Depending on your perspective, the 15th annual Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival represents either a wonderful time to get onboard or the unveiling of a greatest-hits package K-tel would envy. Peruse the show information and event schedule on the following pages, and you'll notice a lot of familiar titles among the 58-strong lineup of plays and performance pieces. Some are familiar because of their national pedigree: Published works by the likes of Jonathan Larson and Stephen Belber raise the Q-rating of an event that's otherwise dedicated to the cultivation of alternative voices. And many of the 2006 offerings are revivals of shows already well known to patrons of the Fringe and other local theatrical ventures. (Attendees can witness the third run-throughs in the area of both Electra at the Wiener Stand and Hedwig and the Angry Inch, for example.)
It's not cheap to put on a Fringe show, see, which may be why a lot of producing groups are following a "go with what your audience knows" philosophy this year: Proven quantities tend to ensure a better return on one's investment. On the positive side, the preponderance of encores ups the opportunity for potential Fringe first-timers — who still make up the vast majority of the local population — to catch up on theatrical experiences they've missed, like Eric Pinder's brainy, zany Waiting for Napoleon (slightly retooled since its 2002 debut).
The one thing those newbies won't be getting is an accurate picture of why the word "international" appears in the event's title. The participation of non-American groups started waning years ago, largely due to unworkable conditions in makeshift downtown venues. There was a brief uptick when the Fringe completed its move to the comparatively luxurious Loch Haven Park in 2005, but this year's percentage of international contributions is about as low as it's ever been. The official explanation is that those performers are finding it harder to score entry visas — though the writing on the wall was fairly easy to read last year, when a number of regulars could be heard grumbling that the audiences they were drawing wouldn't justify a return trip. (Guess solvency is in the eye of the beholder: Some of those same houses looked respectable to us.)
Still, in the Fringe as in all things, forward progress is inevitable. There's a new venue in the form of the Orlando Repertory Theatre's Universal Theatre (designated as the Purple Venue while Fringe is in session.) The incorporation of puppet and animal shows provides an extra dimension to the festival's family-friendly component. And, most important, there are still opportunities to take in plays that have never been seen before, brought to life by writers and performers you may or may not have heard of. Yes, Virginia, there is a Fringe, and it lives in the hearts of creators who remain courageous enough to go out there and risk everything, from a bad review to a reputation. Not to mention an entry fee.
FRINGE AT A GLANCE
2112 — See below.
All Expenses Paid — What could a bunch of Canadians have to tell us about life in Orlando? Plenty, as last year's razor-sharp teen-pop parody Boy Groove so ably demonstrated. Acme Theatre Company follows suit by accompanying a moody woman and her hated co-worker on a vacation to the land of the Mouse, seeing our little paradise from the superior perspective of people who actually have universal health care.
The Apple — Nothin' Productions, a group founded by a couple of Osceola County high school students, performs a show that traces the fallout of Eve's infamous decision in the Garden of Eden and the millions who have been "alienated, hurt `or` oppressed" in its aftermath. Genre? "Variety," natch!
Bathhouse: The Musical! — Last year, Air-O-Dynamic Productions treated us to The Incubus, which superimposed gay imagery onto a Victorian-era ghost story. For this Fringe, they're putting queer goings-on in an even unlikelier setting — a bathhouse! Why, it's so crazy it just might work!
Black Voices — The Fringe gets a sorely needed dash of color thanks to this soul-forward revue, which retraces the last 200 years of black American history in spoken word and song. There's no telling if the execution will be as commendable as the intention — but from what we've already heard, the cast is packing quite the sets of pipes.
A Canadian Bartender at Butlin's — See below.
Classics Condensed: Two-in-One Stories — Applying the concept of the mash-up to great literature and cinema, Marc Ackerman takes us through the collided plotlines of The Catch-22 in the Rye, Brokeback to the Future and other experiments in narrative genetics. No stranger to multitasking, Ackerman was responsible for last year's Trey Christ, in which he introduced us to not one, not two, but three competing Jesuses.
Disney's Alice in Wonderland, Jr. — The Orlando Repertory Theatre's Jeff Revels directs 30 young actors (from the third through the 11th grade) in what's described as a "tongue in cheek" version of the animated classic, complete with Disney-specific costumes and scenic elements. A song list that includes "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" displays the power of what Bob Iger might call "horizontal product integration."
