Number 41: Orlando Fringe Festival 2004 Special Edition
by Carl F. Gauze
Orlando’s cultural evolution continues as the nortorius Fringe Festival creeps out of downtown to the tonier suburbs, driven by high rents, continued government interst in revitalizing downtown, and vigorous parking enforcement. That’s fine by me, Loch Haven is shadier, less intimidating, and closer to home. There are still some derriere guard venues lurking downtown, so you can experience urban grit if you desire, but most of the action will be centerd around The UCF Shakespeare center, a bastion of good acoustics, nice seats, and clean restrooms. Art, here we come!
The Tale Of The Allergist’s Wife
By Charles Busch
Directed by Christian Kelty
Starring Susan Fronsoe, Jim Bruner, Monica Travers
Theater Downtown, Orlando, Fla.
How much niceness can one woman stand? Marjorie Taub (Fronsoe) looks like she’s getting too much. Wonderful husband Ira (Bruner) works tirelessly to help the helpless. Here apartment is beautiful, and her loving mother Frieda (Genie Lindberg) cares enough to have Marjorie open ALL her suppositories. What more could you want? Apparently, a reason to get up and get dressed in the morning. That’s lacking until childhood acquaintance Lee (Travers) shows up. It’s been ages, but the pair hit it off like sorority sisters, and soon Marjorie is up and about, attending art openings and Celtic dance recitals and shopping her little heart out at Macy’s bargain basement. Lee is busy, too. Her big hobby is dropping names, but she does some gourmet cooking, offers personal advice, and seduces both Ira and Marjorie simultaneously. Ah, now THAT’S excitement!
“Allergist” finds it strength more in execution that text. While often a riotous comedy, peachiness creeps in fairly often, dulling the comedic edge. As successful Jewish professionals, there exists a strong cultural rive to help the arts and the disenfranchised, and gives Busch a platform to admonish. Lee exploits this drive as well – she begins by charming everyone in sight, and then takes them down roads never traveled. When we aren’t laughing at Frieda’s anal obsessions, we are trying to figure out just what sort of crook Lee is. Traver’s portrayal of this mystery woman is complete – as I write this, I’m still a little vague on where the line between reality and her insidious fantasy lies. Jim Bruners nice guy Dr. Taub seems innocent enough, although he seeks out a positive notoriety to feed his ego at the expense of his relation with his frustrated wife. Timing is everything, and when they jokes are there, the cast hits there marks. When Busch write sermonettes, we wait patiently for them to end so we can laugh again. Down near the bottom of the food chain is the long suffering doorman, Mohammed (Atif Shariff) He serves mostly to advance a few key plot points, and when not doing so, he stands a pare rest in his pointy toed Arabian Nights shoes. He needs a little more range of motion, rather than standing around like a movable sculpture.
The story takes a family from a scattered, disorganized and disgruntled mass and turns it into a tight, defensive unit when attacked. The attack was subtle and insidious, but the presence of an outside disturbance is enough to get Marjorie off her hypochondria bed and in the mall, and when lee’s perhaps true nature revels itself, she’s ejected with little ceremony and a short parting speech. Perhaps the Taub household has had a revelation, and perhaps it has jut had some indigestion from an exotic yet toxic meal. It’s home sweet home, no matter how loud the arguments are. Hey, isn’t that what ethnic people do?
By Richard Dresser
Directed by Trudy Bruner
Starring Rus Blackwell and Mark Ferrera
Red Moon Theater Joint at The Orlando Repertory Theater
I was never good at sports. Picked last, dropped the ball if it ever came near me, ridiculed for even being on the field, I blame it all on sadistic coaches who confused a game with life. That sort of sums up Don (Blackwell), a drinking fanatic with a baseball problem. He scouts prospects, blackballs kids like me, and spend all his time thinking about 8 year old little league stats and banging the moms in the stands. He needs a new assistant, and Michael (Ferrara) volunteers, mostly so he can spend some time with his boy. Michael knows little about the game and could care less about winning. The two immediately find them selves at odds over discipline, strategy, and schedule. Like any good sports story, their team makes the playoffs, but this is little league, so you pretty much make the playoffs if your team shows up every week. These guys never really bond, but come to an understanding, and they even find out a bit about each others personal lives, like who’s sleeping with who. That part is MUCH more interesting than statistics.
For a two man show, there are a lot of people populating this world – wives and lovers, ex-assistant coaches and a dozen kids, but everything does revolves around the pair. They have a Dragnet feel – Don won’t shut up, and Michael (who eventfully is promoted to just “Mike”) never seems to say more than 3 words at a time. Blackwell, who is more known for drama than comedy, more than holds up his end of the show. He does the Macarena as a stretching exercise, and fungo’s Mikes cell phone near the end. God, I’ve wanted to do that myself. Ferrara has a more subtle style of humor, sometimes the uptight guy who is about to crack under stress and sometimes just a well intentioned doofus undermining Don’s carefully built little world. While the set is spare, they do have a wonderful Volkswagen microbus made out of rebar which would make a wonderful topiary somewhere with a little creeping jasmine. “Rounding Third” is a tight, funny comedy presented by tight, funny guys and worth the visit even if you have no idea who Cal Ripken is. Like me. I just heard the name, so he must be famous. Now hit the showers!
Book and Lyric by David Lee
Music by Nandi Johannes
Directed by David Lee
Starring J-Sun and Becky Fisher
Naked Orange Theater Company
Studio Theater, Orlando Fla.
If you wish to kill a young man, there is no surer method than to give him unbridled success. That’s put many a pop star in The Fucked Up and Dead at 27 Club. Nirvanov (J-Sun) joined, driven by pain in the heart and the stomach, and with adoring fans and sycophant friends. He’s a transparently veiled Kurt Cobain, and comes creepily close in looks and sound to the real thing. No one walks the earth alone, and we find two past spirits guiding or at least watching him tonight. Anton Chekhov (Mike Marinaccio) provides the rhythm of Nirvanov’s life, tying it to his first play “Ivanov”, a story of a suicidal man and his wife (Sara Matthews). The melody arises from a cross dressing Francis Farmer (Becky Fisher), a faded movie star few remember, but who obsessed Cobain and his wife. Nirvanov has earthly friends as well, framed by the Goldman’s – Mrs. Goldman (Beth Marshall) snorts coke and licks the fame off of him, and a rubbery Mr. Goldman (Tim DeBaun) simply lusts after Nirvanov, and anyone who comes attached. The mix is toxic, and that’s no surprise.
This blend of classic Russian drama and modern pop mythology mix is amazingly well done, as local artist David Lee takes the story and sets it to original music, thus relieving him of the tragedy of getting a release for the original tunes. If there’s a theme song, it’s the touching duet between Frances and Nirvanov “Faded Movie Queen / Faded Video King”. The parallels to Chekhov’s tale are powerful, and Lee pulls musical inspiration from there as well, adapting the poem “Greenfinch” to guitar providing a positive counter point the faded movie queen mythology.
