers and eating road-kill wombat with a man who, Quirk later learns, was arrested for pedophilia. The performer earns some of his biggest laughs during off-script conversations with his audience, a few of whom, on opening night, teased him for drinking a mainstream domestic beer. Quirk's humor may not be for everyone, but it's unquestionably original, and it's likely to be well-received throughout his run at IndyFringe.

Rebel Without a Niche
Kurt Fitzpatrick, New York
3 stars
Kurt Fitzpatrick powers through his one-man show with seemingly indefatigable energy, ricocheting from character to character as he dramatizes his continuing struggle to find an occupational niche. Messenger, guerilla marketer and creepy crawling crab at Madison Scare Garden -- this is not the career path he envisioned while studying filmmaking in college. At times one wishes that Fitzpatrick, who bears a striking resemblance to a young Tim Robbins, would slow down the pace and focus on more fully developing his characters. Nonetheless, buoyed by his confident stage presence and remarkable mimicking ability, he captures his audience's attention from start to finish, delivering humor and insights throughout his hour-long performance.

Scuba Mission: Gainfully Employed
Shawn Bowers and Colin Hogan, Chicago
4 stars
Shawn Bowers and Colin Hogan performed for only a handful of people on IndyFringe's opening night, which is a shame because they delivered a hilarious sketch show that would have generated laughter heard up and down Mass Ave had it been in front of a full house. The two Chicagoans demonstrate mighty improv talent and strong chemistry during a series of fast-paced sketches exploring working life and under-employment. Of particular appeal -- and absurdity -- is the "Surf Shirt Lawyer/Volleyball Attorney at Law" sketch. Perhaps the 10:30 start time is to blame for the sparse opening night crowd. Whatever the case, add this show to your must-see list.

Evolution
Roman Rimer, New York
3 stars
How will I be treated by others simply because of the body I'm in? That's the question Roman Rimer attempts to untangle in an alternately humorous and serious performance. He chronicles his experience as an openly transgender New Yorker who spent months touring Southern colleges to organize and assist LGBT youth. Wearing simple sweats and a white t-shirt, Rimer shares intimate details about himself, doing so in a disarming and endearing manner. His performance touches on such issues as identity, classism and religion, and it concludes with a message that resonates: we're all much more alike than we realize.

Phil The Void: Motherbanking Bankholes
Phil van Hest, Indianapolis
4.5 stars
Phil van Hest lives up to the hype and delivers a smart, funny and timely skewering of bankers and the politicians who love them. He takes an historical approach in his performance, mixing humor with pointed barbs as he shifts his focus from the city of Ur to goats to Babylon to the Federal Reserve to Tea Baggers -- and to just about every imaginable topic in between. "At this point, if I were America I'd change my name to Canada and quit picking up the phone," he growls near the end of his hour-long show. Van Hest's fed-up, populist brand of humor salves the pain of our uncertain economic times.

A Sword and a Kiss
Asante Progressive Hip Hop Project
3.5 stars
Count on being enlightened as well as entertained during this under-the-radar performance from a trio of young, local hip hop artists. Part one of the show -- the "Sword"-- is inspired by the Civil Rights movement, with songs lyrically centered on rising up against racism; it is, as one performer describes it between songs, "A history lesson from a black man's perspective." The show shifts thematically to brotherhood, love and compassion in part two of the "Kiss." Their message is powerfully told through thoughtful rhymes and arresting beats. A post-performance Q&A reveals their influences, which include Mos Def and Lupe Fiasco, among others.

I Love You (We're F*#ked)
Kevin J. Thornton, Los Angeles
4 stars
Thornton, an L.A.-based comedian and troubadour who grew up in Evansville, works on multiple levels during this generally funny and well-observed show. A solid monologist, he offers up a finely-shaped, resonant narrative about getting back out there after a break-up with his boyfriend. He also interpolates a few songs into the proceedings, which comment on his stories in the general, metaphorical way that songs do. But he's at his best when playing the bar-stool storyteller, animatedly bringing to life disgusting and bloody stories, tossing off pretty-ingenious pop culture criticism along the way (say, of the bestiality embedded in Prince's "When Doves Cry"). - Scott Shoger

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