Bard Fest: Trauma has woman caught in ‘Lear’s Shadow’

This Show is part of Bard Fest, central Indiana’s annual Shakespeare festival. Info and tickets at www.indybardfest.com.

By John Lyle Belden

For many of the people I know, theatre is life. Sometimes it feels like the two blend together, and in “Lear’s Shadow,” by Brian Elerding, the words of a William Shakespeare drama can help one to deal with a real-world truth.

Jackie (Nan Macy) arrives at her company’s rehearsal room to find it empty and the wrong scripts on the table. She has unexplained bruises and a sore neck, but her main concern is that no one is there to start working on Shakespeare’s “King Lear.” 

Then, company member Stephen (Tom Weingartner) arrives, visibly worried. He calls Rachel (Morgan Morton), who is on her way, but in the meantime he needs to keep Jackie occupied, working through her frequent mental re-sets until she is ready to understand…

For much of the hour of this First Folio production in the IndyFringe Indy Eleven Theatre, Jackie and Stephen explore the idea of following just the plot of the King in “Lear,” apart from other intrigues, exploring his relationships and growing madness. Thus many passages from the play are quoted and enacted, leading up to Act IV, Scene 7. Jackie, who has the script memorized, takes the title role, which she instructs must be played starting less-mad, giving his character somewhere to go, “to see someone gaining strength as they lose everything.”

Macy is incredible, both as Jackie and as Jackie-as-Lear, as we come to learn the parallels between the two — picking favorites, pushing away a loved one, psychological trauma, and the need to rage against something that can’t be controlled.

Weingartner shows deft command of the stage as well, and Morton acquits herself well in her scene. 

Directed by Glenn Dobbs, this drama is a worthy addition to the festival, a good “Shakespeare-adjacent” play that helps relate the old texts to today’s world as well or better than just putting players in modern suits (though we do enjoy those, too, theatre friends!). 

Remaining performances are Oct. 24-27: 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday (with talkback after Friday’s show) and 2 p.m. Sunday. 

IndyFringe: ‘Aphrodite’s Refugees’

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

It’s hard to not hear the word “refugees” in the news today. It’s bandied about on an almost daily basis. This tends to numb us to the meaning and situations that cause people to succumb to this status.

When show creator Monica Dionysiou witnessed an exhibit by Doctors Without Borders in her hometown of Boulder, Colorado, she felt inspired to revisit her family’s stories of their own struggles during the many battles for dominance on their home island of Cypress, and how they came to America in the first place.

You can now witness the beauty, tragedy, and resilience of these people in her stunning offering, “Aphrodite’s Refugees.”

She artfully weaves the history of the island as well as its struggles for independence from the various countries warring over it. (Cypress is located in the Mediterranean near Greece and Turkey, which both have claims.) The stories begin with recordings of her family in their own words which are then interpreted by her and her partner to show the changes in the landscape of the island throughout the years.

Dionysiou’s partner, Aaron Young, literally illustrates the struggle by painting the backdrop of the ever-changing landscape of her homeland. He also illuminates important points of the story with further drawings and animations to enhance the drama. Plus, the finished landscape is available for sale at the end of each performance so you can acquire a spectacular original piece of artwork to help you remember these bittersweet tales for long afterward.

We also find out the connection to the Greek goddess of the title. She is the deity of love — but, alas, her brother is Aries, God of War, and in their immortal games he’s holding the cards.

Performances are today and tomorrow (Aug. 25-26) at 6 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday, at the Indyfringe Indy Eleven Theatre, 719 St. Clair St. (just east of the College and Mass Ave intersection).

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: ‘The Best of Taylor Martin’s Indy Magic, Vol. 3’

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

As one of the longest-running performers at the Fringe, Taylor Martin once again brings us an evening of magic, comedy and entertainment for all ages (especially the kids — they will have a ball).

The cast of magicians rotates, but you are always guaranteed to enjoy yourself regardless of who is performing. I managed to catch the Saturday matinee and my lineup included The Great Obtuse, The Amazing Barry and perennial favorite, Cody Clark.

All of them turned in solid performances. Cody debuted a delightful new routine, and Obtuse lived up to his name and kept us laughing throughout. The Amazing Barry brings the show home by doing a card trick with his feet (trust me, it’s really worth seeing).\

I found out later that one of The Amazing Barry’s illusions went wrong. However, I, along with the rest of the audience) thought it was meant to go that way to make the actual completion of the trick even more impressive.

So come on out and watch the show. Who knows what will happen?

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

IndyFringe: ‘Hers is the Head of a Wolf’

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 of all, let me tell you that this show is about Schizophrenia. It’s initial scene makes that unclear and there is the ambiguity of the situation where it could be about something else (read: lycanthropy). Now that you know this, lets talk about the show.

This show is powerful and amazing. It does a great job of giving insight to the real struggle of a victim of this disease and those around them who are either trying to help them or just be a part of their life.

