Out on the Fringe Festival 

A complete Fringe guide
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A complete Fringe guide

Welcome to the halfway point of the first Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival. If you haven’t had your taste of the Fringe yet, don’t despair! There are still plenty of opportunities to see shows that you’ve missed, or to go back and see something again — and again. If you can’t decide which shows to see, use this guide. NUVO has seen them all. Think of what follows as a scorecard to the almost 30 shows on offer. Our critics have given every show a star total based on a rating system that works something like this:
Flavia Ghisalberti in in_Between Buto Dance Company's 'Something In Between'

Zero stars: run for it
1 star: life’s too short
2 stars: not bad, needs some work
3 stars: good job
4 stars: excellent!
5 stars: life-altering experience

But don’t just take our word for it. Go to the Fringe and see what’s on for yourself. There’s a great time to be had this weekend at the three Fringe venues: the Athenaeum, Theatre on the Square and the Phoenix. And you can get all the Fringe information you need at Fringe headquarters, better known as the 4 Star Gallery at 653 Massachusetts Ave. Finally, don’t forget to stop by Club Fringe in the Rathskeller Biergarten for a cool one. Check www.indyfringe.org for complete listings.

2 Stars NoExit Theatre Co.

A. is intended to be a deconstruction of Sophocles’ tragedy about overreaching revenge and the importance of mourning. It’s a promising idea made moreso by NoExit’s decisions to emphasize movement and a nifty touch of multimedia. But deconstruction does not a drama make: In taking apart the text, the emotional — and motive — force of the tragedy is lost. Somehow the contemporary corollaries for loss that the piece offers, like losing a wallet in a New York cab or having one’s visa revoked, fail to conjure the fear and pity of murder, suicide and war evoked by the ancients. Performances: Athenaeum Wednesday at 5 p.m., Saturday at 10:30 p.m., Sunday at 1:30 p.m. —David Hoppe

A Midsummer Night of Fairies and Asses
3.5 Stars Ganas Theatre Company.

An irreverent twisting of Shakespeare uses comedy to drive home the gay marriage issue. The fairy queen Tatiana is re-envisioned as a drag queen, Helena is a lesbian with a giant pink vibrator hanging from her tool belt and Puck is a whip-wielding leather boy. The show has oodles of potential that remains to be tapped. Because of the time constraint, the show was rushed, making it often convoluted and confusing for those of us trying to keep up. But I think this was a solid launching for it, and I would like to see it fleshed out and presented in a full show. The jokes are relevant and smart and the concept too ingenious not to be revisited. Performances: Phoenix Wednesday at 4 p.m., Saturday at 10 p.m., Sunday at 4:30 p.m. —Lisa Gauthier

A Year in the Life of 25 Strangers in a City by the Lake
4 Stars

Shantz (pronounced SHAW-NTZ) Theatre Company delivers a light-hearted and comical performance of vignettes to comprise A Year in the Life. Actor/writer/director Matt Fotis should be commended on executing a solid premise that allowed each of the cast members to play to their own strengths in this multicharacter effort. Actress Sadieh Rifai gives an especially solid performance and is a joy to watch as the “Mother” who insists her husband was taken by “The AIDS.” Fellow actors Jeanette Nielsen, Dan Behrendt, Adal Rifai and Fotis himself should also receive kudos on giving sincere performances. The clever script lacks depth but good acting and some particularly excellent moments of comic timing make A Year in The Life worth the price of admission. Look for an especially delightful scene involving the implications of failing to buy hotdog buns and all that that entails. Performances: Phoenix, Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., Thursday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 1:30 p.m. —Alphonso Atkins Jr.

