Just four more days for the 2015 Cincy Fringe. CityBeat’s review team has been covering each show’s opening, giving Critic’s Picks to “must-see” productions. Here are a half-dozen edited clips, in case you need tips for shows to consider. Find more picks and full reviews of the 40-plus productions at citybeat.com.
Edgar Allan: This is a wildly creative play by The Coldharts, aka Katie Hartman and Nick Ryan. While it’s never exactly stated, the play is a reverential nod to the youth and works of Edgar Allan Poe. Hartman is highly charged as 11-year-old Edgar Allan, a boy preparing for conquests and glory at boarding school. Hartman mines tremendous humor from her physicality, a vocal delivery that is all intense, earnest sibilants and several songs, sung to her own ukulele accompaniment. It sounds odd and a little ridiculous — and it actually is both. Yet her performance is so committed and genuine that the play’s action is elevated into something else — if not one of Poe’s allegories, then at least something completely engaging. (Ed Cohen)
The Famous Haydell Sisters Comeback Tour: Mattie Haydell (the older “mannish” one according to her bio) and Maybelle Haydell (the younger “cute” one) had a meteoric rise and fall in the early ’90s, going from blooming Country Music superstars to washed-up tabloid fodder overnight. Their hits are as down and dirty as hard-luck Country Music can be. As performed by Donna Kay Yarborough and Sadie Bowman, the sisters know their way around a twangy melody and have a gift for raunchy lyrics as they sing of cheating men, bad sex, good times and lonely nights — nice guitarists, decent singers and very funny. (Joe McDonough)
Kiss Around Pass Around: Imagine Cincinnati artist Pam Kravetz and singer Björk had a Japanese baby together. That will get you close to picturing the wigged, masked, sewn-together charm of Kiss Around. With her portable, wearable sleeping trunk and matching vest, this anime-informed wood sprite carries her world with her. No matter that she can’t read the words her mother has written for a journey to take to the North, South, East and West. As long as she can find a few kind-enough and smart-enough humans, she manages just fine. Kiss Around celebrates the wonder and awe of being a child, constructing a world through movement, imagination, boredom, fear and innovation. (Stacy Sims)
Mouthy Bitch: In Dennis Bush’s one-woman play we meet Kate Carden, a self-styled expert on male/female relationships. Kelsey Torstveit portrays Kate as confident as she is profane, pronouncing truisms about sexual dynamics as illustrated by outrageous personal anecdotes. By the end of the play, we realize that there is more rationalization than truth in her philosophy. While this might sound depressing, it’s not. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Kate has decided to be optimistic, and Torstveit’s fine performance achieves the difficult balance between showing us her well-crafted armor with an occasional, tragic glimpse at the heartbreak beneath it. (EC)
Tales Too Tall for Trailers: Paul Strickland, the troubadour of quirky America, is back for his third Fringe, building on his previous hits, Ain’t True and Uncle False and Papa Squat’s Store of Sorts. It’s Erika Kate MacDonald who fits right into a storytelling binge to celebrate the birthday of Uncle False. They work well together with spot-on timing as they regale the folks of Fib Cul-de-Sac (and us) with their outlandish tales and as they sing accompanying reflective songs. They employ some simple but effective theatrical devices, including a clothespin keyboard and funny shadow puppetry. But Strickland’s whimsical stories are the heart of his performances, and they are on full display again. (JM)
Moonlight After Midnight: There’s nothing black and white about this show; it’s all gray and a bit foggy, the story of two lonely people who meet in a hotel room, perhaps an anonymous assignation arranged by a phone call. He’s bored and waiting; she arrives, and verbal sparring ensues. What motivates either one is not immediately clear. They try some role-playing, and Moonlight After Midnight is off and running — down blind alleys and around unexpected corners as the pair moves like quicksilver from one relationship to another. Are they acquainted? Are they friends? Are they lovers? Are they married? Are they divorced? Without ever touching until the very last moment, they smoothly move from one moment to another. (Rick Pender)
The 2015 CINCINNATI FRINGE FESTIVAL, presented by Know Theatre, continues through Saturday. Tickets and more info: cincyfringe.com.