FRINGE 2021 CRITIC'S PICK: Away, Now

In this duo’s curiously charming and inventive nonsense style, what they are offering is “The Greatest Performance of a Travel Guide” (to a place you can’t even get to) you’ve EVER seen!”

click to enlarge Poster for "Away, Now" - Photo: Provided by Cincy Fringe
Photo: Provided by Cincy Fringe
Poster for "Away, Now"

Musical storytellers Erika Kate MacDonald and Paul Strickland have been popular performers for Cincy Fringe audiences for several years. Their contribution for 2021 is a video-on-demand “shot entirely on their phones.” That being said, it has a lot of clever, professional polish, from Strickland’s guitar playing to MacDonald’s clever puppetry, as well as some handy-dandy video effects (apparently learned from countless YouTube videos).

Their video’s full title, Away, Now – The World’s Most Desired Destination, surely refers to the fact that, as our quarantines from the virus have evaporated, everyone wants to go somewhere, just “away” and “now.” But in this duo’s curiously charming and inventive nonsense style, what they are offering is “The Greatest Performance of a Travel Guide” (to a place you can’t even get to) you’ve EVER seen!” Of course, in their parlance, “Away” is a city in the state of “Now.”

Translating the traditional form of a travel guide into a one-hour video, Strickland and MacDonald focus on “factoids,” items that in print are typically contained in pale blue boxes. They appear, accompanied by a sing-songy melody, to alert viewers to transitions between segments, with the performers erasing them in preparation for the upcoming item.

Segments, usually with clever original musical accompaniment, cover such off-kilter topics as “An Early History of Now” (a baroque, comic tale told with paper cut-out puppets about why cows moo), “Smell Sniffing,” The Oldest Known Folk Story” (about breaking bread and breaking hearts), “Day Trips,” “Local Customs” (especially a trippy relaxation ritual about “sleeping feet”), “What to Pack,” “Shopping,” “Local Accents” (the prefix “con” is replaced by “but”), and “The Newest Known Folk Story.” The latter circles back to the “Oldest Known” with a sweet moral about how empty hearts — or even half-hearts — need to be filled with kindness, patience and love. It’s a message that makes sense, even in the face of nonsense.

The Cincinnati Fringe Festival takes place June 4-19. For more information, show descriptions, a schedule and tickets, visit cincyfringe.com.

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