IndyFringe: Oh Look, It’s Magic!

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

By John Lyle Belden

Jordan Allen has been an awesome presence at this year’s IndyFringe. The magician has been around the festival all three weekends, doing a little bit of busking, and a lot of attending and talking up other performers’ shows. So, it’s only fair we say a bit about his own performance, which ran the third weekend (Sept. 1-3) at the main-floor stage at the Athenaeum.

“Oh Look, It’s Magic: ADHD Advocacy Show” combines a lot of clever tricks with an honest first-person account of growing up – and living with – Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, which is a real disability, and not something one grows out of (“I wish,” Allen adds). He notes that aside from Houdini’s maxim that magic not only amuses and amazes, but also awakens hope, he feels it can also educate and advocate.

In that vein, Allen maintains a show that is family friendly, and accommodating to all neural patterns. He patiently grins through impulsive outbursts, and gives the neurodivergent their own moments of wonder – as well as to audience members of any brain, even silly folk like me.

It’s cards, ropes, scarves, stories, balls, cups, hope, ripped paper, flashes of color, moments of comedy, and a kind reminder that none of us are alone, if we’re open to life’s magic. And it’s a work in progress, so watch for its next return by following “Jordan Allen – Magician” on Facebook or visiting jallenexperience.com.

IndyFringe: Dadbod

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

Local standup comic Brad Hinshaw has once again managed to escape his wife and kids (and not just by hiding in the bathroom) to come out and spend time with actual adults again, bringing another hour of family-centric comedy (not to be confused with “family-friendly,” some words would be bleeped on TV).

Hinshaw returns to further refine his act, “Dadbod,” in anticipation of filming it. While most of his material is the same as last year’s show – if you haven’t heard about the joy of “lactation cookies,” you really should – the newer stories are hilarious. Who knew the dangers of toddlers and super soakers?

As I said last year, this is a delightfully relatable show for parents and non-parents alike. So, take the chance to escape your own family so you can laugh at yourself as well as Hinshaw’s situations.

Today’s performance (as we post this) is 1:45 p.m., and the last is 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 4, both at the cabaret stage of the District Theatre.

IndyFringe: Amaze & Amuse

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

By John Lyle Belden

Trino, who appeared on television in “Masters of Illusion,” brings his “Modern Day Magic Show” to the District Theatre stage.

With “Amaze and Amuse,” we learn animals like to dress up as balloon dogs, how to do a trick (sorta) and that no matter how long you’re married, you still misplace a sock in the laundry.

Also, one lucky audience member gets a prize, and Trino finishes by escaping a straitjacket he wears “under water.”

This all-ages hour of silly jokes and interesting illusions starts its final IndyFringe performance just minutes after I post this, but we can hope Trino returns to “Amaze and Amuse” us at a future date.

IndyFringe: 90 Lies an Hour

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

By John Lyle Belden

Humorist, musician, and storyteller Paul Strickland brings us to the Big Fib Trailer Park Cul-de-sac, home of Aunt True and Uncle False, for four stories and a song.

We learn how the couple met, at the car that only ran on cuss-words. Also, when Strickland was asked to write a eulogy for a man whom he had never met, and the trailer-park residents didn’t really like.

Then there was when the living-room toilet wasn’t as unusual as what was going on outside.

So, feel free to open up the box of “one-abouts” and enjoy some tall tales that stretch the imagination as well as the funny bone, and put spring pigs in flight. We also hear the sweet tune in which Uncle False tells Aunt True “there’s so much ‘us’ left to do.”

Strickland was a hit at past IndyFringes, and will no doubt fill the Indy Eleven room of the IndyFringe Theatre as everyone learns he’s back with some wonderful wonder-full stories to tell, for all ages.  Performances are 5:15 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 28 (today as we post this), as well as 5:30 p.m. Friday and 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 2-3.

IndyFringe: meSSeS

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

It has been a few years since we have had a clowning master class at IndyFringe, but this year, with “meSSeS,” Janoah Bailin brings us a spectacular one.

First, each audience member is given three scarves with which you will learn the rudimentary skills of juggling during the show and will only get better with practice (he also has a QR code link to his teaching online).

Janoah shows us his juggling prowess using balls, swords, pins, as well as popcorn kernels at one point. His is also a master of not one, but two unicycles of varying heights. He performs some very original gags and spectacular feats of balancing, but it is in the allowing for some of his stunts to go wrong that his humor shines.

I honestly can’t give you more details without spoiling some of the humor but suffice it to say that the show is a family friendly delight. Bring out the kids and see who ends up being the best juggler in the family. Performances are 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27 (today as we post this), and next Saturday (7 p.m.) and Sunday (5:15 p.m.), Sept. 3-4, at the Indy Eleven stage in the IndyFringe Theatre.

IndyFringe: Jon Bennett — Fire in the Meth Lab

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

First, I must note, these are true stories, as well as the search for one brother’s connection to the older one he tried so hard to love.

In “Fire in the Meth Lab,” Jon Bennett has come up from his home in Australia to share his stories about his brother’s journey with addiction. We are presented with Tim’s six major addictions throughout his life, varying from pop stars to meth.

While all the above sound like some pretty serious topics to deal with, I can assure you that this is one of the funniest shows I’ve seen at this year’s IndyFringe.

Bennett discusses how he idolized his brother even though Tim took every possible chance he could to bully him. Their main touchstones were fighting, floor ice cream, and watching The Wonder Years. Being the sons of a minister didn’t help their predicament.

What makes this show truly work is Bennett’s storytelling and mining these tales for all of the humor inside them. He genuinely loves his brother, but just can’t get this across to him.

