REVIEW: ‘The Great Bike Race’

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There are some things you know going into an Indy Fringe festival.*

You know that if ShadowApe is doing a show, it's going to be impeccably polished, well-acted, and loopy (and that's the case here, with "Jen/Con" by Ben Ayers). You know that tickets will be hard to come by for whatever the sketch group Three Dollar Bill Comedy decides to stage (and that's the case here, with "Indiana: The Hoosierical Musical"). You know that NoExit Performance will try something very different than it has tried before (and that's the case with "Alice vs. Wonderland" which, while I admire its commitment, left me cold). You know that, at least initially, it will be difficult to keep the one-person shows straight (and that's the case here with, well, with lots of them).

But there are some things you just can't predict. And that, for me, is one of the biggest pleasure of Fringe.

Which leads me to the gloriously goofy, one-of-a-kind "The Great Bike Race," written and directed by Zack Neiditch, a show that seemed to emerge from the pack and shoot to the front without breaking a sweat.

It's a very-loosely-based-on-a-true-story tale of the 1904 Tour de France, but Neiditch is perfectly happy being creatively anachronistic without every violating the spirit of the show. A company of eight, all up to the challenge, play the competitors and various other characters, with Paige Scott effectively serving double duty as actress and songwriter. Producer Zach Rosing rises even higher than the occasion demands with constantly surprising, amazingly executed sound and video. It's the best use of video I've seen in any stage production in Indy in, well, maybe forever.

Sure, "The Great Bike Race" could rely a bit less on profanity as a punch line crutch. The ending could be tweaked further. And why rely on Queen music when Scott has proven herself capable with original music? But these are minor complaints about a story told with panache and packed with such an overabundance of joie de vivre. The fact that I didn't see it coming makes it an even greater joy. It's not only my favorite show of this festival (okay, so I've only seen five), it's one of my favorites from a decade of Indy Fringing. My advice is to race to the box office for tickets to the Aug. 22 (7:30) and Aug. 23 (4:30) shows.

And be warned that Rosing and Neiditch are teaming up on a production of "The Rocky Horror Show" at the Athenaeum in October. I can't wait to see what they dream up for that.

*Disclosure: I wrote and directed a show in this year's fest.

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