Reviews of IndyFringe 2015 performances by John Lyle Belden and Wendy C. Carson. Includes: “Auditioning for Swan Lake” by Lou Ann Homan (Maggie Mae Productions); “Home Grown Original” by Band O’ Leers; “Mr. Boniface, the Wise” by KT Peterson; “My Sister Diane: A Story of Hope, Humor and Hospice” by Jim May, Storyteller; “Not My Baby!” by Dreadmelon Productions; “Tipped & Tipsy” by Jill Vice. All but “Tipped…” are at the IndyFringe Theatre.
Auditioning for Swan Lake (review by John)
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.
Home Grown Originals (review by John)
Let us simplify your expectations. Ironically, this show 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 will also be available, featuring vocals by local legend Karen Irwin.
Mr. Boniface, the Wise (review by Wendy)
Zany doesn’t even begin to describe the characters in this play. 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.
My Sister Diane (review by John)
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.
Not My Baby! (review by Wendy)
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.
Tipped & Tipsy (review by Wendy)
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.