Marching Through the 2012 Fringe

As CityBeat’s June 6 issue goes to press, the 2012 Cincinnati Fringe Festival is about half over. All 29 shows have opened and a few have concluded their runs. You still have several chances to see some great shows before the Fringe concludes on S

Jun 6, 2012 at 8:23 am

As CityBeat’s June 6 issue goes to press, the 2012 Cincinnati Fringe Festival is about half over. All 29 shows have opened and a few have concluded their runs. I’m sorry if you missed several of the latter — for instance, the much-praised Grim & Fischer: A Deathly Comedy in Full-Face Mask had only three performances. Reviewer Nicholas Korn wrote that from the show’s opening moment, “you know this is going to be something special.” That was the general consensus of most people I spoke with. Because I was busy with other reviews, I missed it, but I did see Methtacular, which also was presented just three times. The autobiographical narrative of a young, gay, crystal-meth addict was both horrifying and entertaining, thanks to Steven Strafford’s engaging onstage presence — he’s a professional musical theater performer with a quick wit.

You still have several chances to see some great shows before the Fringe concludes on Saturday. You can read reviews of every show on CityBeat’s special Fringe web page, but to help you with your process, I’m going to single out a few shows that our reviewers have recommended and share with you some of their comments.

Project Activate (Emery Theatre, 1112 Walnut St.) – Rodger Pille observed that a performance based on social activism might not be obviously “fringy … But when a performance ambitiously asks audiences to participate in social experiments and does so in a strangely uplifting way, well, that’s utterly Fringe. Props to local multidisciplinary arts group Pones Inc. for thinking highly enough of Cincy Fringe audiences to try something so defiant of description. Bigger props still for making Project Activate work.” Using an array of social exercises, he adds, the show helps “break down physical, mental and emotional barriers that might be holding some of us back from participating in our communities.”

Where Is My Mind? (1317 Main St.) – Stacy Sims wrote that the true gift of a performer in a straitjacket, bomber hat and safety glasses who works with two ventriloquist dummies and a Barbie doll head is “how the performer combines these absurd elements, mainly straitjacketed, to full comedic effect and always within a beat of deep and concerning pathos. There are some gnarly shadows underlying most believable comedy, and Where Is My Mind? plays directly to the darkest recesses of the mind and what might or might not be this performer’s personal narrative.”

Don’t Cross the Streams: The Cease and Desist Musical (Know Theatre, 1120 Jackson St.) – I wrote that a stage musical based on Ghostbusters is exactly the kind of show we’ve come to expect at the Fringe. But, I added, “there’s nothing expectable about Don’t Cross the Streams, which begins with that notion, then processes and reprocesses the idea to a point of ridiculous hilarity.” Denied the rights to work with the original material, “it never occurs to anyone to seek permission. After a moment of downhearted defeat, they rally around the notion of transforming every recognizable element of the movie into something else: They become ‘spirit fighters’ and what you might recall of the hit movie recedes into the background — kind of.” The show has an earnest silliness that’s infectious. 

Radio Star (Hanke 2, 1128 Main St.) – I wrote that Tanya O’Debra creates an evocative web of “storytelling, complete with sound effects, with a distinctly modern filter. All by herself onstage, seated at a table with an old-fashioned radio microphone and surrounded by devices to replicate doors opening and closing, footsteps approaching and disappearing, cigarettes lighting, bodies falling and more, she gives ‘The Iron Lung Radio Hour.’ That title is the first tip that this particular noir drama might have a few twists that don’t quite belong in the 1940s.” O’Debra vocally portrays all the characters, and she’s a master of wryly stated sexual innuendo and double-entendres “that are purely and obscenely 21st century.”

You can see these shows more over the next few days. Don’t miss out on several special events, including True Theatre’s “True Fringe” event on Friday evening, featuring several of the Fringe performers presenting monologues about their experiences as performers. I especially recommend showing up at Know Theatre’s Underground Bar on Saturday evening around 11 p.m. for the announcement of an array of “Pick of the Fringe” and other recognitions. It’s a great finale, and you’ll see how the Fringe has built a great community that entertains us annually. 

Next year will be the Fringe’s 10th anniversary! I can’t wait.

CONTACT RICK PENDER: [email protected]