Like the cyborgs on our cover from Q Artistry's Bot, we cannot be stopped. We are made of durable critical alloys, with adamantine authenticity detectors, hyper-sensitive blocking radar and Acme brand laugh meters nestled deep within our guts. But like Johnny Five, we are most definitely alive. And so we give this comprehensive Fringe review package to you with love. Keep in mind that we often saw opening night performances, so some kinks may have been worked out (or may have developed) by the time you check these out. Fringe runs through Sunday, Aug. 26, with the final show starting at 10:30 p.m.; head to indyfringe.org for a complete schedule.
Reviews by Grant Catton, Katherine Coplen, Katelyn Coyne, Dan Grossman, Rita Kohn, Stacey Mickelbart, Scott Shoger
Intimate Opera of Indianapolis
Yes, there’s more to Gustav Holst’s repertoire than The Planets. Savitri is a 3-character chamber opera based on a Hindu legend. Death tells Savitri he’s taking her husband. She says she respects Death’s right to take a life. Touched, Death grants her a wish. She asks for her right to live, adding that she needs her husband in order to live fully, thus tricking Death into restoring her husband. Framed by two Holst hymns, Intimate Opera layers more mysticism on this simple story, with scenic design by Kyle Ragsdale that seems like one of his paintings come alive. Fine singing, acting, music, makeup and costuming couldn't quite make up for the absence of clear articulation. (Rita Kohn)
Thu 7:30 p.m., Sat 9 p.m., Sun 10:30 p.m.
The Blue Monkey Sideshow
As always, the Blue Monkey crew do stuff you definitely don't want to do at home, including walking on glass, resting on a board of nails, hanging stuff from earlobes and attaching toys to nostrils. The faint of heart are compelled to look away as the rest of the audience eggs the sword swallower to on greater dangers. It’s a living remnant of kind of traveling circus troupe that flaunted danger, making especially pertinent the Ringmaster’s double-edged question: Why do we do this? Why do you come? (Rita Kohn)
Thu 9 p.m., Sat 3 p.m., Sun 1:30 p.m.
Long draws the comedic out of serious situations, starting with a provocative question about having a baby and then taking us into the realities of meeting that child’s special needs. Through a series of vignettes, Long paints seemingly ordinary situations with a rainbow of sensory and emotional hues. He makes us answer for our choices and actions, and sends us home with a more caring heart. Opening night jitters will surely be refined for a tighter, smoother presentation. (Rita Kohn)
Wed 6 p.m., Sat 10:30 p.m., Sun 4:30 p.m.
EclecticPond Theatre Company
If you’re into kicking back with a kitchy, campy parody, you’ll love the broad physicality and bounding energy of this show, even if you can’t hear a word coming out of the soft-spoken females or catch the lyrics of musical numbers. Playwright siblings Thomas Cardwell and Lucy Cardwell brazenly dissect The Count’s attempt to relocate from Transylvania to England, using the novel’s main characters and inserting a pair of blundering sidekicks. Fun, but it needs to be trimmed to the requisite 60 minutes, and performers will have to adjust to the space to make themselves heard. (Rita Kohn)
Wed 7:30 p.m., Sat 1:30 p.m., Sun 9 p.m.
The fast-paced, fast-talking Watson mixes up magic with comedy for a family-friendly show that includes juggling, unicycle riding, personal history and audience participation. Wearing a Charlie Chaplin-esque too-small jacket, he appears to bungle his act, but proves his prowess over the course of the show, aided by clever lighting to distract viewers from looking too closely. Watson's cleverly funny routine ran to 75 minutes at his Aug. 18 opening, which made getting to the next show a bit tricky. (Rita Kohn)
Wed 9 p.m., Fri 7:30 p.m., Sat 7:30 p.m., Sun 3 p.m.
Taylor Martin’s Indy Magic Monthly
Taylor Martin moves from telling how Stone Agers originated the cup and ball trick to material involving a QR code in a wide-ranging show. The low-key, slow-paced Martin as Madame Esmerelda Fallendo introduces three emerging illusion artists as part of the on-going show. Bill Cook, the recently-passed medical products magnate who helped fund the renovation of the Indiana Landmarks Center (of which the Cook Theater is a part), also pays a tongue-in-cheek visit. (Rita Kohn)
Fri 6 p.m., Sat 4:30 p.m., Sun 7:30 p.m.
