The most unusual fringe venue for this year’s festival belongs to Squares, the latest entry from dog & pony dc from Washington, D.C. The show is performed outside in the School for Creative and Performing Arts at the south end of Over-the-Rhine’s Washington Park. (If you attend, you should enter from Race Street between Twelfth Street and Central Parkway.)
Squares is immersion participatory theater that consists of playing childhood playground games led by dog & pony’s friendly leaders. On Friday night there were about 25 of us in the audience, and we played a half dozen group games including multiple variations of Tag (traditional, TV and Zombie) and Red Light/Green Card which simulates crossing the Mexican/American border as a playground sport.
If you are someone who loathes audience participation, this might not be the show for you. But all of the games are fun and nobody is forced to participate, put on the spot or made to look foolish. Free cups of water are provided to all.
What dog & pony seems to be doing is using the playground to show how life in adult society is unfair and sexist with rules that keep the winners winning and the losers losing. However, it was unclear whether they are saying that we have lost our way from the idyllic playgrounds of our childhoods or that we are indoctrinated at an early age into life’s cruelties and unfairness.
The opening performance on May 29 was the first time Squares had been engaged a large public group, and it showed. The opening introductory name game was too complicated and went on far too long. And the 70-minute show was nearly over before the cast began to effectively work their themes into the games we were playing. But this kind of theatre can only be created by trial-and-error with new participating audiences.
I suspect that the actors will have a clearer handle on how to pace their activities in subsequent performances. Squares will be an interesting show after the company members work the bugs out and define the necessary rhythm to convey their points.
Joe McDonough is a Cincinnati playwright whose plays have been widely staged locally and around the country.
Read the official 32-page FRINGE FESTIVAL GUIDE hereand find the full performance lineup