Theater of the Absurd: Our 10 Favorite IndyFringe Shows

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Illustration by Andrew Roberts

For 10 years, IndyFringe has brought the bold, bawdy, beautiful, and, sometimes, even the best of independent theater to us every August. Out of 432 groups and 2,358 performances, these are the ones that remain most vivid in our memories.

1. Stand Up Monkey Poet
(Matt Panesh, 2007)
Due to some particularly bold comments against politicians (“f*cking wankers!”), audience members actually got up and left. “The only show where we have offered a ticket refund!” says IndyFringe executive director Pauline Moffat.

2. Testaclese and Ye Sack of Rome
(Sound & Fury, 2005)
In the last five minutes, the actors performed the entire show all over again, only this time in fake Chinese. “This trio introduced Indianapolis to the real meaning of ‘fringe,’” says board member Martha Karatz.

3. Underneath the Lintel
(Pat O’Brien’s Vanity Theatrics, 2013)
A librarian embarks on a global adventure to find out who anonymously returned a library book 123 years overdue. “It illustrates the depth of Fringe programming,” says board member Gary Reiter.

4. Clown at Work
(Brent McCoy, 2008)
Brent McCoy’s shy but earnest blue-collar clowning style had the audience wavering between holding their breath and laughing out loud. “His was the first physical comedy show, and he raised the bar,” says Moffat.

5. An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein
(Ganas Theatre, 2006)
This local production was a series of one-act comedies, including such gems as “Buy One, Get One Free” (a tale of two hookers offering a discount). “This show still holds the all-time record for attendance—233 at one show! Audiences loved its madness and the energy,” says Moffat.

6. archy and mehitabel
(Ausable Theatre, 2010)
Actor Jeff Culbert introduced audiences to Archy, a politically active cockroach with a critical eye on humanity, and his best alley-cat friend Mehitabel. “It was amazing to see what such a skilled performer could do with only his imagination and a bare stage,” says technical director Pat McCarney.

7. Phil the Void: The Great Brain Robbery
(Phil van Hest, 2009)
Van Hest has been at every IndyFringe since year one, and his shows reward multiple viewings. “I always start my Fringe seeing Phil’s first performance, and then see him again towards the end of the Festival to see how the show has evolved,” says board member Jeremy Hatch.

8. Somewhere in Between
(Ben Levein, 2007)
This Iraeli troupe’s sketches used comedy and poetry to examine the lives of transgendered people and their place in culture and religion. “It allowed the audience to better understand the transgender community and engage in a discussion about diversity and social inclusion,” says Moffat.

9. The Honeymoon Suite
(Mikelangelo and Undine Francesca, 2006)
A gothic couple travels from hotel to hotel, always staying in the Honeymoon Suite, singing brooding, sensual, and darkly humorous songs as they go. “A hypnotic and thought-provoking cabaret noir. And the first time anyone had seen a melodica and a theremin on stage,” says Moffat.

10. A**holes & Aureoles
(Diane Kondrat and Karen Irwin, 2008)
In a set of shocking and hilarious short skits, these local actresses crossed lines with straight-faced discussions of breastfeeding, women’s shelter stereotypes, and impromptu office-supply sex toys. “It pushed every boundary,” says Moffat. “It was outrageous, and the audience gave a standing ovation. That was the night I knew IndyFringe audiences were open-minded and ready for the next generation of uncensored and unjuried fringe performances.”

The Ticket 2014 coverThis article appeared in The Ticket, a 2014 special publication.

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