The 2015 Cincinnati Fringe Festival wrapped up last Saturday, but the glow continues. According to Tamara Winters, Know Theatre’s associate artistic director, “This was a record year for the number of artists who took part — more than 240 — and a record number of performances at 182.” It was a great year for the Bar Series, the zany late-evening gatherings at Know’s Underground Bar that ranged from Fringe-A-Oke to Fringetoberfest.
These events add to the sense of community that attracts touring Fringe artists who travel the U.S. and Canada and who comprised about half of the 40 productions presented between May 27 and June 6. Winters concluded by observing, “It was a record box-office year. Overall, a big success and hugely satisfying on an artistic level.”
That satisfaction was reflected in the varied “Picks of the Fringe” handed out during the crowded, noisy love fest of a closing-night party at Know’s Underground this past Saturday night. Six shows were singled out, but it was no easy task, since many more were admired. Eleven of us wrote reviews for CityBeat’s Web hub, and all together we designated a dozen shows we deemed to be “must-see.” We overlapped on three of those with the “picks” handed out on Saturday.
I reviewed Moonlight After Midnight by Concrete Drops from London, Ontario, a show that garnered several sold-out performances. A man and a woman in a hotel room evolved through several distinctly different scenarios of relationships, accompanied by a few Patsy Cline tunes. I gave it my personal pick in my review, and it was the overall Critic’s Pick for the 2015 Fringe.
CityBeat reviewer Stacy Sims tagged Kiss Around Pass Around as a show not to be missed, and it was voted an overall pick by the 240 or so artists working at the 2015 Cincy Fringe. She said that Japanese performer Yanomi “celebrates the wonder and awe of being a child, constructing a world through movement, imagination, boredom, fear and innovation.”
The folks who buy all-access passes and endeavor to see as many shows as possible get a separate vote to pick a favorite, and they chose Edgar Allan by The Coldharts, of which CityBeat reviewer Ed Cohen said he suspected that Edgar Allan Poe — the inspiration for the odd, creepy story — “would have approved of this play and the considerable skill of these two artists. It’s really a unique experience, not to be missed.”
Anyone with an email address could vote for the “Audience Pick of the Fringe.” That honor was bestowed on dungeon, produced by Hit the Lights, Dad Theater Co. from New York City. The simple, 45-minute story of a young man trying to rescue his sister used light projection and shadow puppets. I didn’t have time to see it, but everyone who did was impressed with the straightforward artistry, making it the big winner.
Based on a friend’s recommendation and enticed by an intriguing concept, I did attend Chemistry, a drama by Jacob Marx Rice about a depressed young woman and her manic boyfriend. I agree wholeheartedly with the “Producers Pick” by Know’s staff for a show that embodied the spirit of the festival. Chemistry featured Laurie Benning Roberts as a depressed young woman and Jay Hobson as her manic, optimistic boyfriend. The actors were recent interns at the Cincinnati Playhouse, as was the production’s director Katie Lupica. The show employed humor and tragedy, and it was a sleeper hit, selling out its final performance. It was an excellent choice for this recognition.
Also receiving a pick was one of four FringeNext shows produced by high school students. Escape Routes by teens from Fort Thomas, Ky., was singled out; it’s the story of a slacker and a scholar paired up for a school project with surprising results. One can hope that talents like these will return with shows at future Cincy Fringes.
I want to cite the writers who contributed to CityBeat’s coverage: Bart Bishop, Ed Cohen, Jane Durrell, Joe Gorman, Nicholas Korn, Joe McDonough, Kirk Sheppard, Stacy Sims, Joshua Steele and Kathy Valin. They turned in insightful, overnight commentary on 40 shows, and their reviews helped many Fringegoers pick shows to enjoy.
Finally a wry question: The Cincinnati Enquirer says it seeks younger readers. So where was its coverage of the Fringe? Nowhere. The paper turned all its attention to the Bunbury Festival. That was a deserving event, too. But shouldn’t a 12-year theatrical success get some space in the daily?
I’m grateful that CityBeat was willing to step up.
CONTACT RICK PENDER: [email protected].com