Orlando Fringe: Sentinel's Best of the Festival

Each year, the Orlando Sentinel reviewing team picks 10 Orlando Fringe Festival shows for our Best of the Festival list. Here are this year's top 10, presented alphabetically… you can read the review of each and check out remaining showtimes after the list.

Best of the Festival


'9-11: We Will (Never) Forget'

The show starts before the announcements even begin, with bystander video of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The footage is so universally sobering that — for a while — you begin to be leery about the show's intent. For all the title's insistence to the contrary, the wounds of 9-11 are still raw enough to exploit.

No such worry. New Yorker Jason Nettle brings the pain in his one-man show, but he does so to no trivial effect. Switching between 17 characters in the wake (or the midst) of the attacks, he tackles loss, acceptance, prejudice and despair with a series of short but brutal snapshots. In each of his roles as a haunted cop, a grieving widower and a frazzled bartender, Nettle is distinct without being showy. By necessity, the emotion ratchets high — almost unbearably so, at points — but there are some welcome reprieves. (His vignette as a self-absorbed actor is one of Nettle's most subtle turns, improbably hilarious.)

The biggest triumph, though, may be what the show doesn't do: Preach. If you can't already glean it from the emotional tidal wave of his previous characters, Nettle's final monologue reveals this as a very personal show. If it's a call to action, it is only in the deepest, most personal sense, as when one of his voices admires the ability of a mere 19 people to change the world — and seethes at their decision to create such tragedy. "When do we all get to believe in one thing?" he asks. It's a question that lingers long after the lights go up.

55 minutes, Brown Venue, $11. Remaining shows: 6 p.m. Friday, 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

Tod Caviness, staff writer

'Bad Connections?'

Actor Paul Cosentino portrays nine interrelated New York characters experiencing loss, pain, understanding and forgiveness while soul-searching and seeking happiness in playwright Michael Levesque's "Bad Connections?"

The story begins with a yoga instructor reminding his class, as well as the audience, to stop, look and listen and think about the connections made that day.

Cosentino mesmerizes as he brings the characters to life with only chairs and lighting changes to enhance the scene's mood.

His characters are diverse: He brilliantly portrays a gay yoga instructor, a pregnant African-American woman, a middle-aged Jewish wife to an anxious Italian man trying to let go of his past. The characters show us that we're all connected through the good and bad times — though we may have to make some changes along the way.

Make a connection with this gem and witness Cosentino's hilarious, heartfelt and unforgettable show.

75 minutes, Silver Venue, $11. Remaining show: 11:45 p.m. Saturday.

— Sandra Carr, correspondent

'Bursting Into Flames By Martin Dockery'