Allah’s Fool
3 Stars

Indy Peace Players. This intense play is set around the Abu Ghraib tortures and deaths of Iraqi prisoners through U.S. “interrogation” with the help of the doctors who were supposed to be treating the prisoners. We see a civilian who is roped into helping the U.S. government; an Iraqi who only wants to work to feed his family sucked into the melee; and the soldiers’ ingrained personal feelings that drive them to do unconscionable things. The show is a little rough, but the message is something everyone should hear. Q&A time with the playwright following the show is a great opportunity to glean even more information. Performances: Phoenix Wednesday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 2:30 p.m. —LG

3.5 Stars

Based on two summers Todd Frugia spent working at a Goodyear Chemical plant in Beaumont, Texas, the one-man show Blimpshot-20 is a sometimes tender, sometimes funny look at the culture of factory workers. Beginning with an employee indoctrination class, Frugia flogs the audience with the tedium and low expectations thrown at hourly wage earners. It’s monotonous and grinding, and worked to great effect, at first comedic, but then, after introducing us — in a series of unflinching monologues — to the rednecks, racists, gun fanatics and decent family men that comprise the plant work force, it becomes clear that, despite their pettinesses and prejudices, Frugia respects these individuals far more than their employer does. Performances: TOTS Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 3:30 p.m. —Steve Carr

Brian Malow — Not Available in Stores
3 Stars

Brian Malow is a stand-up comedian from San Francisco, Calif. The blurb on his show in the Fringe guide didn’t really reflect what we got, but we just ran out of time. Instead, we heard the story of Malow’s family, complete with slide show: his dad’s heart attack, his mother’s obsession with Bichon Frises and many other incidents that he treats with humor. My favorite line: “I have gray hair and acne. How is that possible?” Other highlights: as a comic, his job is to find validation from a roomful of drunk strangers, and, on running from a knife-wielding manic: Why run? Why be exhausted and stabbed? The randomly inserted TV commercials were a bit much. They were proving a point, but some were less effective than others. Malow is a likable, and overall funny guy. Performances: Phoenix Thursday at 4 p.m., Friday at 10:30 p.m., Saturday at 1 p.m. —LG

3 Stars

Jennifer Sutton delivers a dance performance that is both inspiring and compassionate, if muffled by this production’s multimedia format. While dancing is at the forefront of Confusion, the spoken word elements (done by Sutton) lack clarity, depth and seem forced in comparison to her dancing. The best moments in the show are when Sutton and her fellow performers use dance to act out the “confusion” surrounding the high school journey. These moments of intimacy demonstrate Sutton’s passion for dance as well as the effectiveness of dance as a medium of creative expression. Similarly, the background film presentation captures the honesty and tension that Confusion is seemingly trying to convey. Sutton’s dance performance is worthy of mention, but the show as a whole suffers from overproduction. Performances: Athenaeum Wednesday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. —AA

Fresh Meat
5 Stars

Hot damn! Bust out the big fork and hoof your bad self down to Theatre on the Square for some Fresh Meat. This NYC outfit makes a mash-up of pre-recorded audio and video bits and live-action sketch comedy and the result is … well, it’s really freakin’ funny is what it is. There is laughing and then there are the great gushing guffaws that Michael Feldman, Julie Katz and Adam Laupus push their audience through. The trio lampoon the absurdities, hierarchies and banalities of interpersonal relations and take a few choice swipes at media culture to boot. As hyper-similar talking heads on Crossfire, they slap each other silly to show how much they agree with each other. A Microsoft-style icon helps a young woman pen a suicide note. A home shopping network host sells Polish Remover. “You know what I hate about my Poles? They always smell like sausage.” Smartly written and well-delivered. Performances: TOTS Thursday at 6 p.m. and Friday at 7:30 p.m. —SC

Get Down(sized)!
4.5 Stars

Venture Theatre. A staggeringly funny look at corporate America ... mostly without words. This group from De Pere, Wisc., revels in all things crazy about the corporate workplace, from sexual harassment graphs to the lure of the doughnut. Some of the best skits involved a veritable symphony on touchtone phones, a war with office implements in slow motion, “natural male enhancement” featuring small sports balls and some frightfully funny dancing men, the attack of the tape gun and the overthrow of the boss and the subsequent building of the barricade, à la Les Mis. Great stuff here, except that the company training video “Are You a Pervert?” was a little long. Anyone who is a fan of Office Space will love this show. Performances: TOTS Saturday at 11 p.m., Sunday at 4:30 p.m. —LG

