IndyFringe: Sweet Dreams, Pillowman

This is part of IndyFringe 2022, Aug. 18-Sept. 4 (individual performance times vary) in downtown Indianapolis. Details and tickets at IndyFringe.org.

By Wendy Carson

Monique (Audrey Stonerock) is literally a hot mess. Her apartment is a wreck, her hygiene is questionable at best, her cat has run away in disgust and her only companions are a trio of singing rats (Chelsea Mullen, Carrie Powell, and Maria Meschi). Is it any wonder she has begun talking to the pile of pillows and blankets next to her?

She has also started to imagine hearing a strange male voice from somewhere. Is it the rats playing a trick on her or something more sinister?

When she discovers that there is indeed a Pillowman (voiced and puppetted by Zachariah Stonerock), she is frightened at first, but then begins to deal with this manifestation. As is often the case, her visitor is here to help her work through the issues that have brought her to this place in her life.

In “Sweet Dreams, Pillowman*,” presented by American Lives Theatre, many hard truths are explored, but catharsis (and oranges) win out in the end.

Personally, I feel that J. E. Hibbard’s script makes a perfect Fringe show. The characters are interesting, the story is charming, it lulls you into a false sense of whimsy and then hits your emotional buttons (without going overboard).

Experience the sweetness 7:15 p.m. Friday and noon Saturday, Aug. 26-27, on the Indy Eleven stage at the IndyFringe Theatre.

(*This play has nothing to do with the much-darker drama “The Pillowman” by Martin McDonagh; though if you do find a production of that one, be sure to check it out.)

‘Birds’-inspired ‘Fowl’ far more funny than frightening

By Wendy Carson

Ben Asaykwee, the force behind Q Artistry and creator of the perennial favorite “Cabaret Poe,” has tapped his deep comical well to bring us the hilarious musical delight that is “The Fowl.” In this sharp parody of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic, “The Birds,” we are transported to 1960s Bodega Bay, California, where several mysterious bird attacks occur. 

We are reminded that the secondary romantic plot is better suited to a film on the Hallmark channel, though necessary to facilitate the events in which the attacks take place. While the show’s costumes and “wigs” give everything the look of a cartoon, they are quite ingenious and perfectly reflect the quirkiness of the show. The special effects are crude but reinforce the irreverence of the production. 

Though the look is reminiscent of what one would expect from an elementary school show, the cast and crew are genuine in their love of what they are doing and passion to make you laugh. It is also an excellent mentoring opportunity, as local stage veterans work side by side with young actors. 

This show is presented in two acts. The first retells the movie, pulling no punches at some of its more ludicrous portions.

The second act revolves around the stories of the birds themselves (from their point of view) and supposition as to why these attacks were necessary. While I personally take umbrage at the constant disparaging comments regarding the tardiness of the penguins, the birds do make some very valid points.

Asaykwee, as director/choreographer, had cast members each learn more than one set of roles, not only to help gain experience, but also in case a Covid-positive test sidelined any performers. You’ll see at least a different order in the lineup from one show to the next. Therefore this is a true ensemble effort. That flock includes: Matt Anderson, Shelbi Berry, Quincy Carman, Jaddy Ciucci, Ellie Cooper, Finley Eyers, Fiona Eyers, Janice Hibbard, Tiffanie Holifield, Noah Lee, Maria Meschi, Pat Mullen, Himiko Ogawa, Inori Ogawa, Wren Thomas, Diane Tsao, and Noah Winston. 

At our performance, we saw Berry doing her best Tippi Hendren, a scene-stealing turn by Finley Eyers as an over-eager Seagull, and a beautiful interpretive Ostrich dance by Holifield.

With all the current stress in the world and each of our lives, it is good to be able to go out and have a really good laugh. This show will afford you a whole flock of opportunities to do just that. So go out and catch “The Fowl” – Thursday through Sunday (March 3-6) at The District Theatre, 627 Massachusetts Ave., Indianapolis – before the opportunity flies past.