The Performance Gallery is the only troupe to have presented a show at every Cincinnati Fringe Festival since its inception. Many of those previous productions have been intricate and brilliant, while a few were brave experiments that didn’t quite take flight. Unfortunately, Rodney Rumple’s Random Reality falls into the second category.
The setup is kind of Alice in Wonderland meets Maurice Sendak: the title character, played by Peter York, has been orphaned, then raised by an elderly relative named Ancient Lady (Willemien Patterson). Together they live rather poorly in a hovel at the edge of a forest with a cat named Kitten (Jodie Linver), who just might have more personality than the other humans in the story. When a tax collector takes the money for cat food, Rodney and his faithful feline head out on something of a walkabout, and several adventures and dream sequences follow.
There are some seedling moments of inspiration, such as a repeated morning ritual that gets faster and more truncated each time it is presented, and a Chinese wise man who appears at odd times to provide a quirky proverb that helps Rodney on his journey. The tax collector and the oriental sage, and a host of other characters, are played with verve and variety by Dylan Shelton. Derek Snow plays the local bully, and I was surprised to hear so much approving laughter at his brutish behavior, especially considering how much attention the media has recently placed on the issue.
Rodney Rumple was directed by long-time Performance Gallery member, Regina Pugh, who has proven herself in the past as one of the troupe’s strongest and most sensitive performers. I missed her onstage for this year’s outing and wished she had been able to channel her instincts into the performances onstage. Although there are glimmers of concepts and connections sprinkled throughout, the 2012 entry by this Fringe mainstay is a little too rumpled and random.