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Arts & Culture

Best of the fest

Our top Orlando Fringe Festival picks

Photo: Oyster Boy photo courtesy of Haste Theatre, License: N/A

Oyster Boy photo courtesy of Haste Theatre


We’ve reviewed dozens of shows currently playing at the Orlando International Fringe Festival – just head over to blogs.orlandoweekly.com to see the evidence – and we’ll review more shows opening after we go to press on this issue. But we’ve gathered our favorites so far here for you – the don’t-miss-’em best of the fest.

Oyster Boy

British company Haste Theatre’s Oyster Boy, inspired by the Tim Burton character, tells the mirthfully melancholy tale of Jim (Valeria Compagnoni), a guileless gelato vendor who meets cute with Alice (Anna Plasberg-Hill) along the seashore.

Following a fishy wedding feast, she gives birth to a boy with a shellfish skull, embodied by a charmingly crude rag-doll puppet. Shunned by noxious nosy neighbors and prodded by presumptuous physicians, Oyster Boy battles loneliness before finally returning to his oceanic origins.

An all-female quartet (Elly Beaman-Brinklow, Elena Costanzi, Jesse Dupré and ukulele-strumming Sophie Taylor) serves as a Greek chorus, narrating the fable with doo-wop-flavored harmonies and Americana folk tunes.

Staging (collectively directed by the ensemble) is elegantly inventive in its naiveté, with a simple sheet representing rippling water or a restaurant table. The balance of improv-like freshness and scripted polish reminded me of La Putain Avec les Fleurs, an old Fringe favorite that shared a similar vaudevillian sensibility.

Oyster Boy is a gentle, intimate gem awash in playful whimsy, seasoned with a splash of acidic darkness. Its magic occasionally gets a little lost in the large Silver venue (the show would be better served in Pink or Green), but it’s well worth straining your ears to hear this finely wrought fable. (60 minutes; Silver Venue; $10) – Seth Kubersky

Mark Twain’s ‘Is Shakespeare Dead?’

For the second consecutive year, Montreal’s Keir Cutler offers one of the smartest, most thought-provoking shows at Fringe. Adapting the 1909 book Is Shakespeare Dead? by Mark Twain, Cutler – using Twain’s trademark intelligence and wit – makes the strongest argument possible that William Shakespeare did not write the works credited to him.

This is no stodgy period performance of Twain. Instead, Cutler himself – attired in formal lawyer’s garb – painstakingly makes the argument to us, the jury, not just that the greatest collection of works in the English language were written by people other than Will, but that we’re “surmisers” and “troglodytes” who have been tricked into believing a laughable myth. This reviewer has neither the time nor credentials to fully refute Twain, except to note that facts, even when correct on their face, can be woven together in such a way as to present inaccuracy. But without a Shakespearean scholar to mount the stage upon Cutler’s exit and take to task Twain’s claims, one must admit that his arguments are breathtakingly convincing and will leave you scrambling for your history books.

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