IndyFringe: ‘Betsy Carmichael’s BINGO Palace’

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

Heavens to Betsy! Talk about a limited engagement, the Bingo Palace has only one more day in Indianapolis — today, Sunday, Aug. 19, at the Parish Hall also known as the IndyFringe Indy Eleven theatre.

For the lucky souls who see this in time, here’s what you can expect: A lovely lady (some call her a drag, but she’s plenty upbeat to me) who hosts an event of actual Bingo games with actual prizes, as well as fun interludes including a couple of audience members making their own good-luck charms. As her ex-brother-in-law calls out the numbers, she adds the traditional Bingo Hall call-and-responses, in which we must all join in. Just remember, it’s not “G 54, Where are You,” but G (Studio) 54, the Ellen-style dance break. And on other numbers ending in 4, watch out for “candy store”!

Interactive theatre is rarely this fun; it would be a shame to miss it.

 

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IndyFringe: ‘Arcade Fire! The Redemption of Billy Mitchell’

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

(*With bonus hot sauce review!)

To be clear, this is not about Arcade Fire, the band, but about redemption, and a proud man who doesn’t want to be known just for awesome hot sauce (see below) but also for being the King of Kong, able to best any game in the arcade.

Quirky playwright and Fringe regular Casey Ross got the idea not long ago to take the story of Billy Mitchell, whose record high score on Donkey Kong was unquestioned until a popular documentary alleged that he somehow cheated, and make it into a musical. This brought out Billy himself — not to stop her, but to give his hearty trademark thumbs-up. If you come to the show today (Sunday, Aug. 19), he will be there in the audience and available for your admiration after.

The musical, written by Ross with clever rousing songs by Christopher McNeely, is based on true events and people, including the frustrated middle-school teacher who challenged Mitchell’s record. Our Billy is selling his sauce at his pizza joint in Florida, when he discovers that the Internet is dissing him. He fights fire with fire by going on a podcast and challenging his detractors to a Kong-Off. Who will smash through the barrels and climb to the top, and who will fall?

A cast of fine local actors bring the story to life, including Luke McConnell as Mitchell (an excellent likeness), Anthony Nathan as rival Steve Wiebe, Jim Banta as Donkey Kong’s “Number Two” Brian Kuh, Ryan Powell as arcade referee Walter Day, and Kayla Lee as Steve’s lonsuffering wife Nicole. As to their singing and dancing — well, did I mention they are fine actors? Still the moves they bust just add to the fun as we all take so seriously what is literally a two-bit hobby (at least before games cost more than a quarter to play).

Full disclosure: We’re very good friends with Ross, but when you experience “ArcadeFire!” presented by her Catalyst Repertory at the Firehouse union hall, third floor, you’ll want to be her pals, too.

*Among the Billy Mitchell swag is his signature hot sauce (which he will sign if you ask). Wendy and I tried it on some roast beef, and it is excellent, with rich flavors reminiscent of Cholula, but with a little more kick. It has sweet with the heat, so is fine for moderate spice users — though it might disappoint those who want something that sets their heads on fire (what’s up with you people?!). Later at the beer tent I saw some Fringers shaking a little into their beer, and they said it was good that way. To each their own.

IndyFringe: Captain Ambivalent, ‘Happy Fun Time at the Complex’

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

The Artlians are among us. They have infiltrated our planet through their clever use of “art installations” that are actually secret devices that they eventually used to decimate our world.

However, we are now safe in “The Complex” (think bunker) thanks to the benevolent protection of Binky (think Clippy as a hand puppet). Binky is here to assist us and keep us safe from the dangerous mutants outside the Complex. In an effort to keep up our morale, Captain Ambivalent is here to entertain us with a concert. Our glorious protector Binky though, wants to upload his masterpiece, “Binky: The Hand that Shook the World”

For those of you who have not encountered him roaming the fringe, our superhero is an amazing musician and songwriter who uses the accordion as accompaniment  — think Weird Al, but with all original songs, which are hilariously delightful and do a great job developing the overall story line of the show.

The result is a rollicking, entertaining hour full of lots of great music and lots of family-friendly fun.

A few general notes:

1. I was at the opening performance of the show and the turnout would have barely filled a minivan. This is a wonderful show and really needs to be seen and enjoyed by more people. Seriously, bring out your kids and give it the audience it deserves.

2. This show is an excellent “palate cleanser” for your brain after seeing one of the many more gritty and serious offerings on other stages.

3. Also, he has CDs, buttons and other merchandise for sale so if you liked the show, check this out so you can enjoy his music long after the Fringe ends.

Captain Ambivalent performs at ComedySportz, 721 Mass Ave.

