As children we're treated to a lot of stories that nicely wrap everything up with a perfectly harmonious conclusion. But by the time adulthood rolls around, most of us realize those are the endings of fairy tales only. Reality is a whole other story. That's what compelled Mackenzie Suter to explore what the "happily ever after" in her favorite Disney movies really meant. The result is her new play Dr. Phil Presents Happily Ever After, showing for two nights at the IndyFringe Basile Theatre.
Dr. Phil Presents is a decidedly adult (16 and older) play. It turns out these princes and princesses have developed some rather bizarre and off-color mental conditions since we last heard from them. As Dr. Phil drawls out platitudes, Aladdin struggles with OCD and Belle finds she preferred her prince the way she met him: beastly.
This bawdy clash of Disney and daytime TV is Suter's first play as a writer and as a director, though not her first time in the theater. "I did a lot of technical theater in high school," says Suter. "I was actually a stage manager for one play, but afterwards I said 'I'm never doing this again!'"
- Mike Potter
- Despite the gender difference, Hannah Simpson plays a masterfully hilarious Dr. Phil. The down-home aphorisms are in character but deliciously overdone.
Beech Grove High School was where she met most of the cast playing these wild characters, and it's the long friendships that she credits with making the play so funny. "I've learned that comedy isn't a one-person thing. You're never too funny to add someone else," says Suter. "It's collaboration, always. I have the best group too; they are so naturally funny."
The cast might have to be friends with Suter to go along with their roles. Her identical twin sister is playing Aladdin's pregnant bride, Princess Jasmine, while Erin Finecy is playing Snow White, whose unsurprising vice is polyamory.
"She has nine husbands," Suter explains. "Prince Florian, who she marries in the movie, all seven of the dwarfs and some random guy named Kevin."
Suter is well aware that the themes of Dr. Phil Presents are suggestive, and she's honest about the kind of comedy she's doing. "It's just meant to be funny," she says. "You're not supposed to sit and think about it. It's slapstick and it's crude, and it's just supposed to be funny. There's no moral or point to it."
If the topics weren't enough to make you nervous, consider the fact that audience participation is a significant part of the show. Beyond simple warm-ups involving the crowd, certain characters will leap, literally, off the stage and into the laps of an audience member who Suter hopes will laugh along.
- The entire cast of "Dr. Phil Presents Happily Ever After" makes up for its relative inexperience with chemistry and a razor sharp wit that doesn't stop.
She was inspired to do the play at the fringe after reading Mindy Kaling's Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me. Kaling's big break came from playing Ben Affleck in the show Matt & Ben, which first premiered at Chicago's fringe.
She's also a huge fan of Tina Fey. She points out that Chicago has The Second City, and Los Angeles has The Groundlings, but Indianapolis doesn't really have a collective for sketch comedy. If Dr. Phil Presents is successful, Suter hopes to lay the groundwork for something to let young comedians and actors get together in the Circle City.
She doesn't want to get ahead of herself though--there is still a play to run. Rehearsals are taking place in her apartment while the Fringe is busy with other shows. And while they're all enjoying themselves in the process, they have one goal in mind.
"We want to make people laugh," Suter says. "If we can make people laugh, then I will be completely satisfied."
Stop by the Fringe to snag tickets for the Nov. 22 or 23 show, or order tickets online.