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.

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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.

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: ‘Inter(Actions)’

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

I’ve heard it famously said that in traditional dances, every movement tells a story. To be honest, that should be true of every good dance performance. For a brilliant example I bring you the young women, and one man, of Crossroads Dance Indy.

As I’ve stated elsewhere, modern and interpretive dance isn’t my thing, so if I found this series of movement pieces engaging, I think anyone can.

It’s not just step-to-the-narrative ballet — though there is a bit of classical ballet, beautifully done — but something more like “feeling” a story rather than hearing it.

The opening piece, “Black Rock Canyon,” to the music of Fleet Foxes, Arcade Fire and Interpol (a minute of this was presented at the Wednesday Fringe preview event) was designed (by Lauren Curry of Indianapolis Movement Arts Collective) to portray life in a religious cult. But the movement themes — women struggling in unison together towards and away from the dark singular presence, who moves among them, judging them, forbidding a budding relationship — could be seen as so much more. I could picture the woman in black as Fate or Death, working among the frantic common folk in their daily struggles, reaching out inevitably to one…

The show’s highlights (for me) included an absolutely beautiful routine to “Female” by Keith Urban, choreography by guest artist Nicole Dean; and an awesome interpretation of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” — bless you, Ashley Youmell, for making “Ellie” the eternal optimist.

I have to note as well the uncompromising skill of these local dancers — unison where there should be unison, flow into flow, “random” movement that’s anything but. I’m sure a dance professional could nitpick the heck out of their performance, but I’m not a dance person, and maybe you’re not a dance person, so that doesn’t matter. Just know that some of the best storytelling at this year’s Fringe is done without saying a word.

Crossroads Dance’s “Inter(Actions)” is performed at the District Theatre (formerly Theatre on the Square) mainstage, 627 Mass Ave.