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).

Advertisements

IndyFringe: ‘Roshambo’

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

This is akin to one of those “Afterschool Specials” most of us grew up watching.

It gives us a look into the highly competitive world of “Rock, Paper, Scissors” (yes, that’s a thing). Although the sport involved is vastly interchangeable, the character archetypes are pretty basic, and the message is blatantly obvious (It’s just a game and it should be fun), the cast does a respectable job of bringing it all to life.

Some of the characters are absolutely hilarious, such as Andromeda, who is constantly talking about things on “Her planet;” and Nick, the dorky airhead on Team Avalanche — so named because they throw “Rock” a lot).

The show’s biggest flaw is that it only has a 30-minute running time. I would have liked to see another set of scenes with each of our primary characters, as well as a training montage to fill up those missing 20 minutes they had available.

Still, it was a solid effort and a good first showing. Once they get back to Greenwich Academy, they can workshop this show a bit more and bring it back as a hit for next year’s Fringe.

Performances are at the IndyFringe Indy Eleven Theatre, 719 St. Clair, just east of the Mass Ave and College intersection.

IndyFringe: ‘Paper Swords: A Musical’

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

First, a definition for those of you who do not travel in such circles: “LARP” stands for Live Action Role-Playing. This is very similar to when you played make-believe as a child but in this case, everyone involved is playing a game and they are all using the same rules. Now, to the show —

Our story begins with a bunch of Knights battling it out in the Kingdom of Elerin. They represent two distinct factions, Silvermore (who wear green tabards) and Ferndray (who wear blue tabards).

Our hero, Avery, is of Ferndray and one of the best fighters. A new girl in the kingdom, Elena, catches his eye and, even though she is part of the rival group, he pursues her and they end up dating (out of game, in the real world).

In a secondary plot, Avery’s best friends Will (a clumsy, guy who has more heart than brain) and Liz (his the ever-present best friend who keeps him safe) awkwardly fall in love.

Now that things are going well in the kingdom, enter the King. After his hysterical solo, “I’m the King and You’re Not,” he declares that the kingdom (in real-world terms, land he owns) is too small to support the growing number of LARPers that are playing in it. Therefore, the two groups must oppose each other in a great battle — the champions get to stay, while the losers must find another land. He also decrees that if neither side battles, both groups will be banished from the Kingdom. Needless to say, this puts our hero’s relationship in peril.

In the weeks building up to the battle, both groups train endlessly, straining Avery and Elena’s relationship. Then, when Avery shows up to Elena’s house, he secretly learns the King is her father! Drama naturally ensues.

All are tested in the climactic battle. Will our knights have a place where they can be truly accepted as themselves and that they consider home? Can good will be enough to cover taxes and insurance on the lot? And why are they suddenly looking out from the stage at us?

The actors — including Donovan Whitney (Avery), Alicia Hamaker (Elena), Jordan Brown (Liz), Clarke Remmers (Will), Sarah Tam (Bren, leader of Silvermore), and Ethan Mathias (the King) — do a stellar job portraying their roles in a manner that shows their individual character without slipping into self-parody. The script — book by Kelsey Tharp, songs by Matt Day — respects the hobby as much as the people who enjoy it, keeping the emphasis on the characters and the drama they feel.

My overall thoughts on the show are that with a bit of a rewrite and more polish, this show could be the runaway hit of next year’s GenCon. See it here first, on the third floor of the Firehouse union hall, 748 Mass Ave.

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.

 

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.

Games: Featuring quick-draw and creative drawing

By John Lyle Belden

While out Christmas shopping, we noticed on the shelves at Target* a couple of the games we tried out at last summer’s GenCon Game Fair. Since picking them up after those demos, they have become among the games we insist on playing at friends’ gatherings — and other folks have come to enjoy them, too.

* Cobra Paw, by the makers of the word game Bananagrams, looks like a simple dominoes set (and you can play a really basic version of the game with it) but the tiles have colored symbols and there is a fingertip-sized dimple in the middle of each tile.

The idea of the game is to roll the accompanying dice and then take the tile that matches the symbols that come up. Fitting the game’s martial-arts theme, you are to capture using the kung-fu move of a single-finger strike. The player with the finger closest to or in the divot takes the tile. Then that victor rolls the dice and tries to strike again. All pieces are fair game, so captured tiles can be stolen, if the owner doesn’t put their finger down on it in time. First player to a designated number of tiles (usually six) wins.

