IndyFringe: Jeannette Rankin: Champion of Persistence

This show is part of the 15th Annual Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival, a/k/a IndyFringe, Aug. 15-25, 2019 on Mass Ave downtown. Info, etc., at www.IndyFringe.org.

By John Lyle Belden

You might not have heard of her, but after you see this one-woman show you won’t forget her. Jeannette Rankin campaigned nationwide for women’s suffrage, helping to bring it about in her native Montana. She was also elected twice to the U.S. House of Representatives, where she pushed for peace and various reforms.

At times she seemed on the wrong side of history — she could not bring herself to vote for America’s entry into World War II — but especially with her resistance to war in Vietnam, she mainly proved to be a woman ahead of her time.

Written and performed by J. Emily Peabody for Thorn Productions, she puts an irresistible energy into her portrayal of Rankin. What could have been a dry recitation of history comes across more like a rally.

To help spread knowledge of this persistent American hero, Peabody offers copies of her script, with details beyond what she presents in the Fringe-length show, for sale after each performance. She will be at the District Theater (former TOTS location), 627 Massachusetts Ave. on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday (Aug. 22, 24 & 25).

IndyFringe: Journey to Hell

This show is part of the 15th Annual Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival, a/k/a IndyFringe, Aug. 15-25, 2019 on Mass Ave downtown. Info, etc., at www.IndyFringe.org.

By Wendy Carson

Every Fringe, when I am putting together our schedules, I try to put in a single show that is for my pure enjoyment. “Journey to Hell” is this year’s pick.

The Indianapolis Men’s Chorus gives us a rousing night of hard rocking anthems that will get your fists pumping and have you singing along (it’s okay to, they’re not going to throw you out for it). If you’ve seen the musical, “Rock of Ages,” then you know what to expect from this.

The show starts off with a variety of “Hair Band” songs and the Chorus is decked out in all of the most tragic of ’80s styles.

We then move into the “Journey Megamix” where things move more to mainstream rock than metal.

We are then privy to a series of songs showcasing the “Hell” aspect of the title. This is where the overwhelming standout number, “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” is presented. Having not personally seen “The Book of Mormon” I cannot say for sure exactly how it compares to the stage version but I would will say that this interpretation is worth the ticket price alone.

But before we are overwhelmed by the darkness, a suite of more “Heavenly” titles are offered.

I must say that while the singing is spectacular, the choreography on display is quite impressive as well. Plus, the omnipresent joy they exude in their performances shows that they are obviously having as good a time as the audience is.

Remaining performances are Friday through Sunday (Aug. 23-25) at The District Theater (former TOTS location), 627 Massachusetts Ave.

IndyFringe: Les Chanteuses

This show is part of the 15th Annual Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival, a/k/a IndyFringe, Aug. 15-25, 2019 on Mass Ave downtown. Info, etc., at www.IndyFringe.org.

By Wendy Carson

Magic Thread Cabaret brings us an hour of stellar voices raised in tribute to some of the most legendary Divas of our day. Plus, they give us three local ladies whose talents are a brilliant match to the beloved songs they are presenting.

Rayanna Bibbs leads off the night by taking the helm of Aretha’s “Respect”. She channels Jennifer Hudson in her performance of “I am Changing” and her turn at “Baby Love” will have you dancing in your seat. However, her standout number is “A Natural Woman” where she comes out in the most luxurious fur coat and shows you that she is worth every cent of the cost.

Our next Chanteuse is Bridgette Ludlow who roars in with “Midnight Train to Georgia”. Her amazing treatment of “Baby Love”, starting as a sultry torch song and then shifting gears into the bubbly dance song it is. But in my opinion, I think her most amazing work with her interpretation of “God Bless the Child” that I feel showcases her full range of talent in making me (who absolutely hates that song) thoroughly enjoy the song.

Our final singer is Enjoli’ Desiree. She is the one who is given the largest range of material to work with and she gives us her all. The soft yearning of “La Vie En Rose” is a surprising counterpoint to her roaring dominance of “Proud Mary”. She proves that there is not a sentiment she can perfectly express through song.

My one criticism of the show is that the Pianist spends a good portion of the show trying to upstage the singers. I know he is the artistic director, so that should mean that he understands that this is their time in the spotlight and he should allow them to shine.

While each singer assuredly deserves the title of Chanteuse, it is when their voices are brought together that make for some of the most magical performances of the night. So make it a point to pay tribute not only to the Divas being honored, but also the Divas honoring them.

Remaining performances are Friday through Sunday at the District Theater (former TOTS location) 627 Massachusetts Ave.

IndyFringe: Fallen from the Toy Box

This show is part of the 15th Annual Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival, a/k/a IndyFringe, Aug. 15-25, 2019 on Mass Ave downtown. Info, etc., at www.IndyFringe.org.

By Wendy Carson

It’s been four years since The Fourth Wall have been at IndyFringe and once you see their latest show, you will want to convince them to not wait so long to come back and entertain us.

This show is full of entirely new content and spectacularly shows off their virtuosity as performers. Hillary Abigana is a master flautist; C. Neil Parsons brings loads of personality and spunk to the Bass Trombone; and Greg Jukes’ percussion abilities prove that there is not a thing that he cannot bring a pleasing tune from. Plus, they are all accomplished dancers and can utilize their bodies’ movements in ways that will astonish you.

We begin with a touching number with a toy soldier trying to woo a wind-up ballerina but other forces are working to keep them apart.

We are then encouraged to embrace the wonder of childhood as various games with balloons occur. They each balance a balloon of their head, try to keep one from falling by passing it among themselves and even move around holding balloons in place with various part so their body. Oh yeah, did I mention that they are all playing instruments during these feats?

