Theater review: Asheville Fringe Arts Festival (Thursday)

Local comedian Grayson Morris

The Asheville Fringe Arts Festival kicked off its run of shows at The Odditorium with an eclectic double-bill that embrace the raw and slightly rough-around-the-edges aspects that make Fringe such a visceral delight to watch.

Appalachian Winter by Michael Whitmire, a musical journey accompanied by interpretive dance, is the tale of a bear, a raven and the moon on their journey through winter. The costumes were wonderfully elaborate, especially the complex raven, with the large removable headpiece. Video imagery enhanced the elegant movements of the performers, providing dreamlike scenes as the transition of winter and the complex emotions and inner turmoil of the characters played out.

Lili And The Sparrow by Amy Hamilton depicts an Eastern European peddler who falls in love with a circus acrobat, after a fateful visit with a Tarot reader. Along the way they fall in love, have a child, face war-torn conflict and lose in their homeland. The entire production is played out in pseudo-silent film style, without a word being uttered by any of the actors. Projected captions, augmented by video footage, further the tale. At times mesmerizing, the show was evocative while being minimalist.

Am I A Grownup Yet by Grayson Morris rounded out The Odditorium’s Thursday lineup. The one-woman show was part puppetry, part stand up comedy and part confessional. Morris told of her lineage via shadow puppets, then gave the rundown of her life as one of those people caught between Generation X and the Millennials struggling to find her way in the 21st century. Her tales of travel, tragedy and tiny triumphs held the audience enthralled — both by the brutal and comical honesty of the material and by Morris’ puckish charm.

Morris shows great promise. As the show evolves, I suspect it will get refined and some of the delivery will be smoothed out and tightened up. But that’s a great aspect of the Fringe Festival: we get to see works that are in progress, as they grow organically. With some helpful guidance, Am I A Grownup Yet? could become something very special, giving voice to those who are hovering around the age of 30. It certainly resonated with the full house at The Odditorium.

Appalachian Winter, Lili And The Sparrow, and Am I A Grownup Yet? continue at The Odditorium through Sunday, Jan. 24. $12. Schedule at


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About Jeff Messer
playwright, actor, director and producer, Jeff Messer has been most recently known as a popular radio talk show host. He has been a part of the WNC theatre scene for over 25 years, and actively works with and supports most of the theatres throughout the region. Follow me @jeffdouglasmess

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