June is one of this reviewer’s favorite months. Why, you might ask? One very important reason for it is: ‘tis Fringemas!!! (It’s okay – we Jews can celebrate it, too. It’s non-secular.) The Cincinnati Fringe Festival 2023 is upon us – and this year marks the 20th anniversary of our own little off-the-beaten-path theatrical celebration. No need to buy china or platinum or emeralds for this anniversary, however. Just come out and play!
Reviews of Cincy Fringe 2023:Julie, 1nce Upon a Lie, Rappings, The Highway Woman, The Rembrandt Job, UDFCC and RUH-Roh
Julie by coyote & co creative studio
The life and times of Julie d’Aubigny…or are they? This is the question Lisa DeRoberts, the brains behind this production, decides to tackle in this uproariously entertaining tale. For those who may not now, Julie d’Aubigny aka Madamoiselle Maupin was a person who became a particular point of interest to French society as they began to re-examine gender roles circa the 17th century. Directed expertly by Lauren Carr (#hitbyacarr), this non-stomp romp definitely lives up to its R-rating – and for all the right reasons. Ms. Carr does not make her job easy on herself with the tech-heavy offering, but she does to her work to ensure things are executed beautifully.
Starring Ms. DeRoberts as the titular role, the cast also includes Abi Esmena, Hannah Levin, Andrew Maloney, Dan Robertson, and R DeAndre Smith who all play multiple roles. Mr. Robertson in particular gives us some strong and endearing characterizations throughout the action-packed, fast-paced caper. Themes include comedy, LBGTIA+, and swords. Throw in some pop culture throwbacks and you have yourself a delightful time at the theatre.
REMAINING PERFORMANCES of Julie: 6/6 at 6:45pm; 6/11 at 8:30pm; and 6/14 at 6:45pm at Know Theatre Main Stage.
1nce Upon A Lie by Paul Strickland
Fringe veteran and master storyteller Paul Strickland is back with some new – and old! – stories to share. What makes Mr. Strickland a master storyteller, you might be wondering? His riveting voice (both in speaking and singing), his uncanny ability to make one hang on his every word, his top-notch humour, and his ability to communicate an important lesson without being hifalutin. Best of all, Mr. Strickland is simply an affable person and one finds themselves not only wanting to listen, but needing to hear him. This go-round, he takes us on another journey to and from his old stomping grounds and relays the lessons he learns from – you guessed it – Aint True and Uncle False.
From classic faerie tales with a trailer park spin to the value of memories, one will leave Mr. Strickland’s safe space with a smile on their face and in their heart. Whether you have been a fan of this troubadour before or are new to his ways, this particular presentation is a must-see.
REMAINING PERFORMANCES: 6/10 at 2:30pm; 6/11 at 8:45pm; 6/13 at 7pm; and 6/16 at 7pm in Rm 204 at Art Academy of Cincinnati.
Rappings by InBocca Performance
It’s no surprise this reviewer chose to wrap her first day of Fringe with spookiness. For those who may not know the background, the Fox sisters were three important pioneers in the creation of Spiritualism (the belief that one’s awareness continues after death and can be communicated with the living). They were unfortunately exposed as frauds by their own confession, but tried to recant said confession some time later.
Director Caroline Stine takes us on a somewhat alternative road in telling the sisters’ story by leaning toward treating the women as if they were indeed mediums with a gift rarely explored or discussed in the 19th century. Featuring the talents of Kelsey Schwarber, Brandi Botkin, Ashley Olivia Morton, Katie Scarlett, and Derek Snow, this movement-heavy display is haunting and thought-provoking.
REMAINING PERFORMANCES: 6/7 at 6:45pm; 6/10 at 4pm; and 6/16 at 8:30pm at Know Theatre Main Stage.
The Highway Woman by Hannah Gregory
My first show of my second day of Fringe-ing led me to this origin story of Katherine Ferrers, aka the “Wicked Lady” highwaywomen who reportedly terrorized the English county of Hertfordshire in the 17th century before dying during a robbery. Director A.J. Baldwin has put together a strong cast of performers with Brianna Miller as the title character (who goes by Kat); Danitza Piper as the Wicked Lady’s faithful servant, Cordelia; Jared Earland as Kat’s dear friend, Tomas “Tam” Fanshawe; and Dylan Shelton
(who does some of the best dialects I’ve ever heard in my life!) and Ellyn Broderick as Players 1 and 2, respectively. Ms. Gregory cites themes of renaissance and platonic love for this frolic and this reviewer found the latter one of the very best parts. Both the words written and the performances executed showing how deep and important platonic love can be are to be applauded. There are humourous punctuations throughout the show along with some lovely stage pictures and emotionally charged moments.