3 Stars

Indianapolis New Art Theatre. A smart, poignant confection. Margaret Murray’s coming-of-age performance piece is arranged for three voices, with each one addressing a particular theme: overcoming a bad dad, being attracted to the wrong guys, feeling stuck. What the material lacks in original insight, it manages to muster through the precision of Murray’s observations. Though a clock is smashed with a hammer, the piece lacks dramatic tension. Nevertheless, the staging is inventive and the cast appealing. Murray, in particular, brings a seemingly effortless authority to her role. Performances: Athenaeum Thursday at 9:30 p.m., Friday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 4:30 p.m. —DH

The Glamorous Andrea Merlyn Magic Show
4 Stars

Andrea Merlyn, aka Taylor Martin, fills a room, in this case the Phoenix’s Basile Theatre, making even an afternoon show on a hot summer day feel like a late-night cabaret. This is a bawdy, free-wheeling and, ultimately, generous show, loaded with snappy repartee and classic sleight-of-hand — to the Fringe what a maraschino cherry is to a stiff Manhattan. Go and be entertained. Performances: Wednesday at 8:30 p.m., Friday at 9 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. —DH

Hold On
1 Star

Sandi Walker Dans. A dance recital interspersed with some Lucy-like clowning and taped lectures on nutrition, snack time in elementary school, car pooling and recovery from a seeming lifetime of various injuries in Baraboo, Wisc. Performances: Athenaeum Friday at 8:30 p.m., Saturday at 6 p.m. —DH

Hooray for Speech Therapy
3 Stars

A softball question — where have you been all day — haltingly delivered propelled young Kurt Fitzpatrick into the world of speech therapy, where he encounters people who find fluency by talking to dogs, therapists with celebrity-sized egos and, at a therapy “boot camp” in Roanoke, Va., a Camaro-driving gym rat with an overbearing mother who opens Kurt’s eyes to steroids, stunt driving and male bonding. Hooray for Speech Therapy isn’t going to replace David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day as the standard bearer for humorist/stutterer memoirs — it is neither as funny nor as revealing — but it is an engaging and well-intentioned piece, full of warmth and good natured humor. Performances: TOTS Thursday at 4:30 p.m., Friday at 10:30 p.m., Saturday at 5 p.m. —SC

Indy Prov Sketchy Comedy
2.5 Stars

Local ad-libbers Indy Prov kicked off the TOTS Fringe Fest lineup with a clock-punching performance that hit its marks but turned a blind eye to any moving targets. The players tapped the usual suspects — queen-y gay guy, the Southern God Squad, bickering married couple — for the usual laughs, but nobody jolted this ride off auto-pilot, although a hitchhiking Batman and a trip “Inside the Actors Studio” with the cast of Sesame Street rattled the ruts pretty hard. A campfire with the Alternative Boy Scouts showed promise, but in the end it was just another fibber. Like a cover band slogging its way through a greatest hits album, Indy Prov supplied a set full of hip shaking standards without many new twists or inspiration. Performances: TOTS: Wednesday at 6 p.m., Thursday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 12:30 p.m. —SC

Inexcusable Fantasies
2.5 Stars

“You’re fantasizing about me already,” monologist/performance artist Susan McCully announces to us upon her entrance. It’s a bold move and sets the tone for her trio of enjoyable pieces, the best of which presents her character applying for a job as a copywriter at Martha Stewart’s company. It’s a lusty celebration of the syntax of sex and rhetoric, nearly Nicholson Baker-like in its descriptive power. Sadly, McCully had to return to her employment as a prof before the end of Fringe, so if you didn’t see her, you missed this self-identified “sexy, fat, middle-aged lesbian.” Of course, you can always fantasize about what it would have been like to see her. —Jim Poyser

The Jockey Short
2 Stars

Rough Magic Productions. Have you ever felt like someone’s not letting you in on the joke? That precise feeling pervades the Rough Magic Productions original play The Jockey Short. At its foundation, the satiric message about racial tensions and the comical nature of stereotypes was evident but the punchline of this show was, at best, poorly executed. Amidst the missed cues, strained rhythm and a truly sophomoric script, actress Karen Irwin delivers a strong performance as the neurotic domestic partner, Betsy. Yet, it’s still not enough to salvage the good intentions of a very poorly written show with few redeeming qualities. Overall, the importance of a self-effacing drama or comedy lies in the performer’s ability to hold a mirror to the audience so that we may see our own faults. This farcical production seemed to push us away from any sort of empathy for any of the characters and left the audience with no one to truly cheer for. Performances: TOTS Thursday at 9 p.m., Saturday at 6:30 p.m. —AA

