FRINGE 2021 REVIEW CRITIC'S PICK: Mo-to-the-oncle

This Ain’t No “Full House.” This is what Detroit Prince Jr. laments about his life in "Mo-to-the-oncle," a video Fringe production by Melissa Cole.

click to enlarge Poster for "Mo-to-the-oncle" - PHOTO: PROVIDED BY CINCY FRINGE
Photo: Provided by Cincy Fringe
Poster for "Mo-to-the-oncle"

This Ain’t No “Full House.” This is what Detroit Prince Jr. laments about his life in Mo-to-the-oncle (pronounced MO-to-the-AWN-uh-kuhl), a video Fringe production by Melissa Cole.

A full house also describes the wonderful assortment of characters actress and comedian Cole has create in this delightful and satirical video-on-demand show about a Bronx teenager who must wear a monocle to correct his eyesight when his father loses his vision insurance.  In order to stop wearing the monocle, Detroit Jr. decides to get money for glasses and goes on a quest to complete three tasks.  Along the way, he meets many colorful characters and has several unexpected adventures.

As a solo artist, Cole skillfully morphs into a wide range of distinct characters. Apart from playing Prince Jr. she also portrays the befuddled Detroit Prince, Sr. (a failed Motown singer who works as the bootleg Clusters of Oats and Honey cereal factory), Laverne (a store employee hell-bent on being unhelpful to customers), and Uncle Sugar Free (Detroit Jr.’s uncle who is both a pimp and lover of something else that I won’t say to spoil the surprise) among others. At times, I felt I was in an Eddie Murphy movie when every character is Eddie Murphy in disguise.

While creating characters is one thing, Cole uses them to give piercing social commentary on race, class, and health care. She comments on the foibles of both white and black culture within the show. She is equally devasting with her critique of the blonde “woke” manager of the eyeglass store as she is with Laverne, the store employee who wants to be on her cell phone instead of helping customers.

This show could be heavy, but Cole’s social commentary employs a delicious array of jokes and comedic bits. Her show is socially relevant, but also incredibly funny. I burst out laughing several times while watching the show by myself, something I normally do not do. Cole’s comedic timing is amazing, and she knows how to deliver a joke to yield the maximum payload of laughs.

I loved this show, although it had a few glitches. It was shot behind a grey curtain; for a few frames when the camera pulled back, the frame holding up the curtain was visible. That took me out of the moment. A few reaction shots by the Detroits in the eyeglass store were unnecessary and became distracting. The show ended a bit too abruptly. It seemed that one last emotional scene was coming, but it did not happen.

Despite these quibbles, Mo-to-the-oncle took me on a journey, gave me lots of laughs, and made me think. What else do you want from a Fringe show?

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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