Cincy Fringe 2024: Something for Everyone!

Cincy Fringe 2024 is a marathon emotional roller coaster ride.

By Liz Eichler

Cincy Fringe 2024 is a marathon emotional roller coaster ride. Every one of the shows seen this week has pulled up emotions.  Some make you cry, some make you laugh. Each one has value and can build empathy and understanding of our world and the people in it. Through amazingly raw storytelling, or carefully scripted and performed choreography, each performance showcases great skills of artists, writers, designers, and directors. As the audience, we are along for the ride that is Cincy Fringe 2024.

Castaways by Liz Coley’s Silver Lining Productions

A strong piece, well performed, with plenty of laughs, yet a deeper message as it focuses on the people in memory care. Leslie Taylor stars as Ginger, Torie Pate as Mary Ann, and Zak Kelley as Tonio/Tonia in Castaways. Taylor as Ginger nails the “former star” quality and quirky glamour.  Mary Ann is her foil. The days go on and blend together, only distinguished by the food served in the cafeteria.  Ginger repeats herself, and says that she is on a deserted island, hoping for some sort of rescue. 

Many Easter eggs here for fans of the 1960’s Gilligan’s Island series. But it does go deeper. Playwright Liz Coley ensures that audiences also get confused at times, to experience the confusion of the characters. The “helpers,” Coley explains, are interchangeable, and their names are often forgotten to those with memory issues. Many of us struggle to recall the details of the TV show which aired or had syndicated reruns in our youth. Clever, Ms. Coley. Clever work, forcing the audience to delve into our memories. Again, very strong and appealing performances, well directed by Gina Kleesatel. This show will likely have more significance to anyone who has a friend or loved on in memory care, or who works there.

Cincy Fringe 2024

Singing into the Dark by Big Empty Barn Productions

A superb, extended, personal exploration of character. 

It is war time in Germany and a theatre has been bombed. “One defiant actor” connects with the wreckage of the ruins. As he discovers pieces, he recounts who they belonged to and the roles played by the various missing performers. Bremner Fletcher has a beautiful baritone with amazing range and warmth. (CDs are available to purchase or stream.)

He also has great stamina for this physical piece, dancing, moving and singing in his friend’s shoes, boa, or squeaky clown nose. Bremner impressively speaks and sings in multiple languages as well. Overall a strong show, with the last two characters very compelling. This show will appeal to Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht lovers, and may be a good companion piece to Eleanor’s Story.

Cincy Fringe 2024

Waiting for Laura by Ben and Justin Present

So well done! Tons of laughs. Audiences love it. 

Imagine if the characters in Waiting for Godot expressed all of their anxieties? The two characters, ready to interview their idol Laura Dern, sit in the waiting room. Local artists Ben Miller-Jones (Cincinnati) and Justin King (Columbus) are perfectly in sync as friends who finish sentences, yet this waiting and tension unravels them. They practice for the interview (great physical comedy) and realize they are not fully respecting each other’s choices. There is something admirable about this relationship, as they connect, know partially what each other is thinking and do verbal taffy pulling–very quick give and take. Does Laura show up? Why not get a ticket and see for yourself? 

Esther Made Me Do It by Nell Adkins and Elizabeth Sacktor

If you like Waiting for Laura, you will love Esther, and vice versa. Great energy from the actors, and again the quick verbal taffy pulling. SO FUNNY! Naomi (Nell Adkins) and Ruth (Helen Sher) are BFFs preparing for the big audition for the lead role of Esther. They are also both President and VP of their drama club. Naomi is the frenetic one, hoping for a career on Broadway. Her Anne Frank monologue is hysterically over the top and so so wrong.  Ruth will be a rabbi, like her mom, and has a more level headed approach to life, and the role of Esther.  These two have great chemistry. And the set is filled with so many special things.

This piece has legs and I hope it makes it to the Fringe Circuit, and more. Amazing performances, strong directing (Elizabeth Sacktor) and script (Atkins and Sacktor). 

Esther Made Me Do It show poster for Cincy Fringe 2024

Bloody Mary by Kelly Collette

The premise: friends play the old  “Bloody Mary” game, when you speak the name into a mirror, and expect her to show up. This time she does, and the girls take her to high school. 

Great performance by Aiden Sims as Mary, who is able to create a character arc without words. She moves from scary to like-able, and as the cast said, they wish she stays. The show also features Beasley, Alaska Stoughton, Remy Elton-Alexander, Imani Derden, Anna Hazard, Dave Powell, Brian Million, and Parker Culp. Written and Produced by stand-up comedian Kelly Collette. 

This is an interesting premise–who really is the monster or who should we really be scared of in high school–which might be interesting if extended to a full-length show. May be especially funny for anyone who played that game as a child, or recalls high school antics.

Strong Bear by Jack Fogle

This has a lot of merit, and many strong scenes.  I even teared up at the end, as the hug of a Strong Bear can replace the hug of a dead mother. Featuring Haneen Adi, Emma Sanchez, Kylie Flick, Kieran Cronin, Jack Fogle and Mathilde Normand. Written by Fogle, and directed by Fogle and Ashlyn Duggan. 

