Toymaker tinkers with oft-told tale

By John Lyle Belden

In the hands of No Exit Performance’s Ryan Mullins and Georgeanna Smith Wade, Mullins’ portrayal of the toymaker Drosselmeyer has expanded to something far beyond the necessary supporting character for the “Nutcracker” ballet, emerging as a signature personality for the No Exit troupe.

His painted, sharp-dressed hunchback looks odd, yet exudes a confident charisma that makes him funny while kind of dangerous (and sexy, he’d insist I add sexy). From the moment he takes the stage, he is in charge, completely. The dancing, giggling players around him obey; the audience, under his firm gaze, are taken by his unusual charm. He can be challenged (and occasionally is) but never defeated – or can he?

I attended a production of No Exit’s “Nutcracker” a couple of years ago. With Drosselmeyer as the emcee, we were treated to a strange but entertaining variation of the story (with dance breaks, but none of the traditional ballet). This year our toymaker has invented something new, yet familiar.

“Drosselmeyer Presents: Another Twisted Classic” is the title of this year’s show, staged in a large downstairs garage area of the Tube Factory, the Big Car artspace located at 1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis (just off south Shelby near Garfield Park).

Our host promises the audience he will stage another edition of the Nutcracker, but first a little nap… Clues like this, and when we see Callie Burke-Hartz as a kid on a crutch, tell us what often-told Christmas tale this band is going to twist. You feel like you know what’s going to happen next – it sorta does, but it totally doesn’t, at least not like you’d expect.

Other notable characters (at this point Drosselmeyer insists you stop reading because it’s not about him; just see his show!) include Lukas Schooler as the magnificent mulleted Mustache Man, the toymaker’s rival for our attention; Michael Burke as the beautiful Ginger; Aaron Beasley as grifter handyman Mr. Scratchit; and the return of Drosselmeyer’s – um, friend? partner? servant? – darling Sparkle (Wade), who in the silent clown tradition, speaks volumes with a gesture. She just wants everyone to be happy, but is there any joy left for her?

Funny, inventive – as much an experience as a play – I highly recommend this show to anyone up for something a little unusual. There are a few mature moments, so this is best for teens and up. The stage location is down a steep staircase, but accommodations can be made for those who have difficulty with this.

Performances resume today (Dec. 7) and run through Saturday, with two more on Dec. 16-17. Get info and tickets at www.noexitperformance.org.

John L. Belden is Associate Editor for The Eagle (formerly The Word), the Indianapolis-based LGBTQ news source, where he also places his reviews.

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Fringe review: Drosselmeyer’s Magical Bedtime Story

By Wendy Carson

One never knows what to expect when No Exit brings a show to the Fringe, except that it will be entertaining, to say the least. And this offering, “Drosselmeyer’s Magical Bedtime Story,” playing at the Marrott Center, does not fail to follow through on that promise.

Anyone who has seen the company’s amazing production of “The Nutcracker” will be familiar with the titular character, based on the magical toymaker in the holiday story. However, for those of you who have sadly missed the experience, suffice it to say that the word “character” cannot even begin to describe him.

His gypsy troupe enters the stage area and begins their bizarre performance in a manner reminiscent of the animal parade from “The Lion King.” Once he introduces himself and his somewhat simple-minded assistant, Sparkle, we all discover that she is now with child. Drosselmeyer has concerns about her parenting abilities, and enlists the help of various audience members to instruct her on parenting basics with the help of his new dancing troupe, The Mosquito Ladies. Needless to say, hilarity ensues.

This show is delightfully irreverent and managed to surpass my already high expectations of its content. A definite must-see for those looking for the lighter side of edgy and unique theatre.