FRINGE 2017: 'Wilderness Survival'

A poignant solo show by an Eagle Scout, this show is a renovated tale of boyhood scouting.

Jimmy Grzelak is an Eagle Scout, the highest order of Boy Scouts. On Thursday night, he opened his poignant solo show in the renovated basement studio of historic Memorial Hall and told a renovated tale of boyhood scouting.

At open, which just so happened to be a few hours after President Trump abandoned the Paris climate agreement, he sang a song about the wonder of nature. He then recounted texting a friend. He wants to escape to the woods, a safer wilderness to survive. And thus the tale begins.

Grzelak deputizes himself to bestow upon us an initiation into the Order of the Arrow, Boy Scout’s honor society. Like any good all-male society, the Order has an initiation and secret admonition. 

Complete with campfire songs and a Tang break, Wilderness is a quiet delight. Grzelak is a gifted and charming storyteller. He renders exquisite and memorable details: a weird friend’s pinecone collages, a flaming arrow extinguishing itself as it enters a lake, the echo of Garrett, Pirates of Penzance in Afghanistan and a “Structure” T-shirt. 

A question often asked of theater makers is “Why is this story important now?” Midway into the wilderness, Grzelak tells us, “This probably isn’t the show you thought it was going to be.” At that moment, it became the show we needed it to be. It’s Tang for the Trump era. It’s a campfire in the wilderness. It’s a night alone under the stars.


The CINCINNATI FRINGE FESTIVAL continues through June 11. Find CityBeat reviews of 41 early performances here. For a full schedule and more info about Fringe, visit cincyfringe.com.