CincyFringe Review: Rodney Rumple’s Random Reality

The Performance Gallery is the standard for the Cincinnati Fringe Festival. They have been here every year and they make the standard for Fringe because every year they do a completely unique show.  This year's Rodney Rumple's Random Reality takes the group in vastly new direction.

If you take a hunk of Where the Wild Things Are, add in plenty of Alice in Wonderland, and top it off with a hilarioius Men Without Hat's video homage, and you get an idea of the fantasy created.

It feels like a children's story written for adults.  Adults who watched MTV in the middle 19880's will cackle with glee at the Safety Dance video.

Seriously, if you haven't seen the video before, watch this before going to see the show:

I throughly enjoyed this light narrative.  The acting is, as usual with Performance Gallery, excellent. Derek Snow steals the show as the Bully.  The writing is interesting.  The direction, by Regina Pugh, I believe makes this show.  It is a surreal spectecal.  It is out in weeds, but it never falls off the edge.  It teeters, mind you, but never goes over the cliff of sense.  Go see it.

TheConveyor 2011 Awards of Excellence

It is time again for to put forth our opinions and bestow the Awards of Excellence for the Cincinnati Fringe Festival.  2011 was another top notch year with the quality of productions up again.  This year's difference was that no single show was way ahead of the pack.  Our top shows all were very close in ranking, making it very difficult to pick just one show at the top. We made a choice, but I think this year a case could be made for three or four shows to be the overall best. We had to chose only one.

Best Overall Fringe Production
You Only Live Forever Once from the Four Humors Theater

The Top Tier by Genre – In addition to the best overall production, we recognize the top tier of productions. The shows listed below in each grouping represent the best of the festival, FringeNext and the workshops were not included. Each genre, as defined by our reviewers, breaks the festival out into comparable categories. In each genre we have listed, in alphabetical order, the shows that stand out as exceptional.

Best Narrative
Melancholy Play
Miss Magnolia Beaumont Goes to Provincetown
Peyote Business Lunch
The Lydia Etudes – About Loving Anton Chekhov

Best Non-Narrative
101 Rules For Dating (of which you will hear 20 or so…)
The Body Speaks: Scripted
To and Fro and Up and Down
Vindlevoss Family Circus Spectacular

Best Story Telling/One Person Show
Curriculum Vitae
Headscarf and the Angry Bitch
I Love You (We're Fucked)
Missing: the fantastical and true story of my father's disappearance and what I found when I looked for him

Best Dance/Movement/Interdisciplinary

Rip in the Atmosphere
The Body Speaks: Movement
White Girl

Another way we honor the participants of the Cincinnati Fringe Festival is by identifying many elements of each production that deserve recognition. The awards listed below single out individuals and elements of shows that were exceptional. They are ranked in order.

Best Individual Performances
George Alexander in Peyote Business Lunch
Joe Hutcheson in Miss Magnolia Beaumont Goes to Provincetown
Mindy Heithaus in Darker and The Body Speaks: Scripted
Dawn Arnold in The Lydia Etudes – About Loving Anton Chekhov

Best Ensemble
Peyote Business Lunch
You Only Live Forever Once

Best Musical Moment
Music From The Proof: A Workshop
I Love You (We're Fucked)
Headscarf and the Angry Bitch
Opal Opus: Journey to Alakazoo

Funniest Show
You Only Live Forever Once
Curriculum Vitae
Peyote Business Lunch
101 Rules For Dating (of which you will hear 20 or so…)

Best Script
Chris Wesselman, Paul Lieber, and Christopher Karr for Peyote Business Lunch
Joe Hutcheson for Miss Magnolia Beaumont Goes to Provincetown
Jason Ballweber, Ryan Lear, Dan Peltzman, Rachel Petrie, Mark Rehani and Matt Spring for You Only Live Forever Once

Best Overall Moment
The inclusion of FringeNext and FringeDevelopment series, a great way to expand the festival.
The 'giant' mouse trap in You Only Live Forever Once
Michael Hall in a towel and a 10 gallon hat in The Body Speaks: Scripted
Jessica Ferris squeezing through the frame of a folding chair in Missing

Most Fringey Show
Vindlevoss Family Circus Spectacular!
Tooth and 'Nuckle
The Body Speaks: Scripted

CincyFringe Review: You Only Live Forever Once

If you've seen the movie True Lies, Bill Paxton plays a used car salesman who pretends to be a spy.  Now, this has absolutely nothing to do with the Four Humor's newest show, You Only Live Forever Once, but if you imagine the pretend spy world that Bill Paxton's character would be living in, it might be something like this show, including the puppets.

Secret Agent Dave Johnson, played by Ryan Lear, is a James Bond-esque (as might be imagined by Jim Carey) spy in a battle of wits and puns with Wealthy Industrialist Kitty Cougarton, played by Matt Spring. Sock puppet henchmen and stick figure puppets interchange with their live action counter parts in a non-stop 50 minutes of laughs.

