Day 5: 4 Food Groups

The fascinating thing about 4 Food Groups is that it seems to be morphing over the course of the festival. I sat next to an old friend who had seen the premiere, and she told me that there was considerably more dance in the version she saw today. It was also fifteen minutes longer, apparently.

If you saw the company’s The Factory at last year’s
Fringe, expect a more polished show, but one that is definitely
non-narrative–it’s told primarily through movement and interpretive
dance than dialogue.

The show is a lot of fun–definitely the most sexualized show of the festival that I’ve seen. I’m not clear really if there is a point, but, when you have a bunch of chewed up food and sexual content, do you really need a point? It seems obvious, now: the connection between sexual politics and food.

Day 5 Continued: Four Wishes

Four Wishes is an exception at the Fringe, in that its a children’s show that is entirely appropriate for children. It’s a puppet show so it kind of follows. I’m not sure if Guns and Chickens is appropriate for children, but it likely comes pretty close. Other than that, I’d be hard-pressed to come up with anything family friendly. That said, the adults in audience seemed to have a good time, too. It’s also nice to see something center around Native Americans.

Day 5: Gravesongs

Gravesongs staged by the Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati’s intern company in ETC’s main theatre is one of the most polished and accomplished shows of the Festival. It’s surely in my top 5 at this point.

This is a series of meditations on death, narrated either by the dead themselves or by the dying. The show is remarkable not only for its balance between tones of mournfulness and comedy, but also for its underlying Jewish perspective on death–both in the focus on the Jewish and non-Jewish cemeteries and the deemphasis of the afterlife from what we see in many plays. Instead of going to heaven, the dead come to life to tell their stories from their graves… or wherever they have come to rest. There is a suggestion to believe what gives you comfort about death, but above all, to remember those that we have lost. In a year where Cincinnati’s theatre scene has lost so many significant people, remembering is a welcome thing.

Day 4 Concluded: 7 (x1) Samurai

A 50 minute, one-man version of The Seven Samurai, 7 (x1) Samurai is a tour de force of movement. See it.

This is one of the top shows of the festival.

The single performer has the kind of motion and movement skills that you normally only see in performers like Jim Carey. (Thanks to Claire for pointing that one out–it helps me avoid using the M word, which I fear will stop people from seeing it.

I have to say I would have enjoyed it more if I had seen the movie more recently. But it’s easily one of the best shows of Fringe.

Did I tell you to see it? Yeah? Good.

Day 4 Continued: Villainy

Villainy is, in some sense, an educational theatre show for adults… and I mean that in the best possible way.

It’s an argument for the continued relevance of Shakespeare in the culture and in the lives of 21st century Americans. When the show started, with video and a postmodern take on Shakespeare, I feared that we would overwhelmed with gimmickry. In one of the best surprises of the festival, though, the cast has the classical chops to do the Shakespeare lines.

Ultimately, I was unclear if the show really added up to something or not, other than its implicit argument for the continued relevance of Shakespeare. But that’s not an argument against the show, which stands on the foundation of a strong concept and the acting of its young cast.

Day 4 Continued: Cinema Fantastique

I have a vote as one of the critics for Fringe Festival awards, so I am writing a longer piece to discuss how I’m going to be approaching my vote.

Then I see Cinema Fantastique.

It pretty much breaks all my aesthetic rules of Fringe. A loosely linked collection of spoken word, musical mashups, rap, and belly dancing (yes, belly dancing), Cinema Fantastique revolves around the pop culture sensibilities of the thirtysomething dude.

In other words, this show is about me.

And yes, the tribute to Khan Noonien Singh rocks. (If you don’t have to google that, then you need to see this show.)

So, you basically have a group that got together and put together the things that they love. It’s a cabaret show–a spoken word/belly dancing cabaret show–that’s loosely integrated, hit and miss, and all over the map. And I completely loved it.

As I ran off to see show #5 of Day 4, one of the group said, "Come to the bar, and have a drink with us." If I can fit it in to the trek through the festival, I’ll totally go again and take them up on it, even if it requires more three-dimensional thinking that I’m used to.

Fringe Review: It Might Be OK

Photo by Scott Beseler Photo by Scott Beseler “Here we are now, entertain us…”

This line from the iconic Nirvana song leads into the overarching tone of “It Might Be OK” from Gobi Theatre. Generation Y has inherited the life set forth by 7 generations. They are carrying forward that which they were born into. They are now here and are trying to understand the conflicts built into life and the troubles and joys that come with it.

Julianna Bloodgood has done a magnificent job as facilitator/director leading a wonderful group of CCM students into a movement/dance centered production that digs into the depths of humanity from the perspective of 20-somethings. The tone of the piece is not one of anger, more of acceptance. They seek to understand what has come before. The seek to feel what it must have felt like “the day the music died.” They also are setting down their own markers. They are no longer children, they are adults and seek to take up the mantle of adulthood. They are filled with positive energy, but at the same time humility.

The entire cast is solid and really worked as a unit. There is no star, there is a team of actors and it shows. The props and style say a lot on many levels, but are subtle. It is fun, solemn, angry, joyous and was a total pleasure to watch.

Day 4 Continued: Guns and Chickens

Another production out of CCM (don’t these kids study, or anything?), Guns and Chickens stands out from the rest of Fringe in it innocence. I knjow that sounds odd to say, particularly in a Fringe where we got a musical lecture in sexual technique from Ed Hammell, but Guns and Chickens is exactly what it seems to be: an intricately executed, movement-oriented children’s fable.

The main part of the fable was well-done, as was the subplot with the chicken, but the two didn’t really seem to come together in the way that I would have liked.

This is probably the tightest, best-rehearased large cast piece in the festival, and it’s probably one script revision away from being a top show in the festival. It’s well worth seeing.

Day 4 Continued: Body Language II

Another Fringe veteran, the True Body Project returns with a sequel to last years fringe hit. Body Language II: Phys. Ed. js a surreal lark through a nightmarish hybrid Physical Education/Drama class. Last year’s show focused on young women–this year takes the men along for the same trip.

The show is staged in a gym at the YWCA, and the location is used to great advantage. Just when you think that show is going to veer toward over-seriousness with a litany of statistics, it rights itself with a high-energy ending that delighted the crowd.

Allot extra time for this one. You’ll probably want to stick around for a bit afterwards. Trust me on that one.

Fringe Review: Painted

One of the most unique concepts of Fringe so far is the use of paint in “Painted.” Paint is used as the literal illustration of both emotion and the physical. Green on the forehead is the green hat worn by a child. Red is violence.

“Painted” uses personal experiences and historical references as the means to express the content of the show. Every actor begins as a blank canvass and then is painted with life experiences.

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