We’re knee deep in Fringe now. Today, I had to limit myself to just two shows so I could at least pretend to spend time on other aspects of my life.
Because I knew I was going to end my day at the Cook Theater, I parked at the Indiana Landmarks building and walked down to Mass Ave. It’s a pleasant ten minute walk–south on Central, which turns into East, then hang a left onto St. Claire. You’ll walk right past the Phoenix and be just a block from the rest of the theaters. This is a great parking option even if you’re not seeing a show at the Cook, since it’s a free, safe lot.
First on the agenda was Going..Going…Gone. It’s almost pointless to do a traditional review of the show, since no other show will be like the one I saw. The general idea is that Ed, owner of Ed’s Auction House, has died after a terrible battle with hammertoe. As a condition of his will, all remaining items in his auction house must be auctioned off. Two actors — different actors each show — perform as people from Ed’s life. During the showing I saw, husband and wife team Rob and Jen Johansen played Ed’s children.
The actors are provided with items to auction off — I’m told they were procured from the basements of the show masterminds (“playwrights” seems the wrong word), Lou Harry and John Thomas. The actors have no knowledge of what the items are beforehand. It’s their task to improvise a story around this junk for an hour, all while auctioning the items.
Yes, you can actually walk away with a prize. When you step into the theater, you’re presented with a wad of fake money, which you can use to bid on items in the show. You’re encouraged to pool your money, make deals, and do whatever you need to get that coveted Anita Bryant album (if you play it backwards, she reveals she’s a man).
It’s a clever idea and the show was a lot of fun. Both Rob and Jen were completely game. Rob brought a manic, goofy energy that sometimes went over the top — a bit about his late father’s impacted colon was disgusting — but a comedic bit involving a rubber snake that could turn you into a Pentecostal was hilarious, especially when coupled with Rob’s physical acting to make the snake come to life. Jen had an exasperated, weary air about her that brought some surprising pathos to the show when she uncovered a Holiday World pillow that recalled her happiest childhood memories. It was, of course, summarily auctioned off to their tech guy for use as a butt pillow.
Other items included a giant inflatable monkey which went home to a very happy little boy, and a pair of hockey sticks, also known as “Hey, C’meres.” There were perhaps too many items; at the end of the show, they shoved two boxes of mystery items into the hands of audience. It would have been nice to slow down a bit and let the actors do more with the items instead of hurling into a new auction every three minutes. But it was all great fun, with the audience becoming as integral a part of the show as the actors. It’s a show that can really only work in a space like Fringe. If you’re looking for something different that really pushes the boundaries of theater, check it out, but keep in mind, your experience might bear little resemblance to what I saw:
Tuesday, August 21, 9:00 p.m.
Saturday, August 25, 10:30 p.m.
Sunday, August 26, 6:00 p.m.
The half hour between shows was more than enough time to take a leisurely stroll back to the Cook Theater, though there is a shuttle that runs from the Fringe Building.
It was mostly a family crowd at Just Amazing with Trigg Watson. One of the biggest misconceptions about Fringe is that it’s all people talking about masturbation and saying “fuck” a lot. While you’ll find tons of adult shows, mature shows, and just plain dirty shows, there are plenty which are completely kid friendly. Heck, both facebook me and These Shining Lives are performed by kids still in high school, and there are plenty more which cater to even younger crowds. The audience for Just Amazing was comprised mostly of families and grandparents with kids under ten.
Just Amazing is a fun, fluffy magic show. It’s mostly sleight of hand stuff: making balls appear and disappear, rope tricks, card tricks and the like. It’s probably nothing you haven’t seen before. But a great magic show isn’t really about the tricks. After all, there are only so many of those. No, great magic shows are about the magician’s ability to make us believe that something wonderful and wondrous is happening on stage, that even though our rational mind knows the card is up his sleeve, we’re willing to put that aside and believe that maybe there is something in this world we don’t understand.
Did Trigg pull that off? Mostly. There was a rough patch at the beginning when, during a sequence of tricks with plastic balls, he dropped a set of them, revealing how the balls snap together to conceal confetti or other tricks. He managed the bobble like a pro, but it created a chink in the armor. Later, he performed a trick he called the Orb of Mystery, where he seemed to make a sphere float in thin air, complete with dramatic lighting. I was entranced, until he revealed the magical sphere was a soup ladle. While I’m sure some appreciated the reveal of the trick, that little kid part of me still wanted to believe that this guy could defy gravity.
There was a nice moment where he turned a soap bubble into a glass ball and performed a few tricks that put me in mind of the Goblin King in Labyrinth, which is definitely a good thing. There were also a few nifty mime sequences and Trigg has a mean moonwalk. He included plenty of audience participation, and the kids chosen seemed to have a great time with the silly card tricks and “guess which hand” ball tricks. Trigg has a comfortable and energetic stage manner that set the kids right at ease. And it’s always, always fun to watch people who love what they do in their element.
This is a fun show for families and a great way to introduce kids to live theater and live magic. Adults may find themselves wanting a bit more. Catch the rest of Trigg’s performances:
Wednesday, August 22, 9:00 p.m.
Friday, August 24, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, August 25, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, August 26, 3:00 p.m.
And that’s a wrap for opening weekend of Fringe. By all accounts they’re off to a fantastic start, with many sell outs and near sell outs. Consider buying tickets in advance if there’s a show you have your heart set on seeing. I’m planning on taking Monday off, then plunging back into shows on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday to continue this theaterstravangaza.
My tickets were provided courtesy of IndyFringe.