The acting is wonderful, the opening/closing sequences were brilliant touches, and the script was crisp and focused.  The dangers of puns can, for obvious reasons, be extensive, but the writers (which include: Jason Ballweber, Ryan Lear, Dan Peltzman, Rachel Petrie, Mark Rehani and Matt Spring) never strayed from comic gold.  This is the fourth production from the Four Humors to venture down from Minnesota to the Cincinnati Fringe Festival and the first to include the team from last year's Fringe hit, The Finkles' Theater Show (by Ryan Lear and Rachel Petrie).  The influences of their brand of comedy add much of the energy to the production and blend well with the tone of the Four Humor style show that Cincinnati audiences know and love.  In other words the combination of talent works to purrrrfection….Yes, puns only work with the right set-up, and mine crashed and burned like a paper jet puppet. If you see the show, that last bit might be slightly funny.

If you are at Fringe this is one of the don't miss productions.  Get a ticket to their Friday or Saturday show now before they sell out!

CincyFringe Review: Tooth and ‘Nuckle

Expectations have been a recurring theme for me in my reviews this year.  When I read that Matt Johnson was doing a show this year, I had a set of expectations.  I've seen his work before.  In Tooth and 'Nuckle I got the Matt Johnson I was expecting.  He is on the edge at all times, pushing you, sometimes with a very pointy stick.

If you go to Fringe festivals and expect that everything is going to make sense, then I think you are missing out.  We need bizarre shows, with vagina puppets made from grocery bags.  We need raunchy sex crazed stuffed animals manipulated by Johnson as a puppet that then mock audience members for not wearing the right color clothing (pink for girls, blue for boys).

Grocery bags crudely spray painted white to look like teeth contain the props for each vignette.  Some of the vignettes are long and some are way too long.  None of them paint a coherent portrait of a focused idea, but are none-the-less interesting.

Matt Johnson is not one to shy away from controversy and this production is filled with it, including the belief that it is nearly all improvisational.  I would encourage people to go to this show, but don't expect to understand it or even like it.  In this case the experience I had met my expectations and I found it really funny.  You may hate it more than any show you have seen in your life.  Either way, go and experience it.  That is why we Fringe

CincyFringe Review: Miss Magnolia Beaumont Goes to Provincetown

I am thrilled when my expectations are exceeded.  The running time of Left Out Productions NYC's Miss Magnolia Beaumont Goes to Provincetown was leaving me a little bit disconcerting for a solo Fringe show, but this is more than a solo show.  This is a multiple character one person play that is a crafted work with two distinct and seamlessly woven roles played by Joe Hutcheson.

Using mostly voice and demeanor, Hutcheson dresses for a vacation to Provincetown, Mass and has a guest living inside him, that of Miss Magnolia Beaumont, an antebellum southern belle from Georgia who died in 1863 and ending up living inside Master Joseph, as she calls him.  She can't commmunicate with him, but hears and sees as he hears and sees. He's a gay man.  Yes, there's a bit of a culture clash, but as she's a genteel lady and more modernly inclined, the conflict is muted and more real.  If you took a person from the 1860's and placed them in today's society, many of the social differences we focus on in the present would be more alien, than controversial to the person of the past.  That type of authenticity was a refreshing take on the underlying conflict between these characters.

As time progresses, Magnolia is able to communicate with Joseph and the growth begins.  Both have secrets and finding how to trust someone else enough to share those secrets is the focus of the story.  Humor is a great way to deal with the emotional struggle with trust and Miss Magnolia and Joseph bring laughter and touching revelations together in such a way that I didn't even notice that 90 minutes had passed.  

CincyFringe Review: Darker

When the end comes it is said that the light fades from your eyes and everything goes dark.  That image is the visual put forth from New Edgecliff's Darker written by Catie O'Keefe.  Light and Dark run heavily through this production.  Keeping the characters and the audience 'in the dark' takes on an additional importance.  Love, death, the power of the impending darkness puts a sensual story on stage with a hazy situation where the past is seeping into the present.

The cast of Michael Carr, Mindy Heithaus, and Jeffery Miller are all excellent.  They know their characters and show no fear in playing off each other.  The set and costumes, designed by Jim Stump, were the best I have seen in Fringe this year.  It is risky to have a set and lighting design as elaborate as Darker used, but Stump made it work really well with the limits placed on Fringe productions.

The story was a good concept.  It was thought provoking and had strong dialog, but it needs something more.  There wasn't too much to the story as often happens in theatre.  This production fits well with being about an hour long.  The backstory needs more context.  The ending would be more dramatic if the build-up had more basis.  As a writer, I love the concept it explores, but the power struggle that goes on between the characters takes more of the focus than the mind blowing resolution of the story.

