Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

LAFFShows: “Fly You Fools!”


I never realized that Aragorn has a butt-chin. Now, that’s all I see when I look at Viggo Mortensen.

Fly You Fools is a shot-by-shot parody of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings. As with the other LAFFShows, Hold on to Your Butts and Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes, it helps tremulously if you have a sound grip of the source material. Thankfully, I can almost recite it myself, so when there was an intentional deviation for effect, I got it.

Unfortunately, not a lot of comedic opportunities were gleaned from LOTR. It takes quite a while for the actual parodying to get started beyond the physical representations of Middle Earth history and hobbits, but THE EYE is mimed brilliantly.

Jim Banta, Pat Mullen, Christian Condra, and foley artist Olivia Schaperjohn are all-in even if the jokes aren’t. There are, of course, some laugh-worthy nuggets though, such as Arwyn’s raging river represented by a squirt bottle and Galadriel’s fear of becoming Beyonce. And why didn’t they all just fly to Mordor on Eagles anyway? Huh.

Alas, of the LAFF trio, this one falls short a few, comparatively.

  • Through June 8, 8 and 10 p.m. every Friday and Saturday
  • $15
  • The District Theatre


Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe LAFFShows: “The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes”

“Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes”

The new IndyFringe series LAFFShows aims to spoof. First, there was Hold on to Your Butts, which took Jurassic Park to task. Now, it’s The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes.

There’s a reason these episodes are lost, as Sophia pulling dildos out of her purse or Blanche’s beau popping out of the bedroom wearing a mesh onesie and giant codpiece would not make it onto TV — even cable — in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

There are two episodes split by an audience participation spot of “Guess that Girl,” where two people are chosen to vie for Golden Girls prizes. Brush up on your trivia — these aren’t throwaway questions. The skits are anchored in dick jokes, and some of it seems a little forced, but when it’s funny, it’s outrageous stuff.

Pat Mullen really takes the ubiquitous cheesecake in this show, vamping up the Southern belle Blanche. Donning Golden Girl drag alongside him are Jim Banta as Rose and Dave Ruark as Dorothy, with Olivia Schaperjohn as Sophia and Christian Condra as a very revealing, very enthusiastic multipurpose male.

Next up in the LAFF series is Fly You Fools!, a Lord of the Rings rip-off, May 3-25.

  • April 5-27, Fridays and Saturdays, 8 and 10 p.m.
  • $15
  • The District Theatre


Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

LAFFShows: “Hold on to Your Butts”

Jim Banta and Pat Mullen in “Hold on to Your Butts”

Before I say anything else, you need to know that in order to get the most out of the show, you have to be a fan of Jurassic Park (the first one). If you aren’t, most of what’s happening onstage will leap right over your head. That being said, I am a dino-sized fan of all the films (and books), to the point that I can recite right along with the actors the chunks of dialogue lifted from the film for this show.

Jim Banta and Pat Mullen in “Hold on to Your Butts”

The parody takes Jurassic Park and condenses it into a one-hour marathon with two actors (Jim Banta and Pat Mullen) and a sound artist (foley Olivia Schaperjohn). Banta and Mullen take on all the characters, including the dinosaurs and even props, and you haven’t seen prehistoric comedy until you’ve seen a strap-on traffic cone used as a T. rex tail. The use of an umbrella to represent a Dilophosaurus is also brilliantly apropos. And the actors run (often literally) with it.

Over-the-top impressions, crazy props, and the frenetic pace make for a show as deadpan as a living dinosaur. Best of the best are impressions of the intense park keeper Muldoon and the skeevy Ian Malcolm, who sounds like a high Dory. (Why WAS Malcolm’s shirt undone like some ‘70s gigolo?) Banta and Mullen look like a couple of nutters up there, and it’s awesome.

butts4Using a foley artist was cool at first, but after a while, it gets grating, like those creaky doors opening and closing. Personally, I would cut back on that. Not that it subtracted from this fangirl’s fun. As Samuel Jackson says in the movie, “Hold on to your butts.” This is going to be an unpredictable ride.

This is the first troupe to perform the show since Recent Cutbacks premiered it. It’s also part of the LAFFShows series, which includes The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes and Fly You Fools, a Lord of the Rings parody.

