IndyFringe: ‘Breakneck Julius Caesar’

This show is part of the 14th Annual Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival, a/k/a IndyFringe, Aug. 16-26, 2018 on Mass Ave downtown. Info, etc., at www.IndyFringe.org.

By John Lyle Belden

I like to joke with Tim Mooney that, contrary to the title, while there was a lot of stabbing, no one’s neck was broken in this performance (I could also mention that despite all the talk of Noble Romans, there was no pizza). But what we do have is, like his “Breakneck Hamlet,” a full Shakespeare drama condensed to less than an hour, leavened with humor — and in this case, some historical perspective.

We even get some audience participation, such as when the Citizens of Rome cry out (cues are put on a screen for our convenience). In fact, this show is notable not only for how much the script is cut down (and not noticeably, unless you are a Shakespeare scholar) but also for what is added. We get maps, historical asides (Brutus stabbed him where?!) and context for not only Rome but also the Elizabethan audience who first saw the play.

Mooney delivers it all, complete with costume changes, with precision and an easy style that never feels rushed. His mastery of the material is evident throughout, making the show both entertaining and enlightening.

Friends, Hoosiers, Fringe attendees: lend him your ears (he’ll give them back, promise!) at the Firehouse union hall, first floor, 748 Mass Ave.

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IndyFringe: ‘Autumn Takes a Tumble’

This show is part of the 14th Annual Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival, a/k/a IndyFringe, Aug. 16-26, 2018 on Mass Ave downtown. Info, etc., at www.IndyFringe.org.

By John Lyle Belden

Defiance Comedy presents “A F*@#ing Fairytale” — that’s right, with many, many F-words. IT IS NOT FOR CHILDREN. (Though the cast do act quite immature.)

Remember all the nice wonderful characters Betsy Norton has played around Indy? Pfft, “F” that! She’s a total bitch in this one, reveling in her misbehavior as the title character. But a bonk on the head brings her to Fairyland, where she is told she must change her ways or the good fairies there will die.

They are so totally screwed.

There are songs — despite Autumn’s best efforts to stop them — with titles like “Fairy Bangin'” (yes, it’s about what you think it’s about), and a plot involving meeting weird characters and going up a road to a castle that in no way rips off a popular film, I’m sure. If you have a sophomoric sense of humor, like I do, you’ll enjoy this ensemble, who are actually way too talented for sh!t like this, provide one of the most outrageous, hilarious hours of entertainment at the Fringe.

The performance I went to was packed, so expect big crowds at the remaining shows, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at the IndyFringe Basile (mainstage) Theatre, 719 E. St. Clair St. (just east of the Mass Ave. and College intersection).

IndyFringe: ‘Broadway’s Leading Ladies: A Tribute’

This show is part of the 14th Annual Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival, a/k/a IndyFringe, Aug. 16-26, 2018 on Mass Ave downtown. Info, etc., at www.IndyFringe.org.

By John Lyle Belden

Presented by Dustin Klein and Tom Alvarez and their Magic Thread Cabaret, “Broadway’s Leading Ladies” is a rousing revue sung by local divas Shelbi Berry, Rayanna Bibbs and Virginia Vasquez.

From the moment the trio get to “work” on a hit from “Hamilton,” we are treated to one powerful performance after another. You’ll want Vasquez to “Gimme, Gimme” more, see Berry “Defying Gravity,” and be reassured that Bibbs is “…Not Going.” Yes, as the latter song says, you’re gonna love them.

Kudos also to the three-piece band of Klein, Greg Gegogeine and Greg Wolff, as well as Austin Schlenz for his on-stage assistance.

No tables at this cabaret, on the third floor of the Firehouse union hall (748 Mass Ave.), but we don’t care — they would only get in the way of the standing ovation.

IndyFringe: ‘Haunted – Tales Told and True’

This show is part of the 14th Annual Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival, a/k/a IndyFringe, Aug. 16-26, 2018 on Mass Ave downtown. Info, etc., at www.IndyFringe.org.

By John Lyle Belden

Fringe audiences should be familiar with Loren Niemi, as he has been to past festivals telling stories with a political bent. This year, joined by fellow master storyteller Laura Packer, they choose not to frighten us with the occupant of the White House, but with more traditional forms of Ghost Stories.

Including tales some have sworn are true!

The pair take turns narrating their chillers, with different stories at each show. One is so original, in fact, that with suggestions from the audience, it is made up right on the spot — or is it? Niemi is so good, the story he improvised at the performance I saw sounded like it had been told for generations.

Packer likes to research local ghost lore in every town she visits, and I — a haunted Irvington resident — had not heard the one she told about a little store on North Meridian near Crown Hill. She also spoke about living in haunted houses — no doubt she’ll have something just as fascinating for you.

