Theatre Review: Fringe Year-Round presents Kevin Thornton's "Stairway to Kevin"



Last weekend's "Come Out With Pride" parade and associated events were a fabulous celebration for Orlando's GLBT community, and/or a huge traffic headache if you live downtown. I avoided the mob scene at Lake Eola, but I did pay an alternative observance to the event by enjoying proudly out actor/musician Kevin J. Thornton's Stairway To Kevin at The Venue. Thornton's one-man shows I Love You, We’re F#$@ed and Strange Dreamz were hit at the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival, which brought his latest work here for a two-night run as part of their "Fringe Year-Round" monthly showcase series.

Thornton musical monolgue, which integrates intimate standup-style insights with soulful strumming, spirals around his turning forty and feeling at a crossroads in life after finding himself suddenly single at an age where most of his friends are busy with either babies or rehab. Growing up a talented, good looking, fundamentalist Christian ("a perfect storm of hubris") set Thornton on a strange life path, from MTV one-hit wonder to lounge singer on an around-the-world cruise ship, that eventually leaves him "a homeless man with a MacBook." He seeks seeks solace by dreaming of Scandanavian domesticity, desanctifying a same-sex marriage, and taking a ill-fated detour through a petrified forest in his restless quest to "be somebody."

Thornton's annecdotes involve some absurdly transgressive imagery, like punting penguins along the Patagonian shore, or a gay bar visit likened to "a thousand puppies licking my soul." But there's a compelling theme about the pitfalls of self-improvement tying the seemingly random threads together. His aggressive appearance -- black leather, tattooed biceps, and intense eyes -- is somewhat incongruous with his half-dozen engaging, emotionally exposed original songs, featuring country and blues influences that emphasize his Nashville roots.

At the performance I attended, Thornton worked the small, somewhat stony crowd with exaggerated exasperation, as befitting his self-described "mildly obnoxious" persona. Hopefully he'll bring Stairway To Kevin back to Orlando for next year's Fringe, and find a more appreciative audience for it when all of gay-friendly Florida isn't partying on the other side of town.

Fringe Year-Round continues on November 8-10 at the Parliament House with an encore of this year's hit God Is a Scottish Drag Queen.


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