Little Hands
2.5 Stars

Red Dragon Theatre Project. Sometimes a concept that has a lot of potential falls flat. Little Hands, a Red Dragon Theatre Project production, is supposed to illustrate what is common in all of us by exploring art in different cultures and times though music, dance and spoken word. Each time or culture gets a separate “chapter.” Until the spoken word was introduced, the production was an experience of visual and auditory stimulation, with wonderful sound design and Nathalie Cruz’s choreography. As the production moves forward in time, however, the scenes become less and less connected. An entire puppet play from Japan is thrown into the mix, while other chapters only give an impression of a culture. Performances: TOTS Thursday at 10:30 p.m., Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 12:30 p.m. —Kara Glennon

Medal of Honor Rag
4.5 Stars

Theatre Non Nobis. Medal of Honor Rag is the emotionally charged conversation between a Vietnam vet with a Congressional Medal of Honor and the psychiatrist who is trying to help him through his depression over being the one who survived. Be prepared for a hard look at what war does to people — and a flying table during one outburst. The actors in this performance create characters that draw us in then terrify us with what they have been through. Fringe fare at its best. Performances: Phoenix Thursday at 5:30 p.m., Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 7 p.m. —LG

Mr. Spacky the Man Who Was Continuously Followed by Wolves
3.5 stars

Peoples Playhouse. Don’t worry if you can’t remember the title. No one seems to be able to and that, I wager, is part of the joke in this thoroughly entertaining slice of silliness by the Indy-based Peoples Playhouse. Set during the Civil War, the play features a live band on stage that acts as troubadours to narrate the action — as well as occasionally pitching in to make some tea or fetch a prop. Playwright Emily Schwartz’s work has the feel of a play enriched by an improvisational process between actors who work beautifully together. The audience even gets to decide which ending to see. Great, resonating performances by Lindsay Harbert, Leigh Mabry White and the hilarious Peter Wallace as Mr. Spacky. And you’ll likely find yourself smitten by Rudy Thien’s Edwinda, a fetching, ahem, lass. Performances: Phoenix Thursday at 10 p.m., Friday at 3 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. —JP

Randomonium Improv Show
3 Stars

This young, energetic, improvisation company from Anderson has a great future in trafficking in laughs if they stick together and further improve their timing and intuition. Randomonium’s repertoire is familiar; anyone who has been to an improv show will recognize the slate of games. Their minds are ably supple. Case in point: When they asked the audience for a character quirk, someone shouted out “echolalia,” a term that apparently no one in the cast recognized. Instead, the actor charged with this affliction of echolalia developed a pathology called “ukulelia,” a condition marked by an unnatural affinity for the ukulele. Performances: TOTS Friday at 4:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. —JP

Remember Who Made You
4 Stars

Jeffrey Barnes’ show is an honest look at being Christian and being gay. The question is, are the two mutually exclusive? Accompanied by Dave Frauman on guitar, Barnes explores the gay issue from the perspective of a gay minister deciding what to tell his congregation, a teen at church camp who doesn’t understand why God won’t take his gayness away, a father who thinks his 9-year-old is a sissy, a conversation with an old college friend who went through “treatment” and was “cured” and, finally, a word from Jesus Himself. Barnes’ show (which is ASL interpreted Friday and Saturday), doesn’t preach to the choir, but asks questions that deserve answers. It’s a touching look at someone who wants his faith, but whose faith doesn’t necessarily want him. Performances: TOTS Wednesday at 9 p.m., Friday at 9 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. —LG