The Steele Project
When three opera singers gather to choose which version of Cinderella to put on stage, they end up deciding to “do it their way,” creating a mashup of snippets from Disney to Rossini. Propelled by two fairy godfathers, Cinderella alternately despairs and takes charge; the love-smitten Prince, no matter what version, always defies believability. A bit thin in content, it’s fun to watch. (Rita Kohn)
Thu 6 p.m., Fri 10:30 p.m., Sun 6 p.m.
John Phillips and Lori Ecker beautifully deliver Stephen Temperley’s poignant, funny play directly into our hearts. Souvenir is about the honest relationship between a deluded diva and her musically accomplished accompanist. Phillips's well-rendered body language covers the gamut from “I can’t believe her audacity” to “I have to respect that level of audacity.” Ecker tosses off-key, off-tempo arias with serious abandon, making us realize what she hears is in her head, not in our ears. (Rita Kohn)
Fri 9 p.m., Sat 6 p.m.
Next page: ComedySportz
Phil Van Hest
Former Fringe 2011 NUVO cover dude Phil Van Hest is used to being naked — really, he sometimes forgets his pants when he goes out. However, in this Fringe creation, Van Hest strips down emotionally, to great effect. A former anarchist clown wrangler — you'll have to go to the show for the story on that one — Van Hest is experiencing a series of milestones: his first child, his first government-mandated unbastard-making marriage proposal, etc. From his much-mined material about moving to the Midwest to anxieties about his new bundle of joy — currently named “Pixel” — Van Hest has once again crafted a one-man show that's equal parts hilarious and touching. A perfect blend of a standup set and a one-man show. (Katherine Coplen)
Thu 9 p.m., Sat 6 p.m., Sun 9 p.m.
“That joke worked last night,” isn't a welcome refrain during a standup set. Unfortunately, that's what the crowd heard frequently during Brad Hinshaw's performance. Hinshaw was challenged by the small size of the crowd — his show was the first of the day — and a collection of fairly weak material. He began his set, “I'm here to tell you about all the shit I've seen over the past 30 years,” and proceeded to set up a joke about exactly that — shit (in a bathtub; we'll spare you the exact details.) Although Hinshaw's material was half-baked, his topics were relatable and endearing, culled from his history as an Eagle Scout and young cop. He's got interesting physical chemistry, but his work needs some polish. Major points for earnestness. (Katherine Coplen)
Fri 9 p.m., Sat 10:30 p.m., Sun 6 p.m.
Rob Johansen, Victory Dog
Rob Johansen takes the audience on a journey — including cars, trains, planes and the aptly named Atomic Fireball helicopter — during this David Hoppe-penned narrative about the search for the knighted Paul McCartney. Crisscrossing the Atlantic, two recently reunited friends — one a quiet family man, another an obsessive Beatles tribute artist — find unlikely help and an enduring, worldwide love of The Beatles as they seek to pay homage to the man whose work has meant so much to them both. Johansen's firecracker performance popped off the stage; I frequently leaned forward to attempt to come closer to the performer, whose masterful switch between accents, genders, songs, locales and emotions riveted from start to finish. (Editor’s note, David Hoppe is a long-time employee of NUVO.) (Katherine Coplen)
Thu 7:30 p.m., Sun 7:30 p.m.
“I've been trying not to be preachy lately, but I'm failing,” remarked Stewart Huff during the midday show of “Donating Sperm to My Sister's Wife.” He was in the midst of explaining his interesting procreative situation — exactly as the title suggests, he recently became the “fucked-up babydaddy uncle” to an impending youngin for his lesbian sister. Huff's set was comprised of a collection of beautiful things about humanity — ingenuity, family, friendship. It was an inspirational show about love and hate and understanding, and Huff has a few zingers we won't spoil here. He may claim to avoid being preachy, but I found his set more emotionally uplifting than any church service I've been to in recent memory. And, at the end of the set, Huff was hugging, laughing and shaking hands — exemplifying the love that he so obviously believes in. Clocking in at around 50 minutes, “Donating Sperm” is a snappy, delightful success. (Katherine Coplen)
Wed 6 p.m., Sat 3 p.m.
Roxanna Keller, Damaris Wilcox
A joke! A limerick! A fairytale! A nursery rhyme! A toast! — all delightfully pervy, and presented by Iris and Rose, two sisters who are Coloradoan muralists when not busy making dirty jokes. During this reviewer's time slot, the duo provided a enjoyable selection of particularly blasphemous Sunday jokes (“Sundays are notoriously ... awkward for disgusting songs,” Rose remarked before setting into a real zinger). Lots of kin-loving, animal-sexing, nationality-insulting goes on here (“Bad Scottish Joke Time” was a particular favorite). Iris and Rose are old pros — claiming to have done this for “mumbley-mumbley” years — and most of the show consists of them measuring how far the crowd will let them push the dirty envelope. And this Sunday afternoon, it was far. A bawdy sing-along romp. (Katherine Coplen)
Fri 10:30 p.m., Sat 9 p.m., Sun 1:30 p.m.
