Farewell To The Fringe

Today, I caught the last performances of two shows that had been big hits at the most recent edition of the Orlando Fringe Festival. Theatre Downtown, part of Orlando’s Off-Off Broadway scene, had brought them back for an encore.

Both were billed as “family friendly” and the matinee I saw was about 50% kids. A good time was had by all.

“Galapagos: The Director’s Cut” is a silly bit of sketch comedy built around the unlikely premise that we are visiting the Galapagos Islands on an ultra-budget tour. So cheap is this tour that it doesn’t actually go anywhere. Instead we are treated to reenactments of what we would have seen had we actually been able to visit this wildlife-filled natural wonder. Three game members of the tour company play the parts of all the animals, while the owner narrates.

The premise is, as they say, wafer thin and much of it is undeniably dumb. What makes it work surprisingly well, however, are the three animal impersonators, Tony Lopez (who also wrote and directed), Joe Wesson, and Eddie Wilder, who must be the three goofiest guys in Orlando.

More successful as a theater piece was ” The Boy’s Own Jedi Handbook” by Stephen Massicotte, produced and directed by Seth Kubersky. It’s a wistful memory piece about two eight year old boys (and the little girl classmate they find increasingly hard to ignore) who bond over their shared obsession with the original “Star Wars” film.

Once again, the premise is thin, but under Kubersky’s direction it becomes light as air and by the end we feel we’ve learned a few very true things about friendship, growing up, and the power of art to transform our lives.

Michael Marinaccio, Christian Kelty, and the adorable Sarah Jane Fridlich were uniformly excellent.

For those who haven’t discovered it yet, Orlando has a vibrant home-grown theater scene. As they say along New York’s Great White Way, “Yo! Check it out.”

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