Performance Gallery (Cincinnati)

Here’s what you get with Heist, this year’s Fringe production from Performance Gallery (the only group to be represented in each of the 11 Cincinnati Fringe Festivals): Three odd thugs have taken refuge in a closed basement space. With them are two bags of loot and two hostages. One of the captives is a woman (Jodie Linver) who, at the opening of the play, lies unconscious on the floor. The other is a fellow in a suit (Michael Bath), who cannot stop talking and telling vulgar tales despite being tied to a chair and repeatedly told to hold his peace.

Regina Pugh is the one female of the felonious trio. She is obviously the leader, barking her commands despite being dressed in full clown costume and make-up. The others are played by Derek Snow and Simon Nathaniel Powell, the first a family man and the other an ex-convict who seems to have misplaced the third duffle bag of stolen goods after being frightened into mistaking a cab for a cop car.

Although the show’s title obviously refers to whatever job these three have only partially pulled off, there are also several obvious references to a well-known modern play by Samuel Beckett about two tramps waiting by a tree. That’s enough to suggest that playwrights Brian Griffin and Nathan Singer are doing more than a little lifting of their own.

The script wanders a little, and perhaps could have played more with giving each character a turn at having the upper hand. Instead, they mostly bicker and deflect their own impatience by going into monologue mode with reminiscences here and there.

There is also a recurring bit with a woman’s voice that comes from behind the door (Willemien Patterson). The first instance is quite funny, the second less so.

Most of the members of this cast are well known to Cincinnati theatergoers, and it’s a treat to see them all gathered in the close quarters of the MOTR pub space for a bit of dramatic sparring. One wishes the dialogue and character dynamics provided a little more to work with — this is definitely a group of performers that could steal a show, given the chance.

While the performance space here might be tighter than the proceedings (take note if you are claustrophobic), it’s rare that a Fringe entry comes this close to being a formally composed play. Yet as Powell’s character suggests, sometimes it’s best just to take the goods you’ve got and run with it. And run they do.

HEIST by Performance Gallery (Cincinnati) will be performed 7 p.m. May 31, 7 p.m. June 2, 7 p.m. June 5 and 6:45 p.m. June 7 at MOTR Pub (Main St., Over-the-Rhine). 
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