They do a good job establishing the sister’s relationships, and the bear character is well done by Sanchez. However, the pacing is very, very slow. It might be more cohesive to have a director that is not also the writer. The program does a nice job explaining the significance of the key and other Palestinian symbols and terms.  This might be a good choice for someone looking to understand Palestinian culture, or who had or has a favorite stuffed animal.

strong bear poster

Bodies by Matti McLean

Emotional, raw and endearing.

Matti McLean is a strong storyteller and relates his lifelong connection or disconnection with his body. All while he paints his semi-nude subject, and invites the audience to paint him in the final 2 minutes of the show. This different type of presentation is effective in a Fringe setting. Be prepared for some self-reflection about your own relationship with your body. Remember: Every body is a good body.

Cincy Fringe 2024

Cancel this Musical by Wesley Zurick

This team presents a timely tale of “someone is always watching.” Set in NYC, 3 roommate bros try to make it big on social media while waiting to make it big on Broadway. The questions are: do you need to be authentic, or create a high traffic persona that is way more interesting than the real you? Need you “become” binary, or “adopt” your ethnicity for more followers? Is that false narrative sustainable? 

There is something sweet about these bros. One wants someone to cuddle with, he shares in song. Two roommates discuss the third, and happily do dishes together. (Is this a fantasy?) 

The story is a struggling NYC actor who turns to social media to get big, but also is caught being rude on social media, and is “cancelled.”  There is a twist about this, involving a college student doing research and her professor which is so real. And another twist. Well, lots of unexpected twists. But expect a lot of laughs. Zurick gets 2024.

I appreciate the live music and musicians, the ballads, the harmonies and some Lin Manuel Miranda-esque rap. I’d see this one again! This piece is a lot of fun, topical and relatable.  As this piece continues to be developed, I hope all the story lines are tied up. 

Cincy Fringe 2024 My Top Pick: Last Witch in Ireland by InBocca 

Sometimes you go to a show and have no idea what to expect. This one exceeds any expectations.  Lyrical modern dance, amazing music choices, and a solid story. I was enraptured by the movement, the quirkiness of some of the characters, and the expected and unexpected music choices. (I hope they publish a playlist.) 

Bridget (Kelsey Schwarber) is a real person, who lived in Ireland in the late 1800’s. They all grow up with stories of faeries, and respect that some are dangerous, able to take over the bodies of a person. This is one of those stories. Brandi Botkin is arresting as the Changeling, she moves so well and has such an expressive face. Also in the cast are Roman-Harris Richardson, and Alexx Rouse and Kate Stark appear to share a role. Directed by Caroline Stine, this is a devised piece. That means it is written, created and crafted by the ensemble. Richly costumed (Caroline Stine), they also benefit from a dialect coach (Chaslee Schweitzer) and Intimacy Coordinator (Erin Carr). 

Last Witch in Ireland is one of my favorite Fringe pieces this year, and so rightly deserves the Encore, Saturday at 6:30 pm. Try to read the explanatory Director’s notes in the program to add more depth to the experience.

Cincy Fringe 2024

Meet Me at the Bathtub by Samantha Joy Luhn

This is the story of political radical Charlotte Corday, who assassinated the revolutionary leader Jean-Paul Marat in his bathtub. Based on a true, and well documented account, she was a passionate protector of France and vehemently disliked his politics. So she single-mindedly dedicated herself to ridding him from France, knowing it would cost her life. 

Lund is mesmerizing in her performance. The script is so interesting.  I only wish I had brushed up on my French history, since the names and the multiple roles played by Kenny Rayborn became confusing.

I love the simplicity of the white clawfoot bathtub on stage, and how it becomes so many other things. There is also a ladder, a chair and a projection screen (VERY helpful). The lighting is very effective, and plays so well on the tub, the costumes, and Lund’s red hands. Since the story is rather dramatic in itself, and Lund such a talented storyteller, perhaps it is a bit over-complicated. Perhaps they tried to fit too much into a short time frame. However, overall it is a very interesting piece, and important to know about more badass women in history. 

Cincy Fringe 2024

F Files by Solasta Theater Lab

I admire Daniela Nenova’s puppetry (the added twirl of their alien is endearing) and appreciate Erin Carr’s devised theatre skills.  This is a fun romp into the imaginary situation of two alien astronauts on their first mission to explore our planet. What follows is charming puppets, blacklight, and amazing imagination as they allow the audience to help choose where they explore–under sea or in a cave, in a desert or a rainforest, for example. They appear to sustainably transform everyday materials into imaginative props and costumes as well. This is a very Fringe-y show, which is good for all ages.

Cincy Fringe 2024: Overall to Date

Again, all of these shows have merit. If you want something light, Waiting for Laura and Esther Made Me Do It may provide the most laughs. Followed by Bloody Mary and Castaways. But read all of the LCT reviews HERE to see which show is right for you. And get your tickets to Cincy Fringe 2024 HERE. Cincy Fringe 2024 continues through June 15.

A new Calendar for everything onstage from LCT’s member theatres.

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