Overall, the show is a very enjoyable piece, that gives the audience much to see and hear as the light fade.

CincyFringe Review: I Love You (We’re Fucked)


Kevin Thornton's I Love You (We're Fucked) filled the sweaty Artworks space with both eager audience members and wonderfully funny stories and songs.  Thornton is an extremely talented performer who has improved on his 2009 CincyFringe show Sex, Dreams & Self-Control with a crisp comedy that was more fast past and improvisational.  Kevin knows how to put on a show and knows how to push the crowd over they edge with him.

The tone of the show takes many more detours.  You don't know what he is going to say, but that will not scare the audience if they aren't prudish.  The prudes might want to skip this one.  Beware of the "Blood stories" as they mix emotional elements that snap back to humor very quickly.

I sat in the back, which is slightly elevated, giving a better sightline.  The sound was fine for me in the back, but had room to be louder.  The heat was intense, literally.  Kevin was nearly topless by end after removing his shirt and tie.  I don't think this was part of the show, more of a reality to a hot fringe night for a sell out crowd.


Continue reading “CincyFringe Review: I Love You (We’re Fucked)”

CincyFringe Review: Harold

Terror is Funny.  Sitting by a campfire with a flashlight to your face telling a story while your friend hides in the bushes with a hook in his pants waiting for the right moment to jump out and scare the cute girls is funny for everyone.  It just isn't funny until after you calm down and release there isn't a man about to stab you to death.  Four Humor Theater's Harold brings the Funny to Terror and hits the Scarecrow out of the park.

Two goat herding brother arrive in a remote cabin to find they need for a Scarecrow to ward off the birds from their vegetable garden.  The isolation and a brotherly rivalry lead to tension that the two take out on the Scarecrow in the form of abuse.  That abuse leads to the Terror and gives a new story for someone to tell someday around a campfire.

A great set fit for goat herders, a haunting use of music, and smart use of darkness to build the tension all direct the audience to allow their senses, almost force their senses to believe they are in a rural cabin.  It works and the three actors brilliantly work together to make the Terror and the Funny meld.  Jason Bellweber stands out as the Scarecrow by using his ability to harness the tension from the self control and subtly put into his character. Brant Miller and Matt Spring blazingly embrace their characters and show the frailty, anger, and fear with invigorating depth.  They bring the energy needed to be the Funny that makes love to the Terror, in more ways than one, creating the focal point of the story.  The script also wonderfully uses various points of view to add layers to the story, keeping the audience in motion, never stopping the tension.

I would love to see this play made into a movie.  It might need a few variations to make up for the emotional connection live theatre gives you, but the story has the right mix of uniqueness and familiarity to fit on screen as well as on stage.  Until then, don't miss this great production.

CincyFringe Review: A Short Lecture of a Different Time

Theatre is an art form.  Karim Muasher's A Short Lecture a Different Time shows how to craft that art into a touching performance.  The production merges sound, acting, storytelling, and graphics into a powerful digital parable that has a modern moral lesson. If we can learn from the past and change, we can avoid repeating what may have happened long ago.

In the story Muasher creates a universe which is called OLDVERSE, which existed prior to our universe: NEWVERSE.  The story follows two characters living on a planet in the OLDVERSE: Pixel and Dot.  In a binary boy meet girl story, they fall in love, but danger approaches and Pixel must try to save his world and his Dot from the rising heat.  Tragedy befalls Pixel.  He didn't know how to stop the end of his world, but his actions can help us avoid the same fate.

The Historian, Musher's character, has a Kaufmanesque look, but has a clarity and muted furvor in his message.  He knows more than he's saying, but he can't tell us something we can't or won't understand.  He's giving the story to us in a manner he hopes we shall take to heart.  The show wants the audience to learn, but doesn't beat the idea into our brains with a club.  That's our human problem, we don't like really like to be lectured, unless we are willing go to a lecture.  Go to this show, see the bytes and hear the beeps, learn and feel the wonderful story.

CincyFringe Review: Madea

Classic literature is a rich source for theatre and Madea, from paperStrangers Performance Group, is a beautiful adaptation of the ancient play that uses stunning costumes to bring forth the intense story.  

Melissa Fenton is the standout as Madea and takes on the role with full force.  She is supported well from the Chorus and from Kellen York as Jason.  The visual and the emotional are the focus of this production.  The text gets a little bit lost in the the process.  The costumes are excellent modernize the era.  The colors are the key and tell the story in part.  The rage of Madea is felt in your bones. The sounds are loud, but add to the intensity.  The video adds to the color theme, but the relevance of the images is diminished with the brevity of their use.

The company is young but shows great ambition with this production.  I think it could use some work on the incorporation of the text with the visual tools, but it delivers as is.