After TOTS triumph, Asaykwee continues dark path

By John Lyle Belden

If you missed the recent run of the Tracy Letts drama “Killer Joe” at Theatre on the Square, it’s understandable. Sellouts were common, even with an additional performance added.

Still, you would have missed one heck of a show. The raw impact of the story of a redneck Texas family hiring a hitman to kill one of its members, with the titular character agreeing to take the young woman of the family as a “security deposit,” was enforced by a top-shelf cast – including local stage veterans Dan Scharbrough, Nate Walden, Lisa Marie Smith and Jaddy Ciucci.

But the most triumphant performance was by Ben Asaykwee as Joe. For those who only know his work with darkly comic characters – like the many he developed as founder of Q Artistry and shows like “Cabaret Poe” – his chilling transformation into the no-nonsense Texas hitman bordered on shocking. With surprisingly little effort, he projected menace and put us all on notice that his true range and depth is much greater than many ever suspected.

This weekend, TOTS, 627 Massachusetts Ave., Indianapolis, opened the classic Stephen Sondheim musical, “Passion,” playing weekends through March 26. (See www.tots.org.)

Meanwhile, Asaykwee has left downtown and set his sights on entertaining us with the story of an actual killer.

Apparently unafraid of ghosts – working as he has for the past several years in former Masonic Lodge 666 in the haunted neighborhood of Irvington – Asaykwee, with megatalent Claire Wilcher, present “White City Murder,” a new musical based on the exploits of America’s first known serial killer, H.H. Holmes, performed just blocks away from where Holmes briefly lived and is believed to have killed at least one child, who is said to still haunt the home.

The musical runs March 18-20, March 26 and March 31-April 2 at the lodge, 5515 E. Washington St., Indianapolis. It’s plot concerns the “murder hotel” where dozens of young women disappeared during the 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair. The events are recounted in the book “The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson, which tells of Holmes’ many murders to collect on victims’ insurance and the building he had constructed to make the process of killing and disposal more efficient.

If anyone can set such a macabre topic to music in an entertaining fashion, it’s Asaykwee – who has already succeeded with the works of Edgar Alan Poe and writing an opera about the tragic Donner Party. And if anyone can help make such an odd show work, it’s Wilcher, who just helped co-write “Babes in Toyland,” is a comic legend with 3-Dollar Bill and ComedySportz, and gave brilliant performances in musicals including “Cabaret” and “Man of LaMancha.”

Find ticket information at www.qartistry.org, or follow “Qartistry” on Facebook.

(This story also posted on The Word.)

Books and plays

Start this weekend early by seeing comic Bill Scheft, a writer for Late Night With David Letterman, as he signs copies of his book “Shrink Thyself” Thursday starting at 6:30 p.m. at Bookmama’s book store at 9 S. Johnson Ave. in Indy’s Irvington neighborhood.

For theatre, we have three openings:

The Phoenix Theatre presents the British Broadway comedy “One Man, Two Guvnors,” starting Thursday and running through Oct. 18 at 749 N. Park Ave., downtown Indy. This is the show that got James Corden (now the host of The Late Late Show on CBS) his Tony. But since Corden is in L.A., our show is locally cast.

Buck Creek Players present the comedic thriller “Cliffhanger,” opening Friday and running for two weekends, in which murder has rarely been so funny. The playhouse is out on Southeastern Ave. off the Acton Road Exit.

Over at the Hedback, 1847 N. Alabama in Indy, Footlite Musicals presents “Nice Work if You Can Get It,” a feel-good musical loaded with Gershwin numbers. It opens Friday and runs through Oct. 11.

See you in the audience!

Lots to celebrate

Angel Burlesque's ladies look good enough to
Angel Burlesque’s ladies look good enough to “nom-nom-nom” in their Tribute to the Muppets, Friday and Saturday night at the Athenaeum in downtown Indy.

As summer comes to an end, the festivals start piling up in the Indy area.

This weekend features (click links for details):

Meanwhile on stages, shows continue at the Civic Theatre, TOTS, Mud Creek and ATI. The only new feature is the two-day Angel Burlesque Tribute to the Muppets — a show aimed at grown-ups; it ain’t Sesame Street — which looks like it will be fun.

And, if all this wasn’t enough, Saturday is also International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Ahoy!

Have fun!

Big opening weekend

There is a lot happening around Indy this weekend, especially on stages.

Theatre on the Square opens “Enter Love” a new musical with book by local talents Kenny Shepard, Don Seybold and Ty Stover. First curtain is 8 p.m. Friday.

The Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Carmel sees two openings: “Little Women: The Musical” at the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre on The Tarkington stage, of course, and “The Fantasticks” presented by Actors Theatre of Indiana at The Studio Theater next door.

Meanwhile, the classic “The Odd Couple” opens the Mud Creek Players season in the Mud Creek Barn on east 86th Street near Geist.

