The 2008 Cincinnati Fringe Festival (the fifth annual) is up and running, and that offers your best theatrical choices for the weekend. You can read more about the vast array of Fringe offerings on CityBeat's Fringe blog site, but let me give you a quick heads-up about what I've seen so far that I'd urge others to check out.
On May 28, the first day of performances, I watched The Hotel Plays, a world premiere of three short works by respected playwright Israel Horovitz. They're humorous, a vein that Horovitz seldom follows, and well performed with co-direction by Ed Cohen and Dan Doerger. Four actors convey three situations of relationships that don't quite work, set in and around a hotel (it's kind of a latter-day version of Neil Simon's Plaza Suite.) I liked it, and reviewer Tom McElfresh gave it a critic's pick.
On May 29, I really enjoyed Allison Vodnoy's In Rehearsal, a one-woman show by a young actress who will be a senior at UC's College-Conservatory of Music next year. She's a talented performer, but equally impressive is that she wrote this material — about 65 minutes of one-woman monologue about a "nice Jewish girl" and her pursuit of romance. Not only does Vodnoy play the girl, she's also her shrink and about a half-dozen men she encounters in her pursuit. The show, by the way, is directed by Cincinnati Shakespeare's Giles Davies, a master at solo shows. Vordnoy's piece has been selected for two other Fringe festivals this summer in Minneapolis and Indianapolis.
Of course, your preference for Fringe shows will be idiosyncratic — not everyone likes the same thing. On May 28, I also watched Letters at Large, with a guy reading prank letters he's sent to companies and their confused, sometimes tongue-in-cheek responses (all real). I didn't think it was very original or delivered with much style, plus it was an hour long — about twice as much time as the material warranted. The audience, however, was laughing raucously and continuously throughout, so maybe I just wasn't in the mood.
Other shows recommended so far by CityBeat's review team: Destination: Fringe by Psophonia Dance Company; Anna the Slut and the (almost) Chosen One, a play with mythic roots by Andrew Hungerford; SoulVerses, a program of contemporary poetry; and What the Deuce!, which uses puppets and other humorous devices to explore male/female relationships.
Keep your eye on CityBeat's Fringe blog for more coverage as it becomes available.
— Rick Pender