FRINGE 2019 REVIEW: 'Tales From the Cuckoo Club'

"Tales From the Cuckoo Club", through the talents of the fantastic cast and creative team, drove home the message that — despite the seemingly never-ending problems one struggles with — there is always hope and life will get better

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click to enlarge "Tales From the Cuckoo Club" - Provided by Cincinnati Fringe Festival
Provided by Cincinnati Fringe Festival
"Tales From the Cuckoo Club"

An exploration into the enigma that is the teenage psyche, Tales From the Cuckoo Club delves into the common stressors modern teenagers grapple with on a day to day basis, addressing factors such as mental illness, societal pressures, gender identity and sexual orientation. 

Created and produced solely by a group of high school students as a part of Fringe Next, Tales From the Cuckoo Club follows the life of 16-year-old Ryan, a recent newcomer to a psych ward, who has autism and grapples with anxiety and depression. The plot is developed through interactions between Ryan, various characters she encounters in the ward and her sole visitor, her seemingly perfect twin sister Ellie. Ryan’s conversations with the people she finds herself surrounded by force her to reflect on her outlook on life. In doing so, she attempts to understand and make peace with not only the world and other people, but also herself.

Written, directed, and produced by Aria Schottelkotte, this story truly provides an in-depth examination of the effects modern society and culture can have on today’s teenagers. Schottelkotte has created a show that encompasses a breadth of relevant topics and presents them in an artistic manner; with  Tales From the Cuckoo Club, she manages to produce a group of characters and a plot to which many teenagers can find themselves relating.

The overall production of Tales From the Cuckoo Club was powerful, invoking emotional responses ranging from laughter to tears. This was accomplished through the commendable acting talents of the cast, working together to deliver a poignant, meaningful performance illustrating the show's hopeful message.

Perhaps one of the strongest performances of the night was delivered by Jacqueline Daaleman as Ryan in portraying the emotional journey undergone by her character with a passion that was plainly evident throughout the production. Daaleman’s physicality was especially impressive, maintaining Ryan’s signature quirks and behavior throughout the performance. Opposite Daaleman, Erin Caudill encompassed her role as Ellie by bringing real emotion to her character, convincingly portraying the turmoil felt by a family member who struggles with understanding the toll and effects mental illness can have on a loved one.

Other standout performances include Aria Schottelkotte as Taylor and Amanda Nelson as Mara. Schottelkotte managed to realistically portray Taylor’s struggle with anorexia and her sexuality by fully embodying the powerful feelings of fear and denial her character associated with these inner battles. Nelson, tasked with the difficult role of a rape survivor, invoked multiple tears as she delivered a speech about her inability to forgive her rapist, passionately describing the anger her character still felt burning within her.

Tales From the Cuckoo Club, through the talents of the fantastic cast and creative team, drove home the message that — despite the seemingly never-ending problems one struggles with — there is always hope and life will get better.

The Cincinnati Fringe Festival runs through June 15. Find showtimes, tickets and more info here. Check out more reviews from our CityBeat team here. For a comprehensive list click here.

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