Orlando has barely recovered from the 23rd annual Florida Film Festival, and it’s already time to dive into the other major arts festival celebrating its 23rd birthday. Yes, it’s almost Fringe time.
Technically, the theatre, visual arts and food fest is still a month away, but that didn’t stop hundreds of enthusiasts from cramming into the Orange Venue at Orlando Shakespeare Theatre last night to see two previews – one PG-rated and one R-rated – of the local shows that will be presented during this year’s event, which will run May 14-27 in Loch Haven Park.
The funny and charming Eric Pinder hosted the first preview, while the hilariously uncharming – but therein lies their charm – duo of Lionel and Virginia Del Frisco camped it up for the adult-oriented event. Adding to the insanity was the disturbingly half-naked Brandon Roberts as Cupid. Scurrying around the stage with his bow and arrow, he was tasked with chasing the actors off stage if they ran over their allotted two minutes. (With more than 40 shows to preview, that’s all the time the performers were allowed.) It sometimes seemed more Parliament House than Orlando Shakes, but it was all in good fun, and the crowd lapped it up.
Passing judgment on an entire play or musical – albeit mostly one-acts – is not possible, and just plain unfair, after seeing a 120-second snippet, but there were few productions that made either impressive or idiotic impressions above and beyond the rest. From the PG-rated group, Tappin and Yappin; The Greatest Musical Never Written by Two Nobodies; Bless Me, Father, For I Have Danced! (with a cast of more than 20); and PB&J Theatre Factory’s Smooch were memorable. Helix (with some nice improv comedy), Big in Winter Park and The Aqua Saga might be worth your time too.
In the second preview show, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson; VarieTEASE; the brilliantly blasphemous FrankenChrist: The Musical!; and Escape from Baldwin Park showed promise. (Disclaimer: The Weekly’s own Steve Schneider is helming the latter, so take my recommendation with a huge grain of conflict-of-interest salt.) If you’re looking for nudity, Burlesque: Return of the Skill Focus would seem to offer the most, while, on the opposite end of the spectrum, you will find Reincarnation Soup, a sweet breath of maturity in a sea of silliness.
Under the category of “see at your own risk,” there’s Radio Free Fringe and Exploring Her Kinkdom, which moved beyond all the other subpar offerings and into a realm of objectionable garbage, unless you’re into listening to trashy disc jockeys make adult jokes in the presence of children, or, even worse, seeing one guy act out his S&M fantasies for seemingly no worthwhile artistic reason whatsoever. Yes, perhaps the full versions of these plays will turn out OK after all. And perhaps this blog will win a Pulitzer. I wouldn’t put money on either.
Fringe is about more than theatre, and Visual Fringe will again be in full swing, this time at the Orlando Museum of Art. In addition, it sounds like the food offerings will be better, healthier and more vegetarian-friendly than ever. (Don’t worry: There will likely still be traditional fare.) Speaking of food, I’d like to end by saying thanks to the family who, two minutes before the second preview, plonked themselves down in front of me, unloaded a full bag of Wendy’s food and started scarfing down burgers. Coupled with a male performer prancing around the theatre in feathers and tights, handing out Jell-O shots, it made me appreciate again that there’s no place like Fringe.
To read more about the shows, visit www.orlandofringe.org. And don’t miss the national/international preview event on May 15.