Hilarious hijinks at Indy Fringe

Hilarious hijinks at Indy Fringe
Blue Moon Revue, Peter and the Kings, Von Stranz, Night Babies, Tanner Standridge and several other bands performed at the beer tent.
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“How did the remnants of your life wind up in a 12 X 12 cube?”

You never know what philosophical conundrums will surface at an Indy Fringe performance. That question comes up in Lou Sanz's “Neverending Storage,” a humorous catalogue of her failed romances as well as our complicated relationships with inanimate objects.

Sanz, an Australian, returns to the Fringe this year with her self-deprecating, wry storytelling augmented by drawings of various boyfriends, which are projected on a screen (and periodically lanced with a cartoon sword). She introduces us to Beanie Boy, Sydney Guy, Mr. X, Young Guy, Kmart Guy, Radiohead Guy (“he was struggling with my apathy towards Radiohead”) and finally Jim, with whom things have apparently worked out well.

Dr. Scotland (with his marvelous “highland hands”) also puts in an appearance after Sanz lands in the hospital with toxic shock syndrome from eating a kilo of cashew nuts in a 24-hour period.

Sanz centers her tales around a storage unit she rents for ten years, at a staggering cost of over $12,000. With scathing insight, she explains how she'd rather pay the money than confront her past. When she finally opens the dreaded roll-up door, the results are deadpan funny. At Indy Fringe Theatre, and highly recommended!

Jen Con

ShadowApe is back at the Fringe this year with an entertaining tale for modern times. Their show at the Phoenix main stage brings us the story of Mitchell, a serial gamer, his long-suffering wife Connie (or Con, for short), and Jen, a fictional character from one of Mitchell's online games. As Mitchell argues with a gamer pal on the phone about his fast-food preferences and gets ready to go online to play Battle Ax, Con struggles to find space of her own in her time off from the book store.

A few moments alone with her husband's laptop reveal a strange occurrence: she can communicate with Jen, warrior princess, who presumably is living somewhere in cyberspace. The two women provide insight and support for each other as they each confront problems in their lives (a disparaging spouse, in Con's case, and an overeager suitor with an eye for power, in Jen's.) Also...Jen is on stilts the entire time and rocks a groovy wardrobe. Look out for the locally sourced jokes, too. Highly recommended!

Different Trains

Magnet Films offers us two very different pieces in this performance at the Phoenix Theatre. The first is “I Saw the Woman of My Dreams on the Subway Tonight,” set to the music of Rufus Wainwright. Four dancers move together with a subway train projected on a background behind them. As they shift and shuffle, another woman joins them, and the sole male dancer is immediately smitten with her. They fall for each other, get married, have a baby (an amusing sequence helped along by a red balloon) and grow old together. But do they really? The piece explores a chance meeting and missed opportunity at the same time.

Where the first piece is light-hearted in places, the second, which uses music from Steve Reich, strikes a far more serious tone. Train tracks are projected on the screens behind the dancers as they twist and turn past each other. The first sequence is set before the war in the United States; when we shift to Europe, the performers remove their outer garments and their shifting bodies recall the tragedy of the Holocaust, with images from the concentration camps flashing on the screen behind them. After the war, the dancers find their clothes, and one of them climbs a tower of suitcases to reach out like the Statue of Liberty. Ultimately it's a message of hope, but a sobering one.

Burnt at the Steak

Carolann Valentino delivers a high-octane, one-woman show at Indy Fringe Theatre. And frankly, when she appears in a cowboy hat swinging her provolone balls, you know you're in for it.

Her theme is finding the courage to follow your dreams. She followed hers from Texas to New York City, and she treats the audience to impressions of the people she met at a five-star steakhouse, where she was manager. All the while, she was meant to be auditioning for parts, as her psychic Italian mother frequently reminds her with incessant phone calls to the restaurant. (Valentino describes her mom as a combination of Sherlock Holmes, Don Corleone and Al Sharpton.)

A capable singer, she frequently launches into musical numbers to get her point across, whether it's about instructing waitstaff on dealing with customers who don't know how to order steak, or impersonating a customer who shares her advice on dating heavier men.

Gentlemen, be warned: bring your sense of humor! Valentino picks three male audience members and seats them onstage as she does an impression of a lascivious patron who sits on their laps and makes various R-rated insinuations. I saw the show Saturday night, and one of the volunteers seemed less than thrilled with his role. (She later picked a man from the front row specifically to laud his rotund belly…he seemed less perturbed by the attention.)

This is a hilarious, over-the-top show, but it's Valentino's earnest message that comes through. She relives the moment when she decides to leave her six-figure job managing the restaurant and devote her career to performing instead. She clearly loves what she does, and it's hard not to love her for that.

NOTES: This is the 10th annual Indy Fringe, and it runs through Aug. 24th, mainly at venues along or near Mass. Ave. The Cook Theater on Central Ave. is also hosting performances. This year, the festival has done away with backer buttons, but the cost of individual tickets has increased to $15 each. You can get a fiver pass at the Indy Fringe box office on Mass. Ave. for the cost of four shows. 

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