Fringe Review: 'Beware the Dark in Winter Park'

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“There is no better place to die than Winter Park,” the cast of this show tells us. Yet, for more than an hour, they prove themselves wrong by dying on stage at the Gold Venue.
Beware the Dark in Winter Park
John Ryan and his DIVAS – Orlando, Florida
6 REMAINING DATES THROUGH MAY 28, 2016
Venue: Gold
Length: 65 Min
Price: $11
Rating: 18 & Up – Strong Language, Violence, Mature Themes
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Beware the Dark in Winter Park is a misleading title for this oddball, macabre comedy, as it has little to do with the city and no insightful commentary to offer about anything related to Orlando, or Florida, or Planet Earth. (Those who expect a parody of local life on par with Steve Schneider’s Escape From Baldwin Park from 2014 will be both disappointed and bewildered.) Instead, it’s an odd examination of the lives of four employees of a funeral home, as they deal with death, grief, necrophilia, the paranormal and the meaning of their lives.

Written by John Ryan and directed by Christian Kelty (who brought you the much better Something’s Weird in Weeki Wachee at the 2014 Fringe), the production stars Orlando theater legends Elizabeth Murff and Peg O’Keef as, respectively, the deranged owner of the funeral home and the home’s blind mortician, the latter being labeled a “demonic Angela Lansbury.” Adding to the confusion are John Palmer as a reluctant employee and Ryan as Dorian Fey, the completely gay and partly dead son of the owner.



One character describes the atmosphere as “fucked-up Tim Burton.” But I’d call it Arsenic and Old Lace meets Ed Wood. Everyone involved has obviously done far better work than this and will do so again in the future. For now, though, they might want to leave this show off their résumés.

Festival devotees and fans of the performers might get some measure of campy enjoyment from this mess, but once the play turned from comedy to drama toward the end, I noticed even the most loyal Fringe followers getting antsy. Hey, maybe I’m missing something here, as I felt I was on the outside of an in-joke the entire time, but, paraphrasing Palmer’s character, I’m going to attempt to drink and sleep and drink and sleep until this disturbing performance seems like a distant nightmare.



“I get paid extra for this bullshit, right?” O’Keef’s character asks. Well, Ms. O’Keef, I don’t know how much you’ll make performing in this show. Knowing Fringe, it won’t be much. But at least you didn’t have to pay $11 to see it.

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