We’ve had a lot of fun with this, and it’s great for all ages, as hyper young’uns get to one-up their elders. I’ve found that concentrating on the color rather than the symbol helps to spot the right tile quicker.

Also, by holding the tile with your finger or thumb in the middle, it can be a primitive fidget spinner.

* The Cat Game, by Spinmaster games, is basically a Pictionary-style game that involves a wipe-off board with a clear cover under which you have to place at least one photo of a cat. The supplied kitty cut-outs are in various cute and/or pouncing poses, so, for instance, you can doodle with two cats standing on the bow of the Titanic to get other players to guess the movie. There are cards that supply the names of “fLICKS”, “PURRsons or PURRfessions” or “CAT-tivities” to be drawn.

Sure, it resembles other games but — cats! There’s even fur on the box. So, for a fresh take on a familiar genre (which makes understanding the game easy for new players), this game is worth adopting.

* Speaking of getting people to guess your artwork, we picked up Imagine, by Gamewright games, at Barnes & Noble’s big games and puzzles area. This variation has players guessing what one “draws” by assembling symbols, shapes and silhouettes on various clear-plastic cards (so no artistic talent is required). While you can’t say what you are showing, you can move the cards in a sort of animated charades.

One thing we thought was odd about this game: One of the symbols is a bicycle, and one of the items printed on the cards was “bicycle” — seems kind of unfair.

Other suggestions, such as book titles and common phrases, gave us a reaction of “there’s no way I can do this!” But when I pointed one example out, other players replied with, “but you can take this card and this one and do this…” So, maybe, we truly are only limited by our own imaginations.

Both Imagine and the Cat Game turn out to be surprisingly challenging versions of the guess-the-drawing party game, and judging by play at holiday gatherings so far, quite fun.

Consider any of the diversions above for Christmas gifts, or just to bring to the party.

*(This is not an endorsement of any particular store, just letting you know that such games can be found at the “big box” retailers, as well as game shops.)

Cute cooperative game has surprising depth

As Black Friday approaches, we switch from reviewing plays to reviewing playtime — one of the games we picked up at last summer’s GenCon Game Fair.

By Wendy Carson

When John and I attended GenCon in 2016, we noticed a few of the new games debuting were cooperative games, where everyone has to work together in order to win, rather than traditional game systems where everyone plays against each other and only one player becomes the victor. This year, that number seems to have exploded.

The game company Peaceable Kingdom specializes mainly in cooperative games with a learning slant, aimed at younger players. However, we quickly discovered that these game dynamics are challenging enough for adults as well.

In fact, one of our most favorite new games is “Mole Rats in Space,” designed to be played by two to four players, ages 7 and up.

The game takes place aboard a spaceship manned by four valiant mole rats (not “naked,” as the hairless burrowing mammals are in the wild, as they have space suits) whose ship has been invaded by hungry snakes. Players control the rats in their quest to get to the escape capsule, stopping to gather a few provisions along the way. However, the snakes are also on the move and could prevent the rats’ escape. Adding to the drama are various tubes and ladders around the ship that must be used and/or avoided in this race for survival.

For the players to win, they must move all the rats and four provision cards into the escape capsule without being bitten by a snake or having a snake enter the capsule. And remember, everyone wins or nobody wins!

Movement is by cards that show movement of the rats, snakes or both. There is also the possibility of new snakes spawning as well. However, it is in the resolution of the cards’ effects where a lot of the complex strategy comes in.

You can choose to reveal each card one at a time in player order, reveal all of the players’ cards at once, then resolving them in player order, or reveal all cards and resolve them in whatever order you choose. No matter which option is chosen, in cards depicting movement for both snakes and rats, the player chooses which creature’s movement to resolve first.

One additional note, in order to help our brave mole rats out in their quest, each one begins the game with a medical kit that will allow it to survive ONE snakebite. However, a second bite will end the game not only for the player, but for everyone.

The last time we played this game, the four players were “assisted” with three other observers adding their advice. We opted to reveal all cards at once and resolve the movement in the order we chose. Though it felt like the cards were stacked against us, we barely managed to survive and get our mole rats to safety. Also, note that all seven of the people involved were adults.

While we did win that game, at least half of the times John and I have played, the snakes have been victorious.

This game is sure to be a family favorite. It provides long-term playability and re-playability for a variety of ages. It teaches strategy, long-term planning, cooperation, and complex visualization.

It can also give curious minds inspiration to find out about the critters that inspired the game.

Peaceable Kingdom games are sold at game shops and stores including Target. Find them online at their Facebook page.