At 7:30 on the first Saturday evening of the 2008 Indy Fringe Festival, I walked down and around to the Phoenix Theatre to see Unplugged’s production of “On the Rag: Heavy Flow.”
This collection of adult-themed comedy sketches and monologues was written by actor-directors Kate Ayers and Sara Locker. Last year, their show was called “On the Rag: Fully Dilated.” This year, the two women bring back handsome Gary Lott, who was also part of the ensemble last year, and introduce Joey Hudson, a hottie who reminds me of a young Tony Danza.
The show is a combination of the best sketches from last year’s show and some new material. Their advertising had led me to expect all new material, so I felt a little as if I had been scammed when they brought out the conjoined twins, the bathroom stall, the topless proctologists, and some of the other pieces I had seen last year.
Mind you, those pieces are hilarious, and worth seeing multiple times. So, now that I have warned you, I hope that you will NOT feel cheated when you see them.
I got a chance to chat a moment with Ayers and Locker after the show. Locker told me that this year they are making a tape to “send around.” That is why they included four of their greatest hits in this year’s show. Knowing this made me feel much better. I am proud to have been one of the audience members helping to make that happen. I hope their tape turns out well and gets them into more and more new venues.
Another thing I need to tell you about seeing this show this year is that where you sit matters a LOT. The venue is the Frank and Katrina Basile underground space at the Phoenix. I love the intimacy of this space, and the gorgeous and mysterious paintings by Kyle Ragsdale are still on display from the “Murderers” show, but the seating is almost all on one level. Many of the sight gags in this particular Fringe show are at ankle level. From my seat in the second row of tables, I could not see many of the most significant parts of the show. It was f**king frustrating.
I glanced around and saw that everyone around me was also either craning their necks to see, or had given up all together. Guffaws were coming from the people at the front three tables, but no one else in the room was even smiling.
So…if you get a ticket to this usually sold-out show, try to get near the front of the line and, when the Fringe volunteers let you go downstairs, make a beeline for either the front three tables OR the top row of chairs on the little riser at the back of the room to your left OR the two tables at the very back of the room to your right, in front of the bar (which will not be open. I hope you bought your beer and/or brownie from Jessica when you were in the lobby upstairs.)
If you are sitting at the very back, you will at least be able to stand up as needed without fear of blocking anyone else. If you only manage to get a seat in the middle, maybe you can negotiate with the people sitting behind you to all stand up together as needed.
Or maybe the players themselves will come up with some sort of sign or signal: “Stand up for this next one.”
And finally, I have to say that even though it makes me laugh, I just don’t really get the broad appeal of this show – either last year’s version or this year’s.
I mean, I admire the cleverness of the language and the imaginations of the writers. I am impressed by the acting ability of each of the four actors. They are professionals. I.e. - they are skilled risk takers. And Locker and Ayers have the great on-stage chemistry that comes from years of directing each other in a variety of productions. It is a pleasure to watch them work.
But other than the exquisite poem that Locker recites about the mystical power of menstrual blood, this show is mostly about demeaning, and sometimes even abusing men, right?
I could sort of see why women who have been hurt by men at one time or another (which is all of us – I’m not mad at the moment, I’m just saying) might enjoy this show as sort of a guilty pleasure, like watching your ex-husband in a ring getting beaten up by gladiators from Roman times or something.
But I have had many, many men – gay and straight – tell me they LOVE this show.
I just smile but inside my head I am thinking, “But…but…ultimately, this show is not about empowering women, it is about emasculating men, right? And you LOVE it?”
As I say, I just don’t get its broad appeal.
If you get a chance to see this show, will you help me figure this out, please?
Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com
9/2/08 – No publicity photos were available for this show.