IndyFringe, Part IV: A New Hope


[See parts I, II and III of this 2012 IndyFringe series for more on the 2012 festival.]

For my fourth and final night at IndyFringe, I inadvertently picked two shows that required me not to be a skeptic. The problem is, I am just that when it comes to things like hypnosis and magic. It’s just so difficult to stop trying to unravel how every trick is done and just enjoy the show, but both performers I saw managed to even catch my over-wired little brain off guard a few times.

BONNIE BITCH’S OBEY! COMEDY HYPNOSIS SHOW  Theatre on the Square Main Stage. Aug. 25, 9 p.m.; Aug. 26, 9 p.m.

Bonnie Bitch, who bills herself as “America’s first and only female impersonator hypnotist,” certainly has a presence. With flaming red curls, sharp black eyebrows, and a wild zebra print-dress, Ms. Bitch is hard to miss. But despite the fact that she opens the show swearing up a storm, her demeanor overall was rather comforting. By explaining to the audience exactly how simple hypnosis is, and how people experience small amounts of it naturally all the time, she makes the concept completely unintimidating. She even performs a few tricks on the audience as a whole, including having them stare into that famous black-and-white spinning wheel image. After a minute of intense staring, she instructs the audience to look at her face, which unnervingly appears to expand and warp like an inflating balloon.

It’s no surprise, based on how fun and easy she makes hypnosis sound, that she has her 12 volunteers almost instantly. After an intense induction, where they are put into a deep state of relaxation, Bonnie begins to have her fun. The first tasks are rather simple and silly—play a musical instrument, ride a roller coaster. But then things get hysterical. One man, the most enthusiastic and hilarious of the bunch, picks up a laundry basket and runs into the crowd whenever he hears Bonnie’s name, collecting tips and screaming that he, well, wants to have sex quite roughly. Another man has to jump out of his chair and slap his behind, shouting “Hoosier Daddy!” whenever he hears “Indiana.” Even more absurd, one woman hears her breasts having a fight with one another when “hypnosis” is uttered.

The acts go on in this manner, climaxing with the same enthusiastic Laundry Basket Guy turning into Richard Simmons and leading everyone in performing the “YMCA.” And herein lies my skepticism: I have no doubt that based on the Fringe clientele, at least some of the volunteers either were actors or were at least well-suited to be performers. How do we know that they weren’t just acting the entire time? To counter that though, the hypnosis failed for three of the twelve volunteers. Two were sent off the stage rather quickly when it was clear the hypnosis failed to take, but a third woman was in such a trance that she would sleep and wake up when asked, but couldn’t perform any tasks, sitting silently while everyone else goofed about. It’s the failures, not the successes, that make me think this stuff could be the real deal.

Real or not, Bonnie is great. Her mix of soothing comfort and ferocious attitude makes her a fantastic entertainer. And in perhaps the sweetest thing I’ve seen at Fringe, her mother sits by the door during the entire performance and passes out stuffed monkeys (a reference to one of Bonnie’s bits) to everyone exiting the theater.

Cook Theater. Aug. 25, 7:30 p.m.; Aug. 26, 3 p.m.

Watching Trigg Watson’s magic show is exactly what I imagine a magic show performed by Neil Patrick Harris to be like. This adorable, energetic twenty-something knows how to treat his audience, both young and old. Performing to an absolutely packed house, a sharp contrast to what I previously saw at the Cook Theater, Trigg’s bits had a little bit of everything for everyone.

As a fellow twenty-something, what struck me most was when he tells a story about going to college. Instead of doing tricks with squishy orange balls, he began performing with regulation Ping-Pong balls. Why? Oh, you know, just because of that game where you stack red Solo cups in a triangle and launch balls into … um … Pepsi. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. The fact that he made an entire magic act revolve around the premise of Beer Pong was absolutely delightful to my young heart.

But while he keeps the adults entertained with quick wit, he never forgets the ones who undoubtedly believe in the magic of the show, the children. Trigg frequently brings kids up onto the stage to help out with tricks, making balls magically appear in their hands or having them cut long strings of rope, only for ropes to magically grow again. While it was great to watch the kids on stage, it was one little boy in the front row (laughing hysterically for the bulk of the show) who made me envious. I sat in the audience looking for the invisible strings, but the kids took everything in with no questions.

Indeed, this performance has something for everyone. Even bits for a jaded skeptic like me. Without giving any tricks away, let’s just say that many times I felt that I had a trick all figured out, sighing at its predictability, when Trigg turned the tables and managed to stun and surprise me. And just like Bonnie Bitch, Trigg’s personality alone is enough to carry the show. His stories of his childhood were cute and he even made a few jokes when a woman’s cellphone went off in the middle of a show, never losing his cool. I also give props to anyone who uses Zero 7’s amazing song “In the Waiting Line” in an act. To quote the song, “Do you believe in what you see?”

The moral of today’s story: Relax, turn off your brain, and enjoy the show. And the lesson I learned from this week overall is that IndyFringe is not an event to be missed. Fringe promises that the proceeds from the tickets go directly back to the actors, and it really gives audiences a chance to experience things they might otherwise never see. If you haven’t ventured to Mass Ave for this, get to it. There’s so much there to take in.

Photos by Myrydd Wells and courtesy IndyFringe