ORLANDO — Freeline Productions’ original thriller “Murder Sleep” won the Patron’s Pick award for its venue, and did a seventh performance on Memorial Day at the Orlando International Fringe Theater Festival.
The play, written by Michael Freeman and directed by Laurel Clark and Jim Cundiff, featured Steven Johnson, Mickey Layman and Sara Cutlip as three people staying at a strange historic hotel in Fort Lauderdale.
The play’s author and producer said it was a great honor to be among the Patron’s Picks this year.
“It feels terrific, especially knowing we went up against some great shows,” Freeman said. “But I also give a tremendous amount of credit to Laurel and Jim for their amazing direction, and to a superb cast.”
“Murder Sleep” beat out the competition in the Purple Venue (the Patron’s Room at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center) after a highly successful run at the 25th annual Orlando Fringe Festival, the longest running Fringe festival in the nation.
During its run, the play drew praise from area critics.
Orlando Sentinel critic Lania Berger praised the play’s updating of a Shakespeare classic, humor, and one of the performers in particular.
“In this re-imagining of Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth,’ author Michael Freeman sets his scene for sex, blood and murder in a historic Fort Lauderdale hotel room in the 21st century,” she wrote.
Berger noted her appreciation for Cutlip’s performance as the mysterious and enigmatic Francesca, writing, “Sara Cutlip is convincing as an exotic hooker who uses her sexual prowess to persuade the unsuspecting and ecstasy-tripping Ryan (Steve Johnson) to murder the man in room 1238, thus making himself ‘rich as a king.’ ”
Berger also noted that “I loved the ‘Macbeth’ references throughout,” and the humorous banter between the two men.
Writing in Archikulture Digest, critic Carl F Gauze praised the play as “a pretty cool ghost story” and noted, “it does not feel like one at all until the end and when the lights come up you know you’ve been on a carefully constructed ride.”
Writing in The Orlando Weekly, critic Cameron Meier wrote of the play, “It’s an odd jigsaw puzzle of comedy, drama and suspense, with performances that aren’t always on-target. But thanks to the red-hot eroticism of Sara Cutlip and Steven Johnson as a mysterious couple who seem equally comfortable with screwing each other and stabbing strangers – and a solid supporting job by Mickey Layman – ‘Murder Sleep’ is just creepy, sexy and twisty enough to recommend.”
After the final performance, “Murder Sleep” was given the Patron’s Pick award for the Purple Venue during the Orlando Fringe awards ceremony.
Freeline Productions’ earlier original plays have included “Hooked,” a dark and paranoid comedy about a happily married man who ventures into the world of online fetish dating, and which premiered at the Orlando Fringe Festival in May 2009; and “Copping a Craigie,” a zany comedy about how online marketplaces like Craigslist offer unique opportunities for earning quick cash. “Craigie” was performed at the Orlando Fringe Festival in May 2010.
Both shows, written and produced by Freeman, were directed by Laurel Clark.
Past actors have included Kevin Kriegel (“Hooked”), whose cabaret shows as Mitzi Morris have charmed audiences across Central Florida; and Michael Colavolpe (“Craigie”), who recently performed in the national tour of the smash Broadway musical “Mama Mia.”