Kathy Reviews 'Rhythm Delivered,' 'Commotion Dance Theater,' 'Other People’s Shows,' and 'MargOH Channing is Hung' 

Most parents may shy away from bringing their kids to a performance of “Stomp.” But what if you removed some of the volume and injected some humor perfect for young audiences? You’d get “Rhythm Delivered.” The troupe of dancers and percussionists use their bodies, as well as miscellaneous objects (paint buckets, cardboard boxes, plastic tubes, and more) to make music, art, and straight-up fun.

By playing with a sound looper, the dancers each add their own phrase to the opening number by banging on a hollow wooden box set on stage right. Once everyone’s added their bit, the group begins tap dancing across the stage. While some of the technical brilliance of their dancing may be lost on younger audiences, adults (especially this hoofer) can appreciate the crispness of their syncopation.

What the kids (and adults – yours truly included) will enjoy is the call-and-response nature of some of the routines. The dancers will tap or bang out a rhythm and ask sections to clap or stomp along. Soon, we’re all making music together. A little boy in the front row at the performance I saw was particularly into it, dancing in the aisle with reckless abandon.

While the concept is simple, and loosely inspired by the aforementioned “Stomp” as well as the Blue Man Group, the techniques, rhythms and materials they use are innovative and fascinating. One routine involves hitting spoons on their knees while also doing stomp dancing. Often, the dancers’ hands and feet are doing two completely separate rhythms (no small feat).

In another number, dancers hit different length plastic tubes against other tubes and the stage to create a melody for a dance. It’s a little like being in a hand bell choir while also tap dancing (a little harder to do that patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time). The number ends when they begin playing some familiar tunes — themes from “Mission Impossible,” “Star Wars,” and “Indiana Jones,” allowing the group to add a pinch of humor to it all.

There were a few routines involving background music and drums that were a tad loud even for me (and the 5-year-old in front of me was covering his ears), but it’s nearly impossible not to let your toes tap along.

Rhythm Delivered will not be performed again at Fringe.

Down the street a little ways, at MuCCC, a very different type of dance performance took place Sunday. It was more subdued, more subtle, and more expressive. Commotion Dance Theatre brought four original works to the Rochester Fringe this year, each as different as it was beautiful. Ruben T. Ornelas started the show, slowly scattering rose petals across the stage, before swirling his arms upward and dancing a sort of salsa — sans partner. It was full of joy and life. The second piece, “Of its Kind,” was more brooding and introspective, performed by guest dancer Alaina Olivieri, clad in nude undergarments and a fishnet dress. She crawled about the stage, rising into graceful arabesques, only to collapse again in a sort of primal struggle.

The third piece was the most experimental in my view. Laurie MacFarlane danced to a series of sound effects — from busy traffic to wind to birds chirping. MacFarlane loses herself in the piece, swirling about chaotically, then tenderly picking up a rose and handing it to someone in the front row. The final piece mixes Spanish poetry, music, and dance. Although I did not understand the poetry, Ornelas’ expressiveness clearly delivers the message.

Commotion Dance Theater will be performed again on Saturday, September 21 at 1:30 p.m. at MuCCC. Tickets are $10. Appropriate for ages 13 and up.

Unfortunately, I had missed Plasticiens Volants this year (Friday because of high winds and Saturday because of scheduling conflicts), but I was in luck Sunday! Unleashed Improv started their performance of “Other People’s Shows” by charmingly simulating the performance, only this time it was with balloon animals and birthday balloons on sticks. It may not have been as majestic, but it was certainly fun to watch.

For those unfamiliar, the local comedy troupe invites audience members to pick shows from the Fringe Guide and have the team of quick-witted actors recreate their version of it on the spot, based only on the description in the guide. With more than 500 shows, there’s no way they could have studied up or planned ahead for what we would witness throughout the night.

The actors skewer everything from “Disco Kids” to “Carlotta Cash and the Dollar Bill Show,” “Consensual Sax,” and everything in between. The “Unethical Dalai Llama” is turned from what I imagine is a serious show to a hilarious journey that finds one man trying to reject material things like Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich, lust, greed, and even the new season of “Stranger Things.”

The group plays off one another seamlessly, and you can really tell the members have been acting and working together for a while and are comfortable saying or doing anything for a laugh. Even when things aren’t going right — like not being able to do a Scottish accent to parody “God is a Scottish Drag Queen” — their self-awareness only makes it funnier.

