My first impression of this artistic event was “Where is this artistic event?” Apparently the venue, Liberty Exhibition Hall, is above a boxing gym and is entered through a doorway just to the right of the punching bags. That incongruous fact is, perhaps, the least peculiar part of “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.” My second impression is that Cincinnati Artists’ Theatre is what raw creativity looks like before corporate producers have a chance to smother it.
From the ability to pay for your tickets with Venmo to the on-the-spot name tag creation (I was called “Mr. Hyde,” my buddy “Starshine”) to the mandatory audience participation, everything had a touch-the-animals feel. It made for a remarkably relatable show, despite how remarkably outlandish much of the content was.
The performance, featuring five local artists, spans 30 two-ish-minute performances. A pink light would wash the stage when a specific piece was starting, and blue would indicate it was over. In between those two illusory beacons anything you could imagine would happen. A juicy moment, of which there are many, occurred during play #6. In this one, called “What I Assume People Think I Do When I Tell Them I’m A Performance Art [sic],” actor Carter LaCava is stripped down to an adult diaper and slapped with raw steaks while screaming “MOMMY!” For two minutes.
There are 29 more short plays.
I have not seen something so off-the-beaten-path in my time as an ArtsWave reviewer. It was refreshing and exciting to be part of something that was clearly designed to make not only the audience uncomfortable, but the performers as well. Audience participation is a requirement, so long as you keep your handmade name tag on. Removing it exempts you from being called on to pick your nose or take off your shoes, as you may be.
“Too Much Light” is more of a performance than it is acting in any traditional sense. The general framework for many of the pieces seemed set, but the content likely varies from night to night depending on the audience and the whims of the actors. As the order is random — the audience calls out what they want to see next — the outcomes cannot be the same. I may attend another night just to see what’s different.
You will never see a show like this at the Aronoff, Ensemble, or even Know Theatre. While you will see these performers on those stages, this space is wholly their own unique, surreal universe. I highly recommend you join them in it. Brianna Bernard, Gabriella DiVincenzo, Landon Hawkins, Carter LaCava, and Graham Lutes are all names I’ll be looking for in the future. Did I have to pick my nose with 40 strangers? Maybe. Should you? Absolutely.
The show runs again January 24 at Liberty Exhibition Hall. Tickets paid for at the door. Be early, get a name tag and a drink, and buckle up for safety.
John David Back is a Cincinnati native who lives and works in OTR. He’s an avid reader and a mediocre writer who loves the experience of art and beauty. Tell him what he should experience and send fan mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.