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IndyFringe spotlights the best in local talent and this year is no exception

August 24, 2017

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I took in some more IndyFringe shows during the last few days, and once again I was reminded of the wealth of creativity that exists in Indy. Not only does the city have its share of outstanding performers, we also have gifted playwrights, directors and technical artists who are members of the city’s vibrant creative class. And nowhere are some its most talented members showcased than in the three splendid shows reviewed here.

“Beyond Ballet Remix” Courtesy of Indianapolis School of Ballet. Used by permission.

“Beyond Ballet Remix”

There was nothing more relaxing and fulfilling than to watch the dancers from the Indianapolis School of Ballet and the newly formed Indianapolis Ballet perform at Theatre on the Square, Tuesday. With founder and artistic director Victoria Lyras  serving as emcee, the mostly young dancers student dancers performed a diverse program that included the classic “Valse Fantasie” with choreography by George Balanchine and music by Mikhail Glinka; the contemporary “Scriabin Suite” with choreography by Lyras and Paul Vitali and music by Alexander Scriabin ; Luther DeMyer who tap danced to “Taking a Chance on Love”; and three Tango dances all choreographed by Lyras.

Other than some minor flubs which involved a dancer slipping and some corps members who were out of sync a few times, the predominantly female ensemble demonstrated solid technique and musicality.

DeMyer who once studied at the Indianapolis School Ballet under Lyras and is now a college student out West, exhibited strength, gracefulness and flexibility as he danced the four genres presented. Although he showed promise—hopefully his dramatic skills will improve to the point that he displays more emotion.

Standing out were Kristin Young and Chris Linger, the only two professionals in the company. They were introduced by Lyras as the very first dancers hired for Indianapolis Ballet that will launch in at the Indianapolis Museum of Art Toby Theatre in 2018. Lithe and beauteous, Young, formerly with Nashville Ballet. and powerfully athletic Linger, who was most recently a company member of Cincinnati Ballet were impressive in their partnering skills, with both exhibiting fine artistry in their individual and combined performances.

Sadly, perhaps due to the fact that it was a weeknight, TOTS was barely full but hopefully the concert will draw a larger audience to experience an art form that deserves wider exposure, and enjoy artists who are among the most dedicated and hard-working in the performing arts world. For those who have never seen ballet, “Ballet Beyond Remix” is a perfect introduction, and for those who are already fans, the concert is an ideal way to sample what’s store when the Indianapolis Ballet takes its rightful place among Indy’s other cultural organizations in the coming year.

“Ballet Beyond Remix” has two remaining performances, tonight, August 24 at 9 p.m. and Sunday, August 27 at 7:30 p.m. at Theatre on the Square’s main stage.

“Red Couch” – Courtesy of Tommy Lewey. Used by permission.

“Red  Couch”

I count this dance piece inspired by the children’s book “I Like You” by Sandol Stoddard-Warburg as one of the most enjoyable and affecting shows I have seen thus far in IndyFringe 12. Starring the uber-talented Morgan Skiles and Tommy Lewey, the work which was originally conceived by Lewey and former NoExit Performance director Michael Burke, is totally beguiling. It was all-dance night for me Tuesday as I saw the show at TOTS shortly after the Indianapolis Ballet presentation.

Choreographed brilliantly by Lewey, with great wit. he and Skiles portray a couple who undergo the ups and downs, highs and lows, complications and complexities of their sometimes-undefined relationship. With a red couch serving as the show’s main prop and focal point, the entire story, filled with pathos, sometimes bittersweet, and sometime joyous, is told through dance, drama and hilarious physical comedy. Not a single word is uttered by either performer. However, through the artistry of their superb dancing and acting skills, Skiles and Lewey seamlessly convey the commonalities and nuances of relationships, linked by the heart and soul.

Making “Red Couch” even more entertaining is a tremendous musical score curated by Lewey and Burke that includes everything from “Nona, Nona” an old Italian love song, to music from “Gulag Orkestra” by Beirut to “Love is a Battlefield” by Pat Benatar.

Not wishing to give too much away, there is a moment of audience participation involving some props that must go down as among the cleverest, not to mention fun, interactive theatre I have ever joined in. For those who hate being drug on stage, not to worry. This form of participation does not require you to move on iota from your seat and I guarantee when it happens you will enjoy it a lot for its catharsis.

Though Lewey and Skiles are incredibly skilled dancers, I was simply amazed at the quality of their acting that totally drew me in to their character’s journey which was as lovingly intimate, as it was painful and stormy. Most of all, they made it all so very relatable. If Fringe were to give out acting awards and I were a judge, these two artists would be at the top of my list. No doubt about it.