One teeny point of contention: it would have been a good idea for the characters to pronounce Kat’s surname properly given that this is based on the life of an actual person. However, I often say if we get to nitpicking, you’re doing something right. From beautiful costumes (and smart costume change choices) to heart-warming relationships to action and adventure, The Highway Woman has a very wide appeal.
REMAINING PERFORMANCES: 6/6 at 8:45pm; 6/8 at 7pm; 6/9 at 8:45pm; and 6/14 at 7pm at Gabriel’s Corner.
The Rembrandt Job by The Clifton Players
This story is true – wait, really? Like they say, you can’t write this stuff – but write it Kevin Crowley did! Without falling prey to spoilers for those who may not know the entire story, The Rembrandt Jobtells us the tale of a bungled painting heist from the Taft Museum of Art. Throw in a couple of green thieves, a sweet and wholesome museum committee chairman, a smarmy con man with a surprising soft spot, all introduced to us by Rembrandt’s “Portrait of an Old Woman”? You’ve got a winner, baby!
Director Carol Brammer takes us back to the simpler times of December 1973 and has chosen a cast worth the price of admission several times over. Boasting the talents of Dale Hodges (yes, THE Dale Hodges), Evan Beckmeyer, Jack Kremer, Grant Zentmeyer, Michael G. Bath, Clint Bramkamp, and the incomparable Paul Morris, In addition to spinning a tale creatively, the script is filled with references to areas of our great city which will make you smile as you realize some things haven’t changed.
Mr. Crowley is a sharp writer with a quick wit and the actor’s do his material proud. While a special shout-out to the charming chemistry between Mr. Bramkamp and Mr. Morris is due, this is a true ensemble piece and should draw interest from those who love a taste of local history mixed with humor.
REMAINING PERFORMANCES: 6/6 at 7pm; 6/8 at 8:45pm; and 6/11 at 7pm at Gabriel’s Corner. Reviewer’s Note: Get your tickets for this one quickly as rumor has it tickets are going fast!
UDFCC (Unambiguously Destructive Family Crushes Community) by The Pajama Playhouse
Falling under the themes of political and experimental – oh, and did I mention puppets? – UDFCC is what most people who have never been to a Fringe might expect from a Fringe. Rife with political statements and avant-garde expression, a trio of unnamed players (no program or Facebook posting to name the actors, so my apologies) lead the audience through an unconventional journey to bring attention to and try to create change in a world where corporations do despicable things. The world in question? Cincinnati, OH.
UDFCC employs absurdism techniques to draw attention to issues seemingly ignored. From sports to finance to ice cream (no, NOT ice cream!), the well seems all-around poisoned. Are we doing too little – or is starting small better than not starting at all?
REMAINING PERFORMANCES: 6/10 at 2:30pm; 6/11 at 8:45pm; and 6/15 at 8:45pm at Gabriel’s Corner.
RUH-Roh! by Queen City Flash
Director Bridget Leak skillfully takes on the third and final (boo!) installment of the adventures of Nolan Blackwell, our favourite teen sleuth girl detective. (NOTE: You do NOT need to have seen the first two installments in order to enjoy this one.)
RUH-ROH! from Queen City Flash of Cincinnati, OH (Photo by Paul Kerford WilsoN)
Starring playwright Trey Tatum and Jordan Trovillion as the best meddlesome duo ever to grace the stage, RUH-Roh! allows us to go on one more mystery-laden adventure with Nolan and her trusty hound by her side. Accented by resourceful use of audience participation, Mr. Tatum and Ms. Trovillion lead us through a perfectly-paced trip all over the play space and through the fictional town of Mars Majestic. But as usual, there are surprises and mysteries within the mystery we initially think we are going to pursue. Use of space and light and quickly placed props only add to the already excellent story.
This is certainly a mystery this reviewer does not wish to spoil, so forgive the brevity of its description. However, I will absolutely add here that this is (thus far) the one show I would encourage attendees not to miss. In addition, while you do not “need” to experience the first two installments (2019’s ZOiNKS! and 2022’s JiNKiES!), I would be remiss if I didn’t urge you to check out those stories through their podcast adaptations.
REMAINING PERFORMANCES: 6/7 at 8:45pm; 6/10 at 4:15pm; and 6/16 at 8:45pm at Gabriel’s Corner. Reviewer’s Note: Get your tickets for this one quickly as QCF shows sell out more often than not!
For More Cincy Fringe 2023 Information
Fringe expert? First-time Fringer? Somewhere in between? We’ve got you covered! Please visit https://cincyfringe.com/ for info, ticket links, a guidebook, and all sort of valuable resources. And be sure to keep reading our reviews for some inside information on if a show might be a good fit for you!