What should I be doing instead of this?


Patchwork (Jonesboro, Tenn.)

By Nicholas Korn · May 29th, 2014 · Fringe
Tolstoy’s famous opening line to Anna Karenina proposes that all happy families are alike, while each unhappy family is miserable in its own way. Patchwork’s entry for the 2014 Fringe, Bebe, proves the opposite can also be true: Even our flaws can be generic and indistinct. The troupe opens its performance with the announcement that for the next 50 minutes, the cast will reveal themselves, faults and all, in a staged attempt to rise above self-judgment and the concern of what others might think.

It’s the kind of narcissistic exercise that requires a great deal of commitment, edge and daring to pull off. What follows is a sequence of skits and interpretive dances that feel more like a group hug than a fierce confessional. We get the woman who falls for gay men, the man who can’t speak to women and the marriage that’s stuck in a rut of repetition and avoidance.

There are comedy bits about a yoga instructor who gets a bit too touchy-feely, a cliquish quartet in which everyone speaks in uptalk and vocal fry, and a raunchy song where a female cast member is on the up-and-up about what she’s up for.

The letdown here is that while the troupe seems to connect both with each other and the audience, the material feels very borrowed and bland. The situations, and the language used to relate them, are steeped in cliché.

There is one dance sequence toward the end of the show that gives us a glimpse of the group’s potential for inventiveness. Josh Holley plays a man whose repetitive daily routine is enacted by the rest of the group. The formation of bathroom fixtures, automobiles and elevators brings a bit of the real imagination that’s missing from the rest of the show.

What’s most telling about Bebe is that the performers never openly introduce themselves; we are forced to catch a few of their names as someone else calls out to them onstage. For a set-up that promises brave and personal revelations, what’s delivered is all very soft, safe and, sad to say, acceptable.

BEBE, performed by Patchwork (Jonesboro, Tenn.), will be performed 7:30 p.m. May 30, 3:30 p.m. June 1 and 9:15 p.m. June 2 att Know Theatre (1120 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine).



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