This is easily the best Cincinnati Fringe Festival to date. There were more outstanding shows that I have seen in previous years, and the quality has been shockingly even. I say this, having attended every festival to date.
But though there were many shows to love, we arrived at our choice for Critics’ Pick with little disucssion.
Our pick is Empire of Feathers by Giant Bird.
This phantasmagoric trek starts in a world akin to Dr. Suess’, but veers into territory more suited to Howard Zinn. It is a work of the imagination, rendered with guerilla theatre aplomb by a trio of talented performers.
In talking with many theatre professionals, critics, and other folks whose opinions that I respect, there clearly several contenders for the best shows of the festival. And, frankly, based on the reviews in the press here, Conveyor seems to be in the minority on this pick. Ultimately, any of ten shows would be worthy honors recipients.
What pushed Empire of Feathers over the top for us is that it exemplifies our aestethic of Fringe, if you will. It is a story well-told with stylistic flair. The no-budget production turns a bombed out storefront into a lush world of lost birds and improbably skyscrapers. It has stylistic and thematic consistency, and while it makes a political argument, it never becomes pedantic.
Is it a perfect show? No. There are sections that could be tightened, and the sudden end packs emotional impact but left the action hard to follow.
But that said, to our mind, no other show exemplifes both quality theatrical production and the ideals of fringe quite as well as Empire of Feathers.