Fringe review: Tipped & Tipsy

By Wendy Carson

In “Tipped & Tipsy,” Jill Vice puts on a whirlwind one-woman performance in the story of Candy, the bartender at Happy’s Bar, and her regular customers.

Among the patrons we meet Pat, the homeless, alcoholic ex-boxer; Ace, the muscle-headed, tough guy who has a crush on her; and Rico, the disco ladies-man, who is also “The owner of this place.”

She shifts from one person to another with such ease you almost forget that she is alone onstage inhabiting these characters. Everyone’s stories are woven together into a rich tapestry portraying the family dynamic that comes from people habitually sharing the same space.

Like a shot of tequila, the results are more bitter than sweet, but the brutal honesty of these lives and their reasons for seeking out alcohol to help numb them to their failures is a revelation to behold.

The show is certain to be a buzz-worthy crowdpleaser. However, while the intimate venue of Theatre on the Square’s second stage highlights the story perfectly, once the word gets out, you might not be able to get a table, so reserve your seats quickly.

Oh, and don’t forget to always TIP YOUR BARTENDER.

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Fringe review: Not My Baby!

By Wendy Carson

In “Not My Baby!” by Dreadmelon Productions at the IndyFringe Basile Theatre, A man is on death row for killing a police officer. He and his family are doing everything they can to get his sentence overturned. The twist: The police officer in question was a K-9 who looked like just another dog and was attacking the man’s sister. The simplest solution would be for his sentence to be commuted to life with no parole, but since the Governor is eyeing a run for the Presidency, his “Hard on Crime” platform prevents him from showing any compassion to this man’s plight. While the helplessness of all involved overweighs the plot, the family dynamic is what this show is really about.

G-maw adds some much needed comic relief as the matriarch of the clan. However, the true standout of the bunch is little Adeesa. With her Jester’s hat of a hairstyle and idiot-savant shifts from utter nonsense to brilliant clarity, she provides insight on the true path of salvation for all the characters in this comic drama.

While it’s true that the specter of death and tragedy hangs solidly over everyone, the overall love and hope displayed by this troubled group makes the whole story resonate with everyone. Despite the dour subject matter, there is a good amount of comic relief to prevent the audience from being overwhelmed.

While I will admit that this show had not been one of my first choices to see at the Fringe this year, I am grateful to no end that it made it onto my schedule. I look forward to seeing more productions from this group and expect them all to be gracing more of our community stages in the future.

Fringe review: My Sister Diane

By John Lyle Belden

In “My Sister Diane: A Story of Hope, Humor and Hospice,” Jim May warms us up with a little about his Catholic boyhood (including how “genuflecting” spelled backwards is pronounced) and his life as a professional storyteller.

Then he relates the story of an autumn 14 years ago, when, while working on a new telling of “Noah’s Ark,” he is struck by a flood of another sort, no less devastating: His sister, the sibling he had been closest to growing up, has cancer. He and other family members fly out to see her, and talk with doctors who reveal that there is little to no hope for remission or cure. Then, the tale turns to the soothing miracle of hospice, as Diane gets to fade away in comfort with the people she loved.

A story that should have left us all in weeping puddles on the floor instead becomes uplifting and inspiring in May’s masterful hands. Instead of mourning, we celebrate the passing of a beautiful soul with one who truly loved and admired her. And for those with end-of-life decisions on their minds, the narrative provides an excellent overview of hospice care.

Fringe review: Mr. Boniface the Wise

By Wendy Carson

Zany doesn’t even begin to describe the characters in “Mr. Boniface, the Wise,” by KT Peterson, playing in the IndyFringe Basile Theatre. In fact, the titular character, Mr. Boniface — a goat-man who lives in the youngest child’s wallpaper and tells her what to do – is the most normal one on display.

We have: the aforementioned youngest child, Gerty, who may be either schizophrenic or just a clairvoyant genius; Angora, a certified scientific genius, who is so bored with the level of education at her school, she has been expelled for her little pranks against the other students; Inga, their harried, narcoleptic mother who is determined that Angora get back into school so that she can succeed at fulfilling her scientific potential; and Mr. Capshaw, Angora’s science teacher, who is madly in love with her and her brain – so much so, that they plan to fake their own deaths and run of to Wisconsin so that she can be part of a pig-cloning team.

