Dave Dickens’ work in product research for the Tortillo Chip Company has grown tiresome.
At the opening of “Tortillo!” now showing on the Indy Eleven stage of the Indy Fringe Building, 719 E. St. Clair St., Indianapolis, we catch our protagonist (played by Robert Webster) exhibiting polite patience on a customer service call with a woman who wants to discuss how many of the stackable, Pringles-style cans of Tortillos she can fit into her kitchen cupboard.
She thought it was 52 but has since learned she can fit 56.
Enter Juniper (Lisa Marie Smith) — the would-be love interest of Dave — from the advertising division of the company, followed by irrepressibly annoying Ted (Tristan Ross), who works in shipping, then Steve (Matt Anderson), Dave’s longtime best friend from the pretzel division.
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Then the death threat comes, a caller admonishing the guys to mind their own business. Our heroes are trying to figure out why the new ranch-flavored tortillo chips have a strange taste and cause bizarre behavior, and someone does not appreciate their meddling.
If you think the plot is convoluted so far, we’re only halfway through the first act.
“Tortillo!” is an original play written and produced by Casey Ross, an Indianapolis playwright, director and actor. Performed through Sunday by the newly-minted Casey Ross Productions, “Tortillo!” exemplifies Casey Ross Productions’ slogan, “New is what we do.”
Ross’ group is relatively new to the Indianapolis theater circuit. Her ability to pull in some of Indy’s top-notch talent makes it clear she’s well-respected around town. Webster, Smith, Anderson, Tristan Ross and Davey Pelsue as the introvert intern have theatrical resumes a mile long. “Tortillo!” will be another jewel in their collective crown.
The actors establish their character traits and nuances early on and stay on track throughout the performance. Even in a double-role (no spoilers here), Pelsue is consistent. His understated role as the socially-awkward Patrick the Intern brought many laughs, especially for the repeated sight-gag of his discomfort with high-fiving his overly-exuberant boss.
With his zit-ravaged face, glasses and corduroys, his nerdy portrayal was fresh and believable. His ability to play a much more belligerent character later in the show is a tribute to his range as an actor.
Matt Anderson’s entrance ramps up the play to the frenetic and energetic speed of a Warner Bros. cartoon. His speedy line delivery was sometimes difficult to follow, but his frequent references to comic book pop culture were hilarious.
Tristan Ross serves as both director and actor for this production. His performance as Ted rivaled Anderson’s for quirkiness and energy. It’s hard to imagine a director trying to rein in the two of them for a serious rehearsal.
Fortunately, Ross directed himself in this production, and his acting style was clearly contagious. If you think Ross is hilarious as effervescent Ted, just wait. Pelsue isn’t the only one in the show with a dual role.
This is the second time Ross has mounted this production, the first being in 2009 when “Tortillo!” premiered under the constraints of the hour-long requirement of the Indy Fringe Festival. In this new full-length version, some scenes seemed forced and overly long.
The fun of this show is that we all know people like Dave, Steve, Ted and Patrick, and we laugh at their familiarity. It also was obvious this tight cast was having the time of its life performing the antics and physical comedy of “Tortillo!”
If “Tortillo!” and past performances are any indication, we can look forward to more quality theater from Casey Ross Productions. The upcoming 2016 season features the work of another local playwright Paige Scott with the musical, “Lobby Channel” in May, and the group will be performing Peter Shaffer’s “Equus” in July.