I was especially impressed by the portrayal of Danny, who starts as her tutor and then begins to turn into a boyfriend. His character is not white-washed wholesome nor entirely cut-and-dried sympathetic. He gets angry and loud at times but is tender and concerned at others which is a much more realistic look at how one would be in the real world.

The therapist, Dr. Hamilton, is genuinely concerned and clearly doing his best to help guide his patient through learning to cope with this debilitating disease. However, even at his most earnest, his voice and advice does sound a bit patronizing.

Then of course, there is our heroine(?) Elise. She literally strips herself bare and exposes her fear, vulnerability, and sheer revulsion at her plight. She struggles to overcome her demons (whose voices we eventually hear for ourselves). She didn’t ask to be like this. She doesn’t want to be like this. She just wants to feel safe for once in her life.
What becomes of each of our players is for you to witness and by all means, you really should witness this. Just know that the show is gut-wrenching and can be overwhelming (much like the condition it portrays).
One performance remains, 9 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 21, at the IndyFringe Indy Eleven Theatre, 719 E. St. Clair, just east of the Mass Ave. and College intersection.

Indyfringe: ‘Too Old to be This Young’

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

Laura Hedli recounts for us the year she lost her virginity – at age 26.

She hadn’t intended to wait so long. She just wanted the big moment to mean something, and other aspects of her life took up her time. Her writing career, for instance, which with a full-time part-time gig finally made her a ghost writer – to a ghost writer – to her boss. But behold, this job also comes with a hot coworker, and he is very interested in her. Though he seems like a bit of a tool to us listening to Laura’s story, he is just the thing to fix her undamaged virtue.

And the book that she is ghost-ghost writing? It’s on “age management medicine” for middle-aged and older men, especially testosterone therapy. This, naturally, leads to necessary research (including interviews) and writing on sex – you know, that thing she finally got to experience two days ago.

She also notes that the stable of writers she’s in hires young, and that as she approaches 30, she could “age out” of the age management business.

All this makes what could have been a mildly interesting workplace anecdote into an engaging hour of storytelling, with Laura slipping into a couple of characters including her boss, a randy Swedish man, and her beau, the man she calls “Broken.” It makes for a unique perspective on aging and how we confront and defy it. Come listen and see how well she expresses herself under her own name, as we explore whether a year of one’s life is worth reaching a significant personal milestone – and six words in a book’s Acknowledgements.

Laura relates her story one more time for us, 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 20, at the IndyFringe Indy Eleven Theatre, 719 E. St. Clair, just off Mass Ave. and College.

The war for Scotland’s crown has two distinct factions; this is their story — BONG BONG! (Bardfest review)

By John Lyle Belden

The action is already under way, with gunfire, sirens, heavily-armed soldiers. When the hurly-burly is done, the winning officer meets three strange women who greet him with titles he doesn’t have and aren’t likely to get. But when he meets the leader, one of those unlikely titles is granted to him – could he be fated for more? It doesn’t help that the boss named someone else his chief lieutenant. That puts two people between our man and the top of the power structure; but his persuasive and sexy wife has ideas on how to fix the situation – though there will be blood. Lots of blood.

This action movie playing out live at Bard Fest is Shakespeare’s “MacBeth.” It’s tightly scripted (about 90 minutes in one act) by First Folio Productions director Carey Shea, and set in an urban battle zone, more Syria than Scotland, with characters from your favorite cop shows (“Law and Order: Inverness” perhaps?).

The story is familiar – death, more witches, death, “out damned spot,” death – and the Bard’s tragedies get the use-guns-for-swords treatment from time to time, but this production also has what Indy’s theatre scene truly needs: more Nan Macy.

Macy, along with Janice Hibbard and Leah Hodson play the Wyrd Sisters, who seem to pop up everywhere. Or are we just looking through the eyes of MacBeth (Adam Tran), seeing reassurance that his dark deeds to gain the crown are inevitable and right? Or maybe it’s just a clever, efficient use of talented actors.

Devan Mathias is a hot, nasty Lady MacBeth, Ryan Ruckman a noble doomed king Duncan, and Chelsea Anderson and Nathan Thomas are both worthy of their badges as good-cops Macduff and Malcolm. Craig Kemp as Columbo-esque detective Ross strives to put the clues together. Justin Klein as tragic Banquo is our most sympathetic character – next to Jilayne Kistner as his hard-luck daughter Fleance.

The end result is engaging and entertaining. One can just take it at face value – wild action as an ambitious couple slay their way to the top, then face the consequences – or as a high-caliber examination of the lust for power and the dangers of unaddressed and untreated mental illness, never mind when it’s suffered by people in positions of authority.

Don’t be concerned by the legendary curse (that’s for the cast and crew to contend with), the Indy Eleven stage at the IndyFringe theater, 719 E. St. Clair, still stands. Remaining performances are tonight and Sunday (Oct. 28-29).

For information, see www.indyfringe.org.