IndyFringe: ‘Let’s Play a Freakin’ Boardgame’

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

To begin, a couple of notes:
1. The titular Boardgame changes for each performance (mine was Clue, today’s is Monopoly)
2. This show has audience participation and interaction (however, you will not be pressured into doing anything you don’t wish to do if this bothers you).
3. Each performance will have a “winner” and they will receive several new games with a net worth between $50 & $100.
4. The show is presented by veteran improv comic Mark Cashwell (who previously presented his “Improv Talk Show” at the Fringe)
Now for my thoughts on the show:
As I mentioned above, the Boardgame for the Friday night premiere was Clue. Various members of the audience were conscripted to play the various characters and in a delightfully innovative stroke of comedy genius, he has them each draw their weapon of choice.
Dice are rolled, challenges are faced, clues are revealed, the murdered is ultimately discovered, and a good time was had by all. By the way: It was Mr. Green in the Lounge with the Sex Toy.
So, for a delightfully hilarious take on games and gaming come on by Comedysportz (which is also the only venue serving actual food) and test your luck.

IndyFringe: ‘Cindy/Ella’

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

This silly satire answers the question: What would happen if the producers of the “Kardashians” and other “E!” network shows made a traditional fairy tale?

Cindy, who chafes at being married to the Prince of Malibu (with his odd shoe fetish), is fed up with royal life and runs away to (gasp!) The Valley, where she meets a Fairy Godmother minding an adult novelties store, and finally disguises herself as a mai- I mean personal assistant to a wick- I mean drunken woman (think stepmom) and her ug- I man vapid (and pretty tbh) twin daughters. See? Just like the Grimms wrote it.

It all works in its own wild way, complete with breaking “Extra!” style news bulletins by Michael Cleaver. And it benefits from the superb-as-usual acting of Abby Gilster as Cindy, and the phenomenon that is Josiah McCruiston as our godmother Dontrell. Kudos also to Amity Aschilman for her deadpan counterpoint as Dontrell’s best friend/coworker/roommate Kendra.

We also get Melissa Cleaver as Cindy’s PA/friend Deidre, Scott Prill as a steadfast detective, Amanda Bell and Ashley Duprey each in dual roles, and Jason Plake as our Prince with far more substance in his Speedos than his brain.

“Cindy/Ella” is presented by playwright Elizabeth Griffin Speckman at the IndyFringe Basile (main) Theatre, 719 St. Clair St., just off Mass Ave.

IndyFringe: ‘Act VI Scene I (Shakespeare and Zombies)’

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

From the title, you would expect this to be something like a Shakespearean version of “Shawn of the Dead.” However, nothing could be further from the truth. The play is introduced by The Bard himself (who also returns to narrate the various scene changes) without explanation as to its provenance.

We are presented with two young lovers being secretly married amidst the protestations of their families. When the Priest asks if anyone has reason for the two not to be wed, an armed stranger bursts in and bids them to bar the door as the dead have risen and are attacking the town. The story then follows the next four weeks in the lives of these four characters. Their personal relationships, the fight among their inner demons, and their ultimate fight to survive in this new situation.

While the plot may sound like a zany re-hash of various other books, TV shows and movies, it is played with all of the austerity that one would expect in a play written by Shakespeare. Even though the dialogue is pure Shakespearean English, it translates well to the story and makes the style so much more accessible to a modern audience.

I would highly recommend bring teens and children to see the show to get a taste for the style of plays before they actually dive into the actual works of Shakespeare. Who knows what this sort of project could inspire?

“Act VI, Scene I” is presented by The Lord Chamberlain’s Men at the District Theatre (formerly Theatre on the Square), 627 Mass Ave on the secondary Cabaret Stage.

CCP’s charming ‘Witches’ at Carmel’s CAT

By John Lyle Belden

We all have that one person we can’t stand – but then circumstances force you to work together. That is the hex put on the ladies in “Kitchen Witches,” the fun comedy that concludes the 2017-18 season for Carmel Community Players.

Dolly (Denise Fort) is wrapping up her cable-access cooking show due to lack of viewership. But when her old culinary rival, Isabel (Gina Atwood), crashes the finale, the ratings go through the roof. So, to stay on the air, the two women must work together – an obvious strain on producer Stephen (Tim Moore), who is also Dolly’s son. Along with slinging the hash (at each other) our “witches” rehash their past with the late Larry Biddle, Dolly’s husband and Isabel’s lover.

Meanwhile, keeping the cameras in focus is Robbi (Sydney Heller), a local punk who signals “one minute to air” with her middle finger.

The result is hilarious, of course, but Caroline Smith’s charming script has a surprising amount of heart, brought out nicely by the cast and director Courtnie Janikowski. Fort and Atwood play their besties-turned-beasties more infused with damaged pride than malicious anger, and Moore effectively portrays the put-upon son trying not to get another nervous ulcer. Even Heller wins our affections, excellently playing Robbi in “Silent Bob” style.

This show is CCP’s debut in the CAT, a performance space located just off the downtown Carmel Arts & Design District at 254 Veterans Way. This will also be home to much of the 2018-19 season as the company seeks a permanent home.

A good time was had by all at the packed opening night. Though, if I must nitpick, while I do understand the constraints of volunteer community theatre, this production could tighten up its scene transitions, or at least play a little music while we sit in the dark.

But overall, consider me charmed by these “Witches.” Call 317-815-9387 or visit www.carmelplayers.org.