Reverend Tommy’s Electroshock Revival
3 Stars

Tom Ferguson has demons; he’s been dogged by alcoholism, heavy drug use, adultery and manic-depressive incidents — at least two serious enough to require hospitalization. In his one-man show, Tom tells his story with the zeal and profanity of a fraternity boy recounting spring break. His anecdotes are decadent, funny and oddly carefree, as when he is arrested for drunk jogging, but some sting; the sense of helplessness is palpable as he recounts being beaten by his wife while he slumps in a bathtub, immobilized by thorazine and marijuana. Nineteen years sober, Tom tells his story as a series of events that unfold in fits and starts — arrested here, committed there, screwed her, smoked that — without much commentary to provide us a more penetrating insight. It’s a fascinating story, rough and raw, even if the closest he lets us get is outside, trying to peer through his windows. Performances: Phoenix Thursday at 8:30 p.m., Saturday at 5:30 p.m. —SC

Something in Between
4.5 Stars

In_Between Buto Dance Company. Theatre of Anguish. Buto is a form of movement originally created in Japan in the wake of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It aims to reach and make manifest the primal, pre-verbal dimension of who we are. This Italian company’s take on Buto is highly improvisatory, confrontational and intense. Their two-person performance Friday night was a searing exercise in emotional excavation — a study in what’s left after the bodyguard of lies we keep for our self-protection has left the building. Disturbing, darkly beautiful — and definitely adults only. This type of performance is all too rare in the Indianapolis market. You may not like it, but try not to miss it, it’ll be different every time out. Performances: Athenaeum Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., Friday at 5:30 p.m., Saturday at 7:30 p.m. —DH

Sound & Fury's 'Testaclese & Ye Sack of Rome'
Testaclese & Ye Sack of Rome 4.5 Stars Sound & Fury. We may think of Shakespeare as high-brow, but in truth, the Bard kept his audiences rolling with some pretty bawdy humor. L.A.-based group Sound & Fury presents what they claim is one of Shakespeare’s lost works: Testaclese & Ye Sack of Rome, possibly the most vulgar show playing at the Fringe Festival this week. Shelby Bond, Richard Maritzer and Phillip Van Hest involve the audience even before the show starts, chatting with the audience members and heckling each other. The audience is asked to participate in creating sound effects and even playing a role or two as the three actors put a new take on Testaclese and keep the audience on the edge of their seats, or more often, rolling in the aisles. With constant fart jokes, water being spit across the stage and fake breasts aplenty, even the Bard himself would have approved. Performances: Athenaeum Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 10 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. —KG Tuesday Night 2.5 Stars Unhappy days for Jack (Roger Ortman) and Rose (Denise Jaeckel) who find themselves trapped in a nightmare scenario wherein they are tied to chairs and forced to go over the failures and frailties of their relationship, night after night. Writer/director Chris Sanders mixes one part Beckett, one part Mamet and one part mystery into his narrative, fashioning fine moments of humor and insight. The strong interplay between Ortman and Jaeckel keeps the tension up, but even the surprise ending doesn’t alleviate the feeling that this play would benefit from a tight rewrite. Performances: Athenaeum Wednesday at 9:30 p.m., Thursday at 6:30 p.m., Saturday at 1:30 p.m. —JP Two Mufukas Some Sex and a Crab 4 Stars Arden Theatre Company. This is the revised edition of Alan Shepard’s Bit Parts and Other Pieces, which first introduced us to most of the characters we see here. Warning: This show is remarkably explicit, mostly in language. But funny as hell! It consists of a series of scenes, opening with a lingerie-clad woman talking about how badly you want to fuck her. From there, we segue into the best part, the porn addict’s monologue. A quick examination of “I love you” moves into a rant about “mufukin’ roommates” and the word “mufuker” itself. Finally, we get the conversation between a man and a crab, and the revelation that the only crabs that are captured for consumption are the ones that have herpes. Twisted, raunchy fun. Performances: Phoenix Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 8:30 p.m. —LG Waiting for the Relevance 1.5 Stars The title aptly describes this comedy show. After Californian Bernie Lee took us through some bad guitar playing, a strange audition for a Shakespearian company, an extremely long haggle over used book prices, a proliferation of barf bags on a ferry and some scary interpretive dancing, I quit taking notes. Performances: Phoenix Friday at 4:30 p.m., Saturday at 11:30 a.m. —LG

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