Ithaca, N.Y. — The second annual Ithaca Fringe Festival is being held this weekend at several venues in downtown Ithaca.
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Fringe staff have asked to republish the following 6 reviews — not written by the Ithaca Voice — about the different events. (For showtimes and more, see here.)
Here they are:
1 — Redemption: Hit Men, Pancakes, and Love
Dave Ebersole’s Redemption, Mystic Water Kava Bar, DME Productions, Ithaca Fringe Fest, April 16 through 19
The idea of finding “companionship” after being attracted to the person whose life you were paid to take is more than a little twisted, but that is the rollercoaster of a storyline presented to audiences in DME Productions’ Redemption (a romantic comedy?)―an original play written and directed by Dave Ebersole.
Hailing from Philadelphia, both the play and its cast are making their Ithaca debuts at the Mystic Water Kava Bar as part of the 2015 Fringe Fest, which runs through April 19. Redemption is a rom-com infused, high-stakes drama that is designed to test both the minds and emotions of its audiences and characters.
With his hands tied around his back, Joey (Sean McDermott) proclaims his innocence through the pillowcase over his head, hoping to save his own skin. He claims that he didn’t scam mobster boss Tito (Michael C. Raimondo), but, “That’s not what Tito said.” And that’s where Marco (Richard Bradford) comes in. He’s been hired to kill Joey as punishment for trying to run off with his boss’s money. While Marco hasn’t had a “job” in a while, being a resident hit man isn’t new to him. He’s killed more than a few people for Tito, but for some reason he can’t kill Joey―the jokester who tends to care more about pancakes than the fact that his life is on the line.
Bradford channels both sides of broken hit man Marco flawlessly, projecting the inner battle to be strong in the face of the one thing that gave his life meaning―his lost love. He portrays Marco with emotional intensity that allows him to clearly show both sides of the character’s complicated life. One minute he’s hollering at Joey with a convincing power, trying to fight his attraction, but as soon as he goes to touch Joey, his state of mind is tested.
Joey, on the other hand, is a harder puzzle to solve. McDermott gives the character depth during his monologues―especially the one about Aqua Man―where he shines with emotion. But when he plays off Bradford, both his actual reaction and reaction time are not always spot on. When shown the various weapons which he can be tortured with, McDermott responds with a much less frantic tone than appropriate for the scene. His casual, comedic side works after Joey gains a sort of power over Marco, but ultimately, that joker card was played a little too early.
Finally there’s Tito, the man who thinks he is pulling all the strings. Raimondo brings a Soprano flavor to this power player that works well considering Tito’s mob-style behaviors. When he finally shows his face towards the end of the play, Raimando makes it clear that Tito isn’t a “puddle of feelings” like the other two characters.
Redemption is surprisingly full of romance and has some shock value, too, but what the play impeccably highlights is the concept of humanity. While the rom-com bits and the drama don’t mesh perfectly, audiences are forced not to always trust the books they are presented with by their covers alone, because as this play exemplifies, the pages hold the real story.
2 — Cupidity: Rom-Com Dream
Jessica Fitzpatrick’s Cupidity, Cinemapolis, April 16 through 19
One-woman (or man) shows are not that common because the reality is, it takes one hell of an actor to take on multiple roles in a single play. Jefferson Mays is killing it as the entire D’Ysquith family in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder on Broadway, and now Jessica Fitzpatrick―the writer, director and star of Cupidity―is showcasing her undeniable talent in Ithaca. Cupidity is making its U.S. premiere at Cinemapolis in Ithaca as part of Fringe Fest 2015. It brings audiences along for the love-filled journey of rom-com movie buff Annie Miller.
Watching Harry Met Sally, Titanic and every other rom-com in existence has left Annie longing for a Rorge Glooney―a dreamy Ryan Gosling and George Clooney mix of a man―to co-star in her own love story. After reading her horoscope in an issue of Cosmopolitan, she’s convinced her “love life is on an upswing” and that today is her day. As she waits for her blind date to arrive and sweep her off her feet, she presents both embarrassing and hilarious pieces of her past as well as the vision of a new movie she’s titled Love, Love, Love.