Honestly, this show is so much funnier than it probably should be, given the subject matter. Yet we all have those stories of someone getting somehow intoxicated and craziness ensuing. If nothing else, go see it for the amazing Jason Donovan trivia questions.

Performances are 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27 (today, as we post this) as well as 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2 and noon Sunday, Sept. 4, on the Indy Eleven stage at the IndyFringe Theatre.

IndyFringe: The Barn Identity

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

By John Lyle Belden

“The Barn Identity,” by Erika MacDonald, is about falling-down barns.

It might seem like it’s about children’s games, the leaf-circle dance, the Fourth of July feeling, bringing the outside in, her mystery illness, or that night she stood on the sidewalk with 5 percent of her brain – How many times has she told this story? – but she insists, it’s about falling-down barns.

MacDonald gently brings a kaleidoscope of storytelling fragments into focus as we dive into her world of seven-year-old Old Ladies in snowy beds and bent old structures that you wonder how they still stand. Her view out the window, and looking within, take us on a fascinating journey that is both deeply personal, and the essence of a great Fringe performance.

And why she doesn’t go to movies. And how she’s obsessed with falling-down barns.

Wonderful to the last “theatre sigh,” with recorded music by fellow Fringe performer Paul Strickland, “The Barn Identity” has performances 5:15 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27, and Thursday and Sunday evenings, Sept. 1 and 4, in the Athenaeum.

IndyFringe: Scars, by Sears

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

By John Lyle Belden

One of the benefits of the Fringe festival format is that it allows performers to work on new and developing material. It gets a sort of dress rehearsal before an audience who bought inexpensive tickets to be part of the process, rolling with the technical glitches and jumbled lines, seeing the genius at work behind the eventual polished product.

Lissa Sears, a standup comic who has more worldly experience than most who picked up the mic only a few years ago, is developing her one-person show, “Scars” over the course of this year’s IndyFringe. Wendy saw a lot of potential in its first-ever presentation last weekend, and what I saw last night shows something truly special and inspiring in the making, and I encourage you to be part of the process.

Being a very out-and-proud lesbian is about the most ordinary thing about Sears. The first “scar” was internal, the onset of multiple sclerosis at age 25, temporarily paralyzing one side of her body. In her discomfort, she says she had rather it be cancer, which can be cut out. “Be careful what you wish for.”

As she approaches 40, a lump in her breast has her seeking “a girly doctor” and entering chemotherapy, and eventually surgery. Still, “you gotta embrace the suck, or the suck will embrace you.”

Throughout her journey, she defies any weakness in her body by taking up boxing, martial arts and distance running, even doing the Indy Mini Marathon with a walker. A chance encounter with performer and former Colts kicker Pat McAfee has her trying out and enjoying standup. She meets other celebrities, including the late Louie Anderson.

Removal of her breasts means she can go topless (though she’d rather not show her belly). This also leads her to the “flattie” community and more opportunities to spread a message of pride and empowerment.

Her personal motto is, “Don’t tell me I can’t,” and I wouldn’t dare say that of this constantly improving showcase of her ongoing brave life. Help a feisty, funny woman as she focuses her story, Saturday afternoon, Aug. 27, and Friday night and Saturday evening, Sept. 2-3, at the Athenaeum.

IndyFringe: Leland Loves Bigfoot

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

By John Lyle Belden

Last year, standup comic and Kentucky hippie Stewart Huff asked: Do jokes still work? Well, his do.

In this year’s one-man show, “Leland Loves Bigfoot,” he revisits some of that material, but has a new central anecdote, his night with a stranger waiting for a cryptid to show up.

As he looks for that sweet spot “between chaos and capitalism,” he recommends going to a snake-handling church for entertainment rather than a major theme park. He disagrees with fellow liberals saying we can’t fix what’s wrong with America, “but WILL we fix things?” he shrugs. And he decries insults taking the place of debate, “I dream of the day we have an (actual) argument.”

And he relates his visit to the little town of Mays Lick, Ky. While drinking at the local redneck bar, he is approached by a man who asks if Huff would like to go with him to his farm and look for Bigfoot.

Against his better judgement, he goes.

While they sat outdoors in lawn chairs drinking moonshine, Huff realized, “I love Leland. But I’m afraid of Leland, because he votes.” As they discuss vaccines, Scooby-doo, condemned statues, and nude driving, he maintains a brotherly affection for the man despite not agreeing with anything he says.

And that’s the main point, if there must be a moral to an incredibly funny show, that we can disagree with someone without hating them.

His energetically delivered observations elicited constant laughter and some devious thoughts, such as, “if you see someone in old-time aviator goggles, follow him” because something crazy is about to happen.

“You don’t goggle-up in the planning stages.”

Plan to see Huff at the Athenaeum, 8:45 p.m. Saturday and 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 27-28.

IndyFringe: Exes and Embryos

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

By John Lyle Belden

Standup comedian Mandee McKelvey (who brought us last year’s “How I Got My Warts Prayed Off”) returns with a new hour of comedy that’s a bit discomforting and roll out of your seats hilarious.

An out-of-the-blue inquiry by a distant friend – would Mandee like to take her extra frozen embryo? – sparks a rather twisty train of thought that includes 15 solid minutes of ranting about semen (using the more common crude word that sounds like a verb). If you can manage that, she also talks about her abortion.

For mature audiences with mature minds who don’t mind some crude humor, this is a must-see. McKelvey’s frank and upbeat delivery (“just trying to find lightness in the darkness”) will win you over. Learn how IVF is like an expensive carnival game, and that standup comedy is not “family friendly” from the comic’s perspective.

Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings, Aug. 26-27, and Saturday and Sunday afternoons, Sept. 3-4, on the Indy Eleven stage at the IndyFringe Theatre.