Indianapolis Men's Chorus
A saturation of Sondheim complements a few original selections by the Indianapolis Men's Chorus. Standouts include the two company numbers and a truly hilarious one-two punch of Indianapolis Starbucks love. Mostly solos, this collection by artistic director Greg Sanders highlighted the variety of powerful voices in the Chorus. Come for the Sweeney Todd and a touchingly mournful “Mr. Cellophane,” stay to see how 16 men can fit onto the teeny ComedySportz stage. (Katherine Coplen)
Fri 6 p.m., Sat 1:30 p.m., Sun 10:30 p.m.
Before "Daycare Ditties" begins, a children's song plays on infinite loop: “Sharing is caring, and caring is sharing...” repeats a dull man's voice over and over. As actress Leah Isaacson wiggles her way onto the stage, she joins in the mind-numbing chorus. Is the track stuck in your head? Welcome to her world. And so begins the one-woman show, featuring a variety of impressions of the child care coworkers and toddlers that make every day so infuriating for frustrated actress Isaacson. A bit like sitting at a bar with your long-suffering girlfriend, Isaacson's impressions are harsh but well done, showcasing a cast of ladies with a range of diagnosis-ready issues. A fairly weak setup allows her room to explore the characters, some of which are done with great aplomb. (Katherine Coplen)
Wed 7:30 p.m., Sat, 7:30 p.m.; Sun 4:30 p.m.
Left Right TIM
Two sets worth of improv comedy by a group of young, funny dudes with plenty of facial hair and good chemistry. Opened up by having someone in the audience shout out a word, but had to back-track when the first word was “dildo.” The word “substitute” launched into an hilarious exploration of some uncomfortable scenes at a high-school, including a janitor with sexual problems and a mumbling new student. This crew is packed with talent; the kind of personalities who can make just about anything seem funny, just through their delivery and their conveyance of the sense their having a blast doing it. (Grant Catton)
Wed 9 p.m., Thu 6 p.m., Fri 7:30 p.m., Sat 4:30 p.m., Sun 3 p.m.
Next page: Theatre on the Square Main Stage
Dance Kaleidoscope’s Best of Super Soul started slow, with a lack of soulful attitude sorely missing in the early numbers, but soon picked up steam as the Motown started to flow. Soloist Brandon Corner soared in his featured piece, dazzling audiences with tricks, turns, jumps and a smile that just wouldn’t quit. As one of the hottest tickets at Fringe, arrive early for a snowball’s chance in hell of securing a seat. (Katelyn Coyne)
Thu 9 p.m., Sat 3 p.m., Sun 10:30 p.m.
A regional theater’s attempt to produce a Ghostbusters-inspired play hits a major snag: the inability to actually refer to the film by name. The framing device of a play within a play can be tricky, and in the case of Don’t Cross the Streams, the frame leaves plenty of loose ends as the punch-line driven script finds itself in a corner. If you can forgive the lack of plot and gag for gag’s sake attitude, Don’t Cross the Streams is delightfully quirky and highly inventive. Plus, a spot on impression of Rick Moranis as Louis Tully will have audiences howling. (Katelyn Coyne)
Wed 6 p.m., Fri 7:30 p.m., Sun 1:30 p.m.
Red Boat Productions
Five Indianapolis sex addicts converge in group therapy sharing their personal sexual journeys. Campy but thematically cohesive, this show lays the double entendre on thick. Though it fails to truly push the boundaries of our understanding when it comes to doing the nasty, 465: Sex Drive did explore a diverse range of sexual quandaries. Still, bogged down as it is by individual character development that just can’t seem to wade past innuendo, the show becomes tiresome in its lack of originality. (Katelyn Coyne)
Thu 7:30 p.m., Sat 7:30 p.m., Sun 4:30 p.m.
J. Nicholas Shoemaker
J. Nicholas Shoemaker rewrites history with this piece of Camelot fantasy, in which a reanimated JFK faces off against his undead assassin as he attempt to win the heart of a star-crossed Marilyn Monroe. Hilarious video production, a fishnet sporting J. Edgar and a host of other historical characters combine to create this satirical historic thriller. Sloppy production values are forgivably Fringey. Yet, unclear character introductions complicate the plot making it difficult to follow the story line from the get-go. (Katelyn Coyne)
Wed 9 p.m., Thu 6 p.m., Sat 4:30 p.m., Sun 3 p.m.
