Review: 'Animals out of Paper'


IndyFringe Theatre

May 7-9


4 stars

Directed by Kate


First-time playwright

Bernadette Bartlett's Alarmed

works around a simple premise—the installation of a home security

system--but its well-timed comic phrasing and performances make it well worth

the 30-minute investment. Like the best of comic skits, it begins with normal

characters who have a hint of the ridiculous about them. Are the dangers that

drive homeowner Frieda to buy an alarm real or imagined? External or internal?

Through posture and small gestures, Carrie Schlatter makes Frieda a likeable

blend of false confidence and growing paranoia. She is balanced, figuratively

and visually, by calm roommate Claire (director Kate Ayers). They often talk to

each other from opposite wings of the stage to avoid setting off the motion

sensor center stage. All other characters represent a comic possibility of

menace. The best is alarm installer Rob (John Danyluk), whose deadpan delivery

reflects either a worker's boredom or a killer's calculation. Alarmed never goes full-throttle wacky to make fun of

our fears, culture, and commercialism. It only takes a few well chosen words to

do so, and Bartlett has them.

Dash Thirty Dash

3 stars

Directed by Matthew



Monthly editor Amy Wimmer

Schwarb turns playwright to chronicle the demise of journalism in this one-hour

twist on His Girl Friday.

Unlike the fast-talking Cary Grant newspaper vehicle, everyone here has heart,

perhaps too much of it. Chipper young reporter Kate joins Mosquito County

Press and quickly earns the

respect of veteran reporter Sandy, grisly heart-of-gold editor Roy, and ruggedly

handsome photographer J.T. None of the staff have social lives—friends

and lovers are potential conflicts of interest for news stories—and yet

they all seem nice, too nice. Corporate marketing whiz Paulette makes six

figures a year, but she only does so to save Florida's small dailies from

extinction. When real-life Indianapolis Star editor Dennis Ryerson made his cameo as an

ego-driven reporter Friday night (other local writers shared the part over

three days), I felt completely conflicted. According to the play's logic, do I

credit corporate publisher Gannett with saving the Star or destroying it? Schwarb knows her story is

formulaic and she pokes fun of it, getting in a few good jabs at reporters,

too. My favorite: "People found out how much fun we're having and put an end to


Madwoman's Late Nite


3 stars

Directed by Julie Lyn


Julie Lyn Barber's Madwomen is a mix of show tunes and torch songs, sung

well to very well, but because the songs are meant to hook around historic female

figures comically, something is often missing in the delivery. For instance,

having Joan of Arc (Erica Dumond in French uniform) sing "Smoke Gets in Your

Eyes" is a very funny idea, but it is only funny for a moment and then you have

to listen to the whole song. Getting a great singer like Amanda Hummer to

perform Sondheim's "Losing My Mind" is sweet, but it can never be sublime,

because Hummer is made up as the be-headed Marie Antoinette. We also get a

glimpse of what it would be like to see Hummer in Hair (terrific), if Ethel Merman was a drag

queen (the enjoyably bizarre Ben Asaykwee), and how Mary Queen of Scots might

sing (Berber with a wonderfully fierce Scottish accent). I came close to loving

this show when the three women harmonized as beheaded ladies of history and

when the troupe imagined the split-personality movie Sybil as a musical. With songs like "Personality" and

"My Own Best Friend," the wide-eyed Berber reached a Mel Brooks high (or low,

depending on how you feel about unrelenting tastelessness). I say high.

Moment of Impact

5 stars

Directed by Julie

Mauro and Jessica Strauss

Moment of Impact does nothing greater than crystallize a moment

in time for five unconnected yet interconnected characters. This is its

greatness. Three strangers and two friends wait on different train platforms in

Chicago for the same train. For one, missing the train will mean the difference

between life and death, but wisely, co-writers Julie Mauro and Jessica Strauss

focus on life rather than death, on banality rather than tragedy. Two separate

single parents start their day, heading to work, with children and childcare on

their minds. At the same time, two young women are ending a night of partying,

filled with giggle and song. We watch the scene three times over, each from

different characters' perspectives. It ends with one shy man's internal

narration of the events and anything they bring to his mind, including

yesterday's meatloaf and the Star Trek TV franchise. The tipsy ladies' (Hannah Lyon and Amanda McSwine)

antics get funnier with each repetition and the man's (Matt Anderson)

meandering thoughts surely echo those of many audience members: "I was never

that young. I'll never be that young. I don't know how to be that young."


Winter Solstice

3 stars

Directed by Amy


Director/writer Amy

Pettinella's heavy use of narration is an expository crutch that she does not

need. Once she gets to it, her dialogue is quite good. The play opens with

several minutes of narration to explain that lead character Phelan is an L.L.

Bean-style economist, his mother is a constellation-gazing actress, his father

is a TV producer, and his sister a thrice-divorced hippie. The play's flow

improves significantly with dialogue between son and father, son and mother,

and mother and husband. We learn that the middle-aged parents are fatigued by

decades of living as polar opposites. One lives life as something to endure,

while the other views it as something to discover. Carrel Regan is cast

perfectly as the mother, a timeless beauty whose energy and poise a man could

grow to despise. Ken Ganza captures the ambivalence of a man who wants to end

his marriage, but doesn't like endings. Pettinella puts too much focus on the

son's angst and the phases of the sky, but overall, Winter Solstice is a fair portrait of what it means to be

married and un-married.