We Fringe regulars have been at the Dayton Holiday Inn before. Possibly in the Wilbur Room … or maybe it was the Orville Room? Whatever, in the Wilbur Room this time around Finite Number of Monkeys Productions, who gave us The Success Show in the 2009 Fringe, reveals plans for a wonderfully wacky movie that will blend a sainted American musical with Bollywood production values and cultural aims. I hate to even tell you that its name will be Oklahomahatma.
Tantric Acting at the Holiday Inn is solid Fringe fun: happily satiric, economically staged, sparsely cast (several key roles are filled by audience volunteers) and slickly played. You’ll not find out much about Hindu religion as the Tantric practices seem to have gone on the night before with unfortunate results for one participant. George Alexander as Bethaniel Mann wears a neck brace, a tasteful black shirt and a worried expression. His worries center on the whereabouts of the key presenter, Bollywood star Patel Patel, whose cell phone messages indicate he’s nowhere close.
Alexander’s expressive face, serious above the neck brace, telegraphs concern, excitement, sincerity and other staples of the pitchman’s trade.
He and Randy Lee Bailey, as Cliff Robbins, are nice contrasts physically. Cliff is bluff and hearty, wearing an open neck polo shirt and projecting zero style sense. Bethaniel and Cliff have a new and important friendship, Bethaniel tells us meaningfully early on. How Tantric is that?
If Bethaniel is your smooth operator with earnestness to burn, Cliff is cheerful, energetic and dumb. He plays a pair of bongo drums as though he just got them that morning and has a fount of worthless ideas.
The production zips along, enlivened by a PowerPoint presentation of Oklahomahatma plans. The audience, throughout, plays itself — i.e., a group of people listening to a pitch in a motel meeting room. There’s no fourth wall to be found. The piece is so neatly done that I’m sorry to say its final note is disappointing. Tantric Acting ends not with a bang but a whimper, as T.S. Eliot told us the world would close. Not good enough for the world or for this Fringe moment.
Michael Comstock — writer, director and co-producer with Alexander of Tantric Acting — says that Cincy Fringe is seeing the first production of this “brand-spanking new work.” Maybe they can spank up that ending a little.
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