No campfire to sit around — it is the Firehouse union hall after all — but a nice time for those who don’t mind braving the bumps in the night.

IndyFringe: ‘Intrusion’

This show is part of the 14th Annual Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival, a/k/a IndyFringe, Aug. 16-26, 2018 on Mass Ave downtown. Info, etc., at www.IndyFringe.org.

By John Lyle Belden

In an America where one of the horrors of civilization is believed to be long vanquished, an insomniac looks across the street at the nearby hospital to see an injured woman enter. Curious, she goes closer and hears a word that chills her — Rape!

In the utopia of “Intrusion,” (now also an Off-Broadway show) written and performed by Qurrat Ann Kadwani, there has been no report of sexual assault in 20 years. This first person — a bystander who becomes an activist — is one of eight characters Kadwani presents coming to terms with this new world that is starting to feel like the old one — a/k/a the one we unfortunately live in now. Among them, a reporter feels the chill of getting the story of a generation, a prosecutor worries the rape trial will be a career killer, a psychologist tries to address such an emotionally fraught topic with clinical detachment, a politician laments that this is coming up during an election year, and a third-grader just wants to be told what’s going on.

Can something so insidiously imbedded in our culture be “cured, like polio”? Kadwani easily slips from one persona to another, as the mood gets more and more uneasy. A lone “outlier” rape accusation inspires more women speaking up. Many more. While some are concerned for public safety, still others don’t like these events upsetting — perhaps negating — the status quo they invested so much in. The fragile nature of our social construction is revealed in a popular game.

Kadwani brings us an excellently written and executed one-woman show. My more critical inner voice couldn’t help but consider that this was just one more “issue play” — the stories of personal pain, the stark statistics of the pervasiveness of sexual assault in America and worldwide, I’ve heard them all before, so many times. But to our horror and shame, that fact is very much the point.

Make this New Yorker feel welcome; performances are in the first floor of the Firehouse union hall, 748 Mass Ave.

IndyFringe: ‘There Ain’t No More!’

This show is part of the 14th Annual Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival, a/k/a IndyFringe, Aug. 16-26, 2018 on Mass Ave downtown. Info, etc., at www.IndyFringe.org.

By John Lyle Belden

Commonly portrayals of “hillbilly” culture are presented ironically or mockingly — you’ll have none of that here. This one-person drama of an old folk singer raging against the dying of the light presents the Ozarks of Arkansas, dirt roads and all, with utmost respect.

One would expect nothing less from Fayetteville, Ark., resident Willi Carlisle, a University of Arkansas graduate who has performed at the Ozark Folk Center, as well as numerous folk and Fringe events. In “There Ain’t No More!” he shows his mastery of guitar, banjo, fiddle, harmonica and accordion as his dying alter ego looks back on and relives his eventful life.

A young man falls in love with the music as much as the girls at a square dance, then pursues the music of rural America all the way to Vietnam, where his efforts to entertain the troops confront the horrors of war that greet his USO band. Concluding his days in the hills of the Heartland, the folkie wonders what kind of legacy he will leave, terrified the music will die with him. And that pisses him off.

No doubt you’ve seen word of the Best of Fringe awards he garnered elsewhere. Well, this is one show that lives up to the hype. A local actor seated behind me told her companion after the show: “That right there is the whole ball of wax!”

Carlisle — the nicest person to meet offstage — is a towering talent (and not just because he’s six-foot tall) who still connects with audiences practically on a soul level. You experience the story as much as see and hear it, aided by his part-time use of a mask and a clever scroll he unwinds to help tell his tale.

I find myself at a loss to describe better how and why this show is so awesome, and not just because I’m from Arkansas, too (did feel a little homesick, I’ll admit). Don’t just take my word for it, ask the crowds that have seen it, or are gathering for the remaining performances at the IndyFringe Basile (mainstage) Theatre, 719 E. St. Clair St.

IndyFringe: ‘Mindless: Deception, Fraud, and Other Lies’

This show is part of the 14th Annual Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival, a/k/a IndyFringe, Aug. 16-26, 2018 on Mass Ave downtown. Info, etc., at www.IndyFringe.org.

By Wendy Carson

Is it possible to read somebody’s mind? This is the question proposed by Evan Northrup’s delightful show.

He recounts how he initially learned card tricks and magic to gain popularity and overcome his “outcast” status. As many of you would expect, it didn’t quite work out that well.

His mastery of instantaneous memorization, subtle manipulations and astute reading of micro expressions makes his abilities seem overwhelmingly supernatural. Plus, his slick showmanship and charisma keeps the audience’s rapt attention.

A wonderful treat for young and old alike, performances are at the IndyFringe Basile (main stage) Theatre, 719 E. St. Clair, just east of the Mass Ave. and College intersection.