Over-the-Rhine

Day 4: The Gayer Show

May
31

Well, here's a show that doesn't need any marketing help. The Gayer Show sold out its first performance... on a Saturday afternoon... on the second floor of a gay club. So, yes, this is probably going to sell out. Get your tickets now, if you want to see it.

You know, these guys deserve their success. They've been at Fringe repeatedly over the years, and the show is funny and closely observed. Even though it's highly personal, you'll probably find something to relate to. I certainly did (and, yes, I'm straight).

One thing that I would like to see, here, though. When Dan recited a quote from the Apostle Paul, illustrating a time when scriptures were used to belittle him and his sexuality, his performance took on real electricity. However, the duo spends much of the show reading their material. It's not a devastating flaw, but this show has potential that could be realized by committing the material to memory and dramatizing it

With that said, there is a spirit of good will in the air at this show that you don't normally get at theater.

Posted By shawn read more

Day 3 Continued: It Might Be OK

May
31

Seeing It Might Be OK immediately after Painted drew my attention to some obvious similarities between the shows:

  • Personal stories that are positioned as being from the actors, focusing on moments of personal challenge and/or pain.
  • Collegiate age performers, many of whom I have seen onstage at CCM.
  • Visually arresting images throughout.

While Painted definitely had elements to recommend it, It Might Be OK is one of the shows of the festival for me. Why?

It finds a style, a language of its own in the combination of pop songs and dances to create a topology of twenty-something psychology. There is a much a greater variety of personal stories, and It Might Be OK doesn't attempt to create easy parallels between these personal experience and society-wide tragedies.

And, of course, the umbrella sequence is the most visually arresting image that I've seen this festival so far.

It's reare to see a show with a cast this big maintain their energy throughout a full show--It Might Be OK is a great example of a fringe show that's successful on every level that it attempts.

Posted By shawn read more

Day 3 Continued: Painted

May
31

Painted is one of the most visually arresting shows that you'll see this festival, as it revolves around several performers dressed in all white as they mark themselves and each other with finger paint. The point is the pain that we inflict and that is inflicted upon each other.

The show is striking but I wanted more--the personal stories in the early part of the show pretty quickly gave way to more universal moments like the assassination of JFK, the Kent State tragedy, etc., and these elements felt tacked on. The show is about 35 minutes all told, so there was definitely room for more material. (The festival program suggested 50 minutes, so there has been some cutting here or something.)

There are some strengths here. I'd love to see a future iteration of it.

Posted By shawn read more

Day 3: No Stranger than Home

May
31

I've been using the phrase "review-proof" a bit throughout this festival, and No Strange than Home definitely fits that bill.

The show is made up of 10 closely observed stroies of travel abroad. There's little to no theatrical artific--in fact, the writer/performer is telling these stories directly from her perspective, in her words, as herself. (This is something that I can say with some certitude, since I met the performer, Katherine Glover, at a festival afterparty early in the festival. This would suggest to wouldbe "real" reviewers--don't go to the afterparties, unless you really want to have your takes colored by your interactions with the artists.)

The bigger question from a review perspective is: how do you review a show this personal? Aren't you really reviewing the performer's personality?

At any rate, the show suffered from the lousy attendance. The room at the Art Academy was sparsely populated with people, and I was the only one laughing at the jokes. You could feel the energy seeping out the room. If you go, sit in front. I know it's a classroom, but it will be a better experience.

Posted By shawn read more

Day 2 Continued: The Terrorism of Everyday Life

May
30

It's kind of nice to know that you have no influence over the attendance of a show. Ed Hammell (AKA Hammell on Trial) has his own following, has a show that generates its own word of mouth, and pretty much has it going on.

This is a brassy, loud, in-your-face show, an anarchist tour de force, balanced on perfectly between the glee in the simple pleasures (sex, drugs, and rock and roll) and the sadness and anger that everyday life brings.

If you're not easily offended, find a way to scam a ticket and go.

