Fringe!

So much going on in Indy this week: GenCon, the State Fair, and the return of the Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival — IndyFringe 2017!

Fringe features practically everything you can get on a stage: comedy, drama, storytelling, music, Shakespeare, dance, magic, avant garde, maybe even clowns and puppets (it’s happened before!). Each performance is under an hour, all reasonably priced, with most of the ticket money going back to the performers.

It all gets under way Thursday through Aug. 27 in and around Mass. Ave. downtown, but first you should check out the big Preview Night, 6 p.m. Wednesday (Aug. 16) at the Athenaeum, 407 E. Michigan (corner of Michigan and New Jersey streets, where they meet Mass Ave.). Admission is just $5.

During the Preview, get into the Fringe spirit with quick excerpts from most of the participating shows, as well as the run-down on what all will be happening during the festival.

John and Wendy are busy Wednesday, but plan to be around IndyFringe starting Friday evening. We won’t see every show, but those we do we will get reviews out as soon as possible.

IndyFringe: Passing Notes

By Wendy Carson

This is one man’s journey through the remembrance of his first love and other fleeting moments of childhood. He deftly navigates the awkwardness of teenage mating rituals and the overall cluelessness of boys into the minds of girls. As he points out, life for a teenage boy is a series of stupid statements and them making up for them.

The story unfolds through the two young actors reading the various notes they wrote to each other during these years, as well as providing insight on the meanings behind their words. However, the narrator is also there, berating his younger self for his bumbling behavior.

While the tale is overall pretty predictable (think, “The Fault in Our Notes”), it is pointed out to us that “clichés are that for a reason.” Still, this is an excellent portrayal of a familiar story.

Performances are Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 27-28, on the Theatre on the Square second stage. Info and tickets at indyfringefestival.com.

IndyFringe: Spaghetti Western 3D

By Wendy Carson

Welcome to Javelina, Texas, and the 47th annual Javelina Town Pageant. It is celebrated on the anniversary of the release of the famous movie made about the town, “The Promised Land.”

The four spunky ladies of our troupe are here to reenact a, thankfully, abridged version of the film (in 3D!). Sadly, this does mean that they have to cut the “flying armadillo scene” but the remaining offering is delightful, nonetheless. Near the beginning, a box of spaghetti is paraded across the stage in just the first of many, many, visual gags predominant throughout the show.

Lest you think this is all just silliness and kooky humor, the show provides us with numerous important facts: Lesbians were invented in 1852, and “sociopathic” is the true definition of masculinity, just to name a few.

An overall hilarious show that will have you laughing and singing along, despite yourself.

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

IndyFringe: Windy Wynazz is Rich and Famous

By Wendy Carson

Welcome to the world of Windy Wynazz, a failed showgirl desperately trying to convince you (and herself) that she is indeed a superstar. From the moment you enter to the second you leave, this non-stop trip throughout her “career” will have you laughing so hard you cry.

Even though the character portrayed is a “red hot mess,” the talent and innovation she uses to showcase this is truly inspired. From sticking high heeled shoes into her shorts and picking them up as phone calls when each falls out, to the inspired dance number with a tiny red chair, the skill it takes to perform this show is amazing.

I must note, for those who might be wary, there is a lot of audience interaction, but nobody will be humiliated or embarrassed here, except for Windy Wynazz, herself.

See her Friday, Saturday or Sunday, Aug. 26-28, at the Indy Eleven Theatre. Info and tickets at indyfringefestival.com.

IndyFringe: An Alien of Extraordinary Ability

By Wendy Carson

This is one of the most interesting takes on a magic show I’ve seen in a while. Simon Coronel not only shows you a simple trick, he shows you how it is done. However, this is immediately followed up by a similar illusion that is vastly more complex to help further amaze you at his level of skill.

His interactions with various audience members (yes, there is audience participation, but he does practice “consensual magic”) is a delight and even when you know what is going to happen or how the trick is done, his deft use of misdirection will always surprise you.

This is a great evening of magic for the whole family that will keep you laughing no matter whether you are seeking the truth or reveling in the wonder of it all.

Performances are Friday and Saturday, Aug. 26-27, on the Phoenix Theatre underground stage. Info and tickets at indyfringefestival.com.

IndyFringe: The Rhythm Chronicles

By Wendy Carson

The Rhythm Chronicles strives to give the viewer a history lesson on the evolution of tap dancing in America. However, much of this is done through the use of a pre-recorded “conversation” between two disembodied voices. Not only is this device sluggish and often condescending, it greatly detracts from the dancing itself, which is the whole point of the show. Also, it doesn’t help that the voices speak over a dark empty stage, further making the show feel disjointed.

That said, let’s talk about the dancing. From the opening Irish step-dancer and aAfrican tribal performer, the dance numbers highlighted are wonderful. The skill, athleticism as well as the style are all excellent and the dancers are all a joy to watch. Each number builds upon the previous, leading up to a grand finale that is worth the whole ticket price alone.

Hopefully, Circle City Tap Company will find a way to rework this show with a better narrative tool so it can be the fully realized gem that the show should be.

And a note for hoofers of any skill: all in the audience are invited down to the stage at the end to join in the Shim-Sham Shimmy.

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

IndyFringe: Haul & Oatz

By Wendy Carson

Let me start by saying this, there is nothing serious to see here. No deep message, no political agenda, nothing to reflect on. “Haul & Oatz: Time-Traveling Detectives” is just sheer fun and silliness for its own sake: A reflection on the tragic clothes, music and tropes that defined the ’80s music scene, as well as a terrific send-up of ’40s detective movies.

That said, if you are looking for a lot of laughs, this is the show for you. From the opening number (“The Exposition Song” done in the B-52s style) the show lets you know that nothing is safe nor taken seriously. The double entrees fly fast and freely as do the song lyrics (example: the police officer keeps saying, “Don’t stand so close to me”).

As I said after I first saw it, this is a strong contender for the funniest show of this year’s fringe. Miss out on it at your own peril.

Performances are Friday and Sunday, Aug. 26 and 28, on the Phoenix Theatre main stage. Info and tickets at indyfringefestival.com.