Fitzpatrick brings zany, lovesick Annie to life with her blunt honesty and electric energy. She proves to be both dynamic and impressive by taking on Annie, members of Annie’s real and her cinematic lives and somehow managing to keep all of the characters separate. With the addition of a new accessory like a pair of geeky glasses or a silky teal scarf, Fitzpatrick makes the character transitions in a manner that is flawless and clear.
The sound design of the show that includes catchy iconic songs and movie sound bites also provides great transitional support to the show as a whole and takes audiences down memory lane while Fitzpatrick simultaneously takes them on a trip down Annie’s. But the element that this one woman show deserves the most applause for is her level of engagement.
Both audience participation and direct interaction could be incredibly awkward misses, but in Cupidity’s case, it’s definitely a hit. Fitzpatrick will stare you straight in the eye and tell you about how Annie’s eighth grade crush rejected her (and maybe even drag you up on stage to recreate the scene), but her over-the-top acting style makes the situation Annie is in more awkward than the fact that she’s calling you out.
The world of Annie Miller is a hilarious three-ring circus that operates with a sense of organized chaos. Fitzpatrick has given herself more than enough to tackle, but she succeeds in taking audiences on a journey about love that highlights just how crazy, stupid and downright hilarious it can be.
3 — Edgar Allan: Creepy and Kooky, Hilarious and Spooky . . .
April 16, 2015
The Coldharts’ Edgar Allan, Community School of Music and Arts, April 16-19
The second Ithaca Fringe Festival kicked off with a sure-fire hit from the Brooklyn-based troupe the Coldharts, about the imagined boyhood of the master of macabre, Edgar Allan Poe.
Edgar Allan — billed quite accurately as a “maniacal lullabye [sic] inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s youth and stories” — is both sportive and spooky.
Part musical, part drama, it opens with the 11-1/2-year-old Edgar Allan plucking a ukulele and singing in a boy-choir soprano of his childhood imaginings and yearnings and . . . plots of domination in the new boarding school he’s about to enter.
Katie Hartman as Edgar Allan is sweet-voiced and graceful, alternately droll and demonic as the narcissistic preteen, crowing about his high birth and of his prowess in academic subjects, elocution, sport, and strength of body and character. Scornful and downright cruel to the other boys, he intimidates the other students to the point that they all leave him to eat alone as, he informs us, befits a superior being such as he.
All, that is, but one. Another boy of, it happens, the very same name — Edgar Allan — barely notices the self-appointed new head of school, which drives our young egoist mad. Adding insult to injury, Edgar 2, played with reserve, dignity, and a touch of mystery by Nick Ryan, offers to be his friend.
This is too much for the callow tyrant. Edgar 1 plots revenge. He entices Edgar 2, played by Nick Ryan, to tempt trouble and venture off campus to engage in a ritual name changing. During their wilderness baptism, Edgar 1 (who has chosen a moniker that will give readers of Poe a grin of satisfaction; I won’t give this away here) demands that they each reveal to the other one deep dark secret that no one else in the world knows.
Edgar 2 declines to go first. Edgar 1 does blurt out his most painful secret, intending to trigger an even more damning revelation from his nemesis that he will henceforth use against him in dastardly ways. But Edgar 2 disarms him with a hug of sympathy, perhaps the most intimate touch he has ever felt. When it’s Edgar 2’s turn to share, his boyish silly secret is so minor in comparison that Edgar 1 is mortified to have revealed his own vulnerability.
This calls for a suitable revenge. Suffice it to say that what ensues is not for the faint of heart, but perfectly satisfying, even for someone like me, who is pretty wimpy when it comes to horror tales.
