A wild ride

FringeArts presents Erin Markey’s A Ride on the Irish Cream’

2 minute read
Erin Markey and Becca Blackwell as one of the Irish Cream's many guises. (Photo by Ian Douglas)
Erin Markey and Becca Blackwell as one of the Irish Cream's many guises. (Photo by Ian Douglas)

Erin Markey’s A Ride on the Irish Cream is a very personal performance piece. Though bigger than most – a cast of six, including four musicians, plus seven dancers – it favors an organic, intimate, freeform style over any semblance of a coherent story. Once one adjusts to that expectation (and most FringeArts audiences walk in ready for anything), it’s quite a wondrous ride.

All about Erin

Though Markey fictionalizes herself in the show, calling herself Reagan, the piece is clearly her synthesis of myriad childhood memories (confirmed in the post-show discussion), recalled in song with dynamic musicians Emily Bate, Chena Cope, Mike Marcinowski, and Ian Axness, who are more characters in Reagan’s life than a backing band. Markey has fascinating qualities that juxtapose explosively: a classic blonde’s sensuous look and winsome smile, but costumed by Enver Chakartash in little girl’s clothing of bright blues, pinks, and purples with shiny white sneakers. Her uninhibited physical style pits girlish coming-of-age awkwardness against flailing teenage punk – and through the show’s frenetic 90 minutes, she never stops.

Becca Blackwell plays the Irish Cream, a pontoon boat that’s also a horse that’s also Reagan’s secret lover. In words, it seems bizarre, but in performance, it feels natural. Their chemistry is eerie and volatile, yet they are simultaneously each other’s secret, best friends, confessors, and lovers. Irish Cream’s often gruff, growling presence – especially in song – is a natural counterpart to Reagan’s hyperactivity. They return often to a game where they imagine conversations they’re not ready for, daring each other into drama: “Let’s pretend we break up,” Reagan says in one, “and then you see me and you get all overcome with lust and nostalgia.”

Concert/not a concert

Adam Rigg’s scenic design features a freshly vacuumed beige carpet that could have been pulled from Erin Markey’s childhood family room. The musicians are set up in concert mode, lit by Barbara Samuels like a rock show, and there’s little furniture. Markey and Blackwell are always miked, but often use handheld microphones for singing. Each band member plays moments that become part of larger events in Reagan’s life.

The same is true of the “Leotard Girls,” dancers from Reagan’s dance class when she moves from safe, familiar Michigan to intimidating South Carolina. “I spent a long time working from back row to front,” she says about her dance training, “and now I was in my own row, the spaz row.” Anyone who felt social anxiety as a child can identify.

Images and memories become enduring tropes in Reagan’s world, like the time she and her sister pulled pantyhose over their heads and scared their brother as he tried to sleep.

A Ride on the Irish Cream has a manic absurdist bent but, like most satisfying plays, no matter how seemingly ridiculous, it is grounded in reality. The show tours the United States throughout 2017.

What, When, Where

A Ride on the Irish Cream. By Erin Markey, Jordan Fein directed. February 16-18, 2017, at FringeArts, 140 N. Columbus Boulevard. (215) 413-1318 or

Sign up for our newsletter

All of the week's new articles, all in one place. Sign up for the free weekly BSR newsletters, and don't miss a conversation.

Join the Conversation