Orlando Fringe 2017 review: 'Roller Coaster'

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For the record, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure — where the concept behind Fringe legend T.J. Dawe's new monologue was birthed — is not a roller coaster (as the show's title suggests), but a dark ride/simulator [/end Comic Book Guy voice].

That nerdy niggle is evidence that Dawe and I are cut from similarly geeky cloth, and it's about the only quibble I have with Dawe's latest winning one-man marathon. We're both obsessed with Star Wars and superheroes, fascinated by abandoned malls and the occult, and deeply worried about our imminent future in the age of Trump. I've always found personal connections to Dawe's delicately interwoven tales, which somehow stitch together Barbara Ehrenreich's evolutionary theories with World War II propaganda cartoons and the rise of role-playing games.

But Roller Coaster has additional appeal as his first play written explicitly about Orlando, from Dawe's first awful encounter with our city in 2001 through last year's Pulse Nightclub shootings. Naturally, Dawe takes us on an eye-opening excursion through the theme parks, which he provocatively posits are America's new temples of worship.

As always, Dawe's performance is dizzyingly fast and very funny, but also intensely intellectually engaging and deeply depressing in its implications about our innate hunger for conflict. Luckily, he leaves audiences with a sliver of optimism; now I've got my fingers crossed that World War III won't break out before Dawe returns to town.

Roller Coaster
Brown Venue

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