Excellent performances abound. J-Sun and Matthews paint the picture of a trailer trash couple with way more money than is safe. Becky Fisher’s portrayal of a Hollywood has-been is nearly touching, and I cannot get Tim DeBurn’s John Cleese-like antics out of my mind. Sexy Heather Leonardi as Sasha Goldman brings a violently petulant air to the show, particularity in the tumultuous dream sequence at the end. Surreal dream sequences are always dangerous to stage, for fear the audience gets up and leaves, but this one came off smoothly. Lights flash as the vampire band hissed at the mention of garlic, and the cast eventually conga lines off stage. And then? The suicide.
Yes, this is arty. Yes, this is deeply symbolic interweaving of both cultures – Czarist Russia and Northwestern Rock Phenomenon. Nirvanov suggest fleeing to Portland, but Petrozavodsk wouldn’t be far enough, as he really had to flee himself to survive. Iconically, Frances Farmer offers hope – she found fame after a faded career, rape and lobotomy. Set your expectations low enough and you might meet them. Nirvanov shows us the one blessing we fail to count – if you’re reading this, you don’t have enough success to really endanger your life. Keep that day job.
Lounge-Zilla! The Hack is Back!
The OOPS Guys
Orlando Cabaret Festival
Mad Cow Theater, Orlando, Fla.
So what exactly IS cabaret? Perhaps it’s a small space filled with people who know the singers, and have some sort of long standing relation with them, long standing enough to accept flaws in the show and still enjoy it because of past memories. That describes this performance in the bifurcated Stage Left Theater in the Mad Cow complex. A casually dressed Fiely A. Matias greets and photographs the audience while partner Dennis T. Giacino hunkers down with a Steinway in front of the fakey brick walls intended to make us think we are in a dive bar in Paris. Fine singing and pretense – what more could you want for $15?
After the ritual hazing of Alan Bruun, artistic director of Mad Cow, we find ourselves in a not quite out-of-tune world of overdone tremolo and campy lyrics. As Fiely plays mercilessly to the audience, Dennis cowers behind the grand piano, suffering the abuse of Fiely. It’s not just hogging the applause, but the names called – “Unnerving Berlin” is the one that hurt the most, I’m sure, but it was far from the cleverest.
What appears on stage is a collection of songs from previous OOPS guys shows – “Asian Sings the Blues”, “That’s Exploitation”, and others. They are our favorite – “Ode the Fag Hag”, “Not In Paris”, “Someone Let the Cat Out”, and half a dozen others. Audience members are taunted and humiliated on stage by the singer dressed in only a “Flower of Joy” tank suit. While the response to the Jason Wetzel and John Paulus jokes did indicate the presence of and In Crowd, the real excitement came when the pup tent appeared. We all knew what to expect next – everyone’s favorite 6 foot foam penis, hoisted by that wonder boy “The Teenage Mutant Boy Scout” Yes, it was the actual foam penis that came though US customs after their whirl wind tour of eastern Europe, and even without the 3-D glasses, it made the show was a smashing success.
OK, it WAS a lot looser than previous OOPS Guys performances, with both Dennis and Fiely breaking into unscheduled laughter from time to time. But, with a partisan crowd and no one more than 10 feet away from total humiliation, it was a fun evening for regulars and new comers alike. Pretend it a Greatest Hits album, and stick around till they sing “Ok, get Out, I’m Done”, and remember – these guys aren’t just funny, they’re PROFESSIONALLY funny. So, if they pick you out for humiliating, go with it. Its part of your job.
By William Inge
Directed by Julia Listengarten
Starring Lisa K Bryant and Trent Hurd
UCF Conservatory Theatre, Orlando, Fla.
Summer heat bakes small town Kansas, and sex is all anyone has the gumption to think about. Mother Flo (Kate Ingram) thinks her daughter Madge (Bryant) isn’t going far enough fast enough with lumpy boyfriend Alan (Joshua Katzke). But she DOES think next door neighbor Helen Potts (Rebecca johnson) is way to forward when she feeds hunky transient Hal Carter(Hurd). Helen forces Hal to work topless by washing his shirt, and everyone complains as they stare. Meanwhile, the Old Maiden Schoolmarms drop by for lunch and pick up boarder Rosemary Sydney (Nicole Klass). She’s not allowed to have sex; somehow it would prevent her from properly teaching Shorthand or Personal Hygiene in Kansas. Still, she has a boyfriend Howard Bevans (Toby Pruett), and he has an even bigger vice than lust – he knows where to get demon rum. Let’s see, who have I forgotten? Bomber the paperboy (Vandit Bhatt) sexually harasses Madge, tomboy little sister Millie (Stephanie Ouellette) takes an unnatural interest in a manicure set, and everything revolves around the big Labor Day Picnic tonight, where the whole town gets out and pretend to not have sex. These ARE repressed people, but happy enough until Hal runs off with Madge, assuring her a life of poverty, alcoholism, and abuse. She could have gotten much the same from her boyfriend Alan, but Hal is so much more appealing, with his massive biceps, womanizing habits, and bright future as a pipeline roustabout.
It’s a beautiful set, and some good performances blew across this evening. The dynamic between Hurd’s plucky Hal Carter and Katzke’s Alan Seymour emphasized their class difference – Carter comes from nowhere on a football scholarship, and Seymour is local Old Money. There is friendship, but at an awkward distance, and every time Carter tries to act something better than he is, Seymour knifes him immediately. Sexual tension abounds, from Millie’s blooming interest to Madge’s deserting Mom for true love Carter. Howard Bevans does a great job as the man about to be hooked by the schoolmarm – he’s happy to pat her fanny, but wants to keep his options open. Plus, he might even have to pay his help overtime so he can take a honeymoon during busy season.
While the first act is extremely talky, with some forced seeming chases between the kids on stage, the second act brought all this home, and when Madge bails for Tulsa, she only makes one small mistake – she forgets to take Carter’s boots with him. The topic is always sex – school teachers trade independence for abstinence, the cute girls need to cash in while the bloom is on their cheeks, and men can do as the will, PLUS they get booze if they want. It’s a beautiful little immorality play, and while we might call the standards of 1930’s Kansas twofaced they simply represent our strongest desires, expressed in the local culture. After all, you can’t club a woman with a bone and drag her off to your cave, unless of course you have perfectly formed abs of steel, or a trust fund. Believe me, I tried.
Directed by Rus Blackwell
Starring Stephen Jones, Tim Williams, Mark Lanier
Vine Theater at The Orlando Rep, Loch Haven Park, Orlando
Leaping Lizards! What an exciting comedy! Evil Nazi agents Lenya (Kim Stone) and Otto Von Brunno (Jones) parachute into jolly old England to steal Professor Fenton’s (Lanier) formula to make diamonds. They’ve spirited him away, and only the expert detective work of Col. Bullshot Crummond (Williams) can save the day. He’s part Sherlock Holmes, part Clark Kent, and all British gentleman. While out duck hunting with his buddy Algernon Longwort (Lanier), they begin to suspect something is a miss, but when a letter form Rosemary Fenton (Natalie Cordon) mysteriously disappears, Crummond is hot on the track. A few car chases, some poisoned whiskey, and some on-stage parachute jumping, and soon it comes down to one thing – who has the best swordsmanship – Crummond, or that deuced Hun Otto with his huge Luger?