Needless to say, hilarity ensues throughout the show as everyone tries to get what they want, and it seems that only Mr. Boniface will persevere.

While Mr. Boniface’s Presidential bid was never revealed to any of us during the play (the actors are distributing campaign stickers around the festival), I hope to eventually hear more of his platform as he seems to be one of the more reasonable possibilities for the 2016 ticket.

So, for a wacky, fun time enjoy this little insight into a family that will make yours look totally normal.

Fringe review: Home Grown Original

By John Lyle Belden

Let us simplify your expectations. Ironically, “Home Grown Originals,” at the IndyFringe Basile Theatre, stretches the concept of a “Fringe show” by not being edgy or avant garde or having some odd agenda. It’s straightforward, a group of eight friends playing some really good Hoosier-made music.

Alex “Tunesmith” Murphy recently wrote a bunch of songs, then recorded them with his ensemble, the Band O’Leers. Now he presents these rockabilly-country-blues tunes on the IndyFringe Basile stage, featuring vocals by Murphy, Tim Spradlin and Lori Ecker.

It’s an entertaining crowd-pleasing set, featuring oughta-be-hits like “Kiss Me Like You Mean it,” “Future Ex-Wife” (feel free to sing along on the chorus) and “You’re only Human if you Try.” If guitars and a corny joke or two are your bag, head on over and give them a listen.

The CD of the songs is also available, featuring vocals by local legend Karen Irwin.

Fringe review: Auditioning for Swan Lake

By John Lyle Belden

In “Auditioning for Swan Lake” at the IndyFringe Indy Eleven Theatre, storyteller Lou Ann Homan starts us off with an Estonian fairy tale, which alone is nearly worth the price of admission, and helps set the theme of this story of stories about dance.

Homan always wanted to be a dancer, but she grew up Baptist. When an AARP bulletin says that the three ways to preserve memory as you age are learning a new language (took that in high school), learn an instrument (piano, got that covered) and learn to dance (oops!), she seeks to express her inner ballerina. She finds an adult class, and after a few months has the desire to try out for a local production of “Swan Lake.” Where lack of raw talent or actual ability might fail her, she’s sure to persevere with her knack for telling stories – right?

No matter what her ballet judges thought, Homan wins us over with her true tales of how she “almost danced” on skates, how a Saturday night dance helped save her son’s life, and how sometimes what you need isn’t in the flash cards. If you’re in the mood for stories spun with heart and humor, this is definitely a show to check out. Wearing a tutu is optional, but she’ll have hers on.

Review: “Silence!” raw but raucous

By Wendy Carson

What can you say about a farcical musical based on “Silence of the Lambs” other than: Be prepared to be shocked and surprised.

In “Silence! The Musical,” now at the Phoenix Theatre, from the opening, in which the “Sheep” begin telling Clarice’s backstory, you know that the author of this production had his tongue planted firmly in his cheek.

While the plot of the story remains mostly intact, there are a few changes to mainstream the narrative in favor of song breaks. The aforementioned Sheep portray not only a Greek chorus but also slip into and out of the guises of various supporting characters in the play.

The songs and dialogue in general are not only outlandish but somewhat offensive. The fact that the biggest production number of the show is based on an obscene line should be a warning. However, the cast is thoroughly game for it all and their level of commitment makes it all bearable.

Chelsey Stauffer, as Clarice Starling, highlights the character’s overwhelming drive to prove herself to the FBI and avenge her father, as well as her gentle naivete of what she has to deal with to accomplish this. Of course, her exaggerated accent just adds to the whimsy of her character.

Paul David Nicely showcases his broad range of talent as Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Singing, dancing and threateningly looming over everything, he pulls out all the stops in embracing the character.

Scot Greenwell is sublime in the role of the deranged serial killer, Buffalo Bill, whom the FBI is desperately trying to hunt down and stop. He fully embraces the campiness of the character in every way possible.

While the irreverence of the production has the potential to be a hot mess, under the skillful hands of director Bryan Fonseca and choreographer Kenny Shepard, it transcends into delightful silliness.

Again, I warn you that due to the content and language, this is a show that should be enjoyed by a mature and not-easily-offended audience. However, if you’re up for some laughs and a wonderfully satirical take on the film, get your tickets now. Call 317-635-7529 or see phoenixtheatre.org.