Doodie Humor 3: To the Turd Power — See below.
Dreamjob.com: The Musical — Space Coast satirists Corruption Productions sing, hoof and teeth-gnash their way through the cautionary story of a shady Internet modeling operation that promises undreamt-of success — for a price. Writer RJ Bowen says she may have fallen prey to such a scam at some point in her past; here's hoping there are no sucker rhymes in this, her first-ever musical.
Electra at the Wiener Stand — Talk about serendipity: Florida wildfires are a major theme in Tod Kimbro's Gen-Y ensemble drama, first performed at Fringe 1999 and back in time for another real-world dry spell. In the superbly written show's third mounting in seven years, Tammy Kopko takes on the role of a busty hot dog vendor with serious intimacy issues.
Eleemosynary — Pierced Heart Productions looks in on the hopes, fears and dreams of three generations of women, following the road map laid out by playwright Lee Blessing (and previously adhered to by the SoulFire Traveling Medicine Show back in 2002). Over in the Blue Venue, Pierced Heart's affiliate company, The Living Room Players, is staging the similarly probing Flowers for Algernon.
Ever Expanding — As she proved at the recent Fringe preview night, Amy Steinberg only needs a piano and her amazing voice to exert a control over an audience that most other performers couldn't manage with a fireworks show. Reflecting her parallel abilities as a spoken-word poet and musician, Steinberg's third one-woman show will apply songs and monologues to the subject of "personal growth through pain." Personal growth? You mean she could get any better?
The Extraordinary Fila Goes to Hell — A surprise favorite at last year's Fringe, The SHREDD Ensemble once again shows off its winning conflation of tribal drumming, belly dancing and live reptiles. Greek mythology is the thematic terrain this time, but what really has us sold is the ensemble's preferred billing as "Hell's Samba Band." (Hey, it's a steady gig.)
Extreme Improv — South Florida's Name Change Pending is back for another extravaganza of full-contact improv, augmenting sadistic competitions like "Flogging Good Time" and "Cram It!" with freshly created atrocities including "New Choice With a Pellet Gun." How time flies: This is NCP's fourth visit to the Orlando Fringe in as many years. That's a lot of Band-Aids.
Fat Camp! — James Judd's dishy 7 Sins was a big hit at Fringe 2004, showcasing this born raconteur's ability to keep a room at rapt attention through the most circuitous monologues imaginable. (Translation: He never comes up for air, and nobody wants him to.) Judd's new show details his visit to a seedy "longevity and wellness retreat" along the Florida coast, which sounds like a great platform for his funny bursts of wide-eyed wonder and/or horror. Plus, it's got our favorite comedy ingredient: Mormons.
The Feminazi — Tampa comedienne Suzanne Willet minted her brand of soul-baring stand-up in 2004's PAIN: So Funny It Hurts, and now she's getting all confrontational on us, directing her focus toward feminism and its retributive assault on "sexist pigs." The press packet she sent us included the warning, "In case you were wondering, I'm armed. And I'm pissed." It's so nice when they clear that up.
(f)IVES — 5 Actors Take on Ives — When The Jester Theater Company first performed this program of absurdist one-acts by playwright David Ives, one year ago at the Studio Theatre, we commented that the troupe had "cooked up a respectable Fringe show that just happens to have no festival to attach itself to." Well, what can we say? SOMEBODY LISTENED FOR ONCE!
Flowers for Algernon — The Living Room Players mount a new production of the classic tale (later filmed as the Oscar-winning Charly) of a mentally impaired man who undergoes a revolutionary intelligence-enhancing process.
The Glamorous Andrea Merlyn Magic Show — They say that doing what you love is the secret to happiness, so Taylor Martin must be overjoyed that he's found a way to combine two of his pet passions: performing magic (45 years and counting) and cross-dressing (since the age of 13). As Andrea Merlyn, Martin gets to explore his feminine side while performing feats of legerdemain that were reportedly a big hit at the Indianapolis Fringe Festival. A clip we saw was beguiling sleight-of-hand, all right, but even the average drag routine is magic in our book: Have you ever tried to tuck those things out of sight? Hurts.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch — Actor David Lee's interpretation of the tranny rock opera received two well-received airings in Orlando in 2002 and 2003, but the show reportedly got even better when it moved to Melbourne and a new lineup of musicians was added to play backing band The Inch. It's that combo that'll be backing Lee's Hedwig and Becky Fisher's Yitzak for this special Fringe encore, putting even the most worn-out wigheads in the mood for a threepeat.