You only have one more chance to see “Red Couch.” Don’t miss Lewey and Skiles’ triumph Saturday, August 6 at 3 p.m.

Kurt Vonnegut’s: “Mother Night.” Courtesy of Kurt Vonnegut Library. Used by permission.

Kurt Vonnegut’s: “Mother Night”

And speaking of acting, the team of Chelsea Anderson and Jeff Martin who star in this show would also be at the top of my list for awards. Having previously seen Anderson, always impressive on stage, I expected nothing less than  fine performance. I was not disappointed. But the real revelation for me was Jeff Martin. I had no idea that Martin, who is employed as Phoenix Theatre’s proficient technical director, is also an actor. No doubt about it. Martin is as talented on stage as he is off.

Martin plays conflicted Howard who carries the burden of having excelled in his role a Nazi spokesperson. Anderson plays Helga, his vivacious loving wife, his duplicitous sister in law Resi and other characters, both male and female. Each character was distinctive and well defined. Also praise-worthy was Anderson’s German accent which sounded authentic.

This play, which I saw Wednesday at Phoenix Theatre Main Stage, is presented by The Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library. It is an adaptation by Phoenix Theatre playwright in residence Tom Horan, of Vonnegut’s 1962 novel “Mother Night.”  The story is based on the fictional memoirs of Howard W. Campbell Jr., an American, who moved to Germany in 1923 at age 11, and later became a well-known playwright and Nazi propagandist.

In Horan’s well-constructed adaptation, skillfully directed by Michael Hosp, Campbell is recruited to be an American spy. He manages to deceive the Nazis into thinking he was one of them, eventually becoming famous as a radio broadcaster  whose job was to convince Americans into joining the party. Along the way, he falls in love and marries Helga who is German and an actress in many of his plays. Eventually she is captured by the Russians never to be seen again. After the war, Campbell finds refuge and anonymity in America. As he sits in his New York apartment writing his memoirs, the audience see flashbacks which reveal a journey that results in the brutal consequences he is forced to endure having played a Nazi, perhaps way too realistically.

Considering the upheaval and tragedy that resulted from the recent Charlottesville White Supremacy rally that included Neo-Nazis and members of the KKK, this play is particularly relevant and timely. It’s a sobering reminder that none of us afford to be indifferent to what is happening around us and that whenever hate raises its ugly head, we all have a responsibility to keep our hand out of the sand, speak out, and most importantly, never allow it to win.

Kurt Vonnegut’s: “Mother Night” continues at the Phoenix Theatre Main State Saturday, Aug. 26 at 4:30 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 27 at 6 p.m.

IndyFringe Festival

Through -Sunday, Aug. 27

Eight stages along Mass Ave

Tickets: $15 adult/$12 student-senior/$10 children under 12

Fiver pass – Five shows for $55

Buy tickets online at indyfringe.org

 

LATE NIGHT CABARET

Friday, Aug. 25, 11:59 p.m.

IndyFringe Basile Theatre

IndyFringe presents our first ever LATE NIGHT CABARET featuring 2017 IndyFringe artists. You never know what you’ll see! Warning: Adult language and content. Tickets are just $15. All proceeds benefit IndyFringe.

CLOSING NIGHT PARTY

Sunday, Aug. 27, 8:30 p.m.

Firefighters Union Hall, 748 Mass Ave

Festival awards and wrap-up party

CENTRAL TICKETING AND INFORMATION

Located at the Firefighters Union Hall, 748 Mass Ave

Through -Sunday, Aug. 27

Information booth staff will provide programs, updates on shows and ticket availability

Tickets for all shows can be purchased at Central Box Office – right next to Information Booth

$1 fee on all tickets purchased at central ticketing and individual theatre box offices

Three-minute walk will take you to any theatre

OTHER WAYS TO BUY TICKETS FOR FRINGE EVENTS

Online: indyfringe.org, 24 hours a day and up to 60 minutes before a show

By phone: Call 317-308-9800, 12:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

In person: (from July 31-Aug. 14) weekdays, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

IndyFringe box office: 719 E St. Clair Street

Individual theatre box offices during festival

Ticket fee information:

Tickets purchased online are subject to $1 fee per ticket

Tickets at Central Box Office and theatres subject to $1 fee per ticket

Tickets purchased in person using credit/debit card are subject to $1 fee per ticket

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Author

Tom Alvarez

Tom Alvarez is a freelance writer who has covered theater, dance, music and visual art for over 40 years. He has written for the Indianapolis Star, NUVO Newsweekly, Indianapolis Monthly, Arts Indiana and Examiner.com. Tom appears regularly as a contributor on WISH-Channel 8''s "Indy Style." Also an actor/model, Tom is represented by the Helen Wells Agency and Heyman Talent Artists Agency.

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