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Orlando Fringe Festival 2021 Reviews: “The Infinite Conversation”, “Mind Eater” and “Requiem”

orlando-fringe-festival-2021-reviews-the-infinite-conversation-mind-eater-and-requiem

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  • Image courtesy of Orlando Fringe

  • Sumner Mormeneo in “The Neverending Conversation”

The endless conversation
BYOV: The Grove at the Mead Botanical Garden, $ 12

After nearly four years of performance artist Sumner Mormeneo developing his innovative fusion of pantomime and video mapping at the Orlando Immerse Festival, the debut of his completed Infinite Conversation was at the top of my most anticipated list for the 2021 Fringe. Everything I loved about those early clips remains as the silent, white-faced Mormeneo interacts with a breathtaking flood of digital dreamscapes teeming with explicit nods to Charlie Chaplin and Salvador Dalí, as well as Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou and Magritte’s Son of Man. Mormeneo’s quartet of powerful projectors brings stacks of cardboard boxes and hanging sheets to life as furniture floats and flickering shadows dance to a throbbing punk-pop soundscape of Congo and Paramore.

If The Infinite Conversation were limited to those 20 or so minutes of intoxicatingly surreal sequences, it would be a slam dunk, but the show’s runtime is filled with long sequences of under-motivated movements that dissipate any momentum. Although the outdoor stage at the Mead Botanical Garden provides a bucolic backdrop, this show should better be served inside. I’ve been way too busy chopping away swarms of bloodthirsty bugs to follow the dense, jargon-filled recorded dialogue that dominates too much of the show. Mormeneo is an exciting visual artist to pay attention to. I just wish he would trust the strength of his images to tell his story and leave all that whining to others.

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Japan's theater company Gumbo - IMAGE COURTESY ORLANDO FRINGE

  • Image courtesy of Orlando Fringe

  • Japan’s theater company Gumbo

Mind Eater
Yellow venue, $ 12
Japan’s Gumbo theater group scored a blockbuster hit at the 2019 Orlando Fringe with their incredible fast-food satire Are You Lovin ‘It ?, and while I laughed out loud, I was a bit worried about the show’s reductionist stance toward Americans. This year they revived their early hit Mind Eater, which was originally developed for Australian and Asian audiences over 20 years ago.

Fortunately, her mocking meditation on reincarnation and love feels a lot more universal while it’s still just as funny. A confused friend who desperately wants to lose weight; a woman in love looking for a suicidal partner; and an altruist who takes “giving until it hurts” a little too far are the three souls whose slapstick life cycles we observe, next to a green emcee and an angel who flosses. The underlying message – we’re all connected, follow your heart – comes through in any language, and the medium (giant glowing jellyfish, flying internal organs, and an overcrowded sumo suit) is like an anime fever dream that comes to life on stage. It’s a small miracle that the Gumbo theater company made it from Osaka to Orlando, but even if they had just taken a city bus, their exuberant absurd acts would deserve my standing ovations.

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PICTURE COURTESY ORLANDO FRINGE

  • Image courtesy of Orlando Fringe

requiem
Orange venue, $ 12
Raise a warning: This is the toughest review I have had to write for the Orlando Fringe 2021 so far. On the one hand, Opera del Sol’s Requiem is an ambitious, talented production with one vital goal: to draw attention to America’s deadly opioid epidemic. Written and directed by Michael Knight, the story follows a girl (Fabiola Rivera) who turns from a victim in a car accident who was prescribed pain medication to a desperate addict who goes into rehab, is attacked, and has a miscarriage and ultimately overdoses . All of this is told through Nishaa Johnson’s mash-up of operatic standards from Mozart and Bizet mixed with hits from Radiohead, Evanescence and Miley Cyrus.

Requiem’s ​​production values ​​are solid; There are some spectacular singers in the cast; Rivera deserves a Purple Heart for her unqualified star turn. Opera del Sol has even partnered with Project Opioid to distribute the life-saving drug Narcan after appearances. It pains me to say that not only did the show work for me, but it actively pissed me off. Though there are many strong individual elements, they never fuse into an aesthetically pleasing whole, just as the inconsistent audio mix overemphasizes the pitched members of the choir. Even more disturbing, the decision to anthropomorphize addiction (Mathew Fackler) as the literal red-skinned devil is representative of a moralizing, victim-blaming thread that runs through the show that I found downright unsettling.

In Requiem’s ​​world, addiction is caused by society defining pain as abnormal rather than encouraging people to just grin and put up with it, while the doctors only purpose is to benefit from the levy of death. Patients with real pain management needs, many of whom are now being driven to more dangerous black market drugs due to the anti-opioid hysteria, are not considered, and the drug manufacturers or government agencies that have conspired to fuel the drugs are not considered in crisis while safer ones Resist options like medical marijuana.

Requiem was clearly born of deep personal pain and his heart is in the right place. But I fear this Reefer Madness-style propaganda could do more harm than good to vulnerable people attracted to its message.

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Janet Smith