The capstone for the evening was when they tried to mash-up “Avengers: Endgame” and “My Big Gay Italian Wedding.” Nothing could have prepared me for watching Thanos scold his adopted Italian son for being gay, while Iron Man strides in to save the wedding day. The best part is, no two shows are exactly the same, with the cast lovingly skewering different shows each night.

Other People’s Shows will be performed again on Wednesday, September 18 at 7:30 p.m. at School of the Arts: Ensemble Theatre. Tickets are $12. Appropriate for ages 13 and up.

When a very tipsy MargOH Channing stumbled her way down the steps of the Cabaret Hall, I wasn’t sure if I should be nervous or entertained. But once the hilariously over-coiffed drag queen made her way to the stage, grabbed a martini glass and knocked it back, it became clear that the fall-down drunk bit was part of the act. “MargOH Channing is Hung” apparently also was a reference to being hung-over.

She cracks jokes about her rough upbringing, and about the struggles of trying to find a new man since her fiancé left her (“I found a man in a bar. He was tall, dark and … well, I had had a lot of bourbon). The silly interludes are vehicles for the bulk of the performance — singing original works, as well as some covers, including “Memories” from “Cats” and some Billy Joel tunes. The harmonies are a bit flat at times, but you can tell she’s having a rootin’ good time from beginning to end.

MargOH! Channing is Hung will not be performed again at Fringe.

In This Guide...

  • Leah reviews 'Thank You Kiss Presents: Secret Handshakes'

    With scripted sketches, improv, video, plenty of pop music and, of course, a secret handshake, Thank You Kiss — comprised of Marc D’Amico, Megan Mack, John Forrest Thompson, and Beth Winslow — makes a hilarious return to the Blackfriars Theatre stage for the first time since 2017. “Secret Handshakes” begins with everyday situations at places from the office, to suburbia, the dentist office and a moving car, and twists them into unexpected and bizarre outcomes.

  • Adam reviews 'Muffin Theatre Presents: A Show With Cookies' and 'Which Bitch Did It?'

    With its straightforward title, the utterly delightful “Muffin Theatre Presents: A Show With Cookies” delivers exactly what it promises. The entire solo show follows Katherine Marino’s chipper hostess as she decides to bake some cookies.

  • Kathy reviews 'Josephine, a burlesque cabaret dream play'

    One of the things I love most about Fringe is I always learn something. Usually it’s a life lesson or a new way of looking at something, but Friday night, I learned all of that, as well as the life story of iconic performer Josephine Baker.

  • Kathy reviews 'Garth Fagan Dance: Up Close and Personal'

    Garth Fagan has been a fixture in the Rochester community for nearly 50 years for a reason — he has a distinct style that is instantly recognizable, but he is constantly coming up with fresh ways to present his style of dance.

  • David reviews 'Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra: Scheherazade .2'

    A symphony orchestra in a Fringe Festival? It sure makes sense when the orchestra gives an entire program of recent music by four American composers, all very much alive.

  • Leah reviews 'The Memory Palace Live'

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  • Frank reviews 'Charming Disaster: A Musical Tarot Reading'

    Brooklyn-based duo Charming Disaster was charming as hell, but the only thing disastrous I could see and hear was the two girls sitting behind me that wouldn’t shut up. That notwithstanding, the band put out a dark set of sense, of sensuality, and of grace. 

  • Adam reviews 'Brave Space' and 'Frogpig'

    Before entering the gymnasium venue of “Brave Space” at the School of the Arts, the audience is instructed to watch a short introductory video to let us know what to expect from the show we’re about to see. We’re told to prepare to get cozy with one another, and that audience members may be asked to assist the performers at certain points throughout the act.

  • Leah reviews 'Delirium'

    There’s something raw and vulnerable about telling a personal story. It’s the stuff of memoir, autobiography, of poetry and prose.

  • Leah reviews 'The 24-Hour Plays'

    Three producers, five writers, five directors, 14 actors, 24 hours. “The 24 Hour-Plays,” an ever-popular Fringe act, returned to Writers & Books on Monday night for two performances at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.

  • Kathy reviews '21 Chump Street' and 'ExMen: Not About Superheroes'

    If you know what you’re doing, you don’t need a long time to convey emotion and a point.

  • Leah reviews 'Spooky Stories in the Stacks,' 'The Fighting Girl’s Guide to Politics,' and 'This Year’s Models'

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  • Frank reviews 'Pearl: Secrets of the Sea'

    The French company Plasticiens Volants  made up for Friday night's forced cancellation due to high winds with two spectacular shows on Saturday night. It was mighty cool, it was mondo epic and truly amazing how they brought these enormous inflatable sea creatures to life over the heads of thousands of mesmerized souls, as their jaws hit the Parcel 5 gravel in awe.

