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Indy Fringe part 2

August 23, 2009
Second in a series of blogs on experiences at Indy Fringe 2009. For the first, click here.

My Saturday Indy Fringe experiences were divided into two distinct parts. The afternoon was devoted to family friendly fare. The evening to more adult matters.

I started with "humanature," an original music/dance/video piece by the Indianapolis-based group The (Re)Collective Company. I've written about the group before, having seen them on this same Earth House stage. This time, I was even more impressed with the group's hypnotic musicianship but felt less of a strong connection between the players and the trio of dancers. The best moments occurred with a single dancer on stage.

This is the fifth Indy Fringe and the fifth year for Taylor Martin to be headlining a magic show. And although I'd see Martin in other formats, I thought it time to see his Fringe act. "Andrea Merlyn's Greatest Hits (and missus!)," features the magician in three different drag personas (and abetted by two assistants) and opens with a fun story of a magical failure at a prestidigitation convention. The rest felt fairly familiar, but as the only magic show at this year's Fringe, it's still most welcome in the mix.

My only complaint about the wonderful Brent McCoy and his "Blunder Construction" show is that it's pretty much the same piece he presented twelve months ago. First timers will be thrilled, amused, and charmed by the gent who, last year, I called a cross between Bob the Builder and Avner the Eccentric. Returnees should be happy as well, although unsurprised by his antics. McCoy is always welcome back...I'd just like to see something new.

For my evening double feature, I started with Matthew Roland's play "Another Classic of Western Literature," presented by Heartland Actors Repertory Theatre. Outrageous, very funny, and with more than its share of blistering lines, the play's strongest suit is a pair of smile-just-thinking-about-them supporting characters/performances. While God has appeared in many comedic plays and films, actor Rich Komenich and Roland come up with a truly original creation. The playwright himself, credited as Don Jamaica, offers an equally unforgettable performance as a, well, I don't want to ruin the joy of that particular surprise.

The play is still a few steps away from being a classic of western literature -- a sharply acted and directed climax and coda didn't quite bring things to a satisfying conclusion. But having a Fringe show premiere at this level of writing and acting helps elevate the fest. I'd love to see more professional companies in Indy try their hands at 50-minute Fringe shows. And I'm looking forward to seeing what Roland comes up with next.

The 10:30 slot at the fest is a risky one--particularly for storytellers. It's very easy for tired audiences to project a collective "get on with it" vibe and for performers to adjust (or mis-adjust). Solo act Katherine Glover; however, held her own with a smallish crowd (including one relentless text-checker) for her show, "A Cynic Tells Love Stories."

Glover's primary strength is her unique perspective as a bisexual who has had more relationships with men than with women. Most effective was the tale of her brief marriage and the impact her seemingly healthy appreciation for past relationships has on her jealous husband.

Glover's use of a script (or notes) for some of the pieces diminished the sense of spontaneity that the best tellers control so well. But this was still 50 minutes well spent.

After two days of satisfying Fringe experiences, the jury is still out as to whether the fest is getting better or if I'm just improving in my ability to pick the best of the fest. We'll see what happens on a three-show Sunday.

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