This is completely silly parody of the whole secret agent genre, cleverly staged and convincingly acted. Williams steals the show, with his great eyebrow action and perfectly serious take on each of his increasingly absurd predicaments and disguises. There are great car crashes, with Williams and Cordone wrestling with a giant cardboard Bentley over a cliff, Crummond attacking an innocent waiter (Lanier) in the Carlton Tea Room, and Lenya Von Brunno torn between romancing Our Hero and offing him. All the charters are wonderfully one-dimensional, sight gags abound, and even though the comedic timing seems to slip in the second act, it’s as light hearted a romp as we’ve seen in months.
Four Short Works by Tennessee Williams
Directed by Frank and Fran Hilgenberg
Theater Downtown, Orlando Fla.
Why do we always associate the old south with decay, despair, and dissolution? I believe the powerful works of Tennessee Williams create and preserve this image, long after reality moves on to new problems. Theater Downtown collects 4 distinct works by Mr. Williams, and splices them together for a full evening of short and pithy tales, rarely seen on stage. Opening the evening we find “The Long Goodbye.” In the depths of the depression, earnest young writer Joe (Daniel Cooksley) opts to head to Rio with $150 dollars and a typewriter. His alternative is hanging around and writing for the WPA, a social program more interested in preventing large groups of young men rioting than doing any serious artistic work. It’s a series of flashbacks, as his sister (Sara French) dates her way down the food chain, and Mother (Brigitte Hill) engages in a discrete little insurance scam, sending her kids into the world with a small nest egg. It’s touching, but the only hope you see for Joe is the Seeking of his Fortune. He’s at the right age, and has no other ties pending.
Despair gives way to comedy in the next piece, “The Lady of Larkspur Lotion”. It’s a boarding house in the French Quarter, and Mrs. Hardwick-Moore (Sara Benz-Philips) can•t make the rent this week. Her little side business of entertaining gentlemen is acceptable as long as she’s current, but miss a payment and your out, says the imperious landlady Mrs. Wire (Joan Gay). It’s not just women of negotiable virtue who inhabit this house; there are flying cockroaches and alcoholic writers (Roger Greco) as well. More tot e point, the house is inhabited by little fictions that keep everyone alive. It’s even funnier if you read the program, and find out what Larkspur Lotion is really used for. I think the modern version is “Quell”.
It’s not just the Never Was’s we find trapped in this world, but we also find those who were actually something, but now are sliding to the bottom. “Last of My Solid Gold Watches” has a old time traveling salesman Mr. Charlie Colton (Jim Cassidy) holed up in a faded delta hotel, wishing things were like they once were. We all do, and the aged and jittering porter (Orlando Powers) hold up his end of the bargain, agreeing whole heartedly with the white man’s burden. Young Harper (Dean Walkuski), an acquaintance of Colton’s drops by for a drink, but once the booze is mostly gone, he can•t take any more of the Olden Days speech, and tell Colton where to get off. It’s a gently Southern Death of a Salesman.
Wrapping up the evening is the sexually tense “27 Wagons Full of Cotton”. Industrial farming is moving into the south, cutting out the marginal laborers like redneck Jake Meighan (Randy Molnar). He takes the situation in hand, and burns the local cotton gin to the ground, forcing the boss Silva Vacarro (Jim Pacitti) to hire him to haul the cotton a few miles away to the next gin. This leaves Silva alone with Jakes young wife Flora (Leesa Halstead) on a hot summer porch, with nothing better to do than seduce each other. Flora holds out until the tension is thicker than the delta humidity, and while her lips say “No”, here hips say “Yes”. It looks like everyone gets what hey want – Jake’s employed, Flora’s entertained, and Silva is still getting the biggest cut of all. It’s an evening of southern gentility gone stale, and sweating in the lobby only ads to the atmosphere. Bring your own Bourbon; they only sell beer and wine at the bar.
For more information, please visit www.theatredowntown.net
Jacques Brel Is Alive And Well And Living In Paris
By Eric Blau and Mort Schulman
Music by Jacques Brel
Mad Cow Theater, Orlando, Fla.
Well, maybe it’s time we held out the olive branch to the French. No better way than a rousing production Jacques Brel music, one of the finest French composers of the 20th century. We find ourselves in a smoky French dive, probably down beneath some café inhabited by American tourists with berets and sailor shirts, discussing Camus and smoking Galois Straights. No mater, we exist in a different little world, entertained by the man who hated love, hated war, and hated small animals for all we know. And if he didn’t hate them personally, the story in the songs tells that tale. Take “Madeline”, wherein the very suave Rick Stanley waits at 10:30 for his new love to appear outside the theater. She ain’t there, and it just won•t sink in. One song later, we hear “Mathilde” – she has returns, but absence did not make his heart grow fonder. His joy fades as she walks in the door. Need one more example? How about “Amsterdam”, the block buster number wrapping up the first act – It’s all about the house of negotiable love, a fixture in any port town.
Oh, there more to dislike in life than love. Who could love a war? George Altman does a little bullfighting in the anti-war number, looking like a clean shaven Hemmingway in “Bulls”, as well as plying a statue beset by children and pigeons. Another interesting number came from sexy Sara Jones, singing “Carousel”, which seemed to be about spinning around until you couldn•t take it any more. Life? Love? Cheap red wine? All lead to destruction, I’m certain, and best summarized by a pleading Gail Barbell, who sang “My Death”. Yes, friends, this is a dark show. But, countering the darkness is the sheer stunning style of the music, the enthusiastic production, and the inescapable fact that the worst song in this show is much, much better than the best in many a musical I’ve seen recently. Brel is more a part of our musical heritage than anyone would expect – take in the show. It peels back the onion, revealing the music behind the man.
For more information on Mad Cow, please visit www.madcowtheatre.com
Women Behind Bars
By Tom Eyen
Directed By M. Andrew Dalire
Brown Venue, Orlando Fringe Festival
Put enough women in jail, and what do you get? A Roger Corman Film Festival, of course. Put the same number of women on stage in the sweaty Brown venue, and you get enough sexual innuendo to make you wonder “Hey, are these girls turning LESBIAN?” It just might happen under the watchful eye of prisons matron Pauline (Patti McGuire) and here evil side kick Louise (Sarah Barnum), who supplement their sex lives by peddling bootleg cosmetics to the girls inside. This is one of the lesser known benefits of the Mary Kay system, but it beats the Pink Gas Hog these days. There’s a wide spectrum of inmates – tough Black Chick (Daisy Aruz), the crazy old drag queen (Tamlin Hall), the wronged Southern Belle (Robin Harris), you know the lot. Into the mess comes innocent Mary Elanor (Marion Wildey), who may or may not have robbed a gas station, or may have been set up by her husband Paul (Nathan Knight). No matter, there’s all inside, and the bitching fills the time between trips to section 10 for semi permanent brain damage, and personalized abuse by the very evil matron. Mary Elanor is just more raw meat for the system
More personalities fill the stage than really fit, but that rehabilitation. There’s a real sense of claustrophobia but only suppressed menace. I suspect everyone must know and like everyone else on stage, or they would have killed each other in rehearsal. Each of these gals (and the guy in drag) does a decent job of making there player come alive – my favorite was the hyperactive Puerto Rican Guadalupe (Nadia Garzon). There must be something in the water to make those folks chatter so fast. Story wise, the show is really a place to demonstrate all the female bad girl stereotypes, and camp it up as much as possible. Will this generate interest in prison reform? Unlikely, but it will sell a few Bloody Marys.
