Cincy Fringe Festival 2023: Alan’s Reviews

Alan Jozwiak and Cincy Fringe Reviews 2023

Reviewed by Alan Jozwiak

Sunday was my first day at the Cincy Fringe 2023. These four reviews include two musicals and one magic show. All reflect a promising start to any Fringe 2023 experience.

Continue reading for my responses to:

  • Heart Ripped Out Twice and So Can You!
  • Magic for Animals
  • One Last Night with Mary MacLane
  • Gentrification: The Musical!

Cincy Fringe Review 2023: Heart Ripped Out Twice and So Can You!

by Linnea Bond of Philadelphia, PA

In this solo show, Linnea Bond recounts the horrifying discovery of two tumors (one in her brain and the other behind her heart), the multiple surgeries to extract each tumor, and breaking up with her boyfriend amidst the surgeries.  This is a lot to process for her (!) and Bond takes a clowning tone in dealing with these traumas.  Everything becomes exaggerated to the point of farce. Bond’s props highlight the exaggeration. Props range from to a giant womb in which she is birthed, tumor puppets, and the medical tubing and other devices attached after surgeries.

While taking an absurd posture to an absurd situation seems like an appropriate response to this situation, that approach also made me feel as though I was put at arm’s length during this show. Different people process trauma differently, so I am going to chalk some of my reaction to that difference. I didn’t feel invited to come along emotionally. As a result, I felt more performed-at rather than being taken along for a ride with this brave individual who has had to endure so much. Bond finally give us a glimpse of the emotional impact of these events by changing tone at the very end of the show.

Since Bond grew up locally, Cincinnati responded a full house for the performance. I hope she gets that same level of audience support from the entire Fringe community.  This show left me thinking, even when I was wondering at some of the things she presented. Heart Ripped Out Twice is a show for those who want to see how traumatic experiences can be processed into something meaningful.

A note on this production: I was sitting extreme house left and had a hard time seeing the projections during the performance. I would suspect that other audience members might have experienced the same thing. I am hoping that can be addressed in the later productions.

Cincy Fringe Review 2023: Magic for Animals

by Liz Toonkel of Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles-based magician Liz Toonkel delivers a delightful magic show which combines storytelling with a sensitivity towards animals.  Toonkel does not use living animals in the show. This is a good thing too, since she informs us that magicians in the past have routinely killed or injured the birds they would use to make them disappear. The show combines sleight of hand with commentary and stories about animal cruelty. 

Toonkel’s performance is polished and has touches of the personal; as an audience member, you can feel her care of animals and that makes for a unique angle to take for a magic show. I can’t reveal too much more of the show without giving away any spoilers. However, this show came as a complete surprise and is definitely worthy of attention.  It is engaging, while making you laugh and think about animals. 

Two notes on this production: 1)The title of the piece puzzled me at first. I thought it might be referring to something other than what it was–a magic show celebrating animals. I hope this review clarifies and drives more traffic to this show. 2)Toonkel performs at one of the more compact spaces, so see this show before it sells out.

Cincy Fringe Review 2023: One Last Night with Mary MacLane

by Nora Bonner and James Cargill out of Detroit, MI

Nora Bonner tells the story of Mary MacLane, who in 1901 wrote a raw and extreme memoir at the age of 19. The best-selling memoir (now in the public domain she mentions) recounts her affair with a teacher, her love of other women, and her interest in the Devil. She confesses that she wants/ed to marry the Devil.  MacLane was clearly a colorful character and Bonner presents a series of songs and accompanying commentary about MacLane’s life and times.  The end result is somewhat disjointed. We hear a lot about the affair with her teacher and not as much about other aspects of her interesting life.

Bonner is quite a competent singer songwriter who produces some fine songs. However, by the end of the piece, I did not know as much about MacLane that I wanted to.  (Maybe she accomplished her main objective–to learn more about this remarkable woman. Or maybe I should have read the memoir in advance–as she jokingly admonishes us.) There is potential to incorporate the other musician, James Cargill, more. He changes clothes toward the end of the show and it seems inorganic.

Bottom Line: In short, this show has some wonderful songs and made me more aware of Mary MacLane, but I feel it needs more development and theatricality to do justice to MacLane’s legacy.

Cincy Fringe Review 2023: Gentrification: The Musical!

by Doin’ Too Much Productions of Cincinnati, OH

If you have witnessed the transformation of Over the Rhine (OTR) from urban blight to hipster playground over the last decade, then this Fringe show is for you. 

Songwriter and lyricist Dan Zimmer tackles the topic of gentrification and creates a show that discusses the downside of this change in the form of a musical set in a non-specified city.  Director Tatiana Godfrey keeps the action moving and the laughs coming.  Godfrey does not try to force the humor, but allows it to come forth naturally from the characters and the situations.

The two-person cast, Brantley Goodrich and Aiden Sims, play a multitude of roles throughout the musical.  Goodrich’s quick character changes during a Big Pitch prep session at a downtown coffee shop are impressive. Sims pompous portrayal of the leader of the Big Pitch event is also strong. The heart of the gentrification insanity comes with the repeated vignettes as Sims tries to validate her parking pass through an automated ticket kiosk, played by Goodrich.  Those interactions are priceless.

Bottom Line: While the production is a bit rough around the edges, the performances are great. This timely musical is a must-see for anyone who wants to explore the role of gentrification in urban cities. Get your tickets NOW as it is selling out.

Heart Ripped Out Twice and So Can You poster for Cincinnati Fringe Festival 2023