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LOU'S VIEWS: Beyond the Fringe

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Lou Harry

If you are reading this on Monday, I’m sorry to report that you’ve missed your chance to experience this year’s Indy Fringe. If you are reading this on Saturday (subscribing does have its advantages), there’s still a chance you can get down to Mass Ave and take part.

I say “take part” rather than simply “attend” because just going to Indy Fringe makes you a part of the event. Besides the street performers working empty lots, there are also actors and show creators vying for sidewalk attention (the better to get you to see their show next) and fellow patrons spotting your Fringe badge and asking, “What have you seen that’s good?” It’s difficult to be a passive observer during the 10-day event.

This year’s ticketed lineup included 48 shows offering 280 performances on six main stages. Nobody—not even your trusty A&E writer here—can (or should) see all of them. Both the performers and your fellow patrons know that. So opinions and promotion do sway ticket-buyers (both toward and away from purchases). On the second day of the show, three people approached me, unsolicited, and warned me against going to a particular show.

Since I didn’t go, I won’t mention which one.

A road trip kept me from seeing as many shows as I would have liked to this year, but I would like to trumpet two winners.

Blissfully outrageous fun, “The Screw You Review” (co-created by the head of Orlando Fringe) had one foot in the offend-everyone tradition of Don Rickles and Lisa Lampanelli and another in the world of drag review. The result was an unexpected marriage made in a tolerant comedic heaven.

Dewey Chafee played Wayburn Sassy, an 89-year-old true-to-his-name guy with no filter between brain and mouth. His partner was Didi Panache (played by Douglas McGeoch), a sweet songstress with great gams. Together, they brought down a sellout house with “did-they-really-say-that?” jokes, knowing-when-to-quit audience participation, and a couple of really fun songs.

While Sassy, if real, would be terribly offensive, the show itself wasn’t because of the commitment to the character and to the best comic timing you are likely to see at this or any other Fringe.
 

"Not a Peep" at the 2010 Indy Fringe Festival Jen Johansen, left, Ben Tebbe and Constance Macy portray a trio of office cubicle drones in “Not a Peep,” one of the winners at this year’s Indy Fringe. (Photo Courtesy ShadowApe Theatre Company)

I also fell for ShadowApe Theatre Company’s “Not a Peep.” It’s wonderful when high expectations are satisfied (and then some). ShadowApe, an Indy-based producer of edgy entertainment, has a reputation for good work and didn’t disappoint.

The gloriously fun “Peep” show felt like “The Office” meets “The Ernie Kovacs Show.” (If you don’t remember Kovacs, do a quick YouTube search for the Nirobi Trio.) In it, a trio of cubicle drones struggle with hunger and other human drives. I won’t even attempt to describe it.

“Not a Peep” wasn’t over after the extended, silent opener. The follow-up bit, in which we were privy to what was going on in the actors’ heads as they cleaned up the stage, was inspired. And while the cell-phone piece was well-constructed, its “message” came across a bit heavy. Still, the impeccable cast (Jennifer Johansen, Constance Macy and Ben Tebbe) were inspired throughout and the entire show set the bar very, very high for other Fringe shows.

Which is where the bar should be. Just because a show is on the fringe doesn’t mean it has to be slapdash. And if you stopped me on Mass Ave, I’d have told you the same thing.
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A heads-up for fans of the arts: The Sept. 6 IBJ will feature our annual A&E Season Preview section. That means highlights of more than 40 events that are tops on my priority list for the upcoming year.

IBJ arts reporter Kathleen McLaughlin will chime in with a look at the issues that have the A&E world buzzing. Marc Allan writes about the power of music promoters. And you’ll also find our list of the largest performing arts organizations.•

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This column appears weekly. Send information on upcoming A&E events to lharry@ibj.com. Visit www.ibj.com/arts for more reviews, previews and blog posts. Twitter: IBJarts

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  • sorry forgot to add ...
    My comment was directed to the "Screw You Review" ....it was hi-larious
  • Amen Brother .....
    I went in to the 6 pm saturday show with a certain amount of uncomfortability ....walked out wanting more of these two talented people ...
    This is the type of entertainment is what the "Fringe" tours were made for ..bottom line : there are plenty of talented people who are never seen on the TV or movies. We need to open our minds and our time resourses to support small theatre in our city ...before it goes away

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  1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

  2. I agree, having seen three shows, that I was less than wowed. Disappointing!!

  3. Start drilling, start fracking, and start using our own energy. Other states have enriched their citizens and nearly elminated unemployment by using these resources that are on private land. If you are against the 'low prices' of discount stores, the best way to allow shoppers more choice is to empower them with better earnings. NOT through manipulated gov mandated min wage hikes, but better jobs and higher competitive pay. This would be direct result of using our own energy resources, yet Obama knows that Americans who arent dependent of gov welfare are much less likely to vote Dem, so he looks for ways to ensure America's decline and keep its citizens dependent of gov.

  4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

  5. Ballard Administration. Too funny. This is the least fiscally responsive administration I have ever seen. One thing this article failed to mention, is that the Hoosier State line delivers rail cars to the Amtrak Beech Grove maintenance facility for refurbishment. That's an economic development issue. And the jobs there are high-paying. That alone is worth the City's investment.

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