Steve Daly Productions
The Las Vegas-based Bonnie Bitch offers novelty in more ways than one as a female impersonator hypnotist, the only one of her kind. Her fabulous stage presence is complemented by a commanding voice that rocks her volunteer subjects into the depths of sleep. It's a lot of fun, but only if you’re in the right state of mind. Bring a witness and become part of the show. (Katelyn Coyne)
Fri 6 p.m., Sat 9 p.m., Sun 9 p.m.
Colaboração offers a raw look at an exciting new collaboration with our sister city in Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul. The under-rehearsed performance was filled with awkward gaps between dance numbers. Plus, a bulky piano solo at the top lulls audiences into boredom before the show even begins. But once the performers took the stage, they simply captivated. In both solo and duet dances Kristen Jackson of New York and Rubieben Medeiros flawlessly connected every breath, each movement. (Katelyn Coyne)
Fri 10:30 p.m., Sat 1:30 p.m.
BOT brilliantly combines Grecian myth with Dada-esque noise art and musicality to create a one of a kind Fringe adventure. Performed entirely in robot (a language of beeps, boops, clicks and various vocalizations). the play cleverly employs alternative storytelling techniques, such as shadow puppetry, to challenge our conventional understandings of theater. Impressive costumes and a charming ensemble of seven futuristic robots are both entertaining and moving. (Katelyn Coyne)
Wed 7:30 p.m., Sat 6 p.m., Sun 7:30 p.m.
It's racy; it's risqué; it's designed to make you blush, hoot and holler. In Purr-lessque! a cast of Angel Burlesque regulars offer quirky stripteases with a feline focus. This terrifically old-fashioned show brings the best parts of vaudeville back and celebrates the female body in all forms. A cast of pasty-wearing pussies is rounded out by a hilariously simple, crazy cat lady who emcees. Smart and sexy, Purr-lesque! brings female objectification to a whole new level. (Katelyn Coyne)
Fri 9 p.m., Sat 10:30 p.m., Sun 6 p.m.
Next page: Theater on the Square Stage Two
A Wing and a Prayer Productions
This series of ten short monologues and dialogues varies from mildly snarky to downright dark, from a confusing scene on a park bench, to a beyond-the-grave monologue about Sept. 11. But the most interesting scenes are those that tackle more complex issues like gender identity and misogyny, and that’s what it seems like playwright Bob Berry really wants to address. Adam Grandy brings some serious fire into the otherwise mostly mono-toned nature of these scenes, with his roles as a convicted killer and a hapless bro on a date. Some of the other vignettes are forgettable, but there's no shortage of thought provoking moments here. (Grant Catton) Tue 6 p.m., Wed 9 p.m., Sat 3 p.m., Sun 10:30 p.m.
Prairie Ditch Productions
A funny and heartwarming window into a friendship between two grown men literally and figuratively searching for something more in their lives. Obvious chemistry between the two performers drew me into this one early and didn’t let me go. It develops very nicely with well-crafted and believable dialogue that reveals a lot about the characters and with well-handled exposition. At best it’s an effective study of relationship dynamics. At the very worst it will make you laugh. (Grant Catton)
Wed 7:30 p.m., Sat 7:30 p.m., Sun 6:00 p.m.
Assorted Fruits and Vegetables
This series of scenes between clearly-labeled anthropomorphized animals starts out with a house cat who is intent on taking control of his house. It resonates because it digs into the psychology of a familiar animal and also into human behavior, as the cat bemoans his owner’s habits. However, when the scenes turn to other species, they tend to fall flat. The whole humans-as-animals conceit only works if fundamental truths of human or animal behavior that are being explored. (Grant Catton)
Fri 9 p.m., Sat 6 p.m., Sun 1:30 p.m.
Schedule C Productions
Apparently there is a “point” to this self-consciously self-indulgent one-man show. I know that because the playwright obviously had so little confidence in it that he felt it necessary to explain it at the end. But why not write a monologue or scene that achieves that point on its own or allows room for interpretation? There is obviously some deeply serious issue the playwright wants to address, but the sudden emotional turn at the end felt totally undeserved. (Grant Catton)
Tue 9 p.m., Thu 7:30 p.m., Sat 9 p.m., Sun 3 p.m.
