Let's go get some air 

The opening last Friday night of O2 Elements means that Orlando finally has its own oxygen bar. Another cultural trend that came of age in California has belatedly landed here, but to what avail? Since when are we beset with enough low-lying smog to make hits of clean air a necessity? Are the yeast fumes from the Merita Bread Factory really that bad?

Maybe not, but we do have a lot of smoky night spots, and flouting that homogeneity makes O2 Elements a breath of fresh ... well, eucalyptus. Located on Orange Avenue just north of Wall Street Plaza, the establishment prohibits smoking, and there's no alcohol for sale -- just oxygen-enriched air infused with blends of aromatherapy, plus a menu of herbal cocktails and smoothies with names like "gratification." (Thanks, I'll have the instant.) There are also light bites, mainly of the dips-and-bread variety.

In short, it's the sort of place I would have considered The Enemy one year ago but am now ready to welcome with the snobbish relief of the reformed ciggie addict. And its hours of operation -- from lunchtime to 11 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but stretching to the wee hours of the morning Thursdays through Saturdays -- should make it an ideal stopping-off point for the healthy-living types who will soon start partaking of the downtown area's highbrow arts events (whenever Ford Kiene figures out a way to pay for all of them, that is).

In the meantime, clued-in wellness hounds are flocking to O2 Elements to plug themselves into the oxygen supply. It's accessible in 10-, 20-, 30- and 40-minute increments (at "grand opening" prices of $8, $14, $18 and $22, respectively). Attendants fit your nostrils to a simple plastic tube, giving you that New Age Krazy Straw look as they connect you to a water-bottle setup that in turn leads to a central air machine -- "your basic bong technology," as I was told when I gave the apparatus a try last Saturday.

From the menu of available odors, I chose "citrus fresh," a concoction of tangerine, grapefruit and lemon that was said to reduce depression and irritability. (There go two more hobbies.) I washed it down with "elation," a cocktail of margarita mix and herbs lauded as "the happy drink!" Hooked up and glass in hand, I watched my fellow airheads stare at the hypnotic shapes projected on the north wall. We all looked like Edward G. Robinson committing exquisitely catered suicide in "Soylent Green."

The cocktail was tasty, but the aroma that wafted through my nose didn't really smell like fruit; instead, it fell somewhere between "new car" and "supermarket vitamin aisle." But the sensation was not unpleasant, and I felt both alert and calm for the remainder of the night. I'm not sure how much of that was due to the oxygen, and how much to the novelty of a club environment that didn't approximate repeated licks on a Camel Light lollipop. The jury's still out on the depression and irritability.

Olfactory outlet

"We're bringing something fresh to town," says Rick Rodrigo, one of the club's five co-owners. He's quick to distinguish his operation from area dance clubs that offer portable oxygen stations: "They're marketing it as if it's a party drug," he worries. "I really take offense to that."

And how alert do you want to be in some of those joints, anyway?

"I'd just as soon not see the floor or the walls if it's OK," Rodrigo agrees.

You'll want to see the wood fixtures and yellow walls of this club, which are set off by local artworks procured through OVAL and the Crealdé School of Art. (Adjoining lofts are rented dirt cheap to up-and-coming visionaries.) Furthering the owners' desire to attract a "more mature crowd," downtempo house music is spun on weekends. No breaks or rap, Rodrigo decrees.

As a total atmosphere (sorry), the club nearly suits Rodrigo's personal preferences to a T. There's just one catch: He himself hasn't yet quit smoking. "I feel like a hypocrite," he admits.

Thanks for clearing the air.

Terrorism works

The winning entry in the 10th annual Valencia Community College Florida Playwright's Competition is Daytona (or: the Renaissance of Terrorist Love), a "serious comedy" that will be performed April 5-8 at the school's Black Box Theater.

According to Julia Gagne, artistic director of the Valencia theater department, Daytona takes place in a coffee shop in the Florida panhandle, where a "quirky group of people" undertake such fun activities as gun-running and forced sex (with the woman as the aggressor).

"I don't think it's risky," Gagne assesses. "I'd say its quirky and off-beat and maybe not very commercial." It also fulfills all of the competition's criteria: It's a full-length, nonmusical work that has never before been produced. Its author is Jeff Johnson, an English and humanities instructor at Brevard Community College. Johnson is also a former professional surfer whose resume says he "has written extensively on post-Soviet Lithuanian theater." And what a cutthroat field that is ...

This week's poster children for clever marketing are Chad Lewis and Angela Jo, cast members in iMPACTE! Productions' staging of David Mamet's Sexual Perversity in Chicago. To promote the show, Lewis and Jo recently paid a visit to the Kit Kat Club, where they launched unannounced into one of the play's more vitriolic verbal tirades. Reportedly, at least four of the horrified onlookers were spotted in the audience when Perversity opened the following weekend. (Guerrilla abuse isn't enough; you have to carry fliers.) If the trend catches on, expect to see the cast of Theatre Downtown's A Streetcar Named Desire smacking each other around the White Wolf Cafe any day now.

The Sand Wich Project

Your eagle eyes do not lie. That is indeed Sak Comedy Lab funnyman Ryan Smith pulling on a pair of jeans and high-tailing it to Bennigan's in a current national TV spot. (Pants first, restaurant second ... how many years did it take you to get that one right?) But give yourself the Golden Ear Horn Award if you also recognized Smith as the new voice of the talking sandwich in the Florida Citrus commercials. Joining the mildly surreal campaign in midstream meant that Smith not only had to record the dialogue for its latest installments but also dub over the original vocal tracks taped by his predecessor, so that viewers would detect no break in continuity.

Anyone who would be seriously bothered by such a discrepancy probably needs to get his priorities in order. But don't quote me; that might just be the oxygen talking.

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