The story is often moved along by bursts of oddly compelling songs, accompanied by the ukulele, delivered in Hartman’s lilting voice. Her broad demonic smile and audience eye contact make it all perfectly hypnotizing and creepy. And Ryan is a splendid foil.
I LOVED THIS PLAY and highly, highly recommend it. Edgar Allan — a perfect fringe show. Bravo, Coldharts!
4 — The Road to Towanda: Paved with Hilarity
by Paige Anderson
April 16, 2015
Flower City Productions’ The Road to Towanda, Community School of Music and Arts, April 16-19
Flower City Vaudeville, a three-man troupe comprised of Ward Hartenstein, Ted Baumhauer, and Richard Hughson, wants desperately to impress a talent scout, hoping to play the American Legion Hall in Towanda.
To that end, they devise a series of acts, alternately fretting, “Will they like it in Towanda?” and reassuring one another, “That will play well in Towanda!” The show they create is a fast-paced, energetic mix of silliness, squabbling, clowning, acrobatics, synchronized juggling, sight gags, whipped cream flinging, unicycle jump rope, whip cracking, double-entendre, and singalongs, with a Shakespearean monologue and a mysterious fixation with macaroons thrown in for good measure.
The troupe invites (and occasionally demands) audience participation, and when they deem the audience’s laughter and clapping insufficient, the three have no qualms about supplementing it with a thunderous outpouring of prerecorded applause.
The three quickly form and then disband what is probably one of the oddest musical trios of all time
. Their feats of human ingenuity –one spins a lasso while playing “Home on the Range” on a kazoo, and another one picks up a glass and puts it on his head without touching it – are as impressive as they are hilarious.
The travails of poor “Hobo Joe,” bedeviled by one mishap after another until he is only too happy to return to his lonely life riding the rails, is a particular delight. All in all, they will like it in Ithaca! This family-friendly variety show is great fun and thoroughly entertaining.
5 — Bortle 8: Free Spirit in the Sky
Drunk Lion Productions | Cinemapolis | April 16-19
If you are drawn to the night sky but live in a city or suburb where much of it is washed out by the reflections from the artificial lights on Earth, you’ll understand the frustration felt by Chris Davis in his fascinating one-man show Bortle 8.
With nary a prop, using only his own body and a highly developed space substance technique along with a brilliant audio track, Davis takes us from outer space to deep below the ocean in a 75-minute stream-of-consciousness romp.
Heartbroken after the latest in a string of romantic breakups, his character decides to go on a quest for the darkest spot in the world, which would be a Bortle 1 site. He currently lives in the city of Philadelphia, which is a Bortle 8, where even bright constellations such as the Big Dipper are invisible to the unaided eye.
The titles come from the Bortle Effect or Bortle Dark-Sky Scale, named by astronomer John Bortle when he mapped the relationship between light pollution and astronomy to determine the best places to find a truly dark sky for stargazing. As Davis tells us, as recently as a few decades ago one could find truly dark skies not far from major cities. Today, however, there are few if any pristine skies visible from Earth.
During his quest Davis embarks on his ship of imagination, revealing personal peccadillos and longings, and a childish wonder at the universe and life on Earth. His gentle adventurousness and wide blue eyes endear him to the audience, with whom he directly interacts in a few places (not alarmingly!). He personalizes his tale, too, with direct references to Ithaca spots: Wegmans, Cinemapolis, the Commons, Fringe Central, and Cayuga Lake (filling in for the deep blue sea).
With an integral sound design by Adriano Shaplin, and directed by Mary Tuomanen, this is a thoroughly delightful show, and the Cinemapolis venue is a perfect fit. From here Davis will take it to the Pittsburgh, Capital D.C., Portland Maine Fringes, and then to the Edinburgh Fringe. The Ithaca Fringe is richer for it.
There is one instance of the F-word mentioned a few times. If you’re OK with your kid hearing it, I would definitely bring the children. It’s billed as Age 7+. I highly recommend Bortle 8!