2021 Orlando Fringe Festival – Episode 1
by Carl F. Gauze
A stripped-down and socially distanced festival shows that Orlando’s theater scene maybe wounded, but its not out. This year’s festival is half live, half recorded. The live shows fall into the normal festival slot from May 20 to Labor Day, with a digital reprise and a few video-only shows available in the first two weeks of June. I caught a few live previews shows and there are some promising shows and few weaker presentations. This post is based on technical rehearsals made semi-public by the braver artists.
We all sell out to get somewhere in life and these kids are just more open about it. “Selling Out – The Musical” (Pink Venue) show delivers on the title; it’s packed with actual advertisements. The one that sticks out is a rather long and uncomfortable visit to a bathing suit shop in a still functional local mall. I get the need for sponsorships; this is just a bit mor blatant than most. As to plot, a young and rising advertising star is promised a VP role if he can land a key account. His straightforward jargon ladened pitch bores the customer, but he’s gives him a second chance by a “made for the script” client. His female room mate drugs him and does here own rather explicit presentation to save the day and give you on screen images that will not fade until Fringe 2022. I don’t write these shows, I just write about them.
My next experience was “Frigorific: A Play by Ear” ( Green Venue) This delight full one woman show by Lorelei Zarifian explores her relationship with her refrigerator, which has become upset by the arrival of a newer model. Ms. Zarifian offers a delightful French accent and a problem with her refrigerator. It has a curse, it its jealous, and she treats it like an irascible lover to the point they share a glass of wine. It’s the good side of Fringe Surrealism.
Local stalwarts Emotions Dance reprised “7 Deadly Sins” for this year’s festival (Pink Venue). There have been several variations of this project over the years, and the concept is a virginal woman dancing in a white chemise as the evils of the world polluting her purity tinges of sin signified by all the other colors. It’s a high concept show where all the sins perform duets with her. My favorites sin was “Greed,” a dark money man chases her like a satanic bill collector, soiling here with his filthy lucher. Money may not buy happiness, but it allows misery in much nicer surrounding.
The most developed show of the evening comes with a reprise of Michael Wanzie’s “It All Started at the Radisson Inn” (Gold Venue). This show premiere pre-Covid a while back at the Phillips Center small stage, and it shows an an unlikely hook up between a straight salesman Bret (Zack Lane) and a gay man Conner (Mike Van Dyke) with a valet fetish. They both accept each others sexuality, but Connor loves massaging feet and Bret is along for the bumpy ride. Everything is stable until Bret’s fiancé returns from a family crisis to this much larger one. It’s funny and touching and well executed.
My last viewing tonight took place in the Blue venue where “THRIVE” told four stories of overcoming and adapting to life’s little bowl of troubles. Car crashes, cancers and brain injury body issues, inability to get a date, loss of mates to disease all showed how bad life and be, and how that need not define you. It’s a hear wrenching show about love and perseverance, all by ordinary people made extraordinary.