IndyFringe reviews 2

August 23, 2008
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Today, at Indy Fringe, I went looking for laughs.

I started with a performance by Cool Table, a Chicago-based improv group that, two years ago, provided a very memorable evening anchored with a still-ringing-in-my-head song about the children's game Duck, Duck, Goose (such is the case with most improv and sketch comedy: retelling is notoriously unfunny. So I'll refrain from giving too many details). Last, year, they were about half as funny. This year, half again.

The venue actually helped. The ComedySportz arena is a much better space for improv than the American Cabaret Theatre. But the group opened and closed with flat, uninventive sketches and, in between, never quite found the rhythm to connect the occassionally funny bits. The four-person cast will be supersized for future shows when the rest of the compatriots join them for future shows. For future audiences' sake, I hope this was just an understaffed warm-up rather than a sign of company decline.

Next up: "Adventures in Mating," which had a fun gimmick but nothing to fill it. The premise is that a couple meets for a blind-date meal. Whenever a choice needs to be made (red vs. white wine, she kisses him/she slaps him), the waiter rings a bell and the audience makes a choice. Problem is, the characters are so broadly painted (both in the writing and the performing) that I didn't care about whether or not they got together. The nearly full house was generous and seemed to have a good time while I had flashbacks to last season and remembered the Owensboro, Kentucky's Merely Players weren't funny then, either. The company's founding artistic director, Alan Velotta, does a solid job as the waiter and deserves better.

The afternoon was saved with a visit to Clown at Work. Some theatergoers lament the number of magic/acrobatic acts and one-person shows at the Fringe this year and I, too, would hate to see the festival evolve further into busker territory. But thank goodness for the charming, sweet and very talented Brent McCoy, whose joyful awe at his own achievements--including juggling traffic cones, balances on various objects, and managing the outbursts of an extremely obnoxious brat in the front row--brought smiles and admiration from the crowd. Adults enjoyed him as much as the kids. Another big plus: McCoy's act was more than just a series of stunts. His show, while casual and interactive, is smart and structured. It's a show. And I'll take his Bob-the-Builder-meets-Avner-the-Eccentric whimsy over amateur theatrics and slumming sketch comics any day.

On that high note, I called it a day.

Indy Fringe continues through September 31. You can find my earlier report here. And for more reviews, previews, video and blogs, visit
  • We had the misfortune to see Confessions of a Fringe Technician. Awful, awful, awful. While some in the audience laughed at times, I laughed not at all. I thought it was a poorly written, completely discombobulated mess and was ready to leave after 10 minutes. I'm beginning to think the guy was a one-trick pony. Jaws the Musical was truly funny and I really enjoyed it, but maybe that was it for him. I didn't see his show last year (Recently Dead Celebrities) but heard it was bad. A friend said the show this year was worse than that even. I just don't know what he was thinking. There were several jabs thrown in about Minneapolis MN - which were tiring. All right we get it already you're from Minneapolis! Sheesh! The juice box and animal crackers thing was stupid too and mentioned several times by the cliche' half-wit actor. There were the usual pop culture references to Star Wars and the writers own sense of cleverness.

    Seriously, the worst thing I've seen at any Fringe. AWFUL. If I were giving letter grades it would be an F!

    We also saw the Best of the Blizzard . Some of the skits were funnier than others, but overall an enjoyable show with good actors. It certainly helped cleanse my palate after the Fringe Tech show.

    I'm planning on seeing Babbling Banshee today and I'll let you know how that is.

    See you at the Fringe!
  • Lou can't possibly see every show so for more grassroots reviews, check out the postings on (yes this is blatant promotion!):
  • Well, I am always blatantly promoting my own blog ( here and one day next week I am going to get my profile up on SmallerIndiana, too, plu sIndyMojo.

    But I am also proud to be one of Lou's brand leaders. I think that was the term I learned at the BlogIndiana session on corporate blogs. The presenter, Krista Neher, from, was an excellent, excellent presenter and gave me lots of good food for thought not only for my own blog but for the possiblities of blogging on behalf of my day job.

    She said that unique visitors and page hits are all well and good, but the true sign of a valuable blog is the presence of brand leaders.'s blog has about ten people who not only participate in the discussion on that blog but also defend it and refer to it elsewhere in the blogosphere.

    When she described this, I thought, Hey! Firewoman and I, and sometimes Brian and ColorMeFree and Andrea, are brand leaders for Lou Harry's A&E blog at the IBJ!

    You're welcome, Lou. :-) It's a pleaure to be one of your brand leaders.

    But I loved Adventures in Mating. I wish I could go see all six of their performances.

    Hope Baugh
  • Wow, Lou ... Why the hate? Your blurb of Theatre of the People's Peace on Terror is your opinion, sure, but why the blatant hostility. Is it not enough that your friend and collaborator Eric Pfeffinger earned the New Play award and his show has received all kinds of favorable press? Must you verbally attack the Peace on Terror cast and crew to show how much better Mr. Pfeffinger's show is?

