Fringe 2018 review: ‘Callbacks’ serves up situational dramedy, theme-park style

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For an actor, callbacks are often a surprise. You frequently receive them for plays and parts you weren’t expecting, while the roles you swore you nailed in the audition yield nothing, except for perhaps a life lesson.

Callbacks, by Orlando theater veteran Thom Mesrobian, is also a surprise. It disguises itself as a comedic examination of the lives of three actors at an Orlando theme park, even going so far as to use the famous Disney font for its printed program. Instead, it gradually morphs into a dramatic study of interpersonal relationships, with the amusement-park show merely serving as setting.

Jay T. Becker and Danny Baynard star, with Sarah Lockard in a supporting role. Becker is best, but all three project an instant likeability. Despite their good chemistry, the play is not an E-ticket ride. Taking place over more than a year, the story is choppy and struggles in its transition from humor to pathos, lacking focus. Director Mark Hartfield does just about as much as he can on a limited budget in the Brown Venue – it’s a small space, after all – but the sitcomy scene-transition music is a distraction.



Still, Mesrobian’s writing is humorous, warm and strangely comfortable, as if he himself lived the story. (Having worked in theme parks, he sort of did.) His script is also filled with some chuckle-worthy and brainy one-liners, such as Becker’s character’s tongue-in-cheek question to his friend: “You did dramaturgy on a theme-park show?”

The production may not be as satisfying as Mesrobian and Hartfield’s FrankenChrist: The Musical and Simpleton: The Legend of President Trump, but Callbacks did enjoy success at Tampa Fringe and Orlando’s Theatre South Playhouse last year. And it’s one to add to your Orlando Fringe schedule this year if you have time.

Callbacks
Rogue Stage, Lakeland, FL
13 & Up – Strong Language
Brown Venue
60 Minutes
Wednesday, May 16, 2018 @ 7:00 PM
Saturday, May 19, 2018 @ 7:30 PM
Monday, May 21, 2018 @ 6:30 PM
Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 6:45 PM
Friday, May 25, 2018 @ 5:15 PM
Saturday, May 26, 2018 @ 5:15 PM
Sunday, May 27, 2018 @ 7:00 PM