Day 7: Call Me

I had a realization while I was doing Call Me. (Note I said "doing" since Call Me is a participatory show.)

Until this show, I have never done a participatory show. Never seen Nick and Tina’s Italian Wedding or been to a participatory whodunnit, nothing.

So, I was surprised how much I enjoyed it.

If you’re worried that you might get embarrassed–there’s no chance of that. It’s a very easy show to do, takes about 40 minutes, and it’s better with 2-4 people rather than doing it alone. And the costumes were classic. Definitely worth doing.

Day 5/Day 7: Travel / Where Drunk Men Go

Travel and Where Drunk Men Go: A Poem with Music have very little in common, except one key thing…each had more audiences where over half the crowd had not yet seen a Fringe show. This makes sense, of course, as dance and poetry have their own following, so they would attract a less "fringe" audience.

Travel is an aerial dance show. I had never seen aerial dance before (other than Circe du Soleil performances on television, which are not totally dissimilar). Fringe is about seeing and doing things that you wouldn’t otherwise. Travel got me out of your comfort zone, and you should see it for the same reason.

Where Drunk Men Go: A Poem with Music is a long-from poem interspersed with bluegrass music. Griff and I were the youngest in attendance, which I think is a rather nice switch from the usual situation at Fringe. The crowd dug it, particularly the music, and the performance really took life when Richard Hague (the poet) went from memory instead of from his notes.

Day 6: The Success Show

A raucous satire of motivational speakers, The Success Show is simply one of the funniest shows of the festival.

It’s tought to review a comedy that you really liked–how do you demonstrate that it’s funny? By ruining the best jokes of the show by repeating them in your review?

I would do anything for the Conveyor, but I won’t do that.

I will say, however, that this Powerpoint-based show had the audience rolling up to the end–and it’s one of the can’t miss shows. It’s one of the best of the festival.

Day 5 Continued: Brother Bailey’s Pageant…

So, if you do a satire and your opening night crowd responds with "gales of laughter", is your show a success?

Not if you’re the reviewer from CityBeat.

This is called missing the point.

My audience laughed throughout. Apparently, every audience is laughing.

If you like dark comedy and aren’t offended by religious satire, you’ll laugh. Again, and again.

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.