Orlando Fringe Review: There’s No Place Like Home
Whereas local playwright and audacious gadabout Michael Wanzie has spent the bulk of his career somewhere over the top (or, say, the rainbow), challenging viewers into sarcasm and camp with an hilariously ironic fist, there’s something about There’s No Place Like Home that signals a change of tone for Wanzie away from the obvious and sometimes into the near dark. Not to overstate it: His latest play isn’t without its side-eyed references to his signature foot fetishism and, well, pill-popping divas, but the heart at the middle has warmed into something more complicated and less over-the-top than Monorail Inferno or Celebrity Squares. The preview audience wasn’t falling out of its seats as much as it was rubbing its chins.
Divided into three acts loosely based on the singular concept of “home” – sometimes sharing actors, but never sharing tone – There’s No Place Like Home succeeds in ways something this disjointed shouldn’t, largely because of some stellar performances (and, we imagine, assistance in direction from local notable Kenny Howard, who takes the reins for the middle segment). Act I, A Krig Brews in Brooklyn, plodded along a bit in our viewing – it’s basically the long dinner-table talk (with pamphlets) about assisted living with an aging parent – but Jessica Hoehn’s reasonably subdued performance as the daughter Marilyn veered comfortably into slower Carol Burnett territory, so all was good.
Act II, Not in My Father’s House, dramatically addresses the notion of an altar boy returning to his childhood priest and feeling rejected for not being chosen for molestation (save the smelling of his gym socks in private). That’s the kind of subject matter that could go completely haywire, but those who know Wanzie will realize that it’s playing on his favorite topics: Catholicism and sexy guys with hot feet. Brandon Lopez, the startlingly handsome (and nearly disrobed) altar boy, holds his own against Wanzie’s strong stage presence, even seeming to pull the writer’s performance into deeper territory, right up until the phrase “you can suck my dick” is offered.
Finally, Act III goes for the standard Wanzie jugular of camp, pitting the actresses from the first act, Hoehn and Carol Adubato, against each other as an aging Judy Garland (Hoehn) and Glinda the Good (with a walker) from The Wizard of Oz. It’s one of two Garland-referencing shows playing at this year’s festival, which could make for overkill, but Hoehn’s inspired inebriation situation of Garland approaching death – having ruined all of Oz, mind, like we ruined the native population of the U.S. – is certainly something to behold. “Home” means a lot of things, especially in this production, but at the middle of it all is the sense that it’s something we may take for granted until it’s too late.
There’s No Place Like Home
Length: 75 minutes
Price: $11 (+svc. Charge)
Rating: 13+ – Language