The biggest summer party is here–Cincinnati Fringe Festival! This is the 20th Year! Every June for two weeks Cincinnatians and beyond can experience some of the best grassroots theatre out there.
Ariel’s Reviews! Here’s my response to: Heart Ripped Out Twice and So Can You, Gentrification: The Musical, The Highway Woman, Rappings and Spank Bank Time Machine.
Heart Ripped Out Twice and So Can You!
by Linnea Bond
This solo comedy by Linnea Bond examines the ups and downs of life and what it means to exist as a human. Through the lens of a comical sales representative from Bardo, Bond weaves together a show of pain, heartbreak, and love.
After going into this show completely blind (one of the best ways to experience theatre in my opinion) I can confidently say that this performance truly speaks for itself. Words can’t begin to describe the vulnerability Bond displays as she unpacks dealing with a major heartbreak while simultaneously healing from open heart surgery.
What really moved me with this Fringe show was the way Bond slowly pulls the curtain back on America as a whole. She shows audiences that there is no such thing as ‘stability’ in a country where the main driver is capitalism. She takes it a step further highlighting how in the end, privilege will not be enough to save you from the fragility that is life in America.
Bottom Line: Life may feel uncertain, but you find a reason to keep going. For anyone who’s been knocked three pegs back by life, this is the show for you. Recommended.
Gentrification: The Musical
by Doin’ Too Much Productions
Gentrification: The Musical was a show I was looking forward to catching this Fringe season. Written by Dan Zimmer with direction by Tatiana Godfrey of Doin’ Too Much Productions, this musical follows a multitude (played by Aiden Sims) as they grapple with the gentrification of a local neighborhood.
The Urban Committee Department Consortium or UCDC (not to be confused with 3CDC… *wink* *wink*) is slowly taking over her city and suddenly things start to rapidly change. Featuring Sims and Brantley Goodrich playing a slew of characters, this show comically explores how gentrification often leads to the exclusion of the neighborhood’s most vulnerable populations. Meanwhile wealthy outsiders take over, in the name of “neighborhood revitalization”.
Bottom Line: Godfrey’s direction allows space for Sims and Goodrich to lean into their characters while having fun on stage. Zimmer’s catchy lyrics and Sondheim-ian music are paired with the unforgettable performances from Sims and Goodrich. This is a musical you don’t want to miss.
The Highway Woman
by Hannah Gregory
The Highway Woman written by Hannah Gregory is a quirky show featuring love, friendship, and over the top camp. Starring Brianna Miller as Katherine, Danitza Piper as Cordelia, Jared Earland as Thomas “Tam” Fanshawe, Dylan Shelton and Ellyn Broderick as Player 1 and 2 respectively with Haneen Adi as the understudy. Set in the 1640s of Hertfordshire, England, this plot follows Katherine as she tries to find her place in the world.
Watching from the audience, I was amused with the emphasis on physical comedy throughout the show. Each of the actors do a wonderful job playing off of one another and keep the momentum of energy going. A.J. Baldwin’s direction feels clear and concise throughout the entire performance. It’s evident that Baldwin directed this cast with great care and intention. Though it’s not explicitly stated, there are moments of queer undertones that I greatly appreciate.
Bottom Line: The Highway Woman speaks to how relationships as a whole aren’t as black and white as we like to think.
Rappings, A Story of the Fox Sisters
This gothic play by InBocca Performance features direction by Caroline Stine. It introduces Fringe audiences to the Fox sisters – Catherine/”Kate” (Kelsey Schwarber), Margret (Brandi Botkin), and Leah (Ashley Olivia Morton); 3 siblings who each possess the gift of communicating with spirits of the great beyond. Overall, this show speaks to how women of the era weren’t afforded the autonomy to exist as their whole selves. Set during the rise of Spiritualism in America, The Fox sisters utilize their talents to perform séances all over the country including Cincinnati.
Many interpret what these women were doing as a scam. Whether there’s truth in that or not, what should be reflected on is how The Fox Sisters came into their own autonomy during their reign. Through Stine’s brilliant direction, the actors lead with intention and commitment to the work. By the end, Rappings shows how sometimes you don’t know the entire story. Furthermore, it highlights the ways in which witchcraft greatly mirrors the autonomy and freedom that many women long for.
Bottom Line: If you find yourself in the mood for a gothic supernatural show featuring devised dance and movement, please consider Rappings from InBocca Performance!
Spank Bank Time Machine
by John Michael
Up next on the docket is Spank Bank Time Machine by John Michael with direction by Sammy Zeisel and Mike Carionaccio featuring writings from Christopher Colgin. This very much R-rated comedy sees John Michael coming to terms with the passing of his friends all resulting from an fentanyl overdose.
Many may interpret this show as being “a lot” but I see it as a show that’s needed, quite frankly. Overdoses are something that’s not talked about. Due to the stigma of drug usage, an overdose is read as a moral failure. The moment that someone is found to be using “hard” drugs, they are excommunicated from society. People drink, people smoke cigarettes, people smoke marijuana but the moment someone snorts coke or inject drugs they are *immediately* regarded as being unworthy of love and compassion.
People who use drugs aren’t a moral failure. They deserve compassion and love just like everyone else. Creator John Michael, whether he knows it or not, has created a space to pull back the curtain on what it means to truly show up for your fellow humans.
What really spoke to me as I watched from the audience, was the in show narcan demonstration. For those who may not know, Narcan is a nasal medication used to reverse an opioid overdose, it’s always important to have it nearby if you have people in your life who use drugs.
SPECIAL NOTE:More info on how to access Narcan can be found here.
Bottom Line: Spank Bank Time Machine is not only a comedy but it’s a show that’s breaking the stigma. It shows that everyone is deserving of love and compassion. People, see this funny but powerful one-person show.
Ariel’s Reviews: More Reviews to Come!
Fringe Festival is ultimately a celebration of new theatrical works where you’ll experience a roller coaster of cathartic emotions. The artists and their artistry should be celebrated. Happy Fringing!