Performed by Pear of Artists
When I was asked to review some Fringe shows for Make Cincinnati Weird, I went online, opened the program to the center section, and made random selections based on their names and descriptions. I admit that I didn’t notice that some were marked FringeNext. All I saw was the name, and if the description appealed to me, I signed up for that show. And it’s a good thing too! In the past, I’ve shied away from watching FringeNext productions, being hesitant to watch a show that is TOTALLY written and acted by high school students. Apparently, there’s nothing to worry about. The production was good. I was entertained and even laughed out loud in appropriate places.
“Persephone’s Prerogative” is from SCPA (The School of Creative and Performing Arts) students calling themselves “Pear of Artists”. It was performed in SCPA’s Black Box Theatre, which is set up as a thrust stage. I sat in the last row in the center of the center section; the better to view the action all around without feeling I’m at Wimbledon.
The play opens with Julia, the host of a reality television show, on the phone with her boss. She is followed by her cameraman Brian. While they set up on one side of the stage, we find out that the show is threatened to get axed. This phone call was their final warning to boost ratings. On the other half of the stage, another scene is set up with two actresses waiting to audition. One is an earnest young hopeful blonde named Anne, the other is a brunette named Meryl, who is sassy with an attitude. Their scene starts off with me confused. Why is the brunette picking a fight with the blonde? What is her motivation? They’ve just met! Anne’s character takes it in stride and figures that Meryl is just weird.
Back to Julia and Brian, it is revealed that her idea to boost rating is to place two hopeful actresses in a fake audition and see what happens. Seems a weak idea at best; all auditions I’ve ever been to were boring, including the cattle calls where hundreds of people stand in line and wait their turn. Mostly, you meet nice people and sometimes make new friends. But let’s see where this is headed. Meryl has been doing some paperwork, I assume it’s a questionnaire, and makes some mistakes, prompting her to pull out some Liquid Paper from her bag. In her frustration, she gets some on her dress, and she doesn’t have any way to clean it up. So she grabs some scissors from her purse and starts to cut away the offending bits. But she gets carried away and cuts up the rest of her dress, while Anne watches in horror. Anne questions Meryl’s sanity, and at one point asks her, in a whispered, embarrassed voice, if she’s a lesbian. Meryl uses Anne’s discomfort to further rattle her, just to see how far Anne can go. It’s amusing, but still, these things aren’t likely to be canvassed at an audition waiting room. So they’re waiting in the room for hours with no one to come in and update them on the long wait or why they’re still waiting.
Back to the the crew, Julia has been on the phone with her boss who, we find out earlier, is her father. He is not impressed. We’re now about halfway or so into the play. So far, the action seems disjointed. In a further scene with Anne and Meryl, things have died down and Anne returns to her arts and leisure magazine. Meryl asks how Anne could have any interest in such a subject, and they eventually end up discussing the famous sculpture of Persephone and Eros. So now, we are finally introduced to the theme of the play. Meryl thinks Persephone is weak. If Persephone is so important, she should have done more to break free from Hades instead of wallowing in her misery for half the year. Back to Julia, she feels the message of Persephone’s inability to do something more for the world and decides to quit working for her father and pursue whatever talent she has.
The end of the show is what pulled the loosely woven beginning together. I mentioned before that the action between the scenes seemed disjointed. The last fifteen or so minutes seemed finally find a rhythm, an obvious link to the adjoining scene. Dialogue was shared in a continuance of thought. It was a good way to gather the threads together. The show was good, performances were acceptable, however Brian’s interactions with Julia didn’t seem very professional. In fact, he seemed like a juvenile half the time. The writing was a little lost, but it was entertaining enough.