They then present us with three different pieces of artwork that they have choreographed a piece for, each picture created by a child under the age of seven.

There is even a game of Hide and Go Seek played throughout the space with flashlights.

I don’t want to spoil the rest of the surprises they have in store for you. At one point in the show a young child spontaneously shouted out “Yay!” I can’t think of a better compliment to bestow on this group.

Remaining performances are Friday and Saturday nights (Aug. 23-24) at The District Theater (former TOTS location), 627 Massachusetts Ave.

IndyFringe: Behind Every Great Mariska Hargitay is a Great Kurt Fitzpatrick

This show is part of the 15th Annual Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival, a/k/a IndyFringe, Aug. 15-25, 2019 on Mass Ave downtown. Info, etc., at www.IndyFringe.org.

By John Lyle Belden

One often hopes to go from treading the boards at little festivals like this to eventually working in Hollywood and on television. Careful what you wish for?

Kurt Fitzpatrick was hoping to get his acting career off the ground, but auditions were exercises in frustration. Then after a failed attempt at a commercial gig, he heard from a friendly stripper (and fellow aspiring actor) that there was a lot of work in being a non-union extra on TV crime dramas.

As it turns out — having been a face in the background of numerous shows and movies, playing cops and bartenders, working invisibly for four Oscar-winning directors — that Fitzpatrick can’t help but see the parallels between what he’s been doing and sex work.

See this fascinating one-man show to find out what he means, and why possibly his face looks familiar (aside from his past IndyFringe appearances). An excellent storyteller, he reflects on his unusual path to quasi-stardom in entertaining fashion

However — he frames the show with a flight of fancy about the “Jungles of the Sahara” that I found hard to follow. It frustrates me that I miss what metaphorical or other purpose it served, and it made for an abrupt and confusing ending. Still, the rest of the content is strong and worth your while.

See the “Great Kurt Fitzpatrick” this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the District Theater (former TOTS location), 627 Massachusetts Ave.,

IndyFringe: The Adventures of Crazy Jane & Red-Haired Annie

This show is part of the 15th Annual Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival, a/k/a IndyFringe, Aug. 15-25, 2019 on Mass Ave downtown. Info, etc., at www.IndyFringe.org.

By Wendy Carson

This show is subtitled “New Fairy Tales for the Playful, Witty, and Wise,” and that aptly represents what this evening will be about.

In “Crazy Jane and the Faerie Queen” we are presented with our titular characters and encounter with the Queen of the Faeries, who is not a force to be trifled with. This tale also lays out the relationship between Jane and Annie as well as showing insight into their daily lives. What starts as a question of whether Fairy wings are more akin to a butterfly or dragonfly, ends with a deadly fight for survival and escape.

The next adventure, “…and the King of the Butterflies” has Crazy Jane and Red-Haired Annie splitting up to retrieve two magical items in order to free the King of the Butterflies children from the grasp of the Evil Winter Witch. Annie searches in vain to find the heart of a Stone Giant, even though such creatures are extinct. Meanwhile Jane must locate a scale from the serpent that encircles the earth. This is also where we are first presented with the origin of her transformation into “Crazy Jane”.

Our final tale, “Crazy Jane Goes Sane” offers insight into the truth of what the most valuable thing in your life truly is. While Annie is off on her own (we all need to get away by ourselves sometimes), Jane plays a game of dice with a stranger and is then transported to a world in which she is a hardened businesswoman living a typical life. Annie shows up with a story of her own to tell, and the friends are again together.

Laura Packer weaves these tales with the skill of a spider. You are instantly transported to your childhood, when just sitting at the feet of a storyteller was the greatest feeling in the world. Packer’s amazing talents are well showcased her and the numerous awards she has won throughout her career are self-evident.

While the program recommends the show for ages 16 and up, I feel that it would be very suitable for any child with the attention span to listen to and enjoy a good story. After all, it is through these shared experiences that our imaginations are honed and our true selves are fed.

Remaining performances are 9 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday at the District Theater, 627 Massachusetts Ave.

IndyFringe: Lady LIVES

This show is part of the 15th Annual Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival, a/k/a IndyFringe, Aug. 15-25, 2019 on Mass Ave downtown. Info, etc., at www.IndyFringe.org.

By John Lyle Belden

For those who saw Monica Cantrell as Billie Holiday in “Lady Day” earlier this year, it was easy to presume that this was a rehash of the same material — but this is not a copy, rather it’s a companion-piece. Where in “Lady Day,” we go back to the past to visit Ms. Holiday, in “Lady LIVES,” she comes to us.

It has been announced that the immortal Billie Holiday, who passed from us in 1959, is going to make an appearance in Indianapolis today. Anything is possible in the theatre, so a place is made. And sure enough, there she is, in a shimmering robe — singing 1970s hit “Hello, It’s Me” as though Todd Rundgren had written it for her.

Apparently you can keep up with things here from the Beyond, as she takes on a couple of other contemporary hits (she even says, “More cowbell!”) but she also sings a couple of her own classics, including the biting reminder that “Strange Fruit” once hung from America’s trees. 

As I said during her earlier show (produced in March by Fonseca Theatre Company), Cantrell can channel Holiday perfectly, nailing that unique voice without sinking into parody. It’s as though the Lady truly visited us. Perhaps she did!

This production is conceived and directed by Bill Myers, produced in association with The Timeless Music Project and The Chatterbox. Remaining performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Saturday, 4:30 p.m. Sunday at the District Theater (former TOTS location),  627 Massachusetts Ave.