ORLANDO — “Assassinations and Other Macabre Tales” is a brilliant piece of mini-theater — and I say “mini” mainly because this show clocks in at a speedy 15 minutes.
But that doesn’t matter: this is still a wildly inventive attempt at dark political comedy.
The show is being performed at the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival, inside the “Jamie Mykins Theater” — which turns out to be a fairly spacious closet painted black. I’m guessing only about six people can fit in at one time (there were three of us in the audience on the evening I went to see the show), and you remain standing as the room goes pitch black.
Above you, at the top of a black curtain, are two puppets — one male, one female — who take us on a wild ride as they ponder one of the political world’s most bizarre mysteries: the so-called two-year death curse among our nation’s presidents. The curse, noted in Ripley’s Believe it or Not and also called the Curse of Tippecanoe, is used to describe the regular death in office of presidents elected in years evenly divisible by twenty, starting with William Henry Harrison’s death after his election in 1840, right up to John F. Kennedy, elected in 1960.
Along the way there were assassinations (Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley), natural deaths (Franklin Roosevelt) and more mysterious ones (Warren Harding).
The puppets, who make some fairly hilarious one-liners about these deaths, also indulge freely in the more conspiratorial side of some of these cases.
They also note that the curse was broken after Kennedy, even though Ronald Reagan, elected in 1980, was wounded by a gunshot during a 1981 assassinations attempt, and also survived colon cancer during his eight years in office. Likewise, George W. Bush, elected in 2000, also broke the curse.
The show is performed by Jeff Ferree of Winter Park, and despite the production’s short length and unusual space, it’s a terrific piece of innovative theater, deep in cynicism, and certainly not for the folks who enjoy re-visiting Walt Disney World’s Hall of Presidents exhibit.
But the creativity demonstrated here is great fun, and who doesn’t like a good conspiracy theory every now and then?
“Assassinations and Other Macabre Tales” is free to attend (there is a request for donations), and plays tonight at 7, 8 and 9 p.m. inside that dark closet at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com..