The Blue Room
By David Hare
Directed by John DiDonna
Starring heather Leonardi, Michael Marinaccio
Green Venue, Orlando Fringe Festival
What goes around•you know the rest. We start with a cabbie (Marinaccio) who blows all his money on sushi. A hooker (Leonardi) picks him up, but fails to negotiate a price before delivery, and gets stiffed. Time spent: 3 minutes. He proceeds on to an Au Pair, who does it with her boss’s kid, who does it with his dad’s best friend, and so on and so on. Each encounter is timed, with results posted. I calculate a mean of 32 minutes and a standard deviation of 42 minutes for the whole show, which raises the question: can you have sex for a negative length of time? Eventually, we get back to the hooker who started the whole thing, and while no one got pregnant or ill, there’s a definite circular symmetry in the presentation.
A low level of sexual tension fills the air – we quickly assume each pairing will result in a climax, or at least a good attempt. In this clearly erotic story, casual sex is the norm, with stable relations peripheral or collapsing. Marinaccio seems the earthiest, and Leonardi’s response varies from stiff and formal as the older Mrs. Robinson type to ditzy as a model to just plain weird as the actress who can•t separate real life from the stage. The venue is warm and stuffy, and the actors in partial disrobe throughout, so the effect is immediate – we are in a high class peep show, but not ashamed to talk about it afterwards.
By Jamie Rocco and Albert Evans
Directed By Mark Huffman
Green Venue, Orlando Fringe Festival
What’s wrong with 70’s optimisms? The only thing I can think of is there WASN’T much – gas lines, inflation, and the collapse of US manufacturing, Iranian hostages. These kids today, they think it was just polyester disco suits and the Brady Bunch. Oh, well, a little fantasy won•t hurt them, and this musical review does take a dusty old decade and polish it up more than it deserves. It’s classic short attention span theater, with no more than a bar or two of most songs – I Will Survive, Space Cowboy, Everything is Beautiful, well, you hear all the songs on oldies radio now, so pick your favorite – it’s in here somewhere.
All the archetypes of the decade are up on stage – Michael Colavope plays Tripp, the over age hippy, Yvette McGregor as the radical feminist, Krislyn Webber as the syrupy sweet blonde optimist. There’s a ton of dance here, too, with Davron Monroe as the best dancer, both as mega-afro Tyrone, and later on as the Village Person (he does all 5 hombres from the original band) There’s an interesting transition as the troupe goes from a bad sitcom parody into a strong antiwar movement number, tie dyed and all. (The sitcom is bad, the parody is good. Curse this English language!) This is good fun, but not fro sensitive families – two guys (Zach Craig, for one) streak the stage, naked except for a yellow smiley face beach ball, which is abandoned during the big blow out number at the end. See the show, just remember it was a grim time, and we needed group full frontal nudity to cope. That, and Quaaludes. But mostly Quaaludes.
Romance, Rage and Revelry
Directed by Frank McCain and Julie Tompkins
Orlando Opera Company – Bring You Own Venue
Orlando Fringe Festival
There’s more ways to learn classical music than by watching Bugs Bunny. The Orlando Opera Company adds a high class tone to this year’s Fringe with their sampler of classical pieces presented by 3 of the companies Resident Artists, set in the massive space of the old OUC building on Lake Ivanhoe. The show is all vocal fireworks, with no long Valkyries filler. Near the open, we get one of my favorite pieces, “The Drinking Song” from the Student Prince, originally done by Mario Lanza on film back in the 60’s. This version is sung by Aaron Pegram, the short but sonorous tenor of the group. More opera hits from Rigaletto and The Pearl Fishers follow, leading up to the climax of the show – an English version of the famous Figaro aria sung by baritone Christopher Holloway. The song sounds so important, but it’s just a barber bragging about himself. The third member onstage is Jeanette Zilioli, soprano, and she gets a few spine tinglers out of “Stars and the Moon” from “Songs for a New World”. This is not the opera we have learned to dread, but a fresh approach, bringing the style from the musty past into a more modern musical theater setting. Plus, it meets my criteria for a good musical – you don’t care about the plot that much, but you have something to hum into the parking lot.
The Nutty Professor
Adapted by Michael Andrew
Directed by Patrick Flick
Orange Venue, Orlando Fringe Festival
It’s 1960 something, and education still consists of girls with big hair, guys in plaid shorts, and hanging out in the malt shop. Professor Julius Kelp (Andrew) struggles with intimidating jocks and difficult science projects as blonde bombshell Stella Purdy (Samantha Huslig) develops a crush on him. Kelp’s boss, Professor Warfield (Lowell Fenner) warns him repeatedly about “unauthorized experiments”, but Kelp soldiers on, making a drug that transforms him from geeky intellectual to slick entertainer Buddy Love. It’s better living through chemistry, and now he has a reason to date Stella, who might be legal, or maybe no one cared back then. The problem with this drug, like so many, is it wears off, and eventually the ruse is discovered.
Slick, stylish, and well produced, “Nutty Professor” takes a chestnut of a movie, cuts out most of the dumb Jerry Lewis shtick, and showcases both Michael Andrew and his a cappella friends in Mosaic. The musical is SO much better than the original, although they keep one or two sight gags for the purists. There’s a combination of original material from Andrew, and classics like Take Five and Mack The knife. His tune “The Little Guy” was particularly nice; I succeeded in putting a check mark next to it in my program. Mosaic is a wonderfully talented band, and now that local favorites Toxic Audio has escaped to NYC fame, these guys seem likely replacements around town. Nutty Professor certainly has its funny moments, but I see it as a great way to tie to gather a bunch of otherwise disparate music into one cohesive, entertaining piece, and its fun for the whole nuclear family.
Choreography by Elsa Valbuena
With Melissa Pasut, Leah Marke
Blue Venue, Orlando Fringe Festival
I feel everyone should see a little bit of Dance every now and again, even if it’s not the most important thing in your aesthetic life. You don’t need a full metal Swan Lake, or shell out the big bucks to get stomped to death by Lords of Dance. There are smaller events available, such as this lovely fluid duet set to infrasonic guitar chords. Opening this program is a one woman piece by Pasut, “Untitled Solo”. Dressed in a black velvet one piece hot pants outfit, she appears as moving statuary, striking poses reminiscent of the Lourve sculpture galley, and set to the slow, quite music of Peer Gynt Suite #1.
