Orlando Fringe 2012: What I’ve Seen So Far (part I)

Love me some Fringe. Saw four plays in two days, not including the ones I was in. We came up last year, and it was the first time I was here without having a show in the festival. I can’t decide which is more enjoyable: there’s something fun about just being at Loch Haven Park and just hanging out. Get a good parking space, hunker down, and chill. Not worrying about my own performance is very pleasant, but then I feel a little left out if I’m not handing out postcards.

This year is weird in that I’m only able to stay on the weekends. I definitely miss having all week to catch shows. There’s much more of a scramble with our limited windows. But we do what we can.

The first show we saw was The Monkey King, performed by Viet Nguyen. I am assuming that he also wrote the piece; that wasn’t indicated on Fringe’s website (and, awkward, I’m not sure where my program is). Nguyen played four human characters in addition to the Monkey King referenced in the title: an old man, an old woman, a young man, and a younger girl. The show featured fantastic mask work — I would love to know more about how the masks were constructed — and I’m especially interested any symbolism in the mask representing the young Vietnamese-American man. The face was painted a pale blue. His monkey was sassy and energetic, still animal in demeanor and carriage. The story eventually draws you in, as you realize the characters are connected far more deeply than they initially appear. Afterwards, my father and I had a great deal to discuss, since we were left with many questions by the end. The show was beautifully performed, and I thought it was a moving story, though I hope I was able to get the full message.

Later that night was Nashville Hurricane, the third awesome Fringe offering by the awesome Chase Padgett. Not too much to say about this other than it was awesome… I saw 6 Guitars and Superman Drinks, so I’m familiar with his style and his skill. For several of my companions, this was their first Chase Padgett experience, and they were over the moon. I remember feeling that way after 6 Guitars, and I am glad that this piece seemed to be a little more along those lines. For some reason, I find that I’m more comfortable with these character narratives than with the personal story of his father — maybe it’s because he made me cry with Superman Drinks. Towards the end of the performance, his acoustic guitar fell off of its stand. Horrified gasps from the audience, as if he’d accidentally dropped his own toddler! In character, he calmly stated, “I’ll deal with that later” and kept on going. After the show ended, he inspected the damage and happily gave the crowd a thumbs-up.

Sunday morning was all about my favorite Pomeranian energy source: Dog-Powered Robot and the Subsequent Adventure. Talk about kicking things up a notch. We walked into Orange venue (an upgrade right there) to see Ninja Noids scanning for Harvey Dumpster’s good arms… on stilts. It made a great initial impression on my DPR noob companions. I’m always so impressed by their production values: the care they take in making the costumes and scenery, not to mention the durability of their cardboard. The plot and dialogue are never the strong points, but I did appreciate the Dalek references. Fisher Miga is totally my hero.

Our fourth show of the weekend was The Fabulous Problemas, which I loved — and that has nothing to do with the several Magic Hats consumed at the Beer Tent. In fact, it was thanks to the Beer Tent that we got to the show in the first place. A strangely-bearded figure slunk towards our table and handed J a postcard. Now that we were in collusion with her (J told her that her nice pedicure gave it away), we HAD to see the show, right? Eh. But then I looked over the postcard and read the blurb in the program book. They were from Maine. Something about Maine sounded familiar to me, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. So we went. And the show was great. Not a word of dialogue was uttered (though there was a wee bit of singing). By the end of the performance, I realized why Maine was important: the female performer had previously presented The Soiree at Fringe 2010, another superb show. Lesson learned? Always see theater from Maine.

Stay tuned for the recap from next weekend, when we’ll see four shows each day. Line up includes: Little Shop of Horrors, Connected, 4 Truths and a Lie, A little Fringe Magic with V, Voice Activated, A Long Time Ago: 80s Strike Back, Annie Todd, Kirikou and the Sorceress. Also hoping for Cannibal the Musical, Dominatrix for Dummies, and Dirk Darrow, depending on our travel situation and party options.