History for Dummies — One of two Fringe shows this year that are targeted to "dummies" (at least overtly), this educational family comedy spotlights the talents of The Hystorical Players, a group of accomplished impersonators who spice up corporate events with "visits" from Queen Elizabeth, Benjamin Franklin, Attila the Hun, Annie Oakley, Abraham Lincoln, Julius Caesar and Ken Lay. (OK, we made up that last one — but what's a little corporation joke among friends?)
Improv Cabaret — SAK Comedy Lab performer Mark Baratelli promises a completely improvised, off-the-cuff, 40-minute show-business memoir at every one of his seven Fringe performances — including songs drawn from the deepest recesses of his imagination and sung in a voice that's toured the Broadway Series circuit. In addition, he'll be blogging, podcasting and MySpace-ing his entire Fringe experience, from beginning to end. We just have one question, Mark: When are you going to buckle down and get to work?
Just Listen — If your hunger for unaccompanied melody wasn't slaked by Mosaic's run at the recent Orlando Cabaret Festival, plant yourself near the tonsils of a cappella quintet 4:2 Five as they mount their second-ever Fringe show. Not since Sid Vicious have instruments been so unnecessary (and that was for completely different reasons).
King of Farts — No frat party or PG-13-rated film would be complete without it, and now first-time Fringer Chris Lavigne mounts a theatrical tribute to everybody's favorite involuntary function, flatulence. With no track record under his belt (or down his shorts), there's no telling if Lavigne's insights will be properly juicy or if they'll just stink up the joint.
Life: The Evolution of Man (Abridged) — What hath the Reduced Shakespeare Company wrought? In keeping with the trend to cram as much about a subject into one show as is humanly possible, Canada's Wolf Productions takes only one hour to follow a typical human's birth and development. Sounds invigorating, though we have to admit a preference for the title of Wolf's previous show (not seen in Orlando): The Bible: The Complete Word of God (Abridged).
Lilly & Lila's Lovely Lesbian Hour — Real-life wife-and-wife team Christine Robison and Leneil Bottoms play a pair of lesbo Tupperware reps who were frozen in ice in 1956 and thawed out half a century later. We're told to expect gratuitous go-go dancing and plenty of probing questions from the painfully disoriented gals. (So who gets to explain Mary Cheney?)
The Lion Queen and the Naked Go-Go Cub — See below.
Little Women — When The Green Room Company announced its intention to stage a live version of It's A Wonderful Life at the 2005 Fringe, a lot of folks snickered — until the show ended up packing 'em in over and over again. Returning director Aradhana Tiwari (a grad student at the University of Central Florida) has this time set herself the equally complicated task of bringing Louis May Alcott's beloved familial melodrama Little Women to the stage. Booked into the roomy Orange Venue, the show is obviously expected to be an even bigger hit; but even if the turnout is restricted to the families of every actor who appeared in Life, seats may be hard to come by.
Mary's Wedding — Michael Marinaccio and Heather Leonardi revisit their roles as war-torn lovers in Stephen Masicotte's dream play, which the duo first performed last June at Mad Cow Theatre. Back then, we called them "two of Orlando's most attractive and talented young actors"; suffice it to say that nobody's been hit in the head with a brick in the interim.
McGrawsky Files: The Case of the 3 Man Cop Show — Slothco Productions (Francisco Laboy, Chris Dinger and the endearingly gnome-like Charles Frierman) sat out Fringe 2005, but they're back with this improvised crime drama. It's centered on the character of a cop who will do anything — "legal or illegal, moral or immoral, brilliant or stupid" — to get his man. Hey, wonder how he feels about Tasing?