For the remainder of the set, she’s joined by Leah Marke, and two musicians, Rick Olson and Alex Pasut. They have the longest, lowest bass I’ve ever seen, as well as an esoteric collection of odd instruments, some of which appear to be from Toys R Us. The background music is sonorous, droning, and wavers between oriental mysteries and B-movie menace. Against this wall of sounds, the women first dance “Cranes”, which as you might hope, sets them up as two tall thin birds, moving slowly on stilt like legs. The final, longest piece “Space (In 4 Movements)” is the highlight of the show. While the music stays in a similar vein, they recostume in slight outfits from the Target lingerie section, and mime the outlines of the small Blue venue, then proceed to fill it with glassy and romantic movements. What does it mean? Oh, there’s probably some deeper meaning, but it eludes me. The show is, as it should be, about grace in motions, grace expressed through beautiful bodies set against sound and floor boards.
Stuff I Learned In My Room
With John Charles
Pink Venue, Orlando Fringe Festival
Talk about a versatile guitar player! This guy seems to have every genre of music at his finger tips, from standard rock and roll tunes to country yodeling to rap. OK, the rap didn•t really work THAT well, it’s not guitar chord oriented music, but when he does a full up mariachi band with one guitar and voice, you’ll be floored. John Charles tells a bit about his musical career, which began like so many others, obsessively playing in his room. A bar gig pushed him on stage at 11, and the lure of smoky rooms, no health insurance, and constant travel drew him to the career he loves.
Musically, this guy is a hoot. He deconstructs Led Zeppelin, America, and Willy Nelson. “Rambling Man” has a section where they fake a stuck record skipping. I’ve heard it a hundred times, but never noticed it. “Horse with no Nane” has possible the most pointless lyrics ever written, but do you know WHY? And poor old Willy, he sings like he’s reading cue cards. Charles keeps a second guitar warmed up and ready on stage, but never uses it. He broke a string in his last song, but clearly he could have gone on for ever, covering Eminem through 3 Doors down. This man is highly recommended for bars, bar mitzvahs, and big fun.
The Curse Of The Trickster
By T.J. Dawe
Yellow Venue, Orlando Fringe Festival
Fringe Favorite T.J. Dawe returns to the fray with another summarily funny show about the worst nights of his life, coupled with a long stream of absurdities in daily living. The premise is a long night in a Mexican B&B, suffering the indignities of Montezuma’s revenge and reflecting on previous bouts of wisdom tooth removal and Mononucleosis while traveling. Punctuating the narrative are Things People Never Say, like “My town’s public transit system is PERFECT”.
Stylistically, Dawe seems headed toward early George Carlin, with long digressions on DVD purchase vs. rental, cell phones in movies, and the meaning of time. Dawe is the consummate story teller, and this show doesn’t disappoint. Just don’t put your feet on the stage, it’s an equity rule.
In The Grip: Attack of the Panty Weasels
By Tom Childers
Directed by Dave Behringer
Theater Downtown Bring Your Own Venue
Orlando Fringe Festival
As we left this show, someone remarked “I thought I saw a script lurking in that set.” And, this show had the most complicated set I’ve ever seen in a fringe show, with walls, window frames, and an impossible amount of furniture. You cold have done “death of a Salesman” with less. It’s 1962 and commie paranoia rules the land. There’s a curtain company going under, run by foul mouthed Buddy (David Goldsmith) and elegant Miss Collins (Gloria Duggan). A grate of weasels arrives unexpectedly, and who ever expects a crate of weasels at work? They get loose, and bite office boy Wendell (Chris Bared). He achieves an enormous erection, but passes out (low blood pressure?) Mad scientist Parker (Anthony Console) and now we are into the meat of the story – he passes out pills, shoots drugs into everyone, and claims to have a cure for weasel Viagra.
Yeah, it made no sense to me, either, but then this IS the fringe. The acting was up to snuff, and a great supporting performance came from Michelle Falana as Drusilla, the tough cleaning lady. Margie (Christina McAlpine) was noteworthy; she immediately and gratuitously took of her dress, performing in a slip for most of the show. Parker was vicious, Miss Collins outraged, and Wendell’s Erection help up well, but when we left, the consensus was this show needs more hot weasel on weasel action.
By John Godber
Directed By Frank McClain
Yellow Venue, Orlando Fringe Festival
Long line. Ten Bucks cover. Intimidating guys in black shirts hassle you for ID. Yellow Kevlar tags indicate you are “go” for alcohol consumption. Disco at 96 bpm leaks out the door, and people slyly practice their steps. Slowly, eventually, the line begins to move, and you’re in! Welcome to clubland, a place where alcohol and style may or may not lead to orgasm and STD. Four tough looking guys (Michael Chavis, Ken Gow, David Kelly, Ryan Scharoun) and a DJ(Andrew Jevin) play the whole cast of bar flies, from the ditzy blonds and preening queens out to make the scene, to the drunken frat boys and psychotic “Security” folks for keep the place tense but vaguely under control. Each person is defined, each believable.
Brilliant pieces of comedy fly, like the Swedish porn flick with “Friends” recorded over the good parts, the cab drive intent on getting his drunken charges carsick, and the pointless beat poetry recited by “Lucky Eric”, the bouncer with a history of finding five dollar bills in the puke and detritus of clean up. More fun that you’d expect, there’s just one piece advice on this show – don’t use the restrooms after midnight.
Sushi and The City
By Karin Amano
Turquoise Venue, Orlando Fringe Festival
Perky Karin Amato tackles her first one woman show tonight, and explores dating and oriental stereotypes in this mixed but funny show. The opening and longest segment takes a look at internet dating, which is a sort of singles club on steroids. After filling out a few simple forms, she’s deluged with tons of deleteable guys, none of whom meet her simple criteria of ‘somewhat nice guy’. She gets the Asian fetishists, bald guys, old guys, and well meaning creeps. And, speaking as a bald, old creepy guy, I do find this a bit disheartening, but then this is here show. It’s bitterly funny, and I suspect more of it is true life than most shows this week.
After the dating segment, there a long break with a funny yet practical Japanese language lesson, starting from “Hello, my name is•” to “Faster! Faster!” This is the good stuff that never appears in those phrase books at Barnes and Nobel. The language segment covers an elaborate costume change, and Amano emerges in a fancy kimono, slathers Kabuki Paint on her face, and recites a tempura recipe. Just as I find kabuki a bit mysterious, this segment was probably a lot funnier in the concept stage than when it appeared on stage. Overall, the show is worth the ticket, but if you don’t like tempura, you won•t be alone.
Whipping Wally Wonker
By David Almeida and Steve J Miller
Purple Venue, Orlando Fringe Festival
It’s been 30 years since Wally Wonker (Jeff Lindberg) got out of the chocolate business, handing over his factory to young Charley Puckett (Almeida). With little education and no experience, Charley has run the shop into the ground, and now sharp lawyer Vernuka Assault (Kimberly Grey) hauls his sugary butt into court, suing for a zillion dollars damage for those kids who toured the factory so long ago. She’s one of them, so a bit of self interest play into the move. There’s no statue of limitations in this court of musical justice, and everyone gets a crack at Charlie, now acting in his own defense. His legal skills are worse than his business skills, so this will not be pleasant as defends himself with reason, instead of the nuances of the law books.
