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.

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
Harold
The Council
Medea

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
Harold
Aberrant Reflections on the Barbarism of You & I
Madea

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