Stage Door: Fringe, Fringe and More Fringe

I’m busy this week managing and editing reviews of all the 2016 Cincinnati Fringe Festival shows, so I thought a quick rundown of shows that have earned praise early on (nearly 30 shows have been presented on two evenings so far) might be in order.

The first Fringe production to have a sold-out performance was Darlings, by Animal Engine. That was probably based on previous popularity with Fringe productions including Dog Show and Petunia and Chicken. But it’s clear that this year’s Darlings is equally appealing — although in a different vein from their prior work. This time Karim Muasher and Carrie Brown are reimagining Peter Pan, told from the perspective of the Darlings, parents of Wendy, John and Michael, the kids who disappear with Peter. Mr. and Mrs. Darling struggle with the loss of their kids. As part of their grieving, they tell stories about a creatively imagined place called Neverland. Reviewer Ed Cohen wrote, “Peter Pan is often called a metaphor for the reality of growing up from a child’s point of view. In the same way, Darlings extends the metaphor to the loss experienced by parents when their children grow up and eventually leave home. Muasher and Brown make it a simple and powerful message. And it’s almost a certainty that audience members will never again look at the Peter Pan story in quite the same way.” Read his full review HERE.

Writer Rodger Pille gave a Critic’s Pick to The Gospel of Fat Kathy, a show produced by a group of CCM Drama grads. God checks in on earth as a high school student and doesn’t like much of what he sees. Pille wrote, “This is gonzo theatre. It’s bombastic and unapologetic. It’s bold. And strong. And wise beyond its years. And it’s quite frankly as eye-opening and provocative a piece as I’ve seen at the Fringe in all the years I’ve attended.” Read his full review HERE.

A Critic’s Pick was awarded to Baby Mama: One Woman’s Quest to Give Her Child to Gay People. The title pretty much tells the story of this one-woman show, but it’s the performance by Mariah McCarthy that really impressed reviewer Kirk Sheppard: “McCarthy has a breezy, conversational style. It’s almost like you’re a guest at her party, where she holds court telling compelling, honest stories. There’s no pretense. And while there’s obviously a script, you get the sense she’s never tied to it but has the freedom to express herself however she wants.” Read his full review HERE. (And check out another review of this production by Nicholas Korn HERE, created by a minor schedule snafu by me … Second opinions are always fun to read.)

Finally, Daniel Park from Philadelphia has created a live videogame adventure for audiences to join in at the Coffee Emporium. It’s called You are the Hero, and reviewer Bart Bishop thinks it might be good enough to go see a second time — since the outcome varies (from 10 minutes to two hours, depending on when you reach “game over”). He suggested that audiences be prepared: “It’s very physical and interactive and breaks down personal space. As one audience member said afterward, the whole group became friends immediately as if they’d actually been on a journey together.” Read his full review HERE.

And stay tuned to CityBeat's Fringe Hub, where you can find reviews of each and every 2016 Fringe show!


Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories 

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