It wasn’t intentional and simply a matter of scheduling but Thursday I attended, one right after another, two of what surely are among the funniest of shows on the IndyFringe 17 schedule. In doing so, I witnessed performances by some of Indy’s finest comic actors, reinforcing that the city is fertile ground and that there truly exists a flourishing comedy and improv scene.
The first show I saw was “Drankspeare: To Beer or Not to Beer” presented at ComedySports by EcelecticPond Theatre Company. The company that normally produces the works of William Shakespeare, used its expertise in the genre to parody “Hamlet,” one of the Bard’s most famous plays.
Sun King Brewing Company is the show’s sponsor so its product placement is central to the show’s plot. That means that each actor supposedly drank beer throughout the show—thus the title. It’s difficult to conceive that cast members were actually ingesting alcohol, considering that their performances seemed sharp and focused. But it was very clear that the audience certainly imbibed and bo,y did they ever. Encouraged to drink every time a certain word was spoken, it appeared that most of the crowd was more than happy to oblige.
Replete with pop culture references, profanity, and X-rated humor, the show incorporated actual dialogue from the Hamlet script which is wonderfully capsulized and infused with vulgarity, sight gags and physical comedy— all done in a spirit of outrageous, irreverent, fun.
Since a program was not provided I am not able to acknowledge all the members of the show’s, talented and appealing cast but it just so happens that those who stood out were actors who had impressed me previously in other shows. They included Ryan Ruckman who was in last season’s “Mad Hercules.” Wearing a wig right out of “Grease,” his characterization of the brooding Dane was absolutely hysterical. So was Evan Wallace, who stole the show with his droll characterization of Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, much as he did in as the Muse in IndyFringe’s “Holy Ficus,” in 2015.
There is only one more performances of “Drankspeare: To Beer or Not to Beer.” See it Sunday, Aug. 27 at 7:30.
As far as silliness goes, I experienced even more hijinks and ridiculous mayhem later Thursday evening when I saw “Haul & Oatz,” a Defiance Comedy production, presented at Phoenix Theatre Main Stage. One of the most popular show’s in the 2016 Fringe, this edition once again the goofy time-traveling detectives, who, this time journey back to the Old Wild West to solve crimes.
If you are not familiar with the music of Hall and Oates, popular in the late 70s and early 80s, and spoofed in the show, it won’t impact on your enjoyment. But it wouldn’t hurt to look at some YouTubes of the duo so you’ll more fully appreciate clever references to their songs in the show
And guess who stars as Haul? None other than Ryan Ruckman, the same versatile actor who starred in “Drankspeare!” In what must be a Fringe first, or anywhere for that matter, Ruckman may be the only actor who has ever performed two roles in two different shows, back to back. And having seen him in both, I can confirm that his characterizations were distinctly different from one another. A real coup for any actor. If nothing else, Ruckman deserves kudos simply for endurance.
Showing comic flair as Haul’s partner was Todd Kenworthy. Wearing a cheesy curly black wig, the Defiance Comedy regular’s chemistry with Ruckman made for an elevated level of foolish hilarity.
Rob Johansen as Michael Boltron, a farcical homage to singer Michael Bolton, showed why is one of the best physical comic actors around, in his role as the means by which Hall & Oates travel through time.
Also standing out was John Kern who played Elton John, among other characters, with rib-tickling results.
Other members of this riotous ensemble, directed by irrepressible Matt Kramer, who also wrote most of the show’s material, included: Andrea Heiden, Meg McLane, Ben Rockey, and Kelsey VanVoorst.
Contributing to the show’s rollicking good time was Audrey Stonerock’s snappy choreography that affectionately duplicated popular dances of the 80s and 90’s.
The last two remaining performances of “Haul & Oatz” are tonight at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 27 at 4:30 p.m.
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