Family-friendly Fringe shows aren’t common, but Psophonia brings a playful, even childlike romp to the Festival with Delicious. As frequent Cincy Fringe participants, the Houston-based, all-female modern dance company more often has focused on women’s issues. But as with their previous Fringe shows, Co-Artistic Directors Sonia Noriega and Sophia L. Torres once again go all out on eye-catching costumes, props and other visual elements in this series of brief vignettes.
Now and then the visuals come close to overshadowing the dancing. But I expect the primary intention is simply to create an offbeat sense of fun. And good times they have. Their joyful expressiveness shows how much they enjoy performing and carries the day — in Technicolor.
As its title suggests, Delicious presents a lively, frothy mash-up of candy colors, Day-Glo effects and food/drink references, spoken word and recorded text. The show includes a richly assorted soundtrack: Mancini to Beethoven, Dick Dale to Herb Alpert, plus novelty cocktail songs, as well as advice from Ann Landers and poetry by Shel Silverstein. The pink program sums it up: “Anything and everything goes, with a not-too-structured sensibility.”
But really it’s not all that unstructured. There are games, naturally: musical chairs, paper rock scissors … and a few nods to dance luminaries. An imitation of Martha Graham and a Merce Cunningham-inspired dice game of chance (played with the audience) lend a dash of modern dance cred. But as I watched the cartwheels and somersaults, I knew this wasn’t a show concerned with deeper meaning. Yet Psophonia’s enthusiastic quintet of dancers — Stephanie Beall, Emily Bischoff, Mallory Horn, Kara Newton and Tory Pierce — display capable dance skills with a gymnastic bent. Short solos pepper the fast-paced proceedings. There was plenty of creative partnering, though a few of the lifts felt rushed and not as fully realized as much of the dancing.
Several pieces performed under fluorescent lights really stand out, literally. In an upbeat quartet, two pairs of partners are clad in black, almost kimono-like costumes with broad white swaths on the lower parts of the sleeves and pant legs. Because the black lights obscure all but the lower “glowing” white portions of the dancers’ arms and legs, it playfully confounds the viewer as to what parts are moving where, which end is up, and who’s dancing with whom. Another piece, set to Silverstein’s poem “The Zebra Question,” features a duo covered in — you guessed it — black-and-white striped zebra costumes that provide another nice effect under the black lights.
If you bring children, be warned that there’s a large bowl of candy passed around before the show begins. Is the sugar buzz designed to get you more into the mood? Like a sweet indulgence, the material here lacks some nutritional value. While it’s an enjoyable effort, I left feeling hungry for something slightly more substantial. Still, kids will likely appreciate the smorgasbord of lighthearted bits, and the kids-at-heart will enjoy the slightly psychedelic and silly antics. So it succeeds in its stated intentions. I’d say see it if you have kids and/or enjoy fun visuals — and for a mental break.