Joshua Steele and Mike Hall – also known as Hugo West Productions – have quite a reputation to live up based on past Fringe Festival productions. THE LOVELAND FROG, DON’T CROSS THE STREAMS, and ZOMBIElogue all were popular and well reviewed by many. So, when CESSNA: A DRAMA NOIR was announced there was definite buzz. This buzz has led to two sold out performances already.
And I can see why. The cast is excellent. Mindy Heithaus, Mike Hall, Carter Bratton, and Michael Bath all have a well deserved following in Cincinnati. There’s a three piece jazz ensemble headed up by Steve Goers. Greg Proccacino directs. And this show tells a Cincinnati story, albeit one that most people don’t know. There’s good reasons for it be a box office hit.
However there are problems. The show is too long; there are long stretches where it seems nothing is happening. Factor in that it’s also scheduled in one of the least ventilated venues – no air conditioning or if there is it doesn’t work – and it becomes harder to enjoy. There’s little to no payoff to the story, which was confusing and hard to follow.
The show is full of technical elements – a full sound design, projections, and costumes that make it feel less like a Fringe show and more like a developmental workshop. There’s nothing wrong with that I guess, but I’d rather energy had been spent in focusing the script and finding a more satisfying conclusion to the story.
But there’s not a thing wrong with the performances. Heithaus is right at home as a seductiver, mysterious vixen. Bratton remains one of the most versatile leading men types in town while Mike Hall plays the tough guy FBI agent with professionalism and masuclinity. Michael Bath is always a highlight and he plays multiple characters very well. However, despite his masterful performance, it was something difficult to figure out how each of his characters fit into to the plot.
Goers musicality is the real star of this one and I could listen to the Jazz riffs all day. I have no doubt that despite the problems I’ve outlined above, this show will continue to sell out and be one of the most popular at this year’s Festival. It’s nice to see hard work rewarded even when it’s not my cup of tea.
CESSNA: A DRAMA NOIR plays again Mon, June 6 at 9:05pm, Thu, June 9 at 6:30pm, and Sat, June 11 at 9:05pm. It will sell out so get your tickets now by clicking here.