Fringe 2019 Review: 'Black Cow Jumps'


An experimental melange of improvisational dialogue, personal monologues, and in-your-face audience interaction, Black Cow Jumps defies easy categorization, much less conventional reviewing.

Creator Banks Helfrich and a quartet of fellow performers planted among the audience craft an entirely new experience at every performance, launching into each show with little more than an outline of subjects for their extemporaneous explorations. During the Mother’s Day preview performance, topics included miscarriages, stillbirths, surrogacy and euthanasia; expect upcoming installments to be equally high-stakes, although there were a few welcome moments of levity.

Unlike typical improv, Helfrich and his cohorts make little attempt to land punchlines or provide payoffs; watching them is less like attending a play than like eavesdropping on a stranger’s most intimate conversations. As a result, segments sometimes circle elliptically or peak midway before petering out, just as real-life conversations tend to do.

Black Cow Jumps strips away much of the artifice that we associate with “realistic” acting, and in the process challenges viewers to question how deeply they truly connect with other people. It’s an occasionally manipulative emotional rollercoaster, filled with long thoughtful pauses and excruciatingly intense eye-contact; some episodes felt so honest they made my heart ache. With its non-sequitur title, gossamer structure and self-indulgent pacing, Black Cow Jumps may leap right past all the rules of “good” theater, yet it still manages to land on something undeniably compelling.

Black Cow Jumps

Banks Helfrich
Clermont FL
Ages 18 and up
60 minutes
Wednesday, May 15th 10:00 PM
Saturday, May 18th 6:30 PM
Sunday, May 19th 3:00 PM
Tuesday, May 21st 6:00 PM
Thursday, May 23rd 10:30 PM
Saturday, May 25th 7:30 PM
Sunday, May 26th 1:30 PM

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