IndyFringe: ‘A Fatal Step’

By John Lyle Belden

How can I add to all the praise heaped upon Jill Vice, the star of the one-woman noir, “A Fatal Step”? Let’s just say it’s well deserved.

Vice performs all the characters in a dark tale suited to old-time radio or dime novels, but set in modern times. A beautiful woman whose devotion edges into manipulation commits everything to a man who finds more gentle and genuine affection with a plain-looking woman he works with; this will not end well.

Vice’s delivery maintains suspense while slipping in the punch lines, making for a thoroughly entertaining experience — and it doesn’t hurt that she’s as lovely and charming as her main character. Still, as she slips from persona to persona, she masters her expression to make all her roles, male and female, distinct.

Yes, add us to her fan club! John & Wendy encourage you to take “A Fatal Step” at 7:30 p.m. Sunday (Aug. 27) at the Phoenix Theatre, 749 N. Park Ave.

Festival info: www.indyfringe.com.

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IndyFringe: ‘Canvas’

By John Lyle Belden

Standard disclaimer: I’ve known Casey Ross for years and love everything she does. So I can’t help but recommend this show, with a small caveat (see below).

“Canvas” is the third chapter of Ross’s trilogy that began with “Gallery” and continued with “Portraits” – both past Fringe shows. If you haven’t seen them, this play is still easy to follow, and a quick synopsis of the first two is in the program.

The story again focuses on two artists, best friends Jackson (Davey Pelsue) and Frank (Dave Ruark). In the past, free-spirit Jackson leaned on solid academic Frank, but now their situation is reversed as Jackson, a successful painter, cares for Frank, who has partial amnesia after an “accidental” drug overdose.

Once again, they struggle to define their relationship as each deeply loves the other, but the fact that one is straight and the other gay further complicates their feelings and actions. Their friends try to help, but have been burned by dysfunctional relationships with these two and can only do so much.

There is dark humor, raw emotion, and – my one caution – a frank examination of suicide. No easy answers are given, though this play does draw the trilogy to a conclusion.

Between Ross’s knack for sharp dialogue and a solid job by the actors, this play has earned its place as one of the hottest tickets at the Fringe. Get them if you can for performances Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 25-26 ,at Theatre on the Square’s second stage.

Festival info: www.indyfringe.org.

IndyFringe: ‘Free the TaTas’

By Wendy Carson and John L. Belden

Even though it sometimes seems the whole world is pink, we still must understand that awareness of breast cancer — and all cancers — includes knowing that it affects real people, including those you know (or even yourself).

Set in an atypical breast survivors support group, this show touches on how various people deal with cancer in their lives. These women are trying to overcome their grief and be upbeat, but it is no easy task.

Miss Bettye (Sandy Lomax), the octogenarian leader of the group, is outright hateful, dismissive and rude to everyone, yet you sense she feels for them. While she insists on honesty in dealing with disease, she hides the fact they could soon lose their meeting place.

The members of the group range from a starry-eyed dreamer (T. Studdard), an overworked cleaner (Tamara E’lan G.), and a desperate woman just trying anything to get by (Georgeanna Anthony). The women are trying to support each other, but Bettye keeps them at each other’s throats more often than not.

Enter into this group the indomitable presence that it Bass (China Doll), so named because her fishing-obsessed husband thinks she’s his best catch of all time. Bass tries to get everyone back on track but is met with resentment and venom at every turn. Meanwhile, she masks her own pain with humor.

Can these women turn their personal drama into a loving and supportive environment?

As they open up their journals to share with each other (and us), the true beauty of this piece is revealed. Much of the play’s content is in fact based on actual people and events. Taken as a whole, this is a hot mess that transforms into a heart blessing.

At the end, there is a short talkback session for the audience and actors to discuss their own personal journeys.

Remaining performances are Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, Aug. 26-27, at the Firefighter’s Hall, corner of Mass. Ave. and St. Clair.

Festival info: www.indyfringe.org.

IndyFringe: ‘An Elegy for Peter Through’

By Wendy Carson

This show has been the most surprising of anything I’ve seen at this year’s festival. The title lends itself to a dour subject matter, which is further reinforced by the setting, the interior of a funeral home. However, once the show begins, all of that is thrown out the window.

The funeral directors are expecting a quick, simple service when a gaggle of children and teens show up carrying a large wooden frame and demand to offer their own eulogies for the departed.

