Editor’s Note: The 32nd Annual International Fringe Theatre Festival is being held now through Monday, May 29 at different venues in and around Loch Haven Park and downtown Orlando. Stay up to date on those Freeline Media reviews.
ORLANDO — If there’s one truism about the Orlando Fringe Festival, it’s that the many shows being presented during the festival rarely follow a familiar theme. You can always expect the unexpected. Freeline Media has two new reviews that demonstrate that: one show about running the marathon (or is it?) and another about a burlesque freak show. Now, that’s what we call a touch of diversity.
Chiara Cimmino and Kimberly DiPersia play Maria and Stephany, two best friends training to run in the New York Marathon. One is Italian, the other an American, but that’s hardly the end of their differences. In fact, the two women couldn’t possibly be more polar opposite.
Maria, the Italian runner, is recovering from the flu, and starts out their cold afternoon run feeling a bit tired, and she even wonders at one point if lazy people have the right idea. Sunny and inquisitive, she likes to talk even as they run.
This can get annoying to Stephany, the American who is more fiercely determined to be ready for a marathon, not an afternoon jog. She’d edgy, sometimes irritable, and quick to judge Maria’s faults. When Stephany starts running at a faster pace, Maria struggles to catch up.
Marathon is a fascinating piece — funny, clever, and an interesting contrast between two very different people. The fact that the two actresses literally run on stage for 50 minutes makes the show even more engaging. As they do, Maria is often the one steering their conversation — wanting to know if Stephany believes in God, wondering at times how they ever became best friends, fretting that she may have lost her car keys.
Stephany is like a pitbull charging forward. She criticizes Maria for relying too much on medications, for being too quick to slow down, for worrying too much. Cimmino creates a character that is instantly likable, while DiPersia has a firm grip on a character that starts out testing our patience. They’re both fantastic in these roles.
Marathon sprints to an unexpected, rather existential ending that you’re not likely to see coming. It’s a invigorating work that keeps the audience fully absorbed from the start.
Marathon, which is being performed in the Pink Venue at the Lowndes Shakespeare Theatre, will have its final show on Sunday at 8:05 p.m.
A middle-aged woman walking down the street is greeted by a ringmaster inviting her to step into a sideshow known simply as the Freak Show. The era is the 1920s, and the performers — including an aerial artist, a bearded lady, a puppeteer and an escape artist trapped inside a straightjacket — are all too eager to perform for her. The exception is the sideshow’s carny, who takes an instant dislike to their new audience member. Turns out he has his own motivations for resenting her.
Freak Show is an intriguing mix of musical burlesque with side commentary that creates a parallel to our current culture wars battles, including the notions that outcasts from the 1920s can find themselves in the same position today.
There are enjoyable songs in this one, plus first rate performances by Al Milburn as the ringleader and Travis Eaton as the hostile carny, and it doesn’t go unnoticed that none of the performers are “freaks,” but may have been viewed that way in the 1920s — or today. But they are, as the cast likes to remind us, still a family.
Freak Show is being performed in the Blue Venue and has its final performance on Sunday at 12:20 p.m.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright, and author of the book A Christmas Eve Story. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.