Fringe Day 1: Under the big tent, tree faces, and a trip to Wonderland 

click to enlarge NARADA J. RILEY
Monumental art
Craig Walsh, Monuments | Through Sept. 23 | Free | All ages

Pictures do not do justice to “Craig Walsh, Monuments.”

Three serene faces hover over the parking lot off of East Avenue’s Third Presbyterian Church. (Across the street from The Strathallan hotel, for you non-church folks.) The breathtaking video images of this free experience are of three Rochesterians. In the dark, perhaps aided a bit by leaves slick with the rain earlier Tuesday evening, the faces shimmered on the trees on which they were projected. Images about 20 meters tall (their creator, Craig Walsh, is Australian, so he thinks in meters), their eyes opening and closing, faces suddenly breaking into a smile. These are silent, otherworldly giants.

“Permanent monuments have a place,” said Walsh, standing next to the rental truck from which the ghostly images are projected. These monuments are different. What he calls “ephemeral.” They will be gone with the Rochester Fringe Festival when it closes on Sept. 23. “The trees have a shape similar to the human head,” Walsh said. A breeze changes the experience. Walsh has even seen bats flying out of other projected trees he's done, a mind-blowing sight.

Walsh has already made videos of three more Rochester heads for next year’s Fringe Festival. He has done hundreds of such projections around the world. One even near a pub, a treat in waiting for its patrons. “Then they come out,” Walsh says, “and have a great experience.” —JEFF SPEVAK

click to enlarge NARADA J. RILEY
The rare air of Circolombia
Circolombia: Corazon | Through Sept. 23 | From $30 | All ages

The show is called “Corazon,” Spanish for heart. Dancers dangle from their ankles, sometimes in pairs, from cables fixed to the ceiling of the ornate Spiegeltent on E. Main Street. Acrobats walk and flip along tightropes stretched between two posts. They dance with hoops high above the audience. There is aerial sleight-of-hand, as one dancer is revealed to be two, the second having been hiding beneath a billowing skirt.

Circolombia is seven performers from the South American country of Colombia: Three men, three women and one puppet. The experience is edgy. Dangerous, even. The audience cannot help but wonder: Will one fall?

No. They move and twirl in the air to dance-heavy beats. Fort much of the time, the performers’ feet do not touch the ground. This is altitude dancing, the dance floor is cables and rope. A moment of simple juggling – four balls, five balls – goes slightly awry. But did that lapse set up the audience for a far-more complex trick, and success?

These are special acrobats. One woman waving white feathers holds a cable in her mouth, to be hoisted to the ceiling; dentists in the audience must cringe. And any guy who can bend a leg behind his head and slide into a one-handed handstand is indeed special. —JEFF SPEVAK

click to enlarge DANIEL J. KUSHNER
Impressive performances transport audience to Wonderland
Alice by Heart | Sept. 13, 18, 22, 23 | From $25 | Ages 13+

“Alice By Heart,” presented here by Theatre444, is a story about infatuation, mortality, reconciling with grief, and things left unsaid for too long. Novelist Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” is less the source material for this 2019 musical than it is the utopian ideal where the central characters escape and get stuck.

Set in World War II during the Nazi Blitzkrieg on London, the story follows teenager Alice Spencer and her lifelong friend Alfred Hallum, who has been diagnosed with a terminal case of tuberculosis. The two friends navigate their feelings for one another as they venture one last time into the magical Wonderland of their childhood.

The poignancy of the story hinges on the chemistry of the lead actors, and in that respect, Theatre444’s production is a resounding success. Kaylie Barbosa’s Alice is somehow both innocent and worldly, and her evolution from adolescence to adulthood is a major throughline. Alexander Ramos as Alfred is warm and playful as he reconciles the wide-eyed imagination of his youth with the harsh realities of life.

In the musical numbers “Another Room in Your Head” and “Afternoon” that the charming Barbosa and Ramos’s emotional rapport elevate the plot’s simple conceit of escape into fantasy with real psychological stakes. And the production, directed by Pam Rapoza, makes the most of the economical set and costuming. As a whole, “Alice By Heart” is a welcome trip down the rabbit hole, and Theatre444’s presents this spin on the literary classic with enthusiasm and commitment.— Daniel J. Kushner

click to enlarge PHOTO PROVIDED
One artist (and her hair) stands out at “Dances at MuCCC”
Dances at MuCCC | One night only

From live music and modern dance to an interpretation of a Chinese fable to Irish-tap dance combinations, last night’s showcase at MuCCC featured eight entertaining and impressive works by local dance artists. While many dancers highlighted either technique or artistry, Katherine Marino flawlessly blended both in her piece “Locks.”
Before beginning, Marino had to be guided onto the stage. True to the title, Marino’s sight was limited by her mane of hair, which covered her face entirely. She wore a bright yellow ensemble, complete with a tutu and bowler hat that began its choreography perched on top of Marino’s hair. The audience laughed at the bizarre opening image, but the work wasn’t solely comedic. As Marino danced to a haunting tune, she portrayed a range of emotions, all without showing her face.

Marino used her props – the bowler hat and a hair scrunchie (which came in play for a poignant and amusing final image) – purposefully and cleverly. Along with the movement and the music, the props effortlessly helped the audience along the journey of the work. Marino masterfully maneuvered both the hat and her hair, allowing them to become characters in themselves. She reached longingly to her hat, only for it to twirl up and around her body seemingly of its own accord. Marino’s hair created a barrier between her and the audience, and miraculously kept her face hidden even while she danced, using the entire stage with sweeping choreography.

“Locks” was a charming combination of theater, dance, and immense creativity. Though Marino doesn’t have a repeat performance on the bill for the remainder of Fringe, be sure to keep an eye out for this local artist in the future.—Sydney Burrows

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