Best Cincinnati Fringe Festival Shows to Catch Before Festival Ends, According to CityBeat's Theatre Critic

The festival concludes with a series of encore performances on June 18.

click to enlarge Erika Kate MacDonald’s obsession with collapsing barns led her to create The Barn Identity. - Photo: provided by Cincinnati Fringe Festival
Photo: provided by Cincinnati Fringe Festival
Erika Kate MacDonald’s obsession with collapsing barns led her to create The Barn Identity.

The final day with a full slate of performances for the 2022 Cincinnati Fringe Festival is Friday, June 17. On Saturday, June 18, three encore presentations will be offered on Know Theatre’s mainstage, with a larger seating capacity than the classroom venues in the Art Academy of Cincinnati. CityBeat's theatre critic Rick Pender recruited a team of veteran Fringe reviewers — Ed Cohen, Alan Jozwiak, and Kirk Sheppard — to offer some suggestions for how Fringe fans should spend the last few days of the 19th annual festival.

These are the shows worth seeing during the last days of the Cincinnati Fringe Festival:

Destiny USA is Laura Anne Harris’s solo show about moving from Canada to Syracuse in 2016 and getting a job as a relay operator for the deaf and hard of hearing. Living in Donald Trump’s America proves to be an unexpected challenge, but she eventually finds humanity in the American people. Harris’s show integrates ASL (American Sign Language) video performances by three deaf actors using closed captioning. Its final performance is June 15 at 9 p.m.

Jinkies! from Queen City Flash is a sequel to its  2019 Fringe show, Zoinks, a tongue-in-cheek takeoff on teenage detective stories. Jordan Travillion plays Nolan Blackwell, age 15, and Trey Tatum is her faithful if not very obedient dog Casper. This high-energy show is the right choice to have a good time. Audience members are called upon to read lines as additional characters or to handle goofy props. It’s a lot of clever, laugh-inducing silliness all the way to the chaotic finale. Its last performance is June 16 at 9 p.m.

I Confess is a spiritual drama being developed by writer Marisol Van Schoyk, performed with both spoken word and ASL. It’s a story of forgiveness about a desperate priest on the brink of a mental breakdown. The ultimate fight for his soul is conducted by two unusual seminarians. This is a work-in-progress, receiving just one performance on June 16 at 7 p.m.

Erika Kate MacDonald’s The Barn Identity is performed by a Fringe veteran who knows how to connect with audiences. Her show is quirky and surprising, weaving themes, including her obsession with “falling down barns” and a health scare that began in a movie theater experience, seemingly unrelated elements that coalesce into a unified message about how stories carry us to meaningful insights. Paul Strickland, another Fringe favorite, accompanies her on guitar. The final performance is June 17 at 9 p.m. 

Be My Thief is Mac Rogers’ fifth show for the Cincinnati Fringe, and it comes with high expectations based on his previous work here. It’s the story of Mira returning home from her first day back at work. Her husband doesn’t think she’s Mira at all. This post-COVID tale is a twisty, sci-fi thriller about identity and the terror of going back outside. Its final performance is June 17 at 8:45 p.m.

Wuthering: A Musical on the Moors, with music by Hannah Gregory and directed by Caitlin McWethy is a 60-minute contemporary version of Emily Brontë’s romantic, tragic 1847 novel, Wuthering Heights. Maddie Vaughn is manic, freedom-loving Cathy, and Ryan Chavez-Richmond plays the conflicted Heathcliff. Four onstage musicians step into other roles. It’s the most polished theatrical piece in the 2022 Fringe Festival. Final performance is June 17 at 7 p.m.

The Fringe’s second developmental production is Slanted: Storytelling and Songs from the Slants, by Simon Tam and Joe X. Jiang, members of one of the few all-Asian-American dance rock bands. They compose and perform music that bends the moral arc of the universe toward justice. Another work-in-progress, it will have one performance on June 18 at 3:30 p.m.

Three productions will have encore presentations on Saturday, June 18. Texas Annie: The Legend of the Moan Ranger is a rambunctious sex-positive musical comedy that fantasizes about what happens when the Lone Star State outlaws sex toys — which really happened in 1973 (and updated in 2003). Annie (Hattie Clark), aka “The Moan Ranger,” becomes an outlaw who delivers dildos to eager Texas residents. The show, by Jennifer Howd and Roz Mihalko, is directed by Maggie Perrino. Texas Annie’s encore will be on June 18 at 5:15 p.m. 

The second encore will be Megan Stern’s Upline at 7 p.m. It satirizes the world of pyramid schemes, using the setting of a house party selling a remarkable line of products from Varmon, promoted to “change your skin and change your life!” Stern is a New York-based performer who has earned rave reviews there, in Chicago and Los Angeles. This performance happens on June 18 at 7 p.m. 

Les Kurkendaal-Barrett’s The Real Black Swann: Confessions of America’s First Black Drag Queen links the story of William Dorsey Swann with the performer’s own experience with racism in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. It’s a show that strikes the right balance between the historical and personal, and it does so with a lot of heart. The encore performance happens on June 18 at 8:45 p.m.

If you’ve wondered what it might be like to be a Fringe artist, True Theatre, the storytelling presenter modeled on The Moth, will present TrueFringe for the 11th consecutive festival. Artists share stories ranging from tragic to hilarious, giving audiences behind-the-scenes looks at what it takes to be a working artist. There is a single performance at Know Theatre on June 16 at 9 p.m. on June 16. 

If you’ve not been able to visit Over-the-Rhine for a Fringe show, you might sample Your Gorgeous Future: Cincy Edition, via livestream by “The Gorgeousity,” Dawn Falato and Karen Getz, immersive theater makers from Philadelphia. Those who tune in are asked to help create a new utopia by filling in prompts (in the vein of the Mad Libs word game). This amusing show will be offered online  several evenings this week, finishing up with a performance on Thursday at 8:30 p.m.

The in-person presentation of Laertes Word by writer and performer James Word, originally included in the local festival, didn’t happen because he was offered a professional opportunity in St. Louis. His show, a story about being cast in a production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet while serving a 30-year prison sentence in Missouri, was recorded there, and the Cincy Fringe is now offering it as "Video On Demand.”

The Cincy Fringe Festival runs through June 18 at Know Theatre (1120 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine), with some shows elsewhere. Single tickets start at $16, with options to further support artists. Passes are available. Information:

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About The Author

Rick Pender

RICK PENDER has written about theater for CityBeat since its first issues in 1994. Before that he wrote for EveryBody’s News. From 1998 to 2006 he was CityBeat’s arts & entertainment editor. Retired from a long career in public relations, he’s still a local arts fan, providing readers (and public radio listeners)...
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