MentalMania — Every year, it seems, there's a Fringe show that appears to stick out like sore thumb by dint of its variety-night nature, but which goes on to wow everybody into singing the praises of good old show biz. Taking up the tradition of master jugglers Trained Human Club and musical impressionist John Charles is Mark Stone, a mind-game expert who's worked his magic on national TV. We were floored by the preview we saw, in which Stone took two randomly selected numbers and swiftly incorporated them into a dense but logical mathematical grid that was like a Sudoku puzzle on steroids. We're there.
Mercy on the Canvas — If their January "Launch 2006" program was any indication, Playwrights Roundtable have been working hard to raise the quality of their original scripts. So we have high hopes for Terry McMurray's Mercy, a 1973-set story in which a man of the cloth observes horrors both foreign and domestic. Actor Eric Kuritzky joins Theatre Downtown regulars David Lee Bass and Roger Greco in the cast.
Misleading Perceptions — In addition to starring in Tod Kimbro's revival of Electra at the Wiener Stand, Tammy Kopko found time to write and direct this John Hughes-influenced romantic comedy, which brings six strangers together in a web of sex, drugs and deception. Ms. K says the show's filmed elements are there to help introduce the moviegoing crowd to live theater; if that's the case, shouldn't it cost twice as much and be preceded by 15 minutes of commercials?
Moby Dick the Musical — In a case of life imitating art imitating long-winded literature, actors from the Orlando Youth Theatre portray a bunch of schoolgirls who attempt to perform Melville's Moby Dick as a song-and-dance extravaganza. The excerpt we were able to witness indicated the show has a cast of thousands. (OK, tens.)
Mr. Charles, Currently of Palm Beach — The writing of Paul Rudnick tends to be an up-and-down proposition, but director David Lee and star Frank McClain sound like ideal matches for this high-concept one-act, in which a South Florida queen (who was booted from New York for being too effeminate) takes to the TV airwaves to answer all your questions about alternative lifestyles. As an added bonus, one of the actors is even from Palm Beach! What more could anyone want?
A Musical Cartoon Comedy — Both a real band and a Saturday-morning fantasia come to life, Orlando's Outer Toons are as at home on the stages of nightspots like Will's Pub as they are at the Fringe. It's back to the salad days of Hanna-Barbera and Sid and Marty Krofft as the 'Toons orchestrate their way through an interactive family-appropriate adventure. Play the "Name That Cartoon" theme-song contest and prove to the world you've done absolutely nothing since turning 9!
Oens — In his latest avant-garde performance piece, Wilson Loria says he plays "a disquieting ordinary man," and that's as good as any description we've heard of his Marcel-Marceau-cum-Barbara Eden schtick — except maybe for the "ordinary" part. Last year's To the Winners had Loria coming on like the world's chattiest mime, using whiteface and silky genie pants to help sell his surreal but soul-baring monologues. His new show, he says, traces human evolution from discovery to globalization. We're betting it'll be unlike anything else you'll see at the Fringe.
One Bridesmaid's Descent Into Madness — Tampa's Gabi Lorino finally follows up her The Independent Woman's Guide to Life (Fringe 1998), playing one character who's about to get married and three friends who have to deal with the process, too. Lorino describes the show as "a chick flick on stage" — which may or may not explain a page on her website (www.gabilorino.com) that shares "creative ways to meet (cute, male) celebrities." Either way, we're bringing notepads.
Orlando Vigilante — Mischievous playwright Larry Stallings collaborated with Marcie Schwalm to pen this community-specific comedy, in which a masked hero attempts to write the wrongs Orlandoans encounter on an everyday basis. The thematic goal is to get O-town "not to suck," but don't expect any miracles: They've only got 45 minutes.
Paint Chips — Marking half a decade of Fringe performances, the VOCI troupe remains unafraid to blur the line between modern dance and interpretive movement. Expect yet more synchronized whimsy and an often unabashedly girlish approach to visual symbolism.
RealTime — Matt Alden, the blond from last year's BoyGroove, wrote but does not appear in this Canadian comedy about Internet dating. The PR sheet promises two actors, two chairs, one folding table and 13 characters, but that flaunting of economy doesn't mean that Alden has put headset mikes and music-biz glitz behind him: While his actors wrestle with the topic of high-tech courtship, he's Groove-ing it up in Toronto.
