I am not a man of distinction. I never have been.
I fell asleep during Cirque du Soleil. I laughed during What's Eating Gilbert Grape?
When I'm on a date, I open up the glove box and offer the lovely lady accompanying me the opportunity to choose from an assortment of coupons from local eateries.
I shave every third or fourth day and I don't know how to tie a tie. I am without a doubt not someone who appreciates fine art.
With that said, here is my review of Fringe Festival 2004 - in an Olympic Medal format.
Parking was not easy. My first assignment of the weekend was the One-Man Lord of the Rings Trilogy located off Rollins Street. I arrived an hour before the show was scheduled to start and was told the parking lot was full. I then explained to the police officers manning the entrance that I was a writer reviewing the productions for Orlando CityBeat.
Amazingly, parking spots became open. It was an act of God.
Note to anyone reading this: If you can't find parking, say you're a writer. Evidently, that is part of a code in some underground vocabulary shared only between paid civil servants and the upper echelon of elitist art-deco society.
Inside the venue, I attempted to procure my ticket to the show. I was told I was required to "donate" $5 for a Fringe Festival button. I declined. Upon doing so, I was told without my button, I would not be allowed into the shows. I then made a $5 "donation."
Man 1, Bank 0 (running time, 75 minutes):
Written and performed by Patrick Combs, Man 1, Bank 0 is the true story of Combs' adventures depositing a junk mail check for $95,093.35. What ensued after his initial deposit is both hilarious and amazing.
On its own, the story is marvelous. It's the type of tale that inspires the phrase, "Only in America." But no story can be properly be told without a gifted storyteller. Combs fits the bill.
Displaying an almost Crispin Glover-like cadence, Combs controls the room with a genuine approach to storytelling that invokes the type of comfort normally reserved for friends and old acquaintances. He captivates the audience with a story so staggering, they're forced to immediately invest themselves in the character.
I don't want to ruin the ending. I encourage anyone reading this to see the performance. Combs is destined for big things. Man 1, Bank 0 is only the beginning of what I assume will be an illustrious career.
Final word: This is by far the best performance I saw. I can't recommend it enough.
MeMeMeMe (running time, 60 minutes actually ran in 30+):
If you have lived in Orlando for any amount of time, chances are you've heard the name Amy Steinberg. It seems she's playing music somewhere in this town nearly every night of the week, and yet I have never seen her perform.
MeMeMeMe was my formal introduction to Ms. Steinberg. It's one I'm not likely to forget.
Steinberg's play which she wrote and starred is an introspective look at the four sides of her personality. Bitch, saint, diva and maniac. It was funny, frank and powerful in a way I never expected.
It's a musical, of course, which puts Steinberg's powerful voice on full display. But her lyrics are so honest, it also serves as a fresh look into the mirror. In MeMeMeMe, the four characters Steinberg plays are a part of all of us. There are times when everyone questions exactly who they are and more importantly who they want to be. Steinberg is just one of those rare and gifted performers who has the guts and talent to pose the question in such a public forum.
Final word: I was genuinely surprised by how good this was.
Xanadu (running time, 75 minutes):
This musical was based on the 1980 Olivia Newton John vehicle of the same name. Anytime you can use the words "Olivia Newton John vehicle" to describe the basis of a play, you're looking for trouble.
Here's a quick rundown of the premise.
A young man is stuck at a dead end job. He dreams of opening a roller disco. A roller skating muse enters the picture to help him realize his dreams. With the help of the muse, the young man overcomes negativity from others and opens his roller disco aptly named Xanadu.
Yeah, I thought it sounded like crap too. Shockingly enough, this wasn't that bad. The cast really pulled it together. I mean, you can stick Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman in Air Bud, but it's still going to be a crappy movie about a golden retriever who can play basketball. Nothing's changing that.
The same can be said here. The actors realized what they were working with and had fun with it. Mandy Williams, cast in the roll of the roller skating muse, has quite a set of pipes on her. Her singing helped bring credibility to a play that, well featured her as a roller skating muse.
Final word: My favorite musical is South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. This isn't in the same league, but it's worth the $5 admission price.
Maybe Next Year
One-Man Lord of the Rings Trilogy (running time, 60 minutes):
I did not walk into this with an open mind. In fact, I figured it would suck. I'm a casual Lord of the Rings fan, having seen all three installments only once in the theater. Therefore, I wasn't expecting much.
Charlie Ross, writer and performer of One-Man, did a superb job with a difficult task. His ability to shift between characters in J.R.R. Tolkien's classic was admirable. The fact that he performed each character with subtle distinction is amazing.
How Ross was able to memorize an entire hour of dialogue is as scary as it is impressive. I'd venture to guess he is not a sexually active adult. Join the club, Charlie. My initiation came before Seinfeld ever hit syndication.