Posted By shawn read more

Day 2 Continued: Incredulity

May
30

Incredulity is an improv show, which means prospective audience members fall into one of three categories:

 

  • People who hate improv. These people should stay away.
  • People who love improv. These people should see it--may be more than once.
  • Everyone else. These people should take note that the show is only 40 minutes and give it a shot if it fits into their Fringe schedules.

 

I'm in the third category. I have a fairly limited experience with improv, but it passed the main tests: I laughed pretty consistently, and I laughed really hard three times.

Posted By shawn read more

Day 2: Cemetery Golf

May
30

I started Thursday at Cemetery Golf, the first of the solo shows that I've seen.

If Fringe shows in general are difficult to review, solo shows are even harder since they tend to focus very tightly on one person's experience. I really liked Cemetary Golf--but then my experience is close to the writer/performer, in that we both grew up evangelical in small towns. So, it likely shouldn't be a surprise that I liked the production more than most of my group.

One thing that we did all agree on is that the performer/writer Jim Loucks nailed the characterizations. The script has plenty of humor in it, but it's not set up to mock the religious character, even if Loucks doesn't share their faith (and doesn't expect you to either).

You'll see many over-the-top shows at Fringe. This isn't one of them. You should see it anyway.

Posted By shawn read more

Day 1 Continued: Empire of Feathers

May
28

It's difficult to "review"Empire of Feathers, in that it's exactly what you go to Fringe to see: aggressively experiemental work that pushes the boundaries of theatre and of conventional thinking.

Although it starts out with the actors talking to the audience, once the action starts, the play has a relatively linear narrative. Of course, advancing that narrative involves projecting images on the ceiling and behind the audience, the use of old toys and found objects, and some pretty catchy songs, and other performance tricks.

The tone? Think Dr. Suess crossed with Howard Zinn. It's not for children, but they do a commendable job balancing the subject matter with the tone.Maybe they take the twist too far at the end...but you'd have to see it for yourself to make up your own mind about that.

My prediction for this show: it may or may not win any Festival prizes, but it will one of the most talked about of the Festival. 

Posted By shawn read more

Picking Fringe With a Blindfold

May
27

Before the festival starts it is very difficult to know what are going to be the stand out shows. You can base it on buzz, on prior success, on reputation, or you could just be a fool and trust me. In case you're a fool, here are my Pre-Fringe must see shows (in no order):

1. April Fools
2. 7 (x1) Samurai
3. The 4 Food Groups
4. Guns and Chickens
5. Body Language II: PHYS. ED.
6. Brother Bailey's Pageant of Moral Superiority and Creation Science Jamboree

I have to admit that the 6th choice, the longest titled production of the year, was picked because of the title. Anytime you can poke some fun at a strange group, it is worth seeing.

Posted By briangriffin read more

Fringe Review: 4 Food Groups

Jun
01

I like food. I like sex. "4 Food Groups" by Pones, Inc. puts love and sex into a four sided box and spits water on it and chews very slowly....and....

OK, sorry, back to the review.

Sex is the topic and it gets a full and very daring treatment. Motion and elements of performance art mix in with this non-narrative piece that shows the contrasts we have within ourselves about our lovers and those we hope become our lovers.

The cast totally committed to the concept and went all the way with physical elements of the production. This is very non-traditional and includes many elements that intentionally keep the audience off kilter.

I was, however, left wanting more textual elements, more dialog to augment the physical displays. I also needed something to close out the piece other than the final textual portions that didn't fit well with the rest of the show.

Posted By briangriffin read more

Fringe Review: Gravesongs

Jun
02

"DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so, " (John Donne)

Death affects the living. We really don’t know how death affects those who have died. Graveyards are places often seen as scary or terrifying places. They are places of rest and of peace and of quiet. They also contain people’s stories. “Gravesongs” from Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati is a touching play written brilliantly by Sarah Underwood that explores the stories of the dead and the family/friends around them. It touches your sentimental side, but it goes deeper. It makes you laugh, it makes you angry, it makes you question, but it brings some peace.

