“What if?” is a question that plagues the adult mind. When you’re a child, however, that question is a springboard into infinite possibility. This is at the heart of “Choose Your Own Adventure”, the 50-minute 2012 Fringe show by Pones Inc. at 1211 Jackson. Although the production has a definite DIY feel, there’s a sense of whimsy and spontaneity that’s earnest and yet effortless for the dancers and, especially, narrator Miranda McGee. Through a combination of props, oral storytelling, multiple genres of dance and gyrating indie rock music, the experience not just of reading a book but creating a story is brought to life with the help of the audience.
McGee, an Australian performer who’s a member of Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, takes command of the stage like a circus ringmaster. The funny thing is, there is no real stage, as audience members are positioned up front as well, and the occasional performer is revealed, sitting in the aisles. One particular patron, under the spotlight, filmed the entire thing on her camera phone, a happy reminder that there’s nothing like seeing a show opening night with friends of the performers in the audience.
There’s a reality that this is all staged, but like any good magician McGee and the five performers distract and roll with the changes. Transitions between literary genres, from romance to action/adventure, give them opportunities to bring real heart to the story, building on the axiomatic theme of choice with an authentic sense of loss.
Fortunately, it ends on a hopeful note.
Yet again the small warehouse at 1211 Jackson was a sweltering furnace, but somehow that added to the experience. Although there was a child in the audience, and there’s certainly nothing overtly inappropriate for a younger crowd, there’s a strong sensuality to the dancer’s movements, and euphemistic dialogue runs rampant. The six dancers, refreshingly diverse in body type and race, sweat and slide off each other with such violence and self-awareness that the audience is reduced to voyeur. In other words, be prepared. Still, barefoot and in tank tops, these grown men and women capture and bottle why art can be so cathartic and why that’s vitally important.
If you’re someone who refuses to go onstage when the clown volunteers you, this isn’t for you. The humor is a bit anarchic but always topical, making the show feel like a living, breathing thing and very “right now.” There might be an abortion joke, and the spatial relationship between you and the performers is nonexistent, so your comfort zone will be violated. If you’re up for admiring the human body in motion, sometimes in minute detail, with a bit of flippant humor then Choose Your Own Adventure is for you.
PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE: 8:45 p.m. Tuesday, 7:15 p.m. Thursday and 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Find more of CityBeat's ongoing 2013 Cincy Fringe Festival coverage, including performance reviews, commentary and venue details, here.