The frame becomes a sort of time portal in which the actors are transported to the day that they first met the deceased. With the seven actors quickly slipping into and out of 13 different roles, it may seem like it would be confusing, but the cast pulls off this feat seamlessly.

The stories told are funny yet uplifting and make for a warm, pleasant feeling of satisfaction afterwards. This show is definitely a good counterpoint to some of the more intense shows at the Fringe; it will greatly help you to readjust your psyche, so you really should not miss it.

John’s note: This is one of the best shows of the Fringe, in my opinion. Director Ann Marie Elliott told us that she and the Savage At Last actors worked out the story themselves without an initial script, and they all do an excellent job of channeling their inner teens and tweens facing a life-changing experience.

One performance remains, 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26, at the Theatre on the Square second stage.

Festival info: www.indyfringe.org.

IndyFringe: ‘Going Down’

By John Lyle Belden

Two men find themselves in the afterlife, and St. Peter is being a bit of a jerk. But the bigger problem is that Jesus seems unable to stop the next big war down on Earth. So it is up to his father, Harry, who goes down with Mary/Mary to fix things himself. But the dual woman has ideas of their own — like starting a radical church in Nevada.

Having your conceptions of the sacred and profane challenged is rarely as funny as this comic parable. Be prepared to hear the word from the Pink Bible and prophesy from 19th-centry poet William Blake.

The fate of Heaven and Earth is decided one more time, 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26, at the IndyFringe Theatre. Beyond that, I hope the local troupe producing it polish this cosmic comic gem to something even higher in quality.

Festival info: www.indyfringe.org.

IndyFringe: ‘Showerhead’

By Wendy Carson

As anyone who has read the Fringe guide blurb knows, this show is certainly not for everyone. Therefore, feel yourself warned and stay away if you are unable to handle the subject matter covered there. For more adventurous theatergoers, feel free to witness this spectacle.

The show is broken down into two distinct parts. The initial portion consists of cast members doing everything they can to try to offend the audience. Both sacrilegious and amusing, it seems to be an extended time-wasting experiment. However, once the actual storyline of the show commences, things start taking off.

We begin with the perfect 50’s TV couple, a fervently religious, subservient housewife and a pleasant but demanding husband. When she discovers the seedy life he is living on the side, she is thrown into a world of crime, drugs and mayhem.

There are many hilarious tropes throughout her metamorphosis as well as a lot of stilted dialogue. Yet, I found the actual story of her journey to be quite engaging and uplifting.

I hope that after the festival, Formerly Fuckboy productions (yes, that’s the name) will take some time to polish up the script because at its core, it is a fine idea that could be crafted into something really worthwhile.

Showerhead” plays 1:30 p.m. Saturday and 4:30 p.m. Sunday (Aug. 26-27) at the IndyFringe Theatre

Festival info at www.indyfringe.org.

IndyFringe: ‘White Collar Sideshow’

By Wendy Carson

The band, White Collar Sideshow, brands itself as “Shock-n-Roll,” and while that is accurate, it falls all too short of describing what this show is about.

Probably the most apt way is a quote from two fellow audience members: “It was far less scary and a lot more inspiring than I expected.”

The show is part heavy metal concert, part performance art, part delirium, and entirely enjoyable. The three-member band — TD Benton on vocals and drums, Faceless Woman on bass, and the indomitable Herr Schwein, also on drums — may look intimidating, but they are all talented musicians and the show is quite enjoyable.

The set list sets itself up as a soundtrack to the grindhouse-style film (produced by the band and featuring Schwein) in the background. There are also a few audience interactions, but nothing dangerous or too creepy. It comes off similar to a classic Alice Cooper concert.

In all honesty, words fail to describe the experience, so I strongly urge you to see it for yourselves. It’s a truly fresh offering to our traditional Fringe lineup and an experience you won’t soon forget.

John’s note: Free earplugs are provided due to the accoustic assault in close quarters. I appreciated the protection, but it did blur the song lyrics (or maybe I’m just getting old). There is a spiritual-lesson aspect to the show (like Rob Zombie hosting a tent revival), and you can get a lot of context from the visuals, so you don’t have to hear every word. The background film is quite impressive on its own as well.

Remaining performances are matinees, 3 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday (Aug. 26-27) on the main stage of the Phoenix Theatre, 749 N. Park Ave.

Festival info at www.indyfringe.org.