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Adam reviews 'Frankenstein Bemshi!' and 'One Frogless Evening: A Tribute to Amphibian Artiste Michigan J. Frog'

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With a fall chill in the air, I embraced the spooky spirit of the season with “Frankenstein Bemshi!” at Writers & Books. Perfectly timed for the tale’s 200th anniversary, the show offers a loose retelling of the Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein story through a blend of avant-garde film, music, spoken word poetry, and performance art. The result is an intentionally strange, singular experience.

Bemshi creators and performers Dave Esposito and G. E. Schwartz use footage from the 1910 silent film “Frankenstein,” made by Edison Studios, mixed with portions of E. Elias Merhige’s 1990 experimental horror film “Begotten” as a base. They then add on layers of live guitar music, electronic soundscapes, spoken narration, as well as poetry added as text to the movie’s image. The combined effect is all but indescribable, but creates an undeniably haunting atmosphere. Trying to parse each element simultaneously can overwhelm the senses, and that’s entirely by design. “I want to engage the audience on different levels of consciousness,” explained Schwartz after the show. Mission accomplished.


The Flower City Lilly Pads perform "One Frogless Evening: A Tribute to Amphibian Artiste Michigan J. Frog." - PHOTO BY ASHLEIGH DESKINS
  • PHOTO BY ASHLEIGH DESKINS
  • The Flower City Lilly Pads perform "One Frogless Evening: A Tribute to Amphibian Artiste Michigan J. Frog."
My final show lay on the entirely other end of the artistic spectrum, but I was so pleased that my 2018 Fringe experience ended with the dose of pure fun that is “One Frogless Evening: A Tribute to Amphibian Artiste Michigan J. Frog,” courtesy of The Flower City Lilly Pads.

A musical tour through the life and times of the beloved web-footed character who first debuted in the 1955 Merrie Melodies cartoon “One Froggy Evening,” the show is pure joy. Despite the highs and lows of Michigan’s brief but distinguished career, the music kept the audience in Little Theater 5 tapping their feet right along with the band as the Lilly Pads worked their way through
Michigan’s classic “Hello Ma Baby” to tunes by other artists influenced by the dapper looking amphibian, from The Beatles and (perhaps less surprisingly) Kermit the Frog. The only thing that could have made the show better is if the Lilly Pads had found a way to screen Michigan’s cartoons (though I suppose that would have made for a not-so-frogless evening). Still, the program ensured that I finished out my Fringe with a smile on my face.

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