Let’s start with what OTR 2081 is not.
It’s not a cool walking tour of Over the Rhine as imagined by future generations. What would they say about how we lived? What insightful commentary would they offer about this moment in human history, with the benefit of time and historical perspective?
Well, according to the script, we just watched a lot of Glee and surfed Wikipedia. And that brings us to what OTR 2081 is. It’s a high school American history essay disguised as a Fringe show, scribbled in study hall the period before it was due. The cast’s effort is earnest, God love them, but the result is utterly sophomoric. Right down to the Glee-inspired performance of “Don’t Stop Believing.” No, I’m not kidding.
Part of what interested me about OTR 2081 going in was its implied mobility. How Fringe would it be to get up out of your chair and walk around Cincinnati’s great neighborhood and still be attending theatre? In past festivals DIY Productions, the locally based creators of the show, had provided that unexpected performance art twist. This year, well, not so much. Expectations need to quickly be adjusted for OTR 2081. On opening night of the show (a gorgeous, picture-perfect night), the audience was broken into small groups and taken out on the street with tour guides-from-the-future for all of five minutes, traveling less than a block. Then the audience was quickly beckoned back to the orientation room in the basement of MOTR pub because of the “radiation alarms.” Not quite a mobile show, after all.
So if the show wasn’t meant to be that clever, first-hand look around at reality (presented like it’s a highly detailed re-enactment village), then it must just be a straightforward play that happens to be performed in a bar basement. And if that’s all it is, it is a painfully obvious and altogether awkward after-school special about environmental conservation, world peace and pop musical arrangements.
Note: While you don’t walk down to the Coffee Emporium on the tour, you are given a small cup of that day’s brew to sample. So even those disappointed in the show can say they did get something out of it. That’s worth something, right?