Romance/Romance: The Little Comedy — The Curious Traveller performs one-half of the Tony Award-nominated 1988 musical Romance/ Romance — the half that's "considered by most critics to be the stronger of the two acts," they take pains to specify. So you mean if we keep up this reviewing jazz, we can get every play down to 70 minutes?
Salvador Dali's Dream This — St. Petersburg's Dan Khoury dons the curly 'stache of the renowned surrealist, detailing his life and accomplishments in a program that promises relationship talk, projected paintings and lots of free association. (Go figure!) This may be the only Fringe 2006 show that features a printed glossary.
Self Development for Dummies — Positive affirmations have their time and place; in the context of a fringe festival, the most uplifting thing you hear may often be, "I think I'm ready for another beer." Credit Andy Dooley, then, for carving out a motivational cottage industry at the Orlando Fringe, using it as a running platform for his lighthearted empowerment lessons. In his third show here, Dooley will retrace his journey toward self-help, taking affectionate potshots at both himself and "the industry" along the way.
Serious Theatre — It's a comedy, of course. At least it sounds a good deal funnier than The Mask of Hiroshima, the conscience-stirring multimedia experiment that Octopus' Garden Productions favored us with in 2003. Theater teacher Leslie Caulfield this time leads an ensemble of former students in a self-avowedly goofy romp that takes its inspiration from Blue Man Group and Ernie Kovacs. We'll give Caulfield brownie points for teaching a bunch of Gen-Yers who Ernie Kovacs was to begin with.
Shuffling Strait — Fringe board member Jill Bevan penned this seriocomic salute to bipolarity, in which the psychological misadventures of 30 different characters are depicted in 52 scenes that play out over the course of 75 minutes. To show how devoted to dementia Bevan and company are, the show's PR sheet announces that all roles will be played by a spare three actors — then quickly goes on to list four.
Something You Do Not Want To See — See below.
SPORT — A trio of actors who have proven their comedic chops at the Orlando Repertory Theatre and the Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival demonstrate the thrills and excitement of organized sports, albeit as rendered from the vantage point of the athletically disinclined (which, when last we checked, was just about everybody working in theater).
Stale Magnolias — Has it really been five years since The Dying to Perform Players first donned gender-bending Southern finery to send up the Dukakis/MacLaine classic Steel Magnolias? Guess so, but here they come again in all their camp/drag glory, promising as much fun as humans can have when they aren't watching Julia Roberts nearly die in a beauty salon.
Streakin'! — A Musical Flashback to the 1970s — Excellent Adventure Productions presents a reprise of its well-received 2004 nostalgia-fest, which exhumes the spirit of the Polyester Decade via skits, games and more than 40 hit tunes. It's enough to make you think Have a Nice Day Café never closed.
A Tale of Two Bitches — Call it the revenge of the second bananas. Lisa Sleeper, for years best known as the femme foil to The OOPS! Guys, teams up with Karin Amano, fondly recalled for beating Eric Pinder about the head and shoulders in 2004's Driving Miss Cherry Blossom. (OK, she also appeared in a one-woman show, Sushi and the City, so she's not strictly a second banana — more like a banana split with wasabi). In their first joint venture, the ladies say they'll demonstrate how women from wildly divergent backgrounds can learn to tolerate each other. Tolerate, schmolerate … we want to see Amano hit somebody.
Tape — The three students from Lake Howell High School who are going to be interpreting Stephen Belber's motel-room drama earned themselves a lot of new fans at the Fringe preview, in which they declined to present an excerpt from their show and instead performed an original piece that pandered hilariously to recurring Fringe themes — like cross-dressing and gratuitous skivvy-flashing. The verdict: These kids have charm to burn, and we wish they were showing it off in something other than Tape.
Tick, Tick ... BOOM! — A group calling itself Melbourne Masquerade (no points for guessing where they're from) performs the lesser-known autobiographical rock opera Jonathan Larson penned before hitting it big with Rent.
To Silence Me Is To Silence … — If the idea of a performer backtracking through her history of sexual abuse strikes you as passé, know that Nicolle Avery's story is different. Born deaf, she says she suffered repeated molestations she only later learned were shockingly common among her kind. Avery regained her hearing at age 12 but obviously hasn't forgotten what it means to have your communicative efforts thwarted: Both of her Sunday shows will be interpreted for the hearing-impaired.
