IndyFringe: Adventures While Black in Great Britain

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

Les Kurkendaal-Barrett and husband John are at their Green Card “audition.” Les is asked: Is his marriage to this “obnoxious Brit” for real? Being a teller of autobiographical stories for Fringe shows, he gives the Immigration officer — and us — the whole scoop.

Those who have been to his past shows may remember his former relationship. Les comes clean about how toxic that situation was, and how despite efforts to the contrary he fell into yet another romance with a white man. But at least this family of in-laws will be normal — right?

A trip to England for John’s father’s funeral brings Les into contact with his new relatives. This includes Cousin Nigel of the multiple grandfather clocks and wild mood swings; and blunt-spoken Aunt Enid, who lives in Stratford. “You know about Shakespeare, right?” We also learn about “tea shaming,” what song helps you when driving in the U.K., and that Brighton is the nation’s Gay Capital.

Les just has that way about him that makes you want to be his friend, and a storytelling style that makes any little thing that happens sound wild and fascinating. There were plenty of seats at the first IndyFringe performance, but they will be a lot harder to come by at his last. Find him 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday at ComedySportz, 721 Mass. Ave. 

IndyFringe: Terror on the High Seas

By Wendy Carson

In-laws. We all have dealt with them or heard horror stories from friends about theirs at some point in time. Now, imagine being stuck on a 10-day cruise with them, in Alaska of all places. Thus begins Les Kurkendaal’s tale.

Being a liberal, gay, black man from L.A. was hard for his partner’s conservative, gun-toting, Trump-supporting, Bakersfield family to accept, but they have repeatedly made some effort. They brought him along on this cruise to celebrate the patriarch’s 70th birthday. Their original destination was the Mediterranean, but it was deemed to be “too hot!” by his brother-in-law. Therefore, since they’ve all wanted to see Sarah Palin’s home state, Alaska was decided on.

From taking every excursion offered in order to escape them, to making some hilarious new friends on the boat, Kurkendaal’s tale swings from one crazy situation to another. However, even among all of the zany people he meets, and the crazy antics of the family, some sobering situations are also encountered.

The storytelling skill it takes to maneuver all of these issues while still keeping everything compelling is impressive, and Kurkendaal does not fail. Every show he brings here is so much better than the last. In fact, my biggest annoyance was that I wished the show had been longer.

Whether you have seen one of Kurkendaal’s shows before, or are experiencing him and his family for the first time, you should really do yourself a favor and come aboard for some laughs.

One performance left during this Fringe: 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27, at ComedySportz. Get tickets at indyfringefestival.com.