We’ve Got Powers!The Power Couple
I really want to hate this little husband and wife variety show, but I just can’t. I must confess to a few well-earned laughs. Sight gags, props, storytelling, and a few charmingly transparent magic tricks to entertain and give insights into the “powers” that we all have within us, ending, finally, with the “Power of Love.” Aww. Erin Adams is irresistibly cute as a nearly mute Eskimo that can only say her name, and Jason Adams does a nice job of emceeing the whole affair. (Grant Catton)
Wed 6 p.m., Thu 9 p.m., Fri 7:30 p.m., Sun 4:30 p.m.
Take a neurotic, sexually timid divorcee (Shelby Plummer), put her in a hotel room with a prostitute (Catherine Du Bois) and a jilted middle-aged wife (Nan Macy) and you, my friend, have got the recipe for a good old-fashioned sex comedy. The story as much about sexual awakening as how we might confront any of our problems with the help of others. The sexual gags are a salacious vehicle for the underlying subtext, even if the dialogue gets a little too self-consciously snarky at certain points. (Grant Catton)
Mon 9 p.m., Fri 10:30 p.m., Sat 1:30 p.m., Sun 9 p.m.
Theatre Non Nobis
G-D takes the form of a staged discussion of religion, spirituality and faith between a half-dozen seemingly upper-middle class people. Character and conflict aren't the emphasis here; and to that end, I suppose G-D works. The characters swap stories, ask each other questions, prod each other to dig a little deeper and explain their religious beliefs. Unfortunately - and although there is one Muslim character - everyone on stage seems to be coming from a similar spiritual place. Yes, there are slightly tense moments when characters really push someone to explain themselves, but those moments are handled in such a sterile, overly reverent, "new-age" way as to be deprived of the possibility for significant change. (Grant Catton)
Thu 6 p.m., Sat 10:30 p.m.
Our favorite yellow mystery books are turned on their head in this one-woman show that explores the mysterious death of a male publisher. Kim McCann is Carolyn Keene, who ruminates on female fiction censored for a man's world as men in her own world confront her with unanswered questions. McCann's even, ultra-precise delivery is eerie; she's a captivating performer who needs the barest of ladylike props to unfurl the story of a less deferential, more badass Nancy Drew. (Katherine Coplen)
Fri 6 p.m., Sat 4:30 p.m., Sun 7:30 p.m.
Next page: Frank & Katrina Basile Theatre, The Phoenix
Petrick is funny, engaging, sweet, sour and all the rest in his monologue about his year or so as a Vietnam-era draftee, when his extracurricular activities as an anti-war activist drew the ire (and surveillance) of U.S. Army intelligence. Much of the script could've been written for an anti-establishment version of Sgt. Bilko, with jokes about mess hall malfeasance and dumb-ass generals. Therein lies one problem, maybe the only: Petrick skims over swaths of his life that might've proven more surprising and less clichéd, like his engagement with socialist wings of the anti-war movement. (Scott Shoger)
Fri 6 p.m., Sat. 4:30 p.m., Sun 9 p.m.
You can't beat spending time with a relaxed, smart, caring storyteller who can bring life to just about incident from his past, throwing in clever wordplay, punchlines or germane quotes (Nietzsche on love, for instance) to boot. May spends much of his time exploring his notion of hell as a child, when one All Saint's Day, he invented the “reverse genuflection” in order to more economically pardon those in Purgatory. But I wish May had fleshed out the last few minutes of the show, when he talked about how his notion of a black-and-white world made it hard to him to adjust to the liberated climate of the late '60s. (Scott Shoger)
Fri 9 p.m., Sat 6 p.m., Sun 1:30 p.m.
Ryan Mullins's imaginative boy of a very impressionable age is just about as funny, charming and ingenious as can be as he escapes from the impending loss of a family member and into Neverland, where you eat fruit roll-ups all day and definitely don't have to grow up. Touchstones include Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, in the monologue's portrayal of a playful super-dad (a reference acknowledged, I think, via seeming non-sequiturs involving Tom Hanks), and The Pillowman, a way more grotesque piece about the power of storytelling staged earlier this year by NoExit. Director Michael Burke is at his cleverest with a propulsive soundtrack and fun use of a wagon turned pirate ship turned storybook stand turned imaginarium. (Scott Shoger)
Thu 7:30 p.m., Sat 9 p.m., Sun 3 p.m.
