FRINGE ’22 DAY 1: June 4
By Liz Eichler –
Woohoo! Fringe is back! This two-week Festival of creativity, storytelling and connection of various Cincinnati arts communities has returned–LIVE!
The one thing you can guarantee at the Fringe, is that you will be moved in some way. Moved by witnessing creativity, by witnessing risk taking, by expanding empathy as you listen to personal stories, and moved by laughter–I mean huge belly laughs. On Day One Fringe has already fulfilled these promises.
This series of blogs by three LCT reviewers may help you decide 1) what to see and 2) to go see it! Seriously, if you have not been to the Fringe, do it. If you had an ounce of creativity in your past and you want to reconnect with it, then run to the Fringe.
How does one Fringe? Go to https://cincyfringe.com/ to explore the schedule and shows, and then get your tickets. The Fringe Flex Pass gives you 6 shows or explore the other options best for you on the Fringe website.
These are the shows seen on Day One:
THE BARN IDENTITY by Erika Kate MacDonald: Highly recommended.
Highly anticipated, “The Barn Identity” by Erika Kate McDonald and featuring music by Paul Strickland, did not disappoint. These masterful storytellers provide a seamless journey. Award-winners both as a couple and individually, they are pros in the Fringe Circuit, highly accomplished and polished in theme, content, music and movement. This is about “falling down barns” like those you would see on the side of a road, but of course, this is also a metaphor. Erika shares her personal journey, of a time when she needed support, like a barn needing shoring up.
Not only is she a skillful writer, but as a performer she breathes life into a the simplicity of the piece. She’s playful. Whimsical. Spunky. She uses the dimensions of sound with purpose. At times she speaks on the stage, at times she uses a mic, at times she sings, at times she uses repetition. This elevates her storytelling into art. Paul accompanies her, punctuating her poetry with music.
“The Barn Identity” has set the bar(n) high. You can’t miss with this one.
JINKIES! by Queen City Flash: Highly recommended.
What fun! How interactive! Such precision! So much is concentrated into 50 minutes you may want to see it twice. Building upon their 2019 Fringe hit, Trey Tatum and Bridget Leak have returned with Jordan Trovillion as the girl detective and her dog.
You see, the reason she can go into haunted houses and chase mysteries with ease and confidence is 1) she’s got a great dog next to her and 2) her own home life is much worse. With that sad reality we take off on an adventure. WE is literal—the audience is called upon to read lines and be other characters in the story, some are even more participatory. Again, clever, fast-paced and super fun. This team uses their flashlights and audience cue cards so adeptly. Kudos for the lighting effects, including the colored gel filter embedded in a cue card. Wow, genius!
Interestingly if you see it and “The Barn Identity,” this is two shows addressing falling down structures and abandonment, but in two very different ways. This exciting show is more than just frenetic energy. Leak and Tatum have written a character and story you connect with, that has an element of the familiar, and Trovillion does a great job with it.
TEXAS ANNIE by Jennifer Howd and Maggie Perrino: Highly recommended for mature audiences.
Hysterical! The premise: sex toys are outlawed in Texas, but Annie, the Moan Ranger, will deliver them. This show has been in development for 3 years, according to sources Jack Crumley and Maggie Perrino. Originally conceived as a movie, what we are seeing is a shortened version of the script, and I for one will definitely buy a ticket to a full-length production. (Yes, they also have an interesting use of a flashlight, very different from the JINKIES! team.)
This is a cast of 10 and a full musical, with choreography, costumes, lighting and great casting, in the style of “Bat Boy”, “Urinetown”, or John Waters. All of the actors have standout moments. Chloe Price, Royce Louden, Matt Kreig, Martha Slater, Matthew Nassida, Justin Glaser, Hope Pauley and Katrina Reynolds have so much fun it is contagious. Hattie Clark slides into her role as Texas Annie the Moan Ranger with ease, and Lydia Noll (who looks like Liv Tyler) has quite the transformation.
The audience’s laughter did drown out some lyrics, but the action is quite clear. Best to take your friends to this show, maybe not mom or dad.
BARRED FROM HEAVEN, BANNED FROM HELL by Sean Mette
Sean Mette has been responsible for some great shows in the past, and that is why it was my Day One choice. The premise for this representational play: four immortals are invited to a meeting upon a ghost ship, where Death gives them an opportunity to vote one of them to end their immortality. These people have done things in their extraordinarily long lives that have gotten them barred from heaven and banned from hell–such as heckling Jesus on the road to Calvary. So they stay on earth, witnessing or meddling in a lot of history.
Maggie Lou Rader’s performance as Bailey makes this one to watch. It is a good concept, but a lot is going on in a short time and these are characters that are hard to root for (which is the premise). Featuring Lauren Carr who has a lot of fun playing businessman Joseph, Samantha Luhn as Pyotr, Katie Scarlett as sailor Senta, and Emmy Rice as Jackie.
THE REAL BLACK SWANN, CONFESSIONS OF AMERICA’S FIRST BLACK DRAG QUEEN by Les Kurkendaal-Barrett
Labeled as historical, this was not what I expected. The artist explains it was not what he expected either, as there is scant source material for this important piece of history. That forced him to weave together the history and his own truth. This is the story of William Dorsey Swann, a drag queen born into slavery in Maryland who became the first black activist. The presenter spins Swann’s story and his own as he discovers the activist inside him. Les explains so well the bubble some of us escape to, as we try to ignore the news of the day. Yet some of that news is personal, and he explains it so well as a black man in America. A moving story, well delivered, with good structure.
Those five were just Day One, and most run until June 17, but consult the Fringe Guide for exact dates and times. A few of the many shows I am looking forward to this week: “Sexy, Sexy Mattresses” (what a premise!), “Wuthering” (already heard great things, looks like a very polished short version of potentially a full length show?) “Hedy” (we need to hear more that beautiful women can be smart!) and “Changing My Major to Joan” (love connections with Joan of Arc).