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It’s never too early to Fringe

April 15, 2014
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International festival kicks off with preview

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.

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  • Paul Thomas

    I wanted to correct you in regard to several items in your blog as it relates to Radio Free Fringe.

    The radio shows, The Other Side Of The Bed, Sports Ninjas, Hammer of Truth! and Know Nothings are not plays. This is live talk radio being broadcast during the Fringe.

    There were zero “adult jokes” told during Adam and Hammond’s appearance. What you heard was Adam recounting the last time he saw Hammond 28+ years ago. True, Hammond’s daughter was on-stage and although the story may have edged into “blue” territory it was, thankfully, over very quickly and they moved onto other things.

    The only thing I will agree with you on is the “trashy disc jockey” characterization as it relates to Adam “Adam Attack” Atkinson from our morning show, The Other Side of The Bed. Unfortunately he is under contract and we are stuck with him.

    On another note I wanted to congratulate you in advance on winning a Pulitzer Prize for your blog.

    Sincerely,
    Paul Thomas
    Sr. Media and Marketing Account Manager
    WJKJ-Rockin’ The Talk!

  • Cameron Meier

    Paul, thanks for the comment. I just received a nice e-mail from another member of your team to clarify that the little girl was not meant to be brought out during the show, which I found extremely inappropriate. I used the term “adult” jokes because the jokes included cursing. The last time I checked – and excuse me for being old-fashioned – you should not curse around little children or have them appear in the clearly adult-oriented Fringe preview show. I used the word “play” not to mean that your content is a play in the traditional sense but that simply all Fringe content (at least at the previews) are being presented as plays or skits. Lastly, thanks for the pre-Pulitizer congrats! I’m finding space on my mantle as we speak. :)

  • Cameron Meier

    I should also add a note to Bill: I received your e-mail, and I tried writing you, but the e-mail bounced back. I accept your clarification that you all hadn’t planned in advance for the little girl to come out on stage. While I stand by my review of your preview, it sounds like your Fringe show will be quite different from what audiences saw on Monday night. So I would encourage audiences to not judge your finished product solely by the preview. I’ll keep you all updated on the status of my impending Pulitzer.
    Best regards,
    Cameron

  • dan

    great article.

    I pretty much came away with the same feeling about all the shows you mentioned