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: Curriculum Vitae

I don't how anyone could imagine finding a way to 'break the 4th wall' better and with a sense of joy within the improvisation no less.  Jimmy Hogg's Curriculum Vitae will have you laughing at each lightning speed phrase that no American as easily phrase.  Originally from Britain, Hogg has the verbal ability to talk fast common to many of his home county.  He uses that speaking tone to catapult you through his resume, literally his resume or "cv" and takes you through his work history and the life around it.  The is both a story and a chronology of his life at work and the people and employment pitfalls that most have experienced.

Hogg appeared in last year's CincyFringe and told of his youthful petty crime.  This show is more theatrical, with bits of mime added for affect and a costume progression that followed will with the structure of the "cv."  If you are lucking to see the one more performance on Monday night, but see it, then you get to experience him 'breaking the 4th wall.'  It has a comedy club feel to it, but when you add it to theatre, it is so unexpected it is so much more fun.  It is naughty and when a British person says it, it just sounds more interesting.

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.

 

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CincyFringe Review: Peyote Business Lunch

Free Bread sticks, special tea, a lizard, Adam Smith, and big dose of introspection make total sense after you see Artemis Exchange's new production Peyote Business Lunch. The show goes deep inside the mind, and I do mean deep, to pull out that wave-particle choking your soul, causing you to wake up screaming in the middle of the night, but then makes you laugh when you think about it years later.  It takes you on a journey to experience everything that ever was and will ever be, all in about 60 minutes.

This show is a wonderful blend of tongue twisted mental exercises of dialog, rich characters, and brilliant acting.  The cast of George Alexander, Randy Lee Bailey, Chris Dooley and Kate Kersaw are all veterans of Fringe and add hilarious layers to the script.  Speaking of the script, another top notch effort from Christopher Karr and Chris Wesselman along with Paul Lieber.

Jon Frankie (Bailey) really needs a job and 'hopes' to find it at an Olive Garden in a Casino, on a Yacqui Reservation. He is seated by the disgruntled Waitress (Kershaw) and then meets with Marvin Jones (Dooley) assistant to Chief Leon Proudfeather (Alexander), who interviews him for a job.  That's the simple part.  The rest of the story goes places you can't imagine.  Well, you can imagine it, but you have to open a few doors of perception or you may be lost.  This show bring out the brains and feasts on them like zombies.  It makes you laugh, ponder, laugh, laugh, and ponder more while laughing again.  This is one you don't want to miss.

CincyFringe Review: The Vindlevoss Family Circus Spectacular!

What makes you human?  How do you know?  Could you be a zombie pretending to be human?  In Karim Muasher and Carrie Brown's production of The Vindlevoss Family Circus Spectacular there is no question who the zombie is, but does that mean a zombie can't be human?  Weren't all zombies former humans? Are zombies and humans just part of the same circle of life?

Using props and light, the two characters, Professor Vindlevoss and her adopted son Edvar the zombie, put themselves to the test to determine if they are human.  The Professor is putting Edvar to the test, but in turn she is testing herself relating to her own father and keeping her humanity by not giving up her zombie son.

If you want to know what the soul of a Fringe Festival is like when it is on stage, then see The Vindlevoss Family Circus Spectacular.  This is why I love the Fringe Festival.  This show is a charming, funny, and inventive production that puts the physical elements of theatre around a focused theme and succeeds.  The style feels like what I would imagine you would have seen in European theatres 100+ years ago, and therefore makes it unique for Cincinnati audiences of today. I wonder if audiences of Over-the-Rhine  of the 19th century would have felt right at home watching these actors?  I'm no historian, but I think they would. The show has a few sound issues, and would fit better in a more intimate space, but that doesn't hold it back.

CincyFringe Reivew: White Girl

What are you 'supposed' to be? We all ask that question and we all face the mirror we ask.  When we answer ourselves those answers can sound similar, but that "supposed" part of the question is subjective or rather it is 'supposed' to be. If you are a woman and/or if you are not white, that subjectivity has social and cultural constraints that don't match the reflection you are 'supposed' to see in the mirror.

Maythinee Washington's performance in White Girl is a powerful illustration of the norm not matching the individual.  Through a creatively compiled audio track mixed with non-verbal acting, Washington's conceptual piece displays a focused message with strong visual imagery.

I enjoyed the use of props, emotion, and audio to speak for the actor/writer and bring her character to life and communicate what is going on in her mind.  One particular climatic moment was stunningly composed and was a really impressive conduit that added an organic beauty to the illustration of idealized or artificial beauty.  I also enjoyed the mix of themes: 1)how idealized beauty affects and neglects racial minorities and 2)how the female gender role has been instilled on women from birth and the limitations and constraints those roles contain.

One Suggestion to the audience: sit in the front.  The venue and the production don't mix for much of the performance as the seating is not tiered and much of the action occurs on low on the stage.

CincyFringe Reivew: Headscarf and the Angery Bitch

The Anger in Zehra Fazal's Headscarf and the Angry Bitch is reserved not for her religion or her family or her ethnicity, but lies with the actions of all of those entities interacting together and making her life full of contradictions and confusion.

 

Fazal's character Zed Headscarf takes you in with her seminar, learning about Islam.  Along the way she shares her stories about her upbringing with Pakistani parents and extended family and how sex and it's many variances lack a place in the culture surrounding her religion.

 

Fazal's character does this most refreshingly through song parodies. She earns her "Muslim Weird Al" title with very funny versions of popular tunes.  The Ramadan song, played to tune of Litter Drummer Boy, is really clever, and will make your grandmother blush even without being within 200 miles of the performance venue.

 

Fazal is a strong singer and a solid performer, keeping the show going during a big technical problem during one of her songs.  The lighting blew a circuit braker and everything went dark, but the sound was fine. She didn't miss a beat and kept on going.

 

The songs are the highlight of the story, along with her descriptions of her family, which resonate with anyone with parents that are even remotely serious about religion or tradition.  The narrative is limited and elements of the character's sexuality make leaps that are quite large without much forshadowing.  I could have used some additional background on that for the storyline to flow without the big jump.