    For the record, we can't say for sure if Peace on Terror is the worst production you've seen in four years at the IndyFringe or it's one of the most pathetic theater productions you've seen in your life. We can say, however, that the audience feedback we received from seven talk-backs after seven performances in Bloomington ... and from audiences at the Indy Fringe thus far ... is quite different than your view and quite encouraging to all involved.

    Peace on Terror isn't the greatest Fringe show, nor the greatest show ever. In fact, it's a first run of a new play by a new playwright and a new theatre company. The show is certainly well-rehearsed and has had a extensive run already, and although we have many green faces the show certainly doesn't merit your sub-amateur attack on the director, actors, and designers. But, again, you're entitled to your opinion.

    Your verbal abuse of Albert Powell makes sense too when your readers consider your relationship to Mr. Pfeffinger, although in all fairness Mr. Powell never claims to have anything to say and even laughs off that suggestion as nonsense in the program production note. It's okay if you didn't like the show's writing, the show's spectacle, or the show's talent. Your review certainly says more about you, the person, then Peace on Terror, the work of art.

    We are not going to please everyone all the time, nor is everyone going to enjoy all artwork from all artists Thanks for your viewership, anyway, and we will do our best to do better in the future.

    Theatre of the People
  • Ms. Grove

    Thanks for your note.

    What I wrote was my honest reaction to your show. I will take you at your word that others who had a different reaction. I'm happy for them. Seriously.

    I have enormous respect for new plays and new playwrights. I respect them enough to be honest. Had I found something redeemable in this shrill exercise, I would have written a different piece.

    As to your suggestion that my negative reaction to Peace on Terror had anything to do with my appreciation of Eric Pfefinger's play, well, that's just silly. Yours was the second play I saw at this year's Fringe and my reaction to it had nothing to do with any other show. And my reaction to his show had nothing to do with his authorship and everything to do with what I saw onstage. If the piece didn't work, I would have said so.

    I welcome other opinions about both shows--and the rest of the Fringe--here. Just make sure to state your relationship to the production if you are somehow involved with it.

    Be well,
  • Lou is right. It's just his opinion, and most people don't pay attention anyway as they would rather satisfy their own curiosity. I've had a full house every night even after his negative review of my play and have had many people tell me how much they appreciated it. You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can't please all the people all the time. But you gotta please yourself, so as long as you're happy with your production, no one can take that away from you!
  • Well said, Amy.

    Hope Baugh
  • Well said, except the part about no one paying attention to Lou's opinion. A lot of people check to see what Lou thinks about a show, and not just the people who worked on it. That's why artists get so upset when he doesn't like something.

    However, I agree with you (Amy) that if someone thinks he (or she) will be interested in seeing your show, he's not going to NOT go just because Lou or any other reviewer panned it.

    And some people will go because they hadn't heard about it before Lou mentioned it, and now they want to see for themselves what all the fuss is about.

    I also agree with you that what is most important is pleasing yourself. I agree with that 100%.

    Lou, I love reading your blog. (Have I said that yet today? It's worth saying again.)

    Hope Baugh
  • Amy and Hope,
    Thanks for the notes. Although personally I disagree with the idea that the most important thing is pleasing yourself. I believe theater is a medium of communication. That doesn't mean you have to communicate with everyone, but if you are only communicating with yourself, why leave your house?
    (Not that I believe that is what you are doing, I'm just following the reasoning of the statement).
    (who, as a writer, rarely pleases himself and uses that to keep pushing to improve).
  • Well, I was going to say that pleasing your God is most important, because that is what I believe most, but I was afraid I would bring on a whole new set of flames.

    You're right: pleasing yourself is not the same as pleasing your God or your understanding of excellence or whatever.

    I agree with you, Lou, that theater is a medium of communication. I guess what I meant about pleasing yourself in this case is that if you know you have communicated with at least one person whose opinion matters to you, that can be enough.

    In other words, the communicative responses that you receive can indicate whether or not you met your own goals in creating the piece. You don't have to have the goal of getting a certain response from everyone.

    But even if that is your goal (to have everyone like and get your art), it doesn't necessarily mean you're a failure if they don't yet, since YOU know what you accomplished/overcome to get this far.

    Sure, you can't talk to yourself forever, but neither do you have to pay equal attention to every other voice out there. And if you learned something new, or pushed past one of your personal obstacles in a new way, in creating a piece, THAT sometimes matters more than whether anyone else likes and/or gets it or not.

    Aaggh! I am not expressing myself very well, but it is time to get dressed and head back to Mass Ave.

    More on this topic later, maybe.

    In the meantime, (and at the risk of sounding like a PollyAnna, but I'm sincere), Lou and Amy (and probably P.O.T. people, although I have not seen your show yet), I hope you ALL keep trying to communicate through your art..

    Hope Baugh

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