Ross is a gifted comedic actor better suited for an ensemble cast where he can play off others while showcasing his talents. The One-Man show routine is worth watching, but limits Ross' ability to expand his range.
Final word: If you're a fan of Lord of the Rings and consider a game of chess with your neighbor a "night out," you will appreciate this production.
Please Don't Come Back
The Blue Room (running time, too damn long):
David Hare brought us this "critically acclaimed erotic dramatic comedy." Translation: Crap.
I've sat through a lot of boring things in my day. Weddings, baptisms even male strippers (don't ask). Never in my life did I think a play with a naked girl in it could be so God awful. The Blue Room changed that. True to its name, it blew.
Actors Heather Leonardi and Michael Marinaccio each played five roles in this adaptation of Viennese author Arthur Schnitzler's La Ronde. Five roles in a seemingly never ending string of scenes that pitted two character's sexual desires against one another.
At the end of each of those scenes, the two characters strangers at the beginning of the night had sex. It's like they stole a scene right out of my life.
According to the show's program, director John DiDonna states, The Blue Room "is truly a show about humanity."
Now my last name isn't Webster, but let's delve into what the definition of humanity doesn't say in the dictionary.
Hold on just a second. Almost got it. There it is. Would you look at that? The definition of humanity says nothing about promiscuous sex with total strangers. That's strange.
One scene of this epic on "humanity" coupled a politician with a model. The two wandered into a seedy motel room where the model proceeded to snort lines of cocaine, while the politician took strange white pills. After which, the politician sat the girl down on a bed, removed her panties and buried his face in her crotch. Now that my friends that is what I call humanity.
Final word: If you go see this and enjoy it, we can never, ever be friends. Seriously.
My Head Hurts (running time, 60 minutes):
Chris King, self-proclaimed "Pop Icon", set out on a modest goal six months ago. He wanted to develop 60 minutes worth of comedy in half a year's time. Sounds like the same thing Jerry Seinfeld did in his highly acclaimed documentary two years ago, but who's keeping track.
This supposed stand-up comedy routine was ill fated from the get go. King lacked the main ingredient all successful comedians seem to have: The ability to be funny (I'm tempted to insert a cute little pun here with regards to the title of the performance, but I'll refrain.).
I did not laugh during King's performance. Well, that's not completely true. I did laugh once.
Unfortunately for Mr. King, my lone foray into a state of excitement came courtesy of a heckler in the crowd. The heckler informed Mr. King in no uncertain terms that his status as "Pop Icon" was being brought into question. Mr. King responded by insulting the man's girth.
He then asked the man if he wished to have a refund of his $5 admission. The man obliged. King took $5 out of his wallet. The man approached the stage and then decided Mr. King needed the money more than he did. To which King responded, "Get the fuck out!"
Two comedians can successfully pull off the, "Get the fuck out!" routine. Andrew Dice Clay and Sam Kinnison. The latter of which is dead. King is not in the same league of either of these two gentlemen. He's not even on the same continent.
To King's credit, he admitted at the beginning of his show he was unsure if his attempt at comedy would translate into laughs. It didn't.
Much of King's set was a cross between a bad Dennis Miller rip off and a poor attempt at reviving Michael Moore's political crusade through comedy. He lacked the biting tongue and vocabulary necessary to pull off such a feat. The end result was 58 minutes of preaching and two minutes of comedy. And that's being kind.
Final word: If you want to see a comedian develop an hour's worth of new material in six months, rent Jerry Seinfeld: Comedian. That's actually funny.
Masturbation Therapy (running time, 30 minutes):
I have no idea what the hell this was about. What I think I got out of it was, three people with various ailments are brought into a clinic for a study, which consisted of masturbating. That's it. That was the plot. The dunce on a short bus could have come up with that.
The play itself wasn't exactly horrible. The cast did their best to make the most of the situation. In fact, if the actress playing the role of Prudence is reading this I'd like to ask you out on a date. If you accept, I'll pretend I never said anything below this line.
My problem with Masturbation Therapy was the fact that it ever came to fruition. Like the makers of Clear Pepsi, this idea never should have seen the light of day. Whoever dreamt up this crap is no better than Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski the two men credited with writing one of the worst movies of all time, Problem Child 2.
I wish I had something nice to say. I just don't. Actress playing Prudence my love I hope you'll forgive me. If not, I'll take the advice of your play and gratify my troubles away.
Final word: Save your money and watch a rerun of Just Shoot Me. And yes I realize Just Shoot Me isn't funny. That's just how bad this play is.
Alright, that's it. Those are my reviews. I'm entering this thing next year. Here's my idea Dragon: The Musical. Keep an eye out. It's going to be really awful. So I'll fit right in.Copyright © 2015, CT Now