In cobbling together a selection of shows, I had to take into account the need to check in with new productions by Indianapolis Opera and Phoenix Theatre while shrugging off my late arrival (due to out-of-state travel) at the festival after the crucial opening weekend.
|Jeremy Schaefer detects fishiness in the workaday world.|
Schaefer gave vignettes from his job history — lifeguard, swim teacher, Christmas elf, diversity workshop assistant, among the line items — that sharpened his perceptiveness about other people. Without egotistical display, thanks to lightly applied self-deprecation, Schaefer made the stories riveting as well as amusing.
Gaining useful perspectives on one's place in the work world, he demonstrated, is of enduring benefit. In our security-mad society, Schaefer learned this in attempting to market a non-profit's lame show about protecting kids from online predators and finding that a police officer's startling bluntness was far more effective. Without privileging his position as a professional storyteller, Schaefer displayed the usefulness of knowing your limits and playing to your strengths as you find your way in life.
|Nothing about cards, stories and autographed dollar bills escapes Hannibal.|
Hannibal has developed an uncanny ability to play to an audience, to elicit shouted challenges from them that he knows he can handle. Whose attention has ever wandered at a magic show? Magicians tend to attract intense scrutiny (we all think we can penetrate their secrets). This rotund prestidigitator knows how to toy with it, then deliver fresh surprises, better than most. The only discordant note was his disproportionate put-down of a woman who offered a ribald remark I thought was in the spirit of suggestive banter the performer had earlier instigated; Hannibal took her for a heckler, and verbally smacked her.
|The proof is in the putting on: "Scientist Turned Comedian."|
His insights were unfailingly amusing, and if most of us don't really understand science, pseudo-science pervaded by cleverness goes over well. His "announcer's voice" (his description) sometimes skirted inaudibility, however; and it was odd in an act as far from slob appeal as possible to note that Lee's suit jacket was partly tucked into his waistband near the right vent in back.
|The sexy solon: Identity questions complicate staying on message|
The satirical thrust of the story is tentatively applied. Barron has other goals: He is working toward the senator's reconciliation with those close to him. The politician mostly sticks with the denial summed up in the play's title; by the end, he has reaffirmed his love for both his wife and his gay staffer by incorporating inclusiveness in his public speeches.
Barron exposes some of the costs of hypocrisy in lives that demand adhering to mainstream ideas of probity and uprightness. But to me he achieves a soft landing for the central character too easily. Performances by the four actors were earnest, and something beyond that in the case of the hearty gay-bar proprietor.
|Desperation drives a pair of unprepared thespians in ETC production|
The premise here is that the actors' company's board of directors is dropping in to get a look at the drama, "The Importance of Being Jeff." For some reason, the bit players — at first almost at ease running through their fight scene in the last act — feel duty-bound to render as much of the play as they can remember. It's as if their careers will be over if they don't get the whole clumsy drama as right as possible.
As a result, there is scarcely a let-up in the words and action they jam together in order to approximate a work that apparently is a classic, but is both (a) set in the 1860s and (b) features "thees" and "thous" in the dialogue — among other incongruities. The ETC regulars who manage to keep the madness under artistic control could hardly be more invested in this nonsense, which went on about 15 minutes too long. Still, this sort of exercise in rapidfire teamwork is undeniably in the true IndyFringe spirit. The sun also rises, and Ecclesiastes has it right, as usual.