Performance Gallery’s Mater Facit begins with a nursery rhyme-like song of over-pronounced gibberish, immediately calling to mind the troupe’s powerhouse Fringe piece back in 2008, Fricative. Is the group mining familiar territory again this year?
In a word, no. You have to give full credit to Performance Gallery, the only company to produce a show in each of the 10 years of Cincy Fringe, for its ambitious exploration of new and interesting theater every year for a decade. It truly wouldn’t be Fringe without them.
Turns out that the gibberish is actually a traditional Dutch children’s song about two rabbits in a turnip field. One is shot by a hunter; the survivor is sick with grief. We learn that translation and its greater meaning over the course of the 50-minute play, ably performed by the Gallery’s four-person cast and two onstage musicians at a small warehouse facility (1211 Jackson Street). Much has been written and sung about soldiers going off to war to fight for the greater good. Mater Facit keeps the focus on the mother who stays home and waits, with heavy heart, for a healthy return or for the devastating news.
Broken into about 10 scenes that are strung together only with that theme, the piece bounces between hokey humor, tuneful songs, Stomp-like dance sequences and good old-fashioned stand-and-deliver monologues. There’s even a rap number thrown in for good measure.
Mind you, not all the bits work entirely. Some comic moments feel a little forced, and two powerhouse emotional moments are wedged together at the end, slightly undermining one another’s impact. But that is somewhat nitpicky.
Big ups to the cast for diving in. Anna Carroll Horton, Jodie Linver, Kevin Macku and Willemien Patterson, along with musicians and occasional scene-players Nathan Singer and Erin Proctor, are spot on. And director Regina Pugh’s staging keeps the show moving briskly, wisely maximizing its impact.
It all adds up to a satisfying night of Fringe. And unlike some festival offerings that entertain and leave your mind the minute you walk out the door, Mater Facit has staying power. That poor rabbit left to grieve should always be remembered, too.
PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE: 7 p.m. Monday, 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday at 1211 Jackson. Find more of CityBeat's ongoing 2013 Cincy Fringe Festival coverage, including performance reviews, commentary and venue details , here.