At least two songs in this musical are noteworthy. The opening number, set to “The Candyman Can” describes Charley’s business skills – “Charley Puckett Can•t.” It’s nicely cynical, yet hummable, and makes you wonder how he could last 30 years in the business. Later on “Frivolous Litigation” crosses the boards, a song that gets to the heart of the show – whether lawsuits about dumb things we did decades ago should be allowed. It’s always been a premise of law that anyone can sue anyone else for anything, but lately many nonsensical suits have gone through and pad out, making the courts into a lotto more than a source of reasonable justice.
Despite a buff and half naked Poompa Skoompa (Kenny Borges), those were the high points. The pseudo legal wrangling is more silly than funny, and the judge and Piano player (MariRenèe Sluce) missed notes on a regular basis. I like the high concept of the show, but the shaky script overwhelms the otherwise strong production, placing Wally Wonker solidly in the middle of this year’s pack.
The Hope Slide
By Terri-Lyn Storey
Red Venue, Orlando Fringe Festival
I admit I never heard of the Doukhobor people, Utopian Christians from Russia who were moved to remote British Columbia around the turn of the century. These folks had some extreme ideas, and tended to strip naked when upset and burn their houses down to show they were unconcerned with material objects. I find this odd behavior for people living in Canada, and the Canadian government thought so too, and fought battles with them up through the 1960’s. Terri Lyn Storey presents the complex tale of Irene Dixon, troubled teen, and her sympathetic attachment to the Doukhobor plight as she passes though a troubled youth of truancy and rebellion. Although she hasn•t met these people, she sees them as martyrs paralleling her life, and when she finally visits them, they are as uninterested in her as they are in the rest of the modern world.
There’s a lot of truth here, particularly in how we all idolize certain extreme groups and causes when we ourselves are disempowered or without control of our lives. This drives the fashionable slogans of support for communists and religious extremists in some quarters. “The cause” sounds good at a distance, but close up its always unpleasant people doing horrible things to their fellow man, despite the bumper stickers on your SUV. Ms. Storey weaves an interesting tale, with the Doukhobor history the highlight. Irene’s story touches you as well, but she’s strident and runs on a bit, and seems like one of those people destined to end up on a commune. Go for the history, stay for the rant. Doukhobor’s could be the next hip cause, if you’re tired of the old ones.
The Value Of Names
By Jeffery Sweet
Directed By Al Krulick
Green Venue, Orlando Fringe Festival
Blacklist – BAD! BAD! BAD! That’s what we learn, and while it was a low point in American political and social history, it didn•t just drop from the sky. Some people cooperated, some resisted, and some actually were communists, and goodness knows enough communist spies did damage to America over the decades. How many were writing movies is debatable, but Benny Silverman (Shelly Ackman) and Leo Greshen (Joe Smith) got caught in the net. Perhaps their founding of the New Labor Players wasn’t intended to destroy society, maybe it just was fashionable. And the real communists preferred to summarily shoot anyone who didn’t agree with them; where as Americans just made them change jobs. Norma Teitel (Lindsay Cohen) is Benny’s daughter, and she’s about to take on a topless role in a play directed by Greshen. Greshen ratted out Benny years ago, and they haven•t been on speaking terms since Eisenhower was president. Benny wants her to blacklist Greshen, and she wants a career independent of her father’s fame.
Rarely do you get a play with a politcal theme that actually explores both sides of an issue fully. Here we find witty, emotional arguments for both cooperating and resisting the House Committee on Un-American Activities, and arguments for and against carrying the grudge of he father to the 3rd or 4th generation. Ackerman is the angry old man, spewing vitriol about his old friend and his daughter for changing her name and working for The Other Side. This is nasty, deep down Jewish guilt he’s emitting, I even felt guilty sitting up in the back. Smith’s Greshen is the compromiser, attempting to make nice, reassure the daughter, and he even mentions the topless scene is out, it’s not artistically necessary (darn). Cohen is earnestly pulled between loyalty to family and the need to drop here father’s war and lead a life of her own. “The value Of Names” is a flawless drama with thought provoking topics presented more rationally than anything you’ll ever see on TV. That makes it a work of art.
Written By Dave McConnell
Blue Venue, Orlando Fringe Festival
I guess this was inevitable – a Hip Hop Soap, with social conscience. Barely legal Mary (Tiffany Wright) had an abortion, and now the rat fink father won’t even call her back. Slacker Larry (McConnell) fakes a back injury while railing against minorities taking all the cushy jobs at OUC. His wife Carrie (Kristen Wharton) gossips her way around town, spreading the word on Mary’s spreading her legs. Harry (Jeff Kurtz) hangs out, rapping with Larry and watching his babe of a wife Sherry (Jen Meardy) for signs of bulimia. Yep, it’s a typical day in small town theaterville.
McConnell has crafted a strong story about societal rejection, hypocrisy, and doing the right thing. He writes dialog as it were rap lyrics, capturing the rhythm and rhyme of the style accurately. Clearly defined people occupy the stage delivering a clear and potent measurement, but the biggest weakness of the play lies in its delivery. Frankly, these women can’t rap. While McConnell gets the edge and momentum going, all the female parts come across as reading of sing-song lines – no rhythm or energy. Had they been written with out rhyme, saving the rap for the guys, it would have sounded much better. There’s a cool piece of work here, if he can find the right vocal skills.
By Alex Dallas
Yellow Venue, Orlando Fringe Festival
One half of Fringe favorite Sensible Shoes returns with this engaging one woman show about Acting, with a capital “A”. Alex admits early on the 3 things she need to get by are champagne, chocolate, and cunnilingus, but beyond that it’s the life on the stage we hear the most about. She’s had a varied career, from doing Shakespeare on trampolines to drinks with Gandalf, but most of the show talks about losing things. She had a father who wandered off repeatedly, children who escaped in Heathrow, and goodness knows what else.
The tale is personal, drifting from here to there, but always engaging. While there is no Dramatic Conclusion, it’s never dull, and I’m sure she could describe a trip to the grocery store and get laughs. It’s a nice, light, flirty piece and worth seeing. Not as impressive as the trampoline thing, but still worth the time.
Fish Tales and Swan Songs
Invisible Arts Project
Green Venue, Orlando International Fringe Festival
I have no idea what these people are doing, but they do it so very, very nicely. There’s a multimedia show (God, how 1968!) projected on a wrinkly sheet upstage, depicting various puns on the performers names – Joe SWANberg and Becky FISHer. Joe drives a fish puppet around stage, while Becky dances a very elegant swan and they tell some stories. There are traditional Aesop ones, like the 3 fish (smart, normal, and dumb) confronting a man with a net, and the one about the fisherman catching the enchanted fish, which grants his wife ever increasing hoses, until they are back to where they started from.
