‘Mad Mad Hercules’ is bawdy, outrageous fun

April 24, 2017

No Exit Performance and Zach Rosing Productions, continue to solidify their reputations for producing original work that is edgy,  provocative, and stretches boundaries. “Mad Mad Hercules,” a collaboration between the two groups, is no exception. A rib-tickling, rollicking comedy,  the production continues through May 7 at the IndyFringe Basile Theatre.

"Mad Mad Hercules"

L-R Nathan Thomas, Ryan Ruckman, Matthew Allman, Carrie Bennett Fedor & Devan Matthias -Courtesy of Zach Rosing Used by permission.

Written by local playwright Bennett Ayres (“House of Blue Leaves” and”Lady and the Sanguine Man”), “Mad Mad Hercules” is his zany, adults only ((16-years old and up) take on the story of Hercules, the divine hero from Greek mythology, known for his strength and many adventures.

The plays plot revolves around Hercules’ execution of a list of labors that were nearly impossible tasks. The feats were assigned to him by Eurystheus, a tyrant king who Hercules was forced to serve for murdering him own children. Many of the gargantuan tasks involved Hercules having to do battle with and bring back proof that he had killed  beasts and monsters.

Boldly and cleverly directed by Rosing’s frequent creative partner, Zack Neidtich, the show’s consummate cast— include Ryan Ruckman (Hercules), Nathan Thomas (Iolaos), Tony Armstrong (Zeus), Josiah McCruiston (Eurystheus), Beverly Roche (Hippolyta/Galinthias) and Dena Toler (Hera/Echidna). The chorus consists of Matthew Altman, Carrie Bennett Fedor, and Devan Mathias.

L-R Dana Toler & Tony Armstrong

L-R Dana Toler & Tony Armstrong – Courtesy of Zach Rosing. Used by permission.

Though all the show’s actors deserve praise for their comic flair, several were standouts during  the Saturday performance that I attended.

Ruckman who I have enjoyed seeing in several Brozone (a local comedy group) shows, was very entertaining as the macho, wine-drinking, boorish and smart-ass Hercules who kept me guessing as to how many of his often hilarious asides, were improvised.

Iaolos assists the overbearing Hercules with his labors. Playing him was Thomas (who reminded me of David Hyde Pierce in roles he has played ) who turned in a winning performance as the strong man’s long-suffering, priggish side-kick who eventually, and unexpectedly becomes Hercules’s lover.

L- R Beverly Roche & Ryan Ruckman

L- R Beverly Roche & Ryan Ruckman – Courtesy of Zach Rosing. Used by permission.

In a highly sexualized portrayal of Hippolyta, the powerful Amazon queen, Roche’s physical characterization was wildly over the top, made notable by her fearlessness and lack of inhibition. One of Indy’s finest character actors, she also excelled at playing mythical figure Galinthias, a woman turned into a weasel, that is, in this instance, a puppet manipulated by Roche.

McCruiston, was strong as the unrelenting, impervious and pompous king Eurytheus. McCruiston’s scenes with Ruckman were especially funny for the obvious enjoyment the two actors displayed as they played off one another.

L-R Ryan Ruckman & Josiah McCruiston

L-R Ryan Ruckman & Josiah McCruiston

Several times during the show, chorus members make reference to the show’s low production values as reflected in purposely cheesy special effects, shadow puppets (designed by Beverly Roche & Kristin Ruckman), and  oversized puppets (designed by Ryan Mullins, Lukas Schooler & Beverly Roche)—all of which contributed to the tongue in cheek aura of the production.

L-R Matthew Allman, Carrie Bennett Fedor & Devan Matthias - Courtesy of Zach Rosing. Used by permission.

L-R Matthew Allman, Carrie Bennett Fedor & Devan Matthias – Courtesy of Zach Rosing. Used by permission.

Though “Mad Mad Hercules,” does have a few reflective moments, this silly parody of a classic tale of redemption is devised to elicit raucous laughter—something it succeeds art doing quite well. The show is also a reminder of the wealth of talent that exists in Indy.—not only those performing on stage but also those producing original content for actors to practice their craft and showcase their gifts.

For tickets and information about “Mad Mad Hercules” call (317) 522-8099 or visit indyfringe.org.  Remaining performances are: Friday April 28, 7:30 p.m.,Saturday April 29, 7:30 p.m., Sunday April, 5:00 p.m., Friday May 5, 7:30 p.m., Saturday May 6, 7:30 p.m., and Sunday May 7, 5:00 p.m.
photo: Julie Curry

About Tom

Journalist, producer, director, Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, arts administrator, TV contributor, actor, model, writer and lyricist, Tom Alvarez has had an extensive career in media and the fine arts and continues to be an enthusiastic and devoted fan of both. His passion and unique background grant him insight, access and perspective to cover, promote and review the arts in Indianapolis, Central Indiana and beyond. Follow him on social media @tomalvarezartswriter and @tomalvarez1.

Alvarez has been writing about theatre, dance, music, cinema and visual arts for 40 years. His work has appeared in the Indianapolis Star, NUVO, Indianapolis Monthly, Arts Indiana, Unite Magazine, Dance Magazine, NOTE Magazine, and Examiner.com, among many other print and online platforms. A former contributor to Across Indiana on WFYI-TV, he currently has a regular performing arts segment on WISH-TV’s Indy Style, and is a creative arts reporter for Reel Life TV, an entertainment show also broadcast on WISH-TV.

A principal of Klein & Alvarez Productions, LLC, Alvarez co-created “Calder, The Musical” and is the managing director of Magic Thread Cabaret. As an actor-model, he has appeared in numerous TV and print ads and is represented by the Helen Wells Agency and Heyman Talent Artists Agency.

On the Aisle Team

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