RecommendedAnd now for something completely different, as the Monty Python guys used to say: Four Humors Theater, back for another year at the Cincinnati Fringe, brings a wholly different — and totally charming — piece for audiences of all ages, Bombus and Berrylinne. It’s the story of an inept bumblebee (played by roly-poly Jason Ballwebber) and an ambitious hummingbird (tall and willowy Rachel Petrie) training for the “Night Flight” to be the first of its kind to find sip the nectar from a rare flower, a nightblooming cereus. He’s decked out in yellow and black with an old-fashioned bombardier’s cap and goggles, but he never achieves lift-off. She is festooned in red and orange and purple, with wings that spread when she raises her arms and flutters her delicate fingers. They meet and become friends — she provides him with nectar and he coaches her quest.
If this sounds a little silly and childish, well, it is. The piece was conceived by asking an array of people — ranging in age from 2 to over 40 — to tell stories based on some simple artwork that’s projected during the production. The storytelling is accompanied by Ryan Lear, a droll musician wearing a pistachio green suit and a snappy hat. He’s seated at stage right with a ukulele, harmonica, kazoo, bells, whistles and a drum. He throws in a few vocal sound effects (including Bombus’s growling stomach) and a simple melodic accompaniment, cleverly punctuating several funny moments.
There were kids in the audience for Monday evening’s opening performancewhen, but many more adults were responding to the simple story. Ballweber plays cute to the nth degree, evoking numerous “awws” from the audience as Bombus struggles to be more than he is and fears losing his friend. But Ballweber and Petrie are fine comedians, too, and they use modest dialogue and physical action to get people giggling. When she tells him she intends to find the rare flower, he immediately knows its Latin name, Selenecereus grandiflorus, her cue that he’s going to be a true friend. And he can only instruct her by speaking Bumblebee, a sequence of unspoken, choreographed movements that are both graceful and absurd when performed by a chubby guy dressed like a bumblebee.
The show, a with a very sweet ending, is unlike anything else in this year’s Fringe, and the audience responded warmly to its simplicity. It has several more performances this week. It’s a breath of fresh air that will leave you smiling.