I will tell you that I was cautiously optimistic about BAD POETRY NIGHT, part of this year’s Cincinnati Fringe Festival. Bad poetry readings can sometimes be a smidge better than shows about bad poetry readings. But in the case of Alexx Rouse and Zach Robinson’s play, almost all of the jokes land. That’s partly because they are smart writers, but they’re also smart enough to cast very funny actors. Kelly McAndrews, whom I’ve never seen on stage, absolutely steals the show as the leader of this ragtag bunch of poets. With her never-wavering over-the-top accent, she embodies the most pretentious of artists in such a committed way that her very presence on stage generates laughs.
In fact, “committed” is the word I would use for all the performances. Andrew Bishop, who takes on two very different roles, is terrifying and endearing at the same time and separately. Briana Bernard, with her dark, brooding portrayal finds the heart of her character. And Merritt Beischel is all-in, too, in her masculine take on “Demetri Martin . . .but not THAT Demetri Martin.”
I do think the show could use some cuts; it ran over during the performance I was and given that it’s in a room crammed with chairs, with only one exit, on the 4th floor of the Art Academy, I only had about 7 minutes to almost run to MOTR Pub to catch my next show. There are bits that could be trimmed; I’d much rather see 45 minutes of tight comedy than 60 minutes of not-as-tight jokes.
That said, some of the bits in this piece are laugh out loud hysterical and it is definitely on my “not to be missed” list for this year’s Festival. I do wonder what the Fringe first timers ,who appeared to be at least 70, were thinking throughout this production. My guess is that if they’re brave enough for Fringe, they’ve been through a few bad poetry readings in their lives. But if not, at least there was plenty to laugh at. And admire.
BAD POETRY NIGHT is part the 15th Annual Cincinnati Fringe Festival. Click here for more information.