ORLANDO — Inside the Lowndes Shakespeare Theatre, there’s a table where patrons can purchase a glass of red or white wine, or a bottle of beer to take with them into a show.
Outside, on the grassy field that makes up Loch Haven Park, there’s a beer tent as well, ready to serve bottled beer, wine, or shots of something stronger, like tequila and vodka.
It’s a part of the offerings at the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival, an event that brings together scores of original plays that are so eclectic that it seems like there’s got to be something for everyone. It’s also a place where high brow meets low brow — and, more often than not, low brow kicks high brows butt.
Yes, there are serious works of art at Fringe — Tonya Jone Miller’s “Threads” is a powerful look back at the late 1960s and the Vietnam War, seen through the eyes of an Indiana farmgirl who ends up in Saigan.
But a lot of the featured artists head off in a different direction. The humor, it should be noted, doesn’t aim for what people can get by clicking on their television sets at home and watching sitcom reruns. Fringe artists aim to draw people away from their homes and their flat screen TVs and given them something more.
And if patrons are going to be fighting for a parking space at Fringe, and cursing loudly when the car in front of them gets that last choice spot, then the shows sure as hell better offer something more than what “Two Broke Girls” or “Modern Family” has.
Exhibit #1: ”Blue and Tod.”
This show at the Green venue has everything the TV sitcoms don’t have: no plot. No characters. No storyline to follow.
Instead, it’s a kind of vaudevillian-style burlesque, crunched into an hour that seems to zip through like the blink of an eye. In those 60 minutes, it does, in fact, try to throw in everything and the kitchen sink onto the stage — plus a whole lot more. But it should also be noted that “Blue and Tod” is subtitled “Too Drunk To Fringe.” That’s key, actually. At a festival where alcohol is readily available, this is one play that virtually invites the intoxicated, the highly inebriated and the seriously tipsy to come on in, relax, and appreciate their style of humor in a happily drunken state.
Not having consumed much alcohol before the show, I really can’t say if being intoxicated made it a better theatrical experience or not. My guess is, it’s 50-50 — for some people, it’s the perfect show to watch while you’re plastered, while for others, the rapid-fire stream of gags was far too delicious to waste in a drunken state.
But I do know this: “Blue and Tod” is one seriously, insanely hilarious revenue.
It storms from one crazy set piece to the next, without stopping to let the audience catch its breath.
And it’s brilliant.
It shows what happens when two wildly creative performers get together and are determined to simply go crazy on stage, with a desire to induce as many belly laughs as they can get.
The play is, of course, the creation of two Fringe veterans and icons, Blue and Tod Kimbro. Blue claims the entire show was created while they were intoxicated, but frankly, that’s a little bit hard to believe. Yes, the boundaries-pushing zaniness has the feel at times of a wild late night revelry, when talented artists drink too much and then decide to let loose and entertain one another; but mostly it’s far too well structured, and the improv too side-splittingly funny, to have been created entirely during a booze binge.
Kimbro and Blue toss everything they can at the audience — songs, dance, raunchy humor, political humor, lotsa gay talk, some nudity (female), and so much more.
They do a wildly funny spoof on the Bangles’ hit “Walk Like An Egyptian,” and revive some songs by the 1980s techno-disco band Yaz.
Kimbro shifts at times into gay camp mode, and there are gags about lesbians and moving trucks.
Blue also has one of her most glorious moments portraying a child performer who appears shocked to find an actual black person in the theater — Fringe, she’s quick to note in her voice of childlike innocence, doesn’t attract very much black patrons among the mostly lily white Fringe audience. She milked that gag for several minutes, with uproarious results.
The improvs work to enhance the show, making it a kind of audience participation event. There was Blue chiding a woman in the audience who accidentally forgot to silence her cell phone — one of the truly big no-no’s at Fringe shows — while Kimbro had some fun complaining to the audience when a gag fell flat.
It doesn’t hurt that both are gifted singers — though Blue in particular has a voice so rich and stirring that you’ll be mesmerized at some points at how talented she is.
This is the perfect late night Fringe show. If you arrive early, see the high brow stuff first, the plays the aim to move us, to take us someplace we may never have been to before, to open our eyes to something new.
If you stay long enough, well after darkness has set in, go for “Blue and Tod.” This is late night naughtiness meets camp meets sexiness — meets improv meets gay political incorrectness meets bad taste with no shame.
It’s Fringe with a capital F, and, again, it’s brilliant, and a fantastic way to unwind at this terrific two-week event.
The show continues on Friay at 8:30 and Saturday at 11:30 p.m.
Contact us at Freelineorlando@Gmail.com.