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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.



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