IndyFringe: Prodigal Hoosier

By Wendy Carson

“Prodigal Hoosier” is a time-traveling trip told mainly through song.

We begin with a tender look back at Kevin Kelso’s music teacher and the lessons learned, far beyond just piano skills. The show then moves from tributes to famous mathematicians, his loving wife, his obsession with goals and plans to a “Fight Song” for the mythical Farmers Insurance University.

Kelso’s musical skills showcased are quite impressive. The song for his father, “You can take the boy out of Brown County, but you can’t take Brown County out of the boy” is a tender delight. Although my personal favorite number was his musical version of Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias,” simply because I love the source material.

Also, if you’re lucky, he might come out and do an encore song. Truly a delightful evening of joy and music for young and old alike.

Performances are 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 27-28, on the Phoenix Theatre underground stage. Info and tickets at indyfringefestival.com.

IndyFringe: Bad Brother: Religion and Politics in ‘69

By Wendy Carson

With all of the current political discord in our country, there can be no better time to look back to the events of the late sixties and early seventies to see what can be learned from the successes and failures of those early radicals to change history.

Enter Loren Niemi, a former novitiate of the Christian Brothers, liberal thinker, political idealist and fighter on the front lines of history. He presents the tales of his life trying to balance his religious beliefs with his radical agendas and the fallout from those struggles.

These are stories of history that you won’t learn in school, yet are vital to be aware of, lest the social changes made are lost. Being such an engaging storyteller, Niemi not only holds your attention, he submerges you totally in the narrative.

So whether you lived through these times, were too young to have been aware of them, or are hoping to learn a thing or two, make sure you come out and follow Niemi down his patch to a sort of salvation.

Performances are Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 26-28, at the Phoenix underground stage. Info and tickets at indyfringefestival.com.

IndyFringe: Indiana Squirrel Stampede

By Wendy Carson

This is the story of the Great Indiana Squirrel Stampede of 1822 (not to be confused with the Great Ohio Squirrel Stampede of 1819). As zany as this musical is, it is inspired by actual historical events.

What is believed to have led up to this catastrophe is a combination of the migratory paths of black squirrels, the encroachment of humans into their territories and these humans’ alteration of the land from forests to farmland, leaving the squirrels without access to their natural food sources.

While the above explanation was nigh on impossible for those affected to wrap their head around, many crazy theories arose as to what caused this disaster. These theories are mined for gold by playwright and star Julie Lyn Barber and the other actors to your sheer delight. Especially the younger actors, Sophia and Sage Barber Murrell. Their performances are worth the whole ticket price to see.

Biblical lore, Native prophecies, cautionary tales, even weresquirrels are included for your amusement. Just remember that natural events like those shown here are possible and cyclic — it is entirely possible that another such uprising could occur. So, watch, laugh, and maybe even learn a thing or two so we may be prepared for their next attack.

Performances are Friday and Sunday, Aug. 26 and 28, at the Indy Eleven Theatre. Info and tickets at indyfringefestival.com.

IndyFringe: A Darkly Humorous Evening with Stephen Vincent Giles

By Wendy Carson

I know we’ve all heard “The Raven,” and it’s hard to imagine anyone in Indiana not being familiar with “Little Orphant Annie” or the poems of Edward Gorey. However, most people have never really seen them fully enacted in the masterful was that Stephen Vincent Giles presents.

He skillfully interprets these works as well as many others, into a night of slightly spooky fun. Much like the ghost tales spun around a campfire, Giles keeps the lighting low and lulls you into a sense of wonderful whimsy just before shocking you with a scare. Utilizing minimal costumes and props he cleverly portrays the tellers of many of these tales in a wonderfully enigmatic light.

While none of the material presented is inappropriate for children, younger or more sensitive souls might be wary. Still, if aren’t afraid of the dark, have someone’s hand to hold when you get nervous, and like your humor on the darker side, this show is definitely for you.

Last performance is 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27, at the Phoenix underground. Info and tickets at indyfringefestival.com.

IndyFringe: Uberview from the Heartland

By Wendy Carson

It’s sometimes surprising how much a passenger will open up to a driver and the stories that they reveal in such a short time. D Paul Turner has been driving for the ride-share company for over three years and during that time, has been privy to many a curious and interesting tale.

He has religiously collected the stories into a personal journal. He then regales the audience with several highlights from within. The stories range from silly, disconcerting, uplifting and all points in between. He has met some truly remarkable people who have all touched him in one way or another.

So, buckle up your seat belt, and settle in for a slightly bumpy, but always enjoyable ride. Who knows, you might even end up with a free trip from Uber.

Performances are Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 27-28, at the Indy Eleven Theatre. Info and tickets at indyfringefestival.com.

IndyFringe: Barking Signals (Badly) During Goldwater

By John Lyle Belden

Life in rural America was fairly simple in the 1960s. And in most towns, one of the most important things going on in the fall was high school football.

That was the case in a small Virginia coal country town, where a coach is having trouble fielding a team, so he will accept anyone who shows up — including three very different boys who barely know the rules of the game.

One student is desperate to leave the backwoods town behind, and feels having sports on his list of extra-curriculars will help him get into college. His best friend would rather read than play a physical game, but to his joy (and the coach’s) finds that there are whole volumes on the strategies of the gridiron. The third walk-on has to balance school and practice with his shifts at the mine; he has a very personal reason for joining the team.

One would think this little drama with comic touches is about football. But it’s not, just as for the coach, not even football is all about football. It’s about life and growing up and understanding the people you find yourself on a team with. And on that field, this show scores a victory.

It suits up Saturday and Sunday afternoon, Aug. 27-28, at the Theatre on the Square second stage. Info and tickets at indyfringefestival.com.

IndyFringe: Act a Foo’ Improv Crew

By John Lyle Belden

I debated even bothering with this review, because who doesn’t know about Act a Foo’? For a few years now, this ensemble has been making people laugh with improvisational comedy all over Indy. They even have a regular gig at the IndyFringe building.

For this year’s Fringe festival, the Crew are on the Phoenix Theatre mainstage. And from what I’ve seen, they get funnier and more polished with every performance. So, naturally, what you next see will be even better than what I saw. Funny how that works.

The style of comedy is little “games” like the popular TV show “Whose Line is it Anyway”  in which audience suggestions get incorporated into skits make up on the spot. These guys have been at it long enough that they even enjoy throwing verbal curveballs at each other to try to disrupt their natural comic rhythm, with even funnier results.

And don’t think it’s all on them. Audience members not only have to give suggestions, but occasionally also get involved, like when two ordinary folks have to move the arms and legs for two crew members trying to engage in a silly conversation.

Now for the important part: last shows for this festival are Saturday and Sunday afternoons, Aug. 27-28. Info and tickets at indyfringefestival.com.