IndyFringe: Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind

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

The title of the show was never said in the 24 tiny plays presented by the University of Indianapolis Theatre at the Murat Oasis. To be more accurate, it’s: “Too Much Time Makes the Audience Get Cookies.”

The series, “neo-futurist plays” by Greg Allen performed by UIndy students Refik Dogruyol, Nick French, Kyle Jeanor, Kielynn Tally and Kelli Thomas, is represented by cards numbered 1-24 at the back of the stage. The audience chooses the order, so the show is different every time.

The topic and form of each vary widely, from funny to absurd to introspective to disturbing to deadly serious. There’s also a bit of audience participation within the action. And remember, Play 23 does not exist.

It’s easy to see how this was one of the hottest tickets the last time it was at the Fringe. Add to this the fact it’s hard to get this many scenes done in 48 minutes (an average of 2 minutes per play). The performance we saw clocked in at 51 minutes — and we did get cookies!

IndyFringe: The Old Man and the Old Moon

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

Why see this new folktale, created by PigPen Theatre Co. of New York, and presented complete with on-stage musicians and shadow puppets by Carmel High School students?

As one character puts it, “I like a good story.”

And quite a tale it is. Jack Sullivan, who narrates, acts, sings and plays some guitar, introduces us to the Old Man (Micah Phillips) whose job it is to refill the Moon after light leaks out, and the Old Woman (Madelyn Wood) who had been by his side for years, but now wants to take a walk — which includes stepping on a boat headed westward on the Sea.

Panicked, the Man looks for a ship to follow her, but ends up – by mistaken identity – on one headed to the south, and war. Will he find his wife? Will the crew survive this risky voyage? What actually happened to Lt. Pericles Llewelyn McWallander? We do understand that “dirigible” also means “air balloon,” right? And, most importantly, what will happen when all the light has finally leaked out of the Moon?

“The Old Man and The Old Moon” is an adventure fable full of wonder, whimsy, and music, also featuring Ella Asher, Kyle Barker, Josh Baxter, Theo Curtis, Seth Jacobsen, Kaylyn Johnson, Sarah Warf, and shadow puppetry by Elliot Clancy with Marybeth Okerson. Direction by Maggie Cassidy and Grace Fellabaum, with stage manager Gavin Griffin, sound by Ryan Dafforn, lights by Arthur Mansavage and technical direction by Andrew Okerson.

This charming show is an excellent choice for all ages, with plenty of seating room in the Basile Auditorium at the Athenaeum.

IndyFringe: Abraham Lincoln, Hoosier Hero

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

The stage has just a chair and a 36-star United States flag – and Abraham Lincoln. Yes, I know it’s actor and historical interpreter Danny Russel, but it feels like this is the closest anyone could ever come to seeing America’s 16th President in the flesh.

He puts us at ease immediately with his famous sense of humor – one can tell he grew up in Indiana from his corny jokes – and he feels a little relieved that as much as he loved theater, this venue (at the Murat Oasis) doesn’t have a balcony.

He establishes his Hoosier bona fides, noting that at age 7 he moved from Kentucky to then-wilderness Indiana, and his father placed in the already-tall boy’s hands an axe – which he said served him well. But even more useful to him were books, including his mother’s Bible, his first “library.”

This brilliant first-person history fills in so much of what we little know or long forgot about Mr. Lincoln, including what a prodigy he was, writing all the correspondence for his illiterate father at age 10, self-educating not only from his Step-Mammy Sally’s books (he had less than 300 days of formal education in his life, he said) but later from law books to become an Illinois pioneer lawyer, arguing 5,800 cases.

The jokes and humorous observations are tempered with moments of dark drama, shedding tears not only over various family members who died, but also in rage as he saw the evil of slavery first-hand on a trip to Louisiana. “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong!” he declares.

Lincoln notes that he is the only lawyer to ever have the nickname, “Honest,” and elaborates on how he actually earned that sobriquet.

