Kat’s Fringe Reviews: June 1-2

Forever to be known as the first sell-out of the 21st Cincinnati Fringe Festival (how exciting!), Strong Bear is a moving homage not only to Palestinian culture, but to those who have experienced grief.

By Katrina “Kat” Reynolds

It is June–which means Cincinnati is buzzing with oh-so-many things to do. Fortunately for those in the Queen City, the 21st Annual Cincinnati Fringe Festival is upon us! For the next two weeks, audiences can choose from a mix of over 30 offerings: Primary Line-Up, Special Events, Fringe Development, and even Kids Fringe! Here is a wee bit of insight on the shows from opening weekend.

A Perfect Day Away by Dead Cat Productions

Written by Klae Bainter and directed by Roberto Di Donato, performing artists Philip C. Mathews and Tyler Everet Adam tell us the story of a day in the life of Dylan. Dylan has lost his cat, but his search is stalled by the food delivery guy who won’t leave. A seemingly simple premise, but it’s never simple, is it? What comes next is a very cerebral, funny, and moving piece. This show is only made better by the fact that the artists are really cool cats (see what I did there?). In being introduced to them by a mutual friend, I found out that this offering started as a mere monologue back in school and grew during the days o’ COVID into the show now being presented to us. Be sure to get your tickets to this one now as it only runs through the first week of Fringe. 

Remaining Performances in Rm 204 at the Art Academy: June 5 at 6:45pm; June 7 at 6:45pm; June 8 at 4pm; and June 9 at 4pm.

Eleanor’s Story: An American Girl in Hitler’s Germany by Ingrid Garner

Each year, Fringe has some stand-out storytellers; Ingrid Garner is absolutely no exception. Based on her grandmother’s novel of the same title, we are immersed in the world of Eleanor, a young girl growing up in 1930s New Jersey. The show is mobile and intense and punctuated with much-needed humour. It is yet another perspective of which we do not often hear regarding WWII. Opening show audiences were fortunate enough to share their experience with Eleanor’s son (and Ingrid’s father) which was a particularly touching thing to learn after such an engrossing experience. It is beautiful, thought-provoking, and unbelievably well told. 

Remaining Performances at the Know Theatre: June 8 at 4pm; June 12 at 6:45pm; and June 13 at 6:45pm. 

Strong Bear by Jack Fogle

Forever to be known as the first sell-out of the 21st Cincinnati Fringe Festival (how exciting!), Strong Bear is a moving homage not only to Palestinian culture, but to those who have experienced grief. It tells the story of a Palestinian-American woman whose immigrant mother dies unexpectedly and how she and the rest of her family navigate this blow. The show is shorter than most pieces and could benefit from some development, but has a mighty foundation. One thing is for sure: Writer/Director/Performing Artist Jack Fogle excels at making this story relatable for everyone. In addition to Mr. Fogle, Strong Bear features the acting talents of Haneen Adi, Emma Sanchez, Kylie Flick, Kieran Cronin, and Mathilde Normand. 

Remaining Performances in Rm 204 at the Art Academy: June 4 at 8:30pm; June 8 at 8:30pm; June 9 at 6:45pm; and June 13 at 8:30pm.

Methtacular! by Steven Strafford

Returning to Fringe after originally bringing this piece 12 years ago, the brilliant Steven Strafford shines in his one-man shows about his addiction to crystal meth. Filled with original music, comedy, interview footage of his mother, and gritty storytelling, Methtacular! is a perfectly-paced ride through the highs (haha) and lows of someone struggling to do something meaningful. Mr. Strafford is a master raconteur and I was hooked on every word. While certainly performative, the real emotions of our protagonist shine through in a very moving and satisfying way. Sadly, it was a Special Event for the first weekend only – so if you missed it, this might only serve as torture. 

As If You Will Remember by Gerry Grubbs, Pauletta Hansel, Rachel Desrochers, Katie Chal, Rob Keenan, Adam Petersen, and Michael Burnham

Next, seven local artists collaborate to discuss and convey the emotions surrounding love and loss, focusing primarily on dementia-related grief. Through a combination of words, music, and movement, many in attendance will find very personal ways to connect with the subject matter. As someone whose mother succumbed to dementia in the last few months, this was a hard one – but I can not imagine it would be “easy” for anyone. Each of the above-named artists contributes to this piece in their own field of expertise and these are married together in a memorable fashion. A touching piece.

Remaining Performances at Gabriel’s Corner: June 4 at 7pm; June 5 at 7pm; June 8 at 4:15pm; and June 9 at 12:45pm.

Cyrano on the Moon by Arcane Arts

Have you ever found yourself wondering what happened after the events of Cyrano de Bergerac? Well, look no further as Monica Cross has penned us a sequel! Rife with incredible fight choreography by Elliet Malatesta (who also plays Sister Marthe), we are taken on a journey through what may – or may not – be Cyrano’s afterlife experience. Directed by Aiden Dalton of The Ghostlight Stage Company and performed by Lora Jost, Ryan Bowron, Austin Fiddler, and Peyton Wright in addition to Mx. Malatesta, Cyrano is a fanciful tale of love and how we can keep the memory of those we love alive when they are no longer of this earth. One important thing to note for this cast (and possibly all performing in the space at Gabriel’s Corner): PROJECT! We do not want to miss your words.

Remaining Performances at Gabriel’s Corner: June 5 at 8:45pm; June 9 at 2:30pm; and June 12 at 7pm.

Bloody Mary: An Urban Legend Comedy by Kelly Collette

Finally, High school can be tough – but throw in a demon summoned by playing the urban legend game Bloody Mary and it can be downright HELL. Written by Kelly Collette and directed by A.J. Baldwin, Bloody Mary introduces us to three best friends who are tired of their outcast status. After Mary joins the fray, they decide she can help them have the popularity they have longed for all along. Featuring performing artists Aiden Sims, Beasley, Alaska Stoughton (in a stand-out performance!), Remy Elton-Alexander, Imani Derden, Anna Hazard, Brian Million, and Parker Culp, this show will have you laughing and cringing in all the best ways. 

Remaining Performances at Gabriel’s Corner: June 4 at 8:45pm; June 8 at 7pm; and June 14 at 8:45pm.

The Sweet and Lowdown

What a great first weekend of Fringe! But fear not: you have 11 more performance days to get in all the Fringe you can take. Whether you are a first-timer or a Fringe veteran, I encourage you to visit the Cincy Fringe website where you will find the master schedule and the all-important Fringe Guide. And there is still time to purchase Flex Passes, a great way to see several shows and get some bang for your buck.

Happy Fringe-ing, all – and thank you for supporting live theatre!

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

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