Waiting for Napoleon — Fresh from his stint at the Orlando Cabaret Festival, sublimely erudite funnyman Eric Pinder exhumes his one-man Fringe show of 2002, in which a theme-park performer struggles with corporate bureaucracy while trying to bring Tolstoy's War and Peace to the masses. Nobody weds smart and funny like Pinder, and we're sure this "revised, updated" edition will be no different. (It's now nudity-free, which should really set it apart from the competition.)
Who Dunnit: The Murder at Ye Ole Eola Tavern — Husband-and-wife team Susan Mitchell and Jack Lowe (last year's Dr. Suzy's Therapy Room) wrote and directed this murder-mystery comedy, hoping to bring out the dormant Jessica Fletchers in us all. Several cast members have worked at I-Drive's Titanic: The Experience, which we urge you not to take as any sort of omen whatsoever.
You're Being Watched — A deliberately maintained aura of inscrutability surrounds Open House Productions' psychological thriller, in which four strangers confined to a cell face the disclosure of their personal secrets: Writer/director Tait Moline encouraged the show's cast not to reveal details of the plot, even to their closest friends and loved ones. Theater always works best when it's on a need-to-know basis, if you ask us.
As she demonstrated in previous years with her Circus Reject Peep Show and Maudlin Dementia Returns to the Stage, New Yorker Chris Caswell has a theatrical aesthetic that's all one could ask from the Fringe: minimalist yet evocative, tender yet avant-garde. Caswell's act is about suggestion, eschewing props and costumes to focus on the idiosyncrasies of characters she conveys with subtle shifts of dialect and gesture. Her new 2112 is said to be a love story with a time-travel bent, following a young woman as she uncovers her grandmother's secret for traversing the centuries.
Caswell was one of two out-of-town performers who sent video snippets to the recent Fringe preview night to whet appetites for her impending return. How did she choose to shill for her upcoming production? With a three-minute ad that was largely comprised of a stationary shot of a tree, scored to Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence." It's moments like these that make one dwell on the subtle differences between "obtuse" and "obscure," though the Graduate-derived soundtrack did rid us of our natural assumption that 2112 was going to be some sort of Neil Peart—worshipping tract.
A Canadian Bartender at Butlin's
We almost had to do without TJ Dawe's unparalleled storytelling skills this year: The master monologist isn't touring the Fringe circuit in 2006 but was persuaded to make Orlando an exception. One of a handful of regular visitors who's an undisputed must-see, the Vancouver-based Dawe will this time detail his experiences serving drinks at Butlin's Holiday Camp, a famous British resort. The extended monologue is said to torpedo foreigners' impressions of English lifestyles, but count on it to include plenty of the razor-sharp vocabulary and inspired tangents that have made Dawe's previous five stints here simply mesmerizing.
His fans may be surprised that Dawe isn't performing a full run of Maxim & Cosmo, the show he previewed with a one-night-only run-through at the 2005 Orlando Fringe. That piece, he says, is currently being prepped for a 2007 tour. While we wait, he's hauled out Bartender, which he performed in Canada three years ago (and which was even shown on Canadian Bravo.) As far as we're concerned, "new to us" means "new" — and new Dawe is among the most precious quantities this Fringe can have.
Doodie Humor 3: To the Turd Power
It's been too long since Orlando had a fully functioning, regularly performing sketch-comedy troupe, but having the part-time outrage squad known as Doodie Humor perform at two Fringes in a row is close enough.
This year, Todd Feren's funny and fearless agent provocateurs take aim at "the media," though how that conceptual thread is going to be integrated into their latest medley of live and prerecorded yuks remains to be seen. From the description of one planned vignette — "a president wages war on the sun" — it sounds as if a year away from the stage hasn't dulled the act's edges.
It seems that every time we write about these guys, we find ourselves pointing out that their bent is more satirical than scatological. Why? Because it would be a shame if even one wary Fringe-goer passed them up on the basis of their kindergarten-level name or on the lackluster track record of in-your-face political incorrectness in general. Feren's minions, in contrast, remember to be daring and smart, in the process pointing up how lame most other "risky" comedy really is. (Oh, so you say you're on drugs and hate airline food? Do tell!)