We learn of his courtship of Mary Todd, his many business failures, and his political career, including his famous verbal sparring with Stephen A. Douglas in the 1858 Senate race.

Things get a little more serious as he relates his tumultuous Presidency (1861-65) and the horrors of the Civil War, which would claim three percent of the U.S. population, he notes. Lincoln relates his proudest moment, when, with a tired but steady hand, he signed the Emancipation Proclamation – “My soul is in it.”

After one of the most horrific battles of the War, he is asked to speak at the dedication of a cemetery for the fallen. After the era’s greatest orator holds forth for over two hours, Mr. Lincoln steps up on that Gettysburg platform to say just a few words…

Please don’t miss your opportunity to see arguably our greatest President, live and in person.

IndyFringe: Win, Lose, or Die!

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

By Wendy Carson

The ComedySportz Indianapolis team is back with another hilarious show for all ages. In this “Comedy Cage Match” of sorts, six performers play various improv games in order to be the last one standing, and win the big prize.

While the roster of players is mostly the same, there are occasional substitutions, and with audience feedback fueling their efforts, the show is always unique.

Contestants enter with “Survivor”-like introductions and each carries an envelope with a particular game inside.

Leading the mayhem is Ed Trout as game master Phineas Pheabody. He oversees the competition and counts the audience votes to determine who will be given immunity from elimination. Eliminations are totally random, as they are determined by a roll of the dice from an audience member.

So take an hour out of your schedule and check out this zany competition, held in the District Theater. Regardless of who is named champion, the viewers are the true winners.

IndyFringe: Beyond Ballet

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

By Wendy Carson

Indianapolis Ballet has brought a delightful program to this year’s Fringe.

They present two classic pieces, including “The Swan,” but the rest of the show is excitingly new. Ensemble members choreograph two of the dances.

The first, “Scherzo Passionato,” feels like a sprightly celebration of spring as well as the joyfulness of the season. It also highlights the physicality of the featured dancers.

The second piece, “Fantasia Concertante,” is a fiery tribute to the choreographer’s homeland of Brazil.

The second half of the show is comprised by a tribute to the music of The Beatles. It is almost impossible to describe the energetic beauty of this montage. From dance challenges to twisting on pointe, you are swept up in the spirit of the songs and the awe of their interpretations of the music. You will find yourself clapping and singing along (which is encouraged).

Overall, this program is an excellent introduction to ballet for the novice, but also a treat for longtime lovers of the art form. Performances are in the Basile Auditorium at the Athenaeum.

IndyFringe: Act A Foo Improv Crew

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

Put simply, Act A Foo Improv Crew is “Who’s Line” hilarity with Hip-Hop swagger. For several years, these young men have been spinning improvisational games around Indy, and they just keep getting better.

And don’t think these gentlemen won’t “go there.” When a suggested person, place or thing courts controversy, emcee Daniel A. Martin gives an “oh, well” grin and the Crew makes it funny. So, I’d say the content is for teens who have seen R-rated movies, and older.

Still, it gets far more silly than dirty. The performance I witnessed had a spot-on Edward Scissorhands, an entertaining mime of Build-a-Bear, and a mangled charade of Red Lobster restaurant that more resembled SpongeBob Squarepants. There was also a trio of Denzel Washingons trying to out-”Training Day” one another. In other words, just another day for AAF.

So bring your best suggestions — or your worst, they can work with it — to the IndyFringe Theatre and be ready to roll out of your seat laughing

IndyFringe: A Dry Rose’ – A Lesbian Love Story or Something Very Similar

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

By Wendy Carson

A frustrated author and her best friend decide to go out for a drink (it’s 80’s night after all) and launch themselves into a journey of seeking love in this era versus the era they grew up in.