For two shows only, Friday and Saturday, Indiana Performing Arts Centre presents “A Night on the Town With the ‘Rat Pack'” at the Athenaeum, 401 E. Michigan St. in downtown Indy.

See you in the audience!

Back to the routine

Now that IndyFringe is done and September is here, we’ll resume the weekly look-aheads.

This weekend we have just one stage opening: the two-weekend run of “The Prince and the Pauper” by Center Stage Productions at Southport Presbyterian Church.

There is also an encore performance of an IndyFringe favorite, “Jason Adams is a God Damn Mind Reader,” 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the IndyFringe Theatre, 719 E. St. Clair St. in downtown Indy, by the intersection of Mass Ave., St. Clair and College Ave. If you didn’t see one of the sold-out Fringe performances, and are not offended at the show’s title, then by all means go see this wild mix of comedy and mental magic.

This weekend is also Labor Day, and you can wear your white shoes one more time to Indy LaborFest Saturday in the heart of Downtown Indianapolis for free, all-ages fun.

However you do it, enjoy your weekend!

Alive with the sounds of…

Cast members of "The Sound of Music," presented by Ricks-Weil Theatre Company in downtown Greenfield, engage in a singing lesson while testing the sturdiness of Austrian furniture. -- Photo provided
Cast members of “The Sound of Music,” presented by Ricks-Weil Theatre Company in downtown Greenfield, engage in a singing lesson while testing the sturdiness of Austrian furniture. — Photo provided

Another big summer weekend is upon us.

The Indiana State Fair just opened at the fairgrounds (naturally) at 38th and Fall Creek Road, Indianapolis. Lots of music, exhibits, rides and fried food to be had there, for the next two weeks!

This is the weekend for MotoGP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which also gives every Easy Rider in the region an excuse to roll out their bikes to cruise downtown — so be sure to watch out for some sweet rides.

And, yes, there’s something on stage, too. The Ricks-Weil Theatre Company has its second and last weekend of a locally produced and cast “The Sound of Music” through Sunday. Get details on their Facebook page.

Starting this next Thursday, IndyFringe — the Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival — takes over Mass Ave. downtown. Shows are $15 each this year, so getting a “fiver” ticket, five tickets for $60, is a really great deal.

Fringe fun actually starts Wednesday, with a free preview of the various acts at the Athenaeum (corner of Michigan/Mass/New Jersey) starting at 6 p.m. Each performer or troupe has two minutes to impress us, so things get a little wild.

As the Fringe continues through its first weekend, watch this site, our Facebook page and our Twitters (@PenGwenity and @IndyBeldar) for reports and reviews.

Fun, Fun, fun

If you thought there was trouble in River City before, just wait until this cast gets done with the classic musical when Buck Creek Players' Play-A-Part Fundraiser presents
If you thought there was trouble in River City before, just wait until this cast gets done with the classic musical when Buck Creek Players’ Play-A-Part Fundraiser presents “The Music Man” for one wacky weekend. — BCP photo

Cue music: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”

No, it’s not Christmas season already (though watch for decorations at the stores in a month or so), for folks like us who enjoy plays and playing games, August provides a bursting cornucopia of fun.

Yes, theatre friends, IndyFringe is almost upon us, but first…

This week, starting Wednesday (today, if you’re reading this on July 29) is the GenCon Game Fair, the world’s largest convention devoted to games, those who play them and those who make them. More than 60,000 happy nerds will overrun downtown Indianapolis, centering on the Indiana Convention Center, though many activities will be in nearby hotels and Union Station. If you are unfamiliar or don’t have much money to throw at this extravaganza, there is discount admission on Sunday, for Family Day (though the whole event is family-friendly).

Another note: The hallways of the convention center and hotel lobbies are open to the public. So, if you want to see and (respectfully) admire the many costumes attendees will be wearing, that doesn’t have to cost you a thing. However, the eye candy – while it makes good TV footage – is only a small fraction of the scene. If you like board, card, strategy or party games at all, you really need to get into this convention.

As for plays opening this weekend, we highly recommend fun of a different sort: The Buck Creek Players Play-A-Part Fundraiser production of “The Music Man.” The roles were all cast by winning a silent auction, with no requirements of age, gender, experience or even talent. Fortunately, director Scott Robinson levels the playing field by making the show an anything-can-happen live comedy in the tradition of TV’s classic “The Carol Burnett Show.” The result is highly entertaining, and the funds raised help with building improvements at this all-volunteer community theater. There are just four performances, Friday through Sunday, which are likely to sell out. Hit up the website or call 317-862-2270.

Sunday sees the return of the monthly experience that is “Going, Going, Gone” at Theatre on the Square. Co-creator Lou Harry has announced that, in honor of GenCon, the items bid on (which audience members get to win and keep) will be nerd-themed, as will be the cast, led by ubernerd (and Angel Burlesque MC) Jeff Angel. Also, wear a GenCon badge to the show, and get extra play money to bid with. Go, Go, Go, and quick, before the seats are gone!

– See you downtown!