Pick of the Fringe Announced

Last night festival organizers Eric Vosmeier and Jeff Syroney announced the winners of the 2010 Cincinnati Fringe Festival's Pick of the Fringe Awards and the winners were:


Audience Pick: Sophie's Dream from Serenity Fisher


Critic's Pick: Harold from Four Humors Theater


Producer's Pick: The Finkles' Theater Show from Ryan Lear and Rachel Petrie

2010 TheConveyor Awards of Excellence

 The Conveyor is again proud to announce our Awards of Excellence for the 2010 Cincinnati Fringe Festival. This year's festival continues to possess a consistent high level of quality. After seeing about as much Fringe as is humanly possible (but not every show!), we wanted to give our opinion on the best.  Using a set of categories and groupings we created to best compare all of the varied types and genre of performance, we have come up with what we believe represents the best of the festival.  First we considered the 1 production that stood about all of the rest:

Best Overall Fringe Production
Aberrant Reflections on the Barbarism of You & I

The Top Tier by Genre – The shows listed below in each grouping represent the best of the festival. 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
The Council

Best Non-Narrative Theatrical
Aberrant Reflections on the Barbarism of You & I
A Short Lecture of a Different Time
Tantric Acting at the Holiday Inn
The Finkles' Theater Show

Best Movement/Dance/Interdisciplinary
Just Say Know
Money Back Guarantee
That One Show

Best Story Telling/One-Person Show
A Brief History of Petty Crime
A Night of Well Adjust Ladies
Ain't That Good News
Blue Collar Diaries

Another way we want to honor the people and teams in this year's Cincinnati Fringe Festival is by identifying many elements of each production that deserve recognition. We’ve created awards, as listed below, which point out individuals and elements of shows that stood out. They are ranked in order.

Best Individual Performers
Jason Ballweber as Harold in Harold
Chris Wesselman in Aberrant Reflections on the Barbarism of You & I
Taylor Cloyes as Willow/Rose in Sophie's Dream

Best Ensemble
Aberrant Reflections on the Barbarism of You & I

Funniest Show
Tantric Acting at the Holiday Inn
The Council
Soul Juice
A Night of Well Adjusted Ladies

Best Script
Michael Comstock for Tantric Acting at the Holiday Inn
Nick Ryan for Harold
Christopher Karr, Mike Miller & Chris Wesselman for Aberrant Reflections on the Barbarism of You & I

Best Musical Moments
Ain't That Good News
Sophie's Dream
Soul Juice

Best Overall Moment
Oklahomahatma in Tantric Acting at the Holiday Inn
The visualization of the Murder of Madea's Children in Madea The Historian becoming digital in A Short Lecture of a Different Time
Banging the Gong with the head of a dead councilmember in The Council
One Phrase: Scarecrow Fucker from Harold

Most Fringey Show
The Finkles' Theater Show
A Short Lecture of Different Time
The Council

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.

CincyFringe Review: A Brief History of Petty Crime

Jimmy Hogg's one man show A Brief History of Petty Crime is a fast paced tale of a troubled youth and his best friend trying to fit into society, but shop lifting along the way.  Hogg's Karma is fucked.  He is going to Hell.  Well, not really, but he made mistakes as a kid, more than most people did, and is sharing the struggles he had in finding a way to start and make it in life.

This is a classic One-Person Fringe show, but it stands out with well written humor, a reserved charm, and the honesty Hogg shares with every anecdote.  Of the many of this style of show that have come through the Cincinnati Fringe Festival over the last 7 years, this ranks among best.  It is fresh.  It moves fast, but will slow down when it needs to be slower.  Hogg was able to play to the audience.  His show is flexible in that way and that adds to the experience.  It gives you something different, not set in stone.  He wants to share his story, but wants you to have fun doing it.

At one point he messed up a couple of words and made a quip to acknowledge he messed up and it was funny.  The audience just connected on it and roared with laughter as he riffed on it for a minute or so, giving that particular performance something organic.  A unique performance I would suspect every audience would get each night from Jimmy Hogg.

CincyFringe Review: Tantric Acting at the Holiday Inn

There is a surprise in this production that I want to share with you.  I can't.  I just can't ruin the surprise.  I can tell you to run and see Finite Number of Monkeys production of Tantric Acting at the Holiday Inn.  I can tell you about the Bindis, which you may have seen running around the festival.  They are hilarious, but are but one of the gut busting laughs that will greet you while attending TantraCon2010.