On a sad note, Feren claims that Turd Power represents a swan song of sorts for the group — in its "current iteration" at least. Whether he's as serious as a heart attack about this farewell, or only as serious as Cher, it still behooves you to grab a healthy-sized handful of this Doodie.
The Lion Queen and the Naked Go-Go Cub
You know you've arrived as a playwright when somebody steals the script to your latest magnum opus before it's even been performed. But you're really onto something when they e-mail said script to Orlando city commissioner Daisy Lynum, accusing you of disseminating "hate speech."
It's what happened to equal-opportunity offender Michael Wanzie, who had the script to his homo-centric Disney parody The Lion Queen and the Naked Go-Go Cub pilfered right out from under his nose and sent to Lynum along with a request for official censure. The culprit (allegedly a former Fringe intern) didn't get very far, given that the commish knows and appreciates Wanzie's creative reputation for saying the wrong thing in the most entertaining manner possible. Look for more of the same from Lion Queen, a thinly veiled caricature of a certain similarly named cinema/stage juggernaut, complete with an interwoven same-sex marriage theme (and some crowd-baiting full-frontal nudity). A cast headlined by Tommy Wooten and Becky Fisher interprets Wanzie's follow-up to last year's top-selling Dragness of God.
Oh, and if you're expecting an hour of wholesale Simba-bashing, you may be disappointed: Wanzie is a serious Disney-phile with as much passion for the company's healthy operation as Roy Disney. So don't be surprised if, yes, you can feel the love tonight. (If you can't feel it, reach a little lower.)
Something You Do Not Want To See
It's probably too much to hope for that we'll ever get a full-fledged Discount Comedy Outlet reunion at the Fringe, but at least their alumni can be counted on to show up on a one-per-year basis. Following the leads of Anitra Pritchard (2004) and Brian Bradley (2005), fiercely creative funnyman Peter Hurtgen Jr. offers us a look into his charmingly twisted psyche via 40 minutes of stand-up and sketches (in which he'll play every role). It's all structured around a running litany of "things you do not want to see." Sounds Carlin-esque, which is a touchstone Hurtgen freely admits — though he's quick to point out that the show also contains "jokes about women's tennis." Gotta love that topical humor.
Though Something represents the longest Hurtgen has been on stage without anyone else to bounce gags off of, he's had the chance to hone his stand-up skills in L.A., where he now makes his home — sort of. Having struck it relatively big in TV since departing Orlando four years ago, he's constantly on the go, from the West Coast to New York to Vegas to London, writing shows for the Fuse Network (like the new Empire Square) and other nets. He's also logged time — both behind the camera and in front of it — working for Sharon Osbourne and Tyra Banks. If he played tennis with either one of them, he's not letting on.
HOW TO FRINGE
First, buy a Fringe button. It's $6 and is required for entry to all indoor performances (except at Kids' Fringe). Buttons are available at the Ticket Central locations inside the Lowndes Shakespeare Center and Orlando Repertory Theatre. Proceeds from the button sales benefit the festival; ticket revenue goes directly to the performers.
Tickets (priced up to $10) are available inside Lowndes and the Rep up to three minutes before showtime. Advance tickets are also available from Search Events at (866) 599-9984 and at www.orlandofringe.org. Online sales stop at 10 p.m. on the day before a specific performance. A $1 processing fee is added to ALL ticket purchases; phone transactions incur an additional $4. Advance tickets must be picked up at the Will Call window inside Lowndes. (There is NO Will Call inside the Rep.)
Free parking is available at Loch Haven on a first-come, first-served basis. There is also limited street parking on Rollins Street and Mills Avenue and paid parking at the Orlando Science Center and Florida Hospital.
Seating at Fringe performances is general admission, so early arrival is recommended; patrons who have not purchased their tickets in advance are advised to show up an hour before the advertised showtime. No late seating will be permitted.
Blue: Studio B, Lowndes Shakespeare Center, 812 E. Rollins Street
Brown: Orlando Philharmonic Rehearsal Hall, Lowndes Shakespeare Center
Green: Tupperware Theatre, Orlando Repertory Theatre, 1001 E. Princeton St.
Kids' Fringe: Lobby of Edyth Bush Theatre, Orlando Repertory Theatre
Orange: Margeson Theatre, Lowndes Shakespeare Center