Kling's monologue about, among other things, her cock and what she plans to do with it as part of her gender transition is perhaps at its most essential when Kling is at her angriest, facetiously reading off a litany of apologies for not being easy to classify for the close-minded, self-centered, ignorant, prudish and whatnot. Slightly less successful are the mixed-media elements and poetic passages; her take on her body as a weather system ranges from funny and unexpected to a little trite and, um, flowery, while a dance segment seemed superfluous, against her extremely effective and funny first-person material. (Scott Shoger)
Wed 7:30 p.m., Sat 3 p.m.
The amateur scary storyteller tends to over-dramatize all the head-chopping and hook-embedding, yelling out when the body drops as if we'd just walked in on it ourselves. Not so with Hamilton, whose collection of spooky Kentucky folk tales belongs to a world where people just plum died more often, murdered by their mother or the guy in the woods, and it wasn't the death that was necessarily the focal point, but the manner of death and its aftermath. Too bad the show's conceit (a menu of spooky meals) is so Halloween-are-they-brains-or-are-they-noodles corny. (Scott Shoger)
Wed 6 p.m., Sat 10:30 p.m., Sun 4:30 p.m.
Rupert Wates and Friends
It's the third time around at IndyFringe for Wates's revue of songs about American life, from the Dust Bowl to the war in Afghanistan to a hot night in Queens and back again. Wates is an insightful songwriter, a gentle singer and a versatile guitarist, but the Joe's Cafe concept is thin to the point of invisibility (just a cafe table and boring projected slideshow) and the proceedings felt rushed, with Wates introducing each song with just a sentence or two. Of course, economy can be a virtue; and shorter intros allow for more songs, notably the outstanding "Days of Mercy." (Scott Shoger)
Fri 10:30 p.m., Sat 7:30 p.m., Sun 6 p.m.
The thing about a non-linear, “puzzle” narrative is that the viewer/reader/whatever wants all the work to be worth it. Such isn't quite the case with Dandelion Chains, a fragmented monologue whose moments of brilliance are nearly canceled out by lame stock characters (a redneck Olive Garden waitress who got herself knocked up, a Polish maid whose accent veers between Eastern Europe and Mexico). Shrum is nonetheless convincing in just about every role in her play about mother/fatherhood — she just didn't give herself enough to work with as a writer, and those dandelions are, as symbols, portentous but empty. (Scott Shoger)
Thu 9 p.m., Sat 1:30 p.m., Sun 7:30 p.m.
It's one of the toughest Fringe staples to write or talk about critically: The sincere monologue about traumatic life experiences, created by a amateur whose presence on the stage is something of an accomplishment, which nonetheless lacks most elements that make for a decent show. No doubt that Lombardo deserves praise for her determined recovery from the removal of two brain tumors, but she might better get the word out about brain health by incorporating other characters and survivors more fully into her story (not to mention nixing all those blackouts and title card changes between vignettes). (Scott Shoger)
Wed 9 p.m., Thu 6 p.m., Fri 7:30 p.m., Sun 10:30 p.m.
Next page: Livia & Steve Russell Theatre, The Phoenix
Three Dollar Bill Comedy, Indianapolis
Three Dollar Bill presents its second take on Schoolhouse Rock, romping through vaudeville, spirituals, hard rock, jug band tunes, and every musical style in between—“because we’ve got to learn some shit.” Relying heavily on the excellent Claire Wilcher for vocals, some of the guys have trouble staying on key, but they make up for it with their skilled physical comedy. The skits take on topics that are sometimes shopworn (useless liberal arts degrees) or on the edge (the pimp’s percentage), but that’s a quibble when most of them, as well as the transitions between lessons, are funny and impeccably timed. (Stacey Mickelbart)
Fri 9 p.m., Sat 6 p.m., Sun 10:30 p.m.
Carlos Monte describes himself as a “third world clown,” using props, circus stunts, song, and audience participation to tell his tragicomic tales. While Monte sets the stage and uses it well, the show feels disjointed, with no clear relationship or transition between sketches. At least one Spanglish ballad misses the mark when clowning alone couldn’t convey much about the character or situation. Monte’s nimble, Gumby-like body and expressive Mick Jagger mouth are great tools for a modern-day jester, and he manhandles the bullwhip like a pro, but this piece needs more polish to meet its potential. (Stacey Mickelbart)
Wed 7:30 p.m., Thu 9 p.m., Sat 7:30 p.m., Sun 6 p.m.
