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Review: Free at Last and Confused in the Land of Good & Evil

By Tom McElfresh · May 28th, 2009 · Fringe

At 100 minutes, Free at Last/Land of Confusion/The Good, The Bad and The Evil: Angels vs. Demons is at least 60 repetitive, mind-numbing, ear-assaulting minutes too long. It seeks to weld dance, poetry, music, sound and images together into salient social commentary.

It is, in performance, a bloated, banal, undigested mess of second-hand ideas and other people’s images, all shoe-horned into each other in self-indulgent disarray — like a greedy kid turned loose in a candy store. He stuffs his mouth full of noxious circus peanuts and then, overloaded, spews.

Cincinnati author-singer-choreographer-producer-director Diana Ford is nothing if not omnipresent in her first Fringe production. She’s on stage for virtually every thumping, arm-waving number. As an author, she grabs and repeats headlines without adding any original thought or interpretation. Part One of the piece discovers that slavery was a bad thing and that its horrors still disturb American society. Now there’s news.

Catchall Part Two muddles together references to contemporary social ills such as child abuse, homelessness, obesity vs.

skeletal fashion models, gang violence, television violence, movie violence, oil company excesses and political malfeasance. Only it’s last week’s ideas. Ford seems not to have noticed that Bush and Cheney are out of office and the country has turned corners in several new directions.

Part Three gets hysterical about religion, kids, angels and demons — mostly images displayed for shock value without any special insight. The segment does, however, supply Ford with some serious self-indulgence when she parades across the stage dragging a cross. One has to wonder how the people who own the copyrights to “borrowed” movie and television clips in the show’s relentless image barrage might react to their chopped up display in this production.

As a singer Ford should consider not doing it in public, at least not unaccompanied. As a choreographer she has a dozen or so moves, some of them mildly interesting, some straight from the disco. There’s the shoulders-back-arm shake. There’s the raise-one-arm-then-the-other move whilst pivoting. There’s the Hip Hop stomp. And some others. But then, there they are again and again and again.

The program lists 20-plus “numbers,” but none is distinguishable the next. And in none of them is the movement particularly relevant to the topic. At one point Ford comes wheeling on for a solo, danced while rolling around in an office chair. That’s an interesting idea, except it’s all the same moves, just done sitting down.

Ford is nowhere in sight for the show’s two truly effective segments. The distorted soundtrack goes silent, the barrage of borrowed images goes dark and poet Regina Ford-Fowler takes stage to read seven poems, most of them her own. They’re passionate, contemporary and insightful. Most provocative is one about children being distanced from their family’s religion. Most aching is one about child sexual abuse.

Also appearing in the show are Jinnerva Shelery, India Jones, Juliane Patterson and Ninlane O’Kiersey. If you go, take ear plugs.

Performed at Gabriel's Corner through June 5. See performance dates and preview here.



05.30.2009 at 12:04 Reply
This show was a good combination of music, video, song, and dance. The critic obviously just doesn’t get it. He mentioned that it was too loud, and whole bunch of other crap, blah, blah, blah... Free at Last and Confused in The Land of Good & Evil is very edgy and fast paced, and it’s something young people can relate to. If you’re not watching closely you may miss what’s going on. I’m not sure what the Hip-Hop stomp is. I’m not too familiar with that one, because Hip-Hop dance involves a lot of different types of movements, which go way beyond disco. At any rate, I enjoyed the program, and I would definitely encourage other people to go and see it, despite what the critic says.


05.30.2009 at 04:32 Reply
The critic is apparently confused about what is going on in this show, and does not seem to understand Popular Culture, because the piece was not about who is the current President of the United States. The wounds of Bush and Cheney just don’t suddenly disappear in 5 months, because we have a replacement. Ms. Ford clearly dealt with various issues of the past, present and future, and this theme was fairly easy enough to follow. Also, keep in mind that there aren’t too many concepts in this whole wide world that haven’t already been done in some form or fashion. It is simply what a person chooses to do with that idea to make it his or her own, and that’s actually what Diana Ford did in “Free at Last and Confused in The Land of Good & Evil.” In addition, there are things from the past, which are still affecting us today. It’s 2009 and hate groups such as the KKK continue to exist and prosper throughout the U.S.A. Not only that, why did it take so long for this country to get a Black President in the first place? Maybe that should be Ms. Ford's next piece. Well, this show is ultimately worth it. So support the cause! Keep hope alive…


05.30.2009 at 08:47 Reply
"banal...second-hand ideas"? This critic must use an ATM Machine. From this less than stellar review, it's clear that the critic wasn't actually paying attention. He says he couldn't distinguish between one piece and the next, but that typically happens when the dancers leave the stage and the music changes. Which they did. Perhaps he ought to check out the piece again, this time with an open mind. He would hopefully be able to see that, although it was made illegal generations ago, the wounds from slavery still exist. They exist because there are still, sadly, people who believe in it. Even here in Cincinnati. He should come back with the understanding that yes, we have a new president in office,but we are still dealing with the repercussions of the Bush/Cheney administration. (Unless, of course, I missed that Obama was related to Harry Potter. Did he make a little hand gesture and clean everything up?) The show could certainly use some tweaking, as all performances tend to. However, don't get the wrong idea from this critic's review. All six performers did an excellent job, and yes there were some shocking images, but that is part of what makes the show so effective.


05.30.2009 at 01:07 Reply
Not everyone is into the same things, and that’s fine. However, there is a certain level of respect that we need to maintain when criticizing others. Upcoming artists really deserve constructive criticism. In any case, I saw “Free At Last and Confused In The Land of Good & Evil,” and it was a great show. It wasn’t particularly repetitive. There were a few things that were similar, but they weren’t exactly the same. Of course some stuff can always be fine-tuned, especially when you run into various technical difficulties here and there. But all in all it was a good show, and contrary to what the critic says, some music is just meant to be played at a high volume. When you hear “cars drive by with a booming system,” it’s so you can get the full affect of the sound, and feel the rhythm and bass of the music. Nobody really blasts Opera or classical music in that way, but Hip-Hop was intended to be heard, and everybody knows that rock and heavy metal is just not the same unless it pierces your soul, Baby. Furthermore, the critic doesn’t seem to have very much dance training, because the show included a lot of combinations of Hip-Hop, African, and Modern dance. Not only that, many of the movements appeared to be choreographed to the words and themes of the songs. Also, I’m pretty familiar with Tracy Chapman’s music, and I know what “Behind the Wall” sounds like. Needless to say, Ms. Ford did a very decent job of this song, and was fairly close to the original version. I’m not too sure what the critic heard. Nevertheless, she made it her own and went with that. I would certainly recommend that people go and see this show for themselves, and not rely on what the critic has to say. Hopefully, the audience will form their own opinion, and come with an open mind.