When I was a high school freshman, my dream was to be the star of the stage. I performed in two plays that year, but after failing to make the musical cast the following fall, I joined the speech team and found my true calling in public speaking. These days, I’ve dropped out of the drama world completely, but whenever I see a play, I wonder what it would be like to return to the stage.
Luckily, for anyone who’s ever shared my mindset, there’s the world of local theater. And nothing better epitomizes acting opportunities than the IndyFringe Festival, which showcases a variety of performance arts, everything from dance to hypnosis, from physical comedy to puppetry. The fact that it features a huge chunk of local artists makes it that much more appealing—these people live and work quite far from Broadway, but here they are, under the bright lights, doing what they love.
For my very first Fringe outing, I tackled three shows in succession. Thankfully, the theaters are in a five-minute-walk radius of each other. Here are those reviews:
FROM HIPSTER TO DIPSTER Cook Theater. Aug. 23, 6 p.m.; Aug. 26, 10:30 p.m.; Aug. 27, 4:30 p.m.
Comedian and writer Scott Long originally titled this piece A Real Modern Family until he received a cease-and-desist letter from Fox, the company he also works for, ironically. Long’s one-man show mixes both material suited for one of his stand-up routines and rather intriguing anecdotes about what it’s like to be a father of an autistic child. He handles heavy subjects such as fertility problems, raising a child with special needs, and his own somewhat-troubled relationship with his father with an acute sense of humor, making it okay to laugh at situations that could otherwise make the audience uncomfortable.
Long had the audience roaring for the majority of the show as delivered his jokes with the kind of honesty that can be mastered only by a man who has truly learned to sit back and take life as it comes. He spoke so fondly of his autistic daughter Maddie that one couldn’t help but want to meet the little girl. His stories of her ranged from the hilarious (she has difficulty pronouncing the letter “g,” which is problematic when your dog is named “Angus”) to the heartwarming (she judges people only by the way that they treat her, and if someone is particularly nice to her, she will talk about them endlessly for days). Long sprinkles photos of his kids throughout his set, and the final one, a photo of him and his three adorable children, laughing so hard that their eyes are closed, says more about his family than any joke could.
SINGULAR SENSATIONS! Theatre on the Square Stage 2. Aug. 23, 9 p.m.; Aug. 26, 3 p.m.; Aug. 27, 10:30 p.m.
With scenes written by actor Robert W. Berry, who conducts acting workshops in Carmel and Indianapolis, this “play” seems as if it could mirror one of his class sessions. Four actors performed a grand array of monologues and short scenes, each one disconnected from the last. While workshop performances like these are great for actors to show off their skills, it’s hard to have them flow together as a single production without a common theme, something this production lacks. Instead, viewers are forced to have a fairly ADD approach, which completely removes the ability to become lost in the performance.
That being said, the actors themselves were good at their craft. The best highlight was a monologue, “Phil,” which showcased Cito Wyatt performing a terrifically weird portrayal of a man who is sexually attracted to cookbooks, barking out words like “prime rib” and “veal cutlet” with enough lust that you’d think he was reading excerpts from Fifty Shades of Grey. Such a bizarre concept fits in wonderfully with IndyFringe’s anything-goes personality, but when mashed up with a rather poignant monologue of a man killed in the September 11 attacks and a predictable bit about an awkward first date, the production as a whole seems off.
465 SEX DRIVE…A MUSICAL Theater on the Square Main Stage. Aug. 24, 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 26, 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 27, 4:30 p.m.
Five Indianapolitans carpool around I-465 and arrive at their sex addiction group therapy meeting, where each player has his or her own vice. Introducing themselves to newcomer Lance (a gay man addicted to hook-up app Grindr on his phone), each character describes that vice. Ali creates new identities for herself, but Veronica is a bored Carmel housewife who is sleeping with her gardener. Meanwhile, JoAnne is a high-powered professional who has a one-night-stand in each city she travels to, and Jordan’s foot fetish makes his job as a podiatrist quite difficult. Through humor and song, each character sorts out his or her need for attention and affection in a play that revolves around not only a road that everyone in this city travels on at one time or another, but an emotion that everyone struggles with: loneliness.
While the play provided a ton of laughs to the fairly packed theater, the music blared so loudly over the actors’ mics during the musical performances that it became impossible to understand the lyrics, forcing the musical acts to deter from, rather than add to the show. I also couldn’t tell if shoddy acoustics were to blame for the occasional harmony that failed to match perfect pitch. Like all IndyFringe plays, this musical is short, clocking in at only an hour, but if the play were extended to full length, with deeper character development and more polished musical acts, I think this could be a pretty fantastic piece of theater. It’s certainly worth a visit. Come for Erin Cohenour’s powerhouse vocals, and stay for the part where cast members strips off their clothes. (Spoiler alert: the men’s lingerie is more revealing than the women’s.)
Photos courtesy IndyFringe Festival