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A Yearly Rite of Theatrical Creativity: A Review of CCM Acting’s Transmigration 2019

Review by by Alan Jozwiak of “Transmigration”: CCM Acting

            Transmigration.

It may sounds like the migratory patterns of wild beasts, but instead is a yearly rite of theatrical creativity put on by CCM Acting.  Now in its 11th year, Transmigration is a product of the entire CCM Acting program.  CCM Acting divides their student body into six teams; each team is responsible for creating a theatrical work of roughly 30 minutes in length based on a topic of their own choosing.

Transmigration 2019 offered an array of six plays that spanned the range of topics, from visions of dystopic futures where men are an endangered species or where humans survive in a Sam’s Club, to shows which are comprised of short encounters in either an airport or hotel.

A night’s program can only allow patrons to see four out of the six plays.  I went for two nights and got a chance to see the whole six play slate of theatrical offerings.  Since there were no programs for Transmigration 2019, my comments will be more general in nature.  I will point out actors if I know them from other productions I’ve seen from CCM Acting.  Each play will be discussed in alphabetical order:

After Y: In a dystopian vision of the future where women exist in a militaristic society to serve the country of Pangea, military recruit Theo stumbles onto what might be the last male in existence.  While there was some strong acting by the actors playing Theo and Remi, the ending of the play did not live up to the first half of the play.  The last man ends up in a zoo, undercutting the tension built up from the first half of the play.  Praise needs to go to Luke Holiday who did the video clips seen throughout the play.  Those high end video clips were very well done.

Do Not Disturb: A series of vignettes set in the Sleep Inn, Do Not Disturb delivered some very funny moments. There were some unexpectedly scenes in an elevator that involved flatulence what were surprising and hilarious.  I also thought it a fun conceit of the piece to have actors wear T-shirts expressing their bodily states, such as being “Naked.”  I had only two complaints about this show. One was that not all of the vignettes seemed to fit into what would happen in a hotel and the other was their description of the show.  On the list of shows, their description was so vague that I would have nixed it off my list had I been seeing only one day of Transmigration.  As with many things in life, it pays to showcase what your show is like in your show description.

The First Timers: This play occurs during the taping of a made-up PBS television show Read With Me and follows the show’s host, Humphrey Percy Ramsbottom the Puissant (James Egbert), as he goes through The First Timers, a massive tome exploring everything from the first proctologist to the first pickup artist.  By far, this was the play where I had the most fun.  Egbert was deliciously delightful as Humphrey, a man who gets progressively drunker and offensive as the show proceeds.  This is part of the reason the creators of the show gave the show a rating of a hard R for offensive content.  Apart from the narrator, the first depictions by the rest of the cast are incredibly funny and clever. They even use shadow puppets and a hand puppet for some of the vignettes.  As with After Y, the ending does not hold up to the rest of the play and I was disappointed with its ending. The show’s conceit is a strong one and I could see it being turned into a Fringe play with more development and content expansion.

“Honey, I’m Home!”: This was the one play that disturbed me the most, since the conceit of the play is that a man, played wonderfully by Jabari Carter, captures, tortures, and forces a group of people to act out his favorite 1950s situation comedy.  The intensity of the torture, as well as the fact that the audience was right next to the actors as they are being chained and beaten, made this a problematic play for me.  By the end of the play, the kidnapped cast overpower their captor and are saved, but it comes at a great cost.

The Inversion Scheme: A dystopian vision of the future where humanity huddles in a Sam’s Club for survival, The Inversion Scheme follows the last days of blind King Carter TM, played brilliantly by Carter LaCava.  As much of a meditation on the abuses of power as it is an eyewitness to the last days of a dynasty, this play takes a Shakespearean tone at the end as the mob overpowers the King and violently vies for another form of government.  While The Inversion Scheme has some good actors, such as those playing Benjamin, Zorn, and Nora, the violence at the end felt like a too convenient way to wrap up the action of the plot.

Terminal X: Like its cousin Do Not Disturb, all of the vignettes of this play take place in a non-descript airport terminal.  This show worked best when it deals with air patrons and social media/cell phones.  The scene at the beginning of the play when two men are flirting with one another through texting was strong, as was the girl fight which happens with two women who have a disagreement about Beyoncé on Facebook.  What did not work were the cheap attempts at humor, such as the homage to Home Alone.  Despite these false steps, this show showcases the humanity amidst the hustle and bustle of the airport.

Overall, this year’s Transmigration was a solid set of productions that, while they had their occasional missteps, proved entertaining and thought provoking.  They were a welcome addition to the Cincinnati theatre scene.  Unfortunately, Transmigration 2019 only lasted for three days, March 13-15, so this show has closed.  To learn more about CCM Acting and the rest of their programming for this year, visit their website at https://CCM.uc.edu/theatre/drama.html.