Jim Banta and Pat Mullen in “Hold on to Your Butts”


Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

Bard Fest: “The Merchant of Venice”

Ryan Ruckman and and Zach Taylor in Bard Fest 2018 “Merchant of Venice”

First Folio Productions puts a small twist into their production that interprets a few lines, a few interactions in a completely different way. It’s not an unheard of approach, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it utilized.

This isn’t a spoiler alert because it’s revealed early: Antonio (Ryan Ruckman) and Bassanio (Zach Taylor) are lovers. This, for example, makes the last line of the play, spoken by Bassanio’s wife Portia, an “oh shit” moment: “Let us go in and charge us there upon inter’gatories, and we will answer all things faithfully.” This is accompanied by A Look from Portia.

I love it when people fuck with Shakespeare.

The women’s costuming by Danielle Buckel is prettily done in a 1940s style, but otherwise, the production is straightforward (sorry, I just can’t get around the word “straight”), and the company doesn’t shirk the anti-Semitism, so, just a heads up on that.

Emily Bohn in Bard Fest 2018 “Merchant of Venice”

If you need a synopsis, here are the bare bones: Bassanio needs money, so Antonio co-signs a loan from Shylock. Bassanio wants to marry Portia, but her suitors must choose the right chest that contains her as the prize, like in a Cracker Jack box. Antonio’s investments go bottom up, and Shylock wants his payment in manflesh. Portia saves the day dressed in men’s clothes.

Shakespeare really liked crossdressing.

The whole cast does an admirable job of capturing the cadence and expression of Shakespeare’s language, making this an accessible production that novice or adept alike will enjoy thanks to Doug Powers’ direction and the actors’ commitment.

Emily Bohn as Portia is a classy, smart spitfire, the most colorful character besides Ryan Reddick as Shylock, who practically spits through his part. Ruckman mostly maintains a stoic persona — even as Shylock confronts him with a giant knife to get the infamous “pound of flesh” — until that “oh shit” moment. He fears for Bassanio under Portia’s wrath more than his own impromptu heart surgery. In contrast, Taylor is softer, more emotional.

Ryan Reddick in Bard Fest 2018 “Merchant of Venice”

Dwuan Watson Jr. as the prince of Morocco and Ben Mathis as the prince of Arragon provide entertaining reactions to their opportunities to open the chests, and Mathis is also just funny, period, as Gratiano, as is Pat Mullen as Launcelot.

This is another good one to catch as Bard Fest continues into next weekend.

  • Friday, Oct. 5, 8 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 6, 8 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 7, 1:30 p.m.
  • $15 adult, $12 student/senior
  • IndyFringe building


(Side note: I often feel bad about not mentioning many of the crew — the people behind the scenes that help make the magic happen. But as is the case with many jobs, their best performances are the ones that you don’t notice … where lighting and sound blend seamlessly into the show. It’s easy to get distracted by, say, an erratic spotlight and call someone out on it, but when everything goes right, we sometimes forget to consciously admire the work of these invaluable people. So to ALL production crewmembers of any show on any stage, you rock.)


Posted in Indianapolis theater: reviews

IndyFringe Festival: “Act VI Scene I (Shakespeare and Zombies)”

Act VI Scene I (Shakespeare and Zombies)So, if Shakespeare hooked up with the writers of Dawn of the Dead …

“The Lord Chamberlain’s Men” tell the tale of a zombie apocalypse with all the Shakespearean trappings (such as a gooey, lovestruck couple, narration, and soliloquies) and tongue-tripping language.

And clogging … and condoms … and a soused, lustful priest … and shotguns … and boxed wine … and a Swashio to get them all through this alive.

While the show certainly has its moments of hilarity, it can also get a little dark, like when Swashio tells his tale of having to shoot his zombified mother. But it also has long stretches where it’s not funny, or dark, or much of anything — just filler dialogue.

More zombie conflict, please.

But the acting is laudable — Swashio by far my favorite — and the anticipation of what crazy might come next helps gets you through those slow parts.

Do keep an ear out for cameos of some of Shakespeare’s most famous lines or references.

You can watch a preview here:

Starring Pat Mullen, Audrey Stonerock, Dave Ruark, and Nathan Thomas. Written and directed by Matt Walls.