Ice Candle: An Un-Documentary (Critic's Pick)

Erika Kate MacDonald spent nearly a year in politically troubled Indonesia as a foreign exchange student when she was 17 and 18. Sharing her first impression of the mountainous island country, she moves like a dancer, accentuating points with her hands.

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click to enlarge 'Ice Candle'
'Ice Candle'

What I’ve always enjoyed about the Cincinnati Fringe is the sudden turn of themes from show to show, from loud, raucous shows like Furlesque to steamy and hot (I mean really hot venue) noir show, Cessna to the one-woman, un-documentary show called the Ice Candle. Erika Kate MacDonald, who’s recently relocated to Greater Cincinnati, was a performer in Tales Too Tall for Trailers in the 2015 Fringe as well as in Andy’s House of BLANK at Know last fall. This time she’s on her own. Lucky us.


MacDonald spent nearly a year in politically troubled Indonesia as a foreign exchange student when she was 17 and 18. Sharing her first impression of the mountainous island country, she moves like a dancer, accentuating points with her hands. Weaving her monologue between Indonesian and English, she creates an illusion of gliding across the stage. Her expressive movement adds further urgency to many heart-warming and poignant stories about her host family, the culture, Jakarta and the small town where she lived during her stay.


MacDonald relates how she documented her trip — the two dozen or so pictures she took were too dark or unrealized. This “un-documentary” has many emotional ups and downs. She does a great job in putting you there in her memory “that is too big to carry around.” She recalls being frozen with fright in her bedroom as she struggled to deal with a huge cockroach that repeatedly failed to climb the wall. She inadvertently smashed it with the heavy encyclopedia she needed to identify the cockroach.


Her everyday life in the small town was an exciting and fulfilling experience. Simple, everyday routines provided her with an environment in which to learn the language, the culture and the nuances of her host community. Gradually, external forces of political life intervened with armed soldiers routinely guarding every entrance to malls and stores. In the tenth month of her stay, she and other exchange students were evacuated. She effectively begins her retelling of this story by yelling in Indonesian speech, through a microphone, with dimmed lights. Scary.


To further substantiate her un-documentary subtitle, we learn that MacDonald’s parents waited for several hours at the airport for her plane to land. Her father ran out of camera film before she finally emerged from her plane. There are no pictures of her return trip. We’re lucky to be left with her sharing the memories of the trip.


This show could be the sleeper hit of the Fringe. 

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