Fringe Finale

Saturday evening was the final night of the 2010 Cincinnati Fringe Festival. At the closing party at Know Theatre’s Underground bar, three picks were announced. Fringe organizer Eric Vosmeier made the point that it’s not really about competition but rather to give Fringe artists who eke out meager paychecks based on attendance at their respective shows a bit of publicity to use as they travel on to the their next alternative theater showcase.

Based on voting by festivalgoers, the “Audience Pick of the Fringe” went to Serenity Fisher’s Sophie’s Dream, a romantic tale using Indie Rock-styled tunes that was produced by Tangled Leaves Theatre Collective from right here in Cincinnati.—-

The other two picks were productions from the Twin Cities, a wellspring of this kind of theater, it appears. The Producers Pick was awarded to The Finkles’ Theater Show, a hilarious piece of music and acting with Ryan Lear and Rachel Petrie (St. Paul, Minn.) as a pair of aspiring theater performers with more zeal than talent. The Critics Pick of the Fringe — which certainly got my vote — was the spooky Harold, a scary tale (pictured above) of a vengeful scarecrow presented largely by flashlight by Four Humors Theater (Minneapolis), back for their third consecutive Cincy Fringe.

This year’s Fringe skewed toward works from outside Cincinnati, but I thoroughly enjoyed several locally produced shows, including Tantric Acting at the Holiday Inn, a satiric comedy that included Bollywood and Broadway by Infinite Number of Monkeys; Cyrano, an energetically staged and inventive condensation of a classic play featuring actors from the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s Bruce E. Coyle Intern Company; Of People and Not Things, a beautifully written and performed pair of interwoven monologues by Andrew Hungerford, who spends most of his time designing sets and lighting for local theaters; Aberrant Reflections on the Barbarism of You & I, a surreal work about actors trapped onstage in a series of disjointed scenes, created by Artemis Exchange.

Megan Venzin (who used to work at Know Theatre) and Emily Althaus, friends from theater student days at Western Kentucky University, came in from New York City to perform a laugh-filled piece about their eccentric mothers, A Night of Well-Adjusted Ladies. At their June 11 performance, I spotted a familiar face in the audience: New York stage and screen actor Dylan Baker, who’s been on The Good Wife on CBS this season as an eccentric, ethically challenged millionaire. He’s the villain in the next film in the Spider-Man franchise. His wife Becky Ann (Gelke) Baker, another actress with Western Kentucky University roots, and he have admired Althaus and Venzin’s work and made the trip to Cincinnati to see their show.

Two highlights from my final days of fringing: I really liked Blue Collar Diaries, a varied monologue about people from her youth in St. Paul, Minn., written and performed by Michelle Myers Berg. And the perfect finale for the 2010 Fringe came my way via Abigail and Shaun Bengson and their song-filled show, Ain’t That Good News?. The pair travels worldwide, meeting people and writing songs about the stories they’re told. Some are funny or ribald, others are heart-wrenching. She sings with the passion of Janis Joplin; he plays guitar and things like a ukulele and an accordion. Together they made wonderful, memorable music.

CityBeat's team of critics reviewed all 29 productions, giving a total of 15 a "critic's pick" designation. You can find them all here.

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