From top to bottom this production is high quality. The ETC Intern Company is very talented and have great backing from their parent company.

Posted By briangriffin read more

Fringe Review: 7 (x1) Samurai

Jun
02

Fringe festivals are the perfect events that give productions like "7(x1) Samurai" a chance to shine and be appreciated. David Gains out does everyone in the audience with his energy and focus. He can stop on a dime with one character and slip into another without dropping a beat. He is as humors a Buster Keaton movie, but is as Graceful as Gene Kelly playing the Road Runner.

This show was a near sellout on opening night and at the second performance added 50 seats to the original 75 seat set up.

Get your tickets now. The demand from artists alone is going to keep each show full. If you go, prepare to be amazed.

Posted By briangriffin read more

Fringe Review: Villainy

Jun
01

Surprises abound with "Villainy" from This Ain't Real Theatre Company. I went into seeing a show based on Shakespeare with much fear and trepidation. How would that work for Fringe? Well, it does work by turning the bard on his ear, and poking a few holes into Willie Shakes' most famous bad guys.

The show was clever. That doesn't always work in Theatre, but it did here. The mixing of the many plays, taken apart in different forms is well done. I was very impressed by both the video segments with a teenager living out Othello via World of War Craft, and with the group therapy session for Villains. Neither will end well for someone.

The piece is old school Shakespeare, but is modern. There's a little bit of Jerry Sringer to it all. Some might say Shakespeare was at times the Jerry Springe of his age. The violence, death, and family quarrels all put on stages for crowds to cheer and boo with great earnest. I cheer for this production and welcome Shakespeare back to Fringe.

Posted By briangriffin read more

Fringe Review: Guns and Chickens

Jun
01
Photo by Daniel Smyth Photo by Daniel Smyth Two Fables are better than one. In "Guns and Chickens" a tornado strikes a farm. The Chicken runs off and ponders the road. At the same time Peter, the son of the farmer, heads to the city to earn the money to rebuild the farm. Both find the approach to the road they are on may not be the way

Motion fills the stage as the city comes alive for Peter. The cast is from CCM and use motion, as directed by k. Jenny Jones, very effectively to depict cars, horse races, and a jail cell.

The stand out performance goes to Sara Beth Tew as Chicken. She transforms herself physically without a costume into a chicken, but avoided the cliche.

The narrative of Peter's story was clear, but the connection to Chicken's path was not as strong. The clever motion, warm performances over come the flaws to make this a good production.
Posted By briangriffin read more

Fringe Review: It Might Be OK

May
31
Photo by Scott Beseler Photo by Scott Beseler "Here we are now, entertain us..."

This line from the iconic Nirvana song leads into the overarching tone of "It Might Be OK" from Gobi Theatre. Generation Y has inherited the life set forth by 7 generations. They are carrying forward that which they were born into. They are now here and are trying to understand the conflicts built into life and the troubles and joys that come with it.

Julianna Bloodgood has done a magnificent job as facilitator/director leading a wonderful group of CCM students into a movement/dance centered production that digs into the depths of humanity from the perspective of 20-somethings. The tone of the piece is not one of anger, more of acceptance. They seek to understand what has come before. The seek to feel what it must have felt like "the day the music died." They also are setting down their own markers. They are no longer children, they are adults and seek to take up the mantle of adulthood. They are filled with positive energy, but at the same time humility.

The entire cast is solid and really worked as a unit. There is no star, there is a team of actors and it shows. The props and style say a lot on many levels, but are subtle. It is fun, solemn, angry, joyous and was a total pleasure to watch.
Posted By briangriffin read more

Fringe Review: Painted

May
31

One of the most unique concepts of Fringe so far is the use of paint in "Painted." Paint is used as the literal illustration of both emotion and the physical. Green on the forehead is the green hat worn by a child. Red is violence.

"Painted" uses personal experiences and historical references as the means to express the content of the show. Every actor begins as a blank canvass and then is painted with life experiences.