In a duet piece, they describe how make a cherry cobbler, and clean a fish. The result? A fish guts cobbler – yummy! We explore many fish and swan metaphors, similes, and platitudes, and where do we end up? I’ll hazard a guess the point is the growth of Becky from girlhood to age, and the men around her, who may well have fished for a hobby. But that’s just a guess. If you conclude differently, I’m sure you’re correct. But the dancing! Very, VERY nice!
Written by Joseph R Hayes
Starring Jay Becker, Luerne Picart Herrera
Pink Venue, Orlando Fringe Festival
I’ve never really got jazz, but the people involved are always fascinating. Back in the 20’s Ben “Blue” Miller (Becker) runs into society girl Ellie Grace (Herrara) in the hotel lobby. He plays in the ballroom, her daddy owns the place. She’s a gifted composer with no outlet for her music, and he’s a Jazzbo of some limited talent. They strike up a romance that lasts a life time – she composes, he plays and takes the credit. Such a deal! After 20 years of this, Ellie longs for the spot light and by rights should get it, but Ben refuses. In retaliation, she rights progressively harder and harder music, making him one of the leaders of the progressive and modern jazz movements. But, at some point, she writes music so complex it exceeds his ability to play. Now if that isn’t love, what is?
There’s a very cool live band playing between acts, playing songs in the style of what the couple writes. This adds a great deal of context to those of us who regard jazz as background music in a nice restaurant. Becker looks elegant in a suit as always, and Herrera is suitably outgoing and earnest, vengeful when required, and loving when not. I do have some question as to her roll – sometimes the text implies she is black, and sometimes white. Would a black family own a large hotel in Chicago in the 1920’s, and would an interracial marriage occur in that time? The question provided an additional tension to the production, perhaps intended, perhaps not. But despite the loud preshow riffs that precluded chit chat, the show rolls along at a good clip, exploring the question of artistic recognition, bias in the jazz world, and long term relation based more than movie style romance.
By Ricky Avila
Brown Venue, Orlando Fringe Festival
Sure, we’ve all had the Christopher Columbus Discovers the New World class; it’s required by law or something. It resulted in one of the greatest culture clashes ever, as the logical westerners overcame the mystical native cultures. Ritualis explores the myths and metaphors of the Mesoamerican peoples, and is on of the oddest show I’ve seen in years. At open, acolytes of the powerful Menelaus (Ricky Avila) enter, chanting and threatening the audience. First order of business, separate the sexes. There’s positive and negative energy in males and females, so never mind bringing a date. No farting, either, it will foul the temple. With that business in line, we now offer prayers in an odd language that might or might not be Spanish. Audience members are selected for inquires into their sexual lives (When is the last time you screwed a cow?), their state of mind, and their fortunes. Menelaus now works though the crowd, dispensing justice and wisdom, and dealing with the results of the conquest. Some of the conquered fight, like screaming Cassandra (Yolina Ayala) and argumentative Agamemnon (Manuel Berrios). They get haul off stage. Some up and die, represented by Icarus (Jose Aponte), and a few survive, selling them selves for sex and labor, represented by Aphrodite (Chantal Simpson). Does anyone care? Only today, at the time it just was.
All is very surreal and mystical. The stage is in a cool, dark back room of Will’s Pub, and has the dank feel of an underground cave. Nothing is clear, and menace fills the room. Some of the audience becomes deeply involved, some flee, none of which seems to matter to the almighty Menelaus and his bitchy assistant. With justice dispensed, audience members solicited, and future arrangements made, Menelaus retreats to his lair, and we scurry back to Loch haven. A different world HAS been experienced.
Wanzie’s Living On The Edge
Book and Lyric by Michael Wanzie
Music by Richard Charron
Directed by Kenny Howard
Starring Janine Klein and Frank McClain
It was late Sunday, I thought I missed church, but then wandered into this little service, right on Fringe grounds. The opening hymn, “These are the Bright Years” came across beautifully, sung by the astonishing Janine Klein in an elegant orange frock. The preacher (McClain), however, was very anxious to start into his sermon, and interrupted her, causing a small delay. I always think these things should be sorted out in Worship Committee Meetings, but then there are times when the spirit moves you and you just HAVE to get up and testify. A compromise was achieved, all in the name of harmony, and “Living on the Edge” was chosen as a more appropriately lugubrious hymn. It was more in line with the rest of the service, and McClain realized the importance of setting the right contemplative mood before service.
Rather than a single, long sermon, the preacher broke his message into several parts, and the pair separated them with more beautiful music. Certainly, “Take Care of Your Own Shit” was a bit heavy handed and slow, but it’s mournful tone perfectly complemented the sermonettes, which spanned a wide range of topics so near to the hearts of talk radio hosts. Best to break up a long complicated argument, that way it’s more understandable. Interspersing music keeps up attention as well, and both Klein and McClain are capable singers. They even pull up a nice duet, “Love Makes a Family”, and toward the end we got the delicious “Step into the Light”, a number taken from the legendary “Lizzie: The Musical.” The pair mirrors Christian doctrine very closely. McClain was the Law, and Klein represents the Gospel – he was ready to smite with his voice, she was ready to sooth with it. Ah, the sweet dichotomy of faith!
Like all good service, we end on an up note, the thought that we should all be kind to one another. Rev. McClain makes a good case for it, but I do believe I’ve seen the exact same sentiment in other religious texts, promulgated by some of the same people he said strong words about earlier. That IS the risk of multiculturalism – you may find your good ideas aren•t your own.
What was the sermon message? Oh, all the usual stuff one hears in these services – “How Evil Art Those Who Think Different”, “Smitest Thou Mine Enemies, Oh Media!”, “Thou Art An Asshole”, all things you can hear everywhere, but a bit more strident. And like all good churches, the faithful were in full attendance, with the occasional “amen!” rising like incense to the rafter, although smoking is not allowed in the building. That’s either the Loss Of Personal Freedom, or Societal Protection For the Good Of All, depending on your sect in this congregation. Oh, and they pass the plate before you get in, to keep out the dead beats. Common Sense be with thee!
One Man Lord Of the Rings
Written and Performed by Charlie Ross
Directed by T.J. Dawe
Orange Venue, Orlando Fringe Festival
There’s nothing as scary as a dedicated science fiction fans, except for dedicated fantasy fans. Now, I’ve read Lord of the Rings many times, it’s a book that defines my life in some way. And, I’ve seen the first two movies, but have yet to work up the gumption to tackle that last 4 hour epic. Fortunately, here’s a show that has saved me quite a bit of sitting time.
One hour may seem like a short time to cover the breadth and scope of Peter Jackson’s magnum opus, yet you have to admit that once you•ve seen one Middle Earth battle, you’ve pretty much seen them all. Ross does an excellent job of chopping out most of the blather, marginalizing the marginal charters, and emphasizing the classic visual moments like Gandalf spinning around Sauraman’s office floor. This work leans very heavily on the film version of LOTR, so if you haven’t soldiered thought most of it, you will be a little lost, and if you’ve never read the book, it will be a total mystery. On the other hand, if you can quote from the Silmarillion, you’ll be in stitches.