Yes Theatre Co., Indianapolis
Are stereotypes funny and based in truth, or harmful, fabricated from individual experience? Both, writers Carlos Portillo and Kristopher Owens suggest, most pointedly with a couple of clever game show skits and the revelation that, yes, there really was an Operation Wetback at the INS during the 1950s. The show’s pacing, transitions, and joke timing could be sharpened; at times it plays more like a couple of guys riffing in their living room. This satire lacks subtlety, sometimes dealing in trite assumptions that already plague the discussion on immigration, but it’s still an amusing look at a timely topic. (Stacey Mickelbart)
Fri 6 p.m., Sat 4:30 p.m., Sun 7:30 p.m.
Tiffanie Bridges, Indianapolis
In an exploration of a childhood hair disaster that made her the butt of her classmates’ jokes, Bridges explains how she found solace in movies, music, and the women who perform them. She powers through songs from a dozen stars with solid vocals and a canny ability to mimic and spoof individual singing styles and physical tics, demonstrating all the while just how hard she and her fellow divas work to entertain us. Hair and image, while fun to play with, are the least of the things that define her, and Bridges easily secures her hoped-for last laugh with her stellar showmanship. (Stacey Mickelbart)
Thu 6 p.m., Sat 10:30 p.m.
Wisdom Tooth Theatre Project, Anderson, IN
In this family drama, crazy, irrepressible JoJo soothes her “high lonesome” by forcing late night talks on Jamie, who’s the responsible, sober sister. Or is she? While it’s clear that something is amiss, the play doles out hints before its eventual revelation, and the existential dialogue can lag. But puppets add levity and a twist to this piece written well before Avenue Q used similar tactics. “Is feeling good the point? Or working through it?” the sisters wonder, until one of them begins to understand that the memories she’s holding tight have become a limiting tether. The real tenderness displayed between the two actresses makes the play work. (Stacey Mickelbart)
Wed 9 p.m., Sun 1:30 p.m.
Carmel High School
In the Roaring Twenties, women not much older than the student actors in this piece joined the workforce at the Radium Dial Company. No one told them the material used in their work would poison them. While some of the early exposition was delivered too quietly or quickly to catch, this kink will likely be worked out in repeat performances. The script saddles the actors with stock characterizations of real women, so the cast sometimes struggled to flesh them out. Overall, however, they elicit genuine sympathy and sorrow for the Radium Girls, helping maintain the legacy of women who feared they’d be forgotten. (Stacey Mickelbart)
Wed 6 p.m.; Fri 7:30 p.m.; Sat 3 p.m.; Sun 4:30 p.m.
Weatherwax, who’s developed her own style of movement-based storytelling, begins by explaining how her creative process works and imagining the audience’s response: “Oh shit. I should have gone to that show at ComedySportz. It looks more accessible.” Don’t fall for that line of thinking. She has the unique ability to mine how our minds veer sideways in the stream of consciousness, and embody it, weaving seemingly unrelated images, moments, and stories from her life into a surprisingly coherent, funny, and powerful show. Each of her performances at the Fringe will be different, and Weatherwax makes this improvisation look effortless. (Stacey Mickelbart)
Fri 10:30 p.m., Sat 1:30 p.m., Sun 9 p.m.
Bloomington Playwrights Project
The BPP brings a new Blizzard to this year’s festival, pelting you with 30 microplays in 60 minutes, a format inspired by the popular Neo-Futurist show Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. Indianapolis businesses inspire each piece, and the cast ricochets from Broadway dance number to rap video to silly gross-out scenes in the order chosen by the audience. The seven actors are all adept, serving as smart-mouthed stage managers in between set pieces. While the sheer volume of plays guarantees a mixed bag, the fun is often the surprise of where the group’s absurd imagination will take you next. (Stacey Mickelbart)
Thu 7:30 p.m., Sat 9 p.m., Sun 3 p.m.
Next page: IndyFringe Basile Theater
Indianapolis Urban Theatre and Dance Company
In this abridged version of a Cormac McCarthy-scripted play, two characters, one white and one black, face off across a table arguing the meaning of life — and death. We learn soon enough that the African-American character prevented the other from throwing himself in front of a train called The Sunset Limited. Kevin Johnson plays this guardian angel, of sorts, who believes in redemption through Christ. Jeff Roby plays the professor who once believed in art, but now believes in the power of The Sunset Limited to deliver him from an empty life. Roby plays his withdrawn character effectively as does Johnson whose tenor — similar to that of Chris Rock — is an extraordinary instrument used to extraordinary effect. (Dan Grossman)
Sat 1:30 p.m., Sun 1:30 p.m.