  • Adam reviews 'RIT School of Film & Animation Honors Show 2019,' 'Oz and Effect,' and '‘33 (a kabarett)'

    I always try to make a point of attending the annual Fringe program from RIT’s School of Film and Animation, which presents a host of films (34 this year) produced by the students of SOFA. The works are selected to represent every year of the school’s graduate and undergraduate programs, as well as every genre of film — so there’s bound to be something for everyone among the offerings.

  • Kathy reviews 'Flirting Like an American'

    Language is a funny thing. It's even funnier when Sufian Zhemukhov takes command of it to tell his story of coming to America from Russia and finding out slowly (and sometimes painfully) that the language of love is not international.

  • David reviews 'Dogfight: The Musical'

    Just to put it up front: “Dogfight” is a musical with a book by Peter Duchan and a score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. I mention this because their names are mentioned nowhere on the program for OFC Productions’ Fringe Festival presentation.

  • Leah reviews 'The Eulogy'

    Seven minutes before his 7 p.m. curtain on Friday night, performer Michael Burgos was on the first floor of Writers & Books, nervously milling around the long line that had formed outside the stairway to the second floor theater. A house manager cleared her throat.

  • Adam reviews 'Colma!'

    The infamous Colma, California is a small town just south of San Francisco where, thanks to a significant chunk of the city’s land being devoted to an absurd number of cemeteries, the dead outnumber the living by a jaw-dropping 1,000 to 1. With roughly 1800 living residents, that’s a lot of stiffs.

  • David reviews 'Charlie and the Siberian Monkey Goddess'

    “Charlie and the Siberian Monkey Goddess” manages to be something you’ve seen before — the zany “Who’s the crazy one?” debate in a psychiatrist’s office — and something a bit different, in that the debate is between Charlie Chaplin (or an imposter) and someone who might be a doctor, or the goddess of the title, or possibly Princess Anastasia (all of whom affect a Boris-and-Natasha Russian accent). Don Nigro’s one-act play isn’t quite as brilliant as it thinks it is, but it is concise and consistently clever.

  • Kathy reviews 'Somewhere in Between' and 'God is a Scottish Drag Queen'

    After debuting at last year’s Fringe Festival, the Frazee Feet Dancers are back with a new work titled “Somewhere in Between.” Utilizing original written works, newly composed music and contemporary dance, the small but nimble group tells stories about love, life and acceptance. The written pieces, which are read by its author Reilly Hirst, serve as pacing interludes and introductions to each of the seven pieces, which are accompanied live by musician Greg Woodsbie.

  • Leah reviews 'BardBending: Fight Club Edition'

    With more than 500 shows running in 12 days of Fringe, most folks won’t be likely to choose Shakespeare first.

  • Leah reviews 'Black Matter'

    Candles flickered around the event space off the main dining room at Nox in Village Gate on Wednesday evening, adding to the ambiance of the large, Victorian-esque room. A server flitted around delivering drinks tableside, and a makeshift stage area set apart from tables and chairs was lit with red and blue lights, casting purple rays across the faces of three young black dancers who began the show with a moving interpretive dance set to music thick with bass drumming.

  • Frank reviews 'Cirque du Fringe: D'illusion'

    It takes quite a show to upstage a venue, but the folks behind "The Cirque du Fringe" spectacular each year consistently knock it’s capacity audience out. The show is loosely held together by your charming hosts Matt and Heidi Morgan, who wrangle this sideshow as much as they perform alongside attractions from around the globe.

  • Rochester Fringe 2019: CITY's Daily Fringe Blogs

    CITY Newspaper will offer extensive coverage of the 2019 Rochester Fringe Festival. Check back right here for daily blogs, with photos and reviews, during the fun of the festival (September 10-21) And let us know how your Fringe is going on social media with the hashtag #fringeCITY.

  • Frank reviews 'The Theater World of John W. Borek'

    Alt-theater impresario, fringe of The Fringe, and madman John Borek said adios to The MuCCC performance space on Tuesday night after reigning there for 10 years with contrarian and maniacal delight. The attendees in the joint expected this producer of some of the worst theater to pull off the unexpected and Borek didn’t disappoint; he did exactly the expected, which no one expected —- the fools.

  • Kathy reviews 'Something From Nothing (Marfa)'

    When you walk into your first Fringe show and you’re greeted by a tunnel of cast members cheering and offering you high fives, you might suspect you’re in for something a little different.

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