Ross works his butt off in this show. He sweats to the point of leaving wet smiley faces on the stage from his pants, and every 15 minutes he asks you to change the DVD while he chugs some water. No one took him up on his free post show hug offer, despite the ovation he received. While a few less battle scenes would help, this is a faithful and accurate version of the film, cut down to Cliff Notes size, and a must for the fans of the film.
By Timothy Mooney
Pink Venue, Orlando Fringe Festival
How many passwords do you have? How many user names, account names, PIN’s, credit cards? Are these YOU, defining you as accurately as your race, age, mother’s maiden name? In the future world of Timothy Malone, race has all but evaporated, and only your Social Security number separates you into groups. The United States has splintered into sections based on the arbitrary numbering system devised in the 1930’s to monitor retirement benefits. Wars and boarder skirmishes are the norm, as is a tattooed number on your hand. Without that number you are no one, an outlaw, or in his case, a secretly trained agent, set on infiltrating the Western area to commit a terrorist act.
Outfitted with false identity and the name “Alan Gardner” our hero emerges into the world for the first time, with his mission to start by walking across Kansas, the long way. He loves it. As you might expect, he hasn•t been out much. Eventually, he stops at a diner, and the “How ya doin’, Honey?” of the waitress freaks him out – Oh, the immorality of these westerners! They certainly seem worthy of destruction.
It’s a pretty cool story, and the points raised are particularly relevant in these days of terrorist profiling and a swelling electronic data base of every place and transaction you ever engage in. Future history and light jogging propel things forward, and while some of his military thinking is a bit iffy, the action is exciting, the consequences chilling, and the story telling superb. I regard this movement as a show worth recruiting others to see.
The Naked Guy
By Dennis Giacino and Fiely Matias
The OOPS Guys
Blue Venue, Orlando Fringe Festival
It’s Campy Gay Sitcom Time! For some reason, parodies of television shows on stage work better than stage shows edited like television, and here•s a fine example. Donny (Giacino) has written a play for the local cultural competition. It’s about a streetwise male bondage stripper, and its won $10,000! The only problem is the fine print requires the play to be about a real person, and Donny just made this guy up. Imagine that – a playwright just inventing people from whole cloth. Panic sets in the house – raunchy cruiser Blake (Lance Fitzgerald – now THAT’S a gay guy name) suggests hiring a real stripper he met at a Kissimmee S&M barbeque. Perforce artist Rocky (Matias) hides under a sheet, and practices his art, which includes Bad Interpretive Dance and upstaging Donny. With the director of the arts program coming over (Lisa Sleeper), its crunch time and they recruit Josh (Sammy D’Angelo) to play the role of the hustler. It’s his first time stripping, he’s really straight, and he passes out repeatedly. Next thing you know, they have a seminude straight gay bondage stripper passed out in the bathroom, and a county official on the couch. I know I hate it when that happens.
Plot, schmot. Naked Guy showcases the clowning talents of the Oops Guys as they throw water, make bad puns, and roll around in various silly poses for a string of homo sight gags. Donny continually produces disgusting high roughage desserts, like Corn S’Mores and a Broccoli Roll. Lance suggest outrageous ideas, all of which will lead to more sex for himself. Donny fumes around like Felix Ungar, and Josh stands around looking buff. After all, the show SAYS Naked Guy; you’d be disappointed if you didn’t get one.
This is an intensely physical show, and it eventually degenerates in a long and highly entertaining Performance Art pieces. It involves flashlights, dog collars, and music by the Partridge family. I think they are deconstructing the Orange County Arts Commission Mission Statement. Eventually, Josh strips naked, revealing the largest pair of testicals I’ve ever seen on a human. An informal poll at the beer tent makes me think they’re real, and not silicone, but that’s just a guess. This is a loud, fast, funny performance, and even if you don’t get all the catty cultural references, laugh when everyone else does. It’s very metrosexual.
Tastes Like Chicken
By Jonathan Pereira
Turquoise Venue, Orlando Fringe Festival
So who do you hate? No, really. Personally, I can•t stand creepy panhandlers, SUV drivers, people who “aren•t quite right”, and the overtly religious. We’re all conditioned to say like we like Blacks, Whites, Spanish, or Gay, at least when pressed publicly, but that’s a lie. Everyone has had some bad interaction that they project onto the group as a whole, and we carry that very deeply inside us.
Chicagoan Jonathan Pereira takes these repressed memories and drags them to the surface, using a combination of story telling, surrealism, and messy props. At the open, he challenges us to guess his race, ethnic status, and sexual orientation, and after some minor costume changes, makes himself look different enough to reverse those first impressions. Building on the premise, he challenges our feeling on women with a low cost cardboard cutout of a Brazilian super model (I don’t objectify women!) and GI Joe saving a hijacked plane. He also can also make a very authentic sounding bong sound with just his lips.
As we progress, he tries to get the audience to say the word “nigger”, which is largely unsuccessful in the mostly white crowd. We do get through a few rounds of “honkey”, but today, the N word has replaced the F word as the unsayable sound that will send you to social hell, at least in my neighbor hood. The show is funny and intriguing, and holds up a somewhat uncomfortable mirror to the audience. We ended up in a post show discussion at the beer tent that night, and it’s true – I hate a lot more people than I freely admit, and only some of those emotions are even derived form actual experience. Not that I’m going to hang out with the people at the top of this article, but at least I can admit it to myself. I now feel I’ve been uplifted by this years Fringe. Thanks, guys! And thanks to all you other weirdoes running around.
By Steve Miller
Directed by Chris Jorie
Blue Venue, Orlando Fringe Festival<P.
Fringe wouldn’t be complete without a play about plays. This years offering examines a bond between a writer and a critic, both working in a small town. The Writer (David Lee Bass) has won a Humana Award (nice) and is on track for a Pulitzer (VERY nice). He’s suave, classy, and prone to make things up on the spot, which is a great skill for a writer. Opposite him is the local theater critic (Anne Hering), who is bossy, brassy, and smokes. It’s more than professional between them, they are in love, and The Critic pursues him in hopes of having a child. Bigger than any affection for him is her need to bear children, and he seems a perfect father to her. As we slide thought the show, a thin and ghostly Emma (Robyn Scrivner) narrates the story, and while the couple appear married and mad at each other, other realities may exist as well. Emma is torn between supporting The Writer, her father, while her mother, The Critic pulls another direction. By the end, we know what did and didn’t happen, even though I’m pretty sure he gets the Pulitzer.
A sharp and clever script comes to life with a top cast, making this one of the more intriguing intellectual exercises of the week. Miller’s carefully reveal reality starts you on one plausible path, only to transition to a completely different journey while never really addressing the gossipy question of Press vs. Stage ethics. Scrivener’s Emma is sexy and vulnerable, and absorbs and expresses the state of mind of both characters, a sort of one woman Greek chorus. It’s a family that might be, and might never be, and either resolution seems acceptable to someone. Although, I suspect a household where both people write fiction for a living might not be the calmest place to grow up, it should certainly be stimulating.
And the Moon And The Stars And The World