Since there are not any “Plain Old Lesbian Bars” anymore (their former “homo away from home”), they end up at Swipe Right, a place for internet dating matches to meet up in person. This leads to a hilarious game about who is with whom and whether they will last past this evening (you’ll be playing this yourselves the next time you’re at a bar, trust me).

Add to this the intrigue of a cute new neighbor in the author’s building as well as their new bartender friend and you’ve got a sweet little story unfolding.

What makes this show really work is the brilliance of the script. The dialogue is sharp, realistic and witty (it’s got great wits).

This show by Missy Koonce (last seen at Diva Fest) is pleasantly funny and uplifting, so pour yourself a glass of rose (I hear it’s making a comeback) and settle in for a whirlwind of romantic comedy. You’ll have to wait for tomorrow (Aug. 29) for a taste, but a good wine ages well.

IndyFringe: Simon Ferocious (Improvised Music Legend)

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

“What is ‘read the room’ in French?”

This is a line from the story of forgotten music legend Simon Ferocious that was uttered on stage, but might never be said again. This is because Simon is an etherial being, a dream within a fantasy — the product of some goofy people doing long-form improv.

Stroopwafel Improv prepares you for the story of this person (we heard David Bowie once met backstage, allegedly) with some fun little improvisation exercises. The audience doesn’t have to do much, just shout some words when asked, and this silly gang provides the weirdness. 

Then, we get to the Behind the Music episode that somehow MTV and VH-1 never got around to airing. Perhaps its because they needed you — yes you, who will go to see this on the District Theater stage — to tell the world what exactly was Simon Ferocious’ band name, or the title of his breakthrough hit.

Given only some opening audience cues, the Stroopwafels get stretched to their limits of invention, throwing in various band members, estranged family, and music “experts” to explain the rise and fall of this absurdly famous musician. As the show changes from performance to performance, all I can say is: Go see these local comics scramble to entertain you in a documentary that will be far more funny than enlightening.

“Oklahoma is the worst place for breakfast.”

Really, Simon? I bet you won’t say that at the next show.

IndyFringe: Deadpan Jan – My Life is Not a Sex Party, Or Is It?

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

By Wendy Carson

Jan Gudaitis is quite the enigma. She speaks in a monotone voice, she makes sharply hilarious observations, and her etomology of the English language is sublime.

Her flat vocal cadence is reminiscent of the great comedian Stephen Wright, and like him, her content is exceptionally funny.

Here you will learn why Bhutan is the happiest country in the world; how to kill your husband with a business card; who is on her list of people she’d “like to pull the plug on;” as well as which topics are not permissible when doing comedy at a nursing home.

If you search on Urban Dictionary, you will discover that her last name is defined as a “sex party”. This is due to a drunken posting by a nephew. But does she live up to that description? That is for you to decide. I can guarantee that there will be some intercourse during the performance, as well as a strong possibility of ejaculation.

Performances are on the Indy Eleven stage of the IndyFringe Theater.

IndyFringe: Do Jokes Still Work?

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

“I saw a homeless guy with a laminated sign,” Stewart Huff says, “he put money back into the business!”

Huff is full of funny and off-the-wall observances, such as: It amuses him to no end that the replica of Noah’s Ark in Kentucky has a “No Animals” sign.

His show, “Do Jokes Still Work?” includes bits of storytelling, memories, and observances of the stupidity of fellow humans – “You can’t hate science, and love NASCAR!”

But he has a generally optimistic outlook, noting that noisy anti-science people are nothing new – relating various historical events in hilarious fashion. Huff believes that “all human beings are artists,” that the pinata is among our greatest inventions, and if Bigfoot is real, it’s better if we don’t find him.

When you see him take the District Theater stage, it’s a little surprising, as IndyFringe publicity materials have an old clean-shaven photo. With his salt-and-pepper beard and aging-hippie ponytail, Huff looks like your cool uncle who can tell you one hell of a story.

And he does.

Huff’s show is not for the easily offended – either by language or opinions – but otherwise an essential visit for any Fringe-goer.