FRINGE 2021 REVIEW: Missing 4-1-1

Told in a jarring series of vignettes, the piece tells the stories of five missing people.

click to enlarge Poster for "Missing 4-1-1" - Photo: Provided by Cincy Fringe
Photo: Provided by Cincy Fringe
Poster for "Missing 4-1-1"

When we think of “Missing Persons,” if we think of them at all, it is probably in the context of photos of missing children posted in the post office, on milk cartons, or in income tax instruction books. They are the theme of the 2021 Cincy Fringe video-on-demand production Missing 4-1-1.

Told in a jarring series of vignettes, the piece tells the stories of five missing people: Julio, Banana Man, Muckle, J.B.B., and Brad. Using the real-life video series Missing 4-1-1 by David Paulides as inspiration, Brooklyn-based Slugfest reimagines this video series as a series of mini videos exploring the disappearance of these people.

This show was incredibly strong in its video production. Professional editing and videography made it look impressive. Also impressive was the use of shadow puppetry in some of the video about the missing people, a device that advanced the action and was always engaging.

What was not engaging was the show’s actual content. This is a second installment in Slugfest's exploration on missing people, and I felt lost in the show, as though I should already know the characters who were being referenced.

This lack of context was compounded by the disjointed style of the video depictions of the missing people. At times, it felt as though videos were clips from previous Slugfest shows. I could discern a through storyline; it seemed as though the performers were more interested in presenting way-out material than focusing on a coherent exploration of missing people.

Perhaps the biggest problem I encountered while watching this video was it froze at minutes 20:00 and 42:00 as it if were buffering. I had to reload the video and play it again several times to get to the end.

In short, I cannot recommend this production. If Slugfest had presented the first installment of their series, it might have been more comprehensible and engaging. As it stands, the show is a muddle of expert videography.

The show ends with the words "To be continued …"  The show might be continued in a third installment, but I won’t be seeing it.

The Cincinnati Fringe Festival takes place June 4-19. For more information, show descriptions, a schedule and tickets, visit cincyfringe.com.