A seminar is the setting of the show which focus on two presenters out to sell you on Trantric Stretching from a Bollywood "Star."  The script from Michael Comstock is brilliantly crafted.  Both George Alexander and Randy Bailey bring the characters into a reality that makes everything feel like it is actually happening, even while you know it's not.  You'd think both men are really into yoga, but they don't look it.

The show puts much into audience participation, which is risky, but pays off if they pick the right people.

The only negative I can point out, for those who saw last year's Finite Number of Monkeys The Success Show, which was wonderful, is the similarity both productions share.  To use a cliche: they went back to same well.  I hope next year's FNM show comes back with something radically different.

CincyFringe Review: A Night of Well Adjusted Ladies

Fun.  I can't find a better word to describe A Night of Well Adjusted Ladies, from Venzin-Althaus Explosion!. The premise rests on both writers', Megan Venzin and Emily Althaus, Mother.  Real life experiences are often the most terrifying subject for a writer to bring forth, but both do so without any sign of trepidation.  That courage likely stems from the troubles each had with their mother.  One mother suffers from alcoholism and the other suffers from narcolepsy.

Both women share their stories with raucous humor holding nothing back from their lives.  Whether is was a mother hanging out of her bathing suit or a mother falling asleep while in line at a fast-food restaurant, the embarrassment of the past makes for hilarity today.

A simple set that consists of an easel with a massive pad of paper gives the stories the canvass needed to come to life with the voices and motions of the actors.  The drawings on the giant pad of paper act as transitions between each story, but pack a funny tone that makes each anecdote better.

The audience was charmed in near unison by the duo and their pre-show work of asking for interesting memories about things mothers had done paid off when they read them at the end of the show, adding in some improved comments.  What I found most important about the show was that at no point did it strike me that either of the two performers did not love their mother.  They have had struggles, but they clearly found the humor in some of life's challenges and give the audience the chance to share.  Take them up on the chance to share.

CinyFringe Review: Blue Collar Diaries

Character is key to most theatre.  The characters in a blue collar neighborhood of St. Paul, Minnesota are as plentiful as bodies of water in the Land of Lakes.  Blue Collar Diaries, presented by Bridge Productions, is a one woman show exploring the depth of those characters.  Playwright Michelle Myers Berg performs each of the characters with sharp detail.  Using nothing more than a slight clothing change or few props, Berg transforms into each person with ease.

The acting on this production is the highlight.  The voices a lone are worth going.  Berg has the tone and sound of the people she grew up with.  Her Parents, the odd people down the street, the grounded lady on the radio all paint an audio picture that is filled with subtle motion to bring them to life.

This piece is a portrait of being blue collar in America in the 1960's and 1970's.  The simple elements of life that are not so simple when you have horrors in the past that can't be forgotten.

There is not a narrative to this piece, other than a focus of Berg's father, dealing with the person he had to be during the Korean War as a sniper.  They rest of the characters outside the family didn't add to that story.  I think structurally the piece had two parts that could stand alone stronger: One is Berg's family, the other are the characters of St. Paul.  I would like to see the latter explored more.

This piece can be recommend to those who experienced the 60's and 70's firsthand.  The cultural memories are really effective to those of us who can know what life was like in that period.

CincyFringe Review: Nevermore

Nevermore, a play by Amy Pttinella and presented by Twilight Productions, tackles the formidable topic of the mental state behind great writers and does so with the life of Edgar Allen Poe.  Poe's sad lifestory is summarized during his haunting of a modern day writer's attempted suicide.

Russell McGee takes on the role of Poe headfirst and makes a run at the mysterious literary icon.  He gave a consistent and interesting interpretation of the man, as a smart and troubled person, using wit to shield his sorrow.  The opening depiction of his death was very compelling.  The interaction with Amy Pettinella as the "Woman" a depressed writer had moments of interest, but the two actors lacked compatibility.  Pettinella's characterization of a drunk writer lacked enough emotion and authenticity. I would have expected more clear and recognizable drunken or depressive behavior and found that lacking in her performance.

On opening night the technical cues had serious problems, which hopefully can be remedied once the performers are more comfortable with the crew and the space at Gabriel's Corner.

Additionally I was confused with the structure of a play.  The program indicated that there was a finale consisting of a performance of Poe's Haunted Palace, but it didn't occur.

I am hopeful the production team can regroup on this work and refine the characterizations.