FRINGE 2021 CRITIC'S PICK: Dangerous When Wet: Booze, Sex, and My Mother

Even without its live video feed, Jamie Brickhouse’s Dangerous When Wet: Booze, Sex, and My Mother is what NPR would call a “driveway moment” — a story so engaging that it just has to be finished in one sitting.

click to enlarge "Dangerous When Wet" poster - Photo: Provided by Cincy Fringe
Photo: Provided by Cincy Fringe
"Dangerous When Wet" poster


Even without its live video feed, Jamie Brickhouse’s Dangerous When Wet: Booze, Sex, and My Mother is what NPR would call a “driveway moment” — a story so engaging that it just has to be finished in one sitting.

Credit can be given to Brickhouse's theatrical delivery. It’s no small feat to keep an audience engaged during a one-man show, especially via livestream. Despite tuning in on my laptop on a Saturday afternoon while eating Goodfellas Pizza, I was wholly captivated by his polished, funny and dark story based on his critically-acclaimed memoir of the same name. He never missed a beat. My cat even sat by me for most of the show!

“Whoever said you can't get sober for someone else never met my mother, Mama Jean,” opens Brickhouse. His tale sets off when, at age 38, he overdoses on pills mixed with alcohol, despite having the life he always dreamed of: a job in publishing, a posh apartment in New York City and all the martinis he could ask for. When he comes to, he must face his mother; what follows is an unraveling of memories starting in his childhood home of Belmont, Texas, all the way to his adult life in Manhattan.

He segments the story in acts signaled by home videos/photos and subtle outfit changes. A bar cart remains open during most of the show with Brickhouse occasionally raising an empty martini glass. By the final act the bar cart is closed, a nod to his present-day sobriety. These small details elevate Brickhouse’s storytelling without being distracting.

As the title suggests, at its bare bones Dangerous When Wet is one man’s story of grappling with alcoholism, a strained relationship with his Elizabeth-Taylor-lookalike mother and his sexuality as a gay man. Each story plucked from the pages of his life feels woven precisely with the next, from childhood memories of playing Bewitched with a long-lost friend to early flirtations to that first sip of whiskey to the AIDS crisis. Every piece is where it needs to be for the viewer to slip easily into his lush storytelling.

Originally produced off-off-Broadway in 2017, Brickhouse’s monologue is an enthralling piece you won’t want to miss. And with three more performances slated for Cincy Fringe June 12, 13 and 15, there’s plenty of time to mark it on your calendar. 

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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