Young Actors Theatre
The Arts Effect All-Girl Theatre Co.
As facebook me commences, ten teenage girls march onto the stage in a distracted state. All are plugged into Facebook on their smartphones; their postings are projected on a screen behind them in real time. When the father of Penny Carlisle — played with spot-on emotion by Allie Russell — posts about her, “I thought kids outgrew tantrums at 13,” all of her friends can see it. Penny’s reaction becomes the center that the rest of the performance revolves around. Even if you wonder whether the introduction of suggestive props warrants a more drastic reaction, you won’t be able to forget this thought-provoking performance. (Dan Grossman)
Thu 6 p.m., Sat 4:30 pm, Sun 3 pm.
Two First Name Productions
As you enter this auction/performance, you’re handed a bag of toy money with which you can bid. If you win the bid, you can bring those props home. In the Aug. 17 performance, the two auctioneers were played by Diane Kondrat and Matt Roland. See, actors and characterization/plot change with each performance. Kondrat played Stacy, the stepmother of career-challenged Ronny. His father, who died “after a long bout of hammer toe,” had a stipulation in his will that stuff in his auction house be sold. Not a lot of dramatic tension here. That is, you know audience members will get the goods. But it was amusing to watch the characters hurl resentful barbs at each other. (Dan Grossman)
Sat 10:30 p.m., Sun 6 p.m
You might think of this performance as Indigo Girls meets Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. kRi is the raconteur, telling the tale of this two-girl band in a mixture of song and spoken word to Hettie’s guitar strumming and harmonizing vocal accompaniment. We learn about how they quit their day jobs and hit the road, following their musical muse. They recount — among other adventures — seeing forest fires in Arizona and meeting “a real mean pussy, orange and white.” All the while, they encourage you to engage in “all out living.” Hoop dancers add a note of burlesque to this performance that might work better for those who can embrace their inner child without cringing. (Dan Grossman)
Wed 9 p.m., Sat 9 p.m., Sun 10:30 p.m.
Celebration Barn Theater
In the first scene of this outré offering — purportedly based on the history of the criminal gang The Fabulous Problemas — you see a man and a woman seated at a Parisian café. Another man comes and offers the woman flowers. The man she’s with offers him payment, but he won’t accept. He wants the woman instead. What follows is the slapstickiest love triangle you’ll ever see, involving threesome sex, a triple-knot tango, numerous heists and food-induced orgasms. Except for a musical number, this exuberant performance is accomplished largely in pantomime. (Dan Grossman)
Thu 7:30 p.m., Fri 6 p.m., Sun 7:30 p.m.
The Arden Theatre Union
This one starts out promisingly — and humorously — enough. A woman named Lee walks into the aquarium where she works after hours and sees a woman, naked under a blanket, and asks her why she’s sleeping there like that. “Blankets are less of a commitment,” responds this woman who happens to be named Calypso. “Clothing constrains you.” At about midpoint in the performance a shift in tone takes place; the girl gets girl romance takes over from the comedy and in this context the characters’ flowery lines sometimes sound stilted. (Dan Grossman)
Wed 7:30 p.m., Fri 10:30 p.m., Sat 7:30 p.m., Sun 4:30 p.m.
What if you had an imaginary friend who hampered your life to the point that you had to spend time in an institution? That’s the dilemma of Evan, who’s in group therapy with his brother, a fellow patient named Amy and his imaginary friend Vivianne. The onstage therapy session is run by one Dr. Feelgood, who doesn’t want to kill Evan’s imaginary friend but “move her on in a non-threatening manner.” Great performances abound with kudos to Lisa Marie Smith who plays an amped up Amy with a thing for prescription medications. A surprising, enigmatic ending caps this thought-provoking comedy. (Dan Grossman)
Wed 6 p.m., Fri 9 p.m., Sat 3 p.m.
Main Street Artists
The IndyFringe Theatre's church-like setting is perfect for playwright Darrin Murrell’s Gothic horror play, which explores the altered states of mind that can lead mankind to acts of horror. Murrell establishes the theme of his 3-act domestic drama by opening with Duparc’s song set on Baudelaire’s poem, which states, in part, “Beauty is bizarre.” “The Green Fairy,” a character representing the psychoactive side of absinthe, appropriately flits in and out and around the action of the play, sinigng suggestive songs in French. Actors superbly segue through three theatre styles: absurdism, melodrama and expressionism. (Rita Kohn)
Thu 9 p.m., Fri 7:30 p.m., Sat 6 p.m., Sun 9 p.m.