IndyFringe: Driving Kenneth and Betsy Ross

This is part of IndyFringe 2021, Aug. 19-Sept. 5 (individual performance times vary) in downtown Indianapolis. Details and tickets at IndyFringe.org.

By John Lyle Belden

To say that Kenneth is stuck in his ways would be an understatement. A true Southerner, he won’t even travel north of the Mason-Dixon line, because the wrong side won The War. Fortunately for this lifelong Virginian, his new great-grandson is down in Atlanta, and his Liberal son Colin has agreed to drive him and his wife Betsy Ross down for a visit. Hopefully there will be a casino on the way.

Set in 2010, “Driving Kenneth and Betsy Ross,” by frequent Fringe contributor Garret Mathews (directed by wife Mary Anne Mathews), is based on his relationship with his own parents. 

Colin (Thom Johnson) is not looking forward to this road trip, and Kenneth (David Mosedale) isn’t making it any easier. It doesn’t help that Colin’s job is writing books on the Civil Rights era, or as his father puts it, “about the Negroes.” They bicker, as sweet Betsy Ross (Wendy Brown) tries to smooth things between them. When he can speak alone with her, Colin asks why she is so accommodating when she doesn’t believe everything he does; she brushes this off, citing her traditional wifely duty, but eventually on this long road, she’ll find her voice. 

Like many whites of his generation, Kenneth is more passively than actively racist, blind to his lack of perspective. Mosedale plays him with a steadfast curmudgeonly conviction that never rises to anger with a touch of humor to make him likable (or at least lets you see how son and wife could love him). Brown plays Betsy with natural ease. Johnson (who has ably taken the narrator role in plays such as “Drowsy Chaperone”) is our window into their world, and we feel Colin’s struggle to make connections with elderly kin he might not see again.

I must also note the craftsmanship of the main prop, a very solid-looking front half of an automobile crafted by Tom Harrison.

There’s quite a few laughs, some familial and conversational tension, and a lot of heart in this sentimental journey. So pack your “change-a-roonies” and beef jerky, and head on over to the Murat Oasis for this show.  

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