Hive Mind is about a group of bees banding together to save each other, their hive and perhaps the world. Developed and performed by Cincinnati-based Performance Gallery (in its 17th consecutive Cincy Fringe production) and Solasta Theatre Lab, Hive Mind is positioned as a modern fable that explores collective and environmental, with a small group of bees as the main subjects.
Hive Mind feels very much like art-house theater, even beyond its online presentation. However, the digital element did not aid the production — and perhaps hindered it. Each bee’s story feels unintentionally disconnected and does not properly serve the show.
Due to the splintered nature of the show and the script, the central message and theme of Hive Mind is muddled and sometimes indecipherable. Additionally, we don’t discover the central conflict and the show’s plot until we reach its midpoint.
Hive Mind is meant to demonstrate how a collective group — that “hive mind” — falls apart when each individual shifts the focus from the interests of the group to her or his self-interest. It’s a poignant message for such disconnected times.
However, there is no central event, character or device that makes any meaningful impact on the hive’s shift to individualism. Nor is that shift portrayed in a negative light. In fact, the worker bees all mention feeling exploited by their Queen, although this never seems to be a central message or powerful source of motivation for the bees’ actions.
Part of this confusion might derive from the online format. Each bee essentially shares screen time. Some of them talk over each other, much as bees buzz in union inside a hive. But the show’s sound editing made it difficult to allow any one voice to pull forward into focus. Much of Hive Mind truly sounded like one, loud collective buzz.
Hive Mind feels like two wildly disconnected and entirely different shows. One is a montage of different bees and their thoughts; the other is an arthouse movement and sound piece about nature and collectivism.
The 17th annual all-digital Cincinnati Fringe Festival runs through June 13. Get tickets and show info at cincyfringe.com.