The visualization put forth was very good, but the script did not blend well with the structure. Too much was forced into the text. The actors all did a good job working inside the structure. The rape sequence was the most effective in blending the paint and the context. It was a real time situation, as horrible as it was. The rest of the segments seemed to focus on memories. If the memories would have been acted out, I think this show would have been more successful.

Posted By briangriffin read more

Fringe Reivew: No Stranger Than Home

May
31

Are we all tourists? Katherine Glover's "No Stranger Than Home" has a travelogue vibe, but is really asking what cultural identity means. Where are you from?

Am I from from Cincinnati? Am I from New York State? Am I from England/Ireland/Panama as my ethnicity would suggest?

I enjoyed the varied stories about life in Central America, Germany, and the states. I would have enjoyed it more if the show would have focused on one place or a single contrast of two places. With more of a focus, the humor would have been at the core of the show and been a better foil to he commentary on culture.

Posted By briangriffin read more

Fringe Review: The Terrorism of Everyday Life

May
29

I am a terrorist. I got that impression from “Terrorism of Everyday Life” by Ed Hammell. If you think like Ed, you must be a terrorist. Rock infused humor drills from the 70 year old guitar with the massive hole in it. I here the Clash pre-show and I am hooked. I was floored by the slide acoustic ripping at the end. I was laughing at the “Pussy” song.

The politics do more than lean left, they fall of the left cliff. If you are an easily offended Republican, please go. There is nothing here that will offend you. Trust me.

Ed Hammell is a rough upstate New Yorker who has lived life hard and survived to tell you about it. Music has been his life focus, but laughter is his best message. His off the cuff jokes are almost as good as his songs. He’ll get you shouting “Fuck It” and you will not mind if the kids hear it.

Posted By briangriffin read more

Fringe Review: Incredulity

May
29

Talking Rabbits

William Shatner still getting women

Octomom

Texting while driving with your knees

Exposing yourself

Dick Cheney is not dead

Those were the topics provided by the audience at “Incredulity”. In the spirit of the improv show, I am going do an improv review.

So, these two talking rabbits walk into a bar. One says to the other…

Okay, now is the point where I need to change topics. Is it really fair to do an improv review? It is like you have to just write down everything you are thinking and not change a word. Like, not even a bad spelling mistake. So, just so everyone is aware, I will be improving all of my reviews for the entire festival. When ever you see spelling errors, you have just witnessed an imporv… yes I am sticking with this. If you don’t like it, you can kiss my pasty white…

Anyway, I had fun at Incredulity. It’s going to change every night, so see it twice.

Posted By briangriffin read more

Fringe Review: Empire of Feathers

May
28

Hope in the face of never ending war, bigotry, and ignorance is the quill that stuck with me after "Empire of Feathers" from Giant Bird. Experimental theatre gives each audience member the chance to take away something unique. I took away many wonderful things: fun musical whimsy, quaintly charming props robbed from a child's play room, and great physical humor.

In a journey to the Land of Mond we meet Ball Manhattan (Ryan Underbakke) who enlists the help of Lucey Fair (Seiriol Davies) and Rifle Lancaster (Karim Muasher) to help find the Red Sylvester. Through clever use of a slide projector, self-lit staging, and a wicked child's tape recorder, that journey is fun, fast paced and fantastical. It has a storybook sense, but an adult point of view. It is brings to mind a fable of old lore, but the subject is modern and pulled from today’s world without regret.

The stand out performance goes to Seiriol Davies who encompasses the show with his dainty character. His Tim Curry voice set the tone of the production, which invokes a European sense, if not outright style. Each of the three actors complemented each other both vocally and physically. The simple staging fit right into the unfinished space, complete with plenty of construction dust.

Aesop wrote "It is not only fine feathers that make fine birds." The great storyteller was right, it takes three fine actors to make Feathers a smashing success.

Posted By briangriffin read more

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Over-the-Rhine