Orlando Fringe 2024 review: 'AWOL'

Longtime Fringe darlings Rob Gee and Jon Paterson star as an octogenarian odd couple on the run to a death metal festival.

Time may make fools of us all, but the indignities of aging are made especially foolish in "AWOL," a two-man comedy from writer/performer Rob Gee. Jon Paterson co-stars as Cyril, a misanthropic octogenarian whose only friend in their retirement home is Neville (Gee), an amiable amnesiac whose positive outlook is the polar opposite of his own. Together, they blackmail their perpetually stoned caretaker and take off to attend a death metal festival in hopes of reuniting Cyril with his estranged granddaughter.

Gee and Paterson are both longtime Fringe darlings for good reason, and watching their clownlike flailing as they flee for freedom is a delight. When not playing the elderly pair, both actors slip into character as the biker gang members, rock stars and acid dealers they encounter along the way. Gee’s wordplay is both witty and wistful, as the odd couple gripe about a world (which hopefully awaits us all) where bladder functions and the daily dinner entree are your biggest topics of conversation. Their preposterous plotting at times evokes a geriatric Pinky & the Brain episode.

"AWOL" is a funny, imaginative show with an important underlying message about ageism, but coming from such a well-traveled team I had elevated expectations that weren’t entirely met. Ryan Gladstone’s direction is filled with frantic physical comedy and distinctive characterizations, but on opening night the timing and blocking were sorely in need of tightening. Ad lib digressions, which amuse in moderation, further sapped the pace, and pandering local references shoehorned between the script’s Britishisms also fell flat.

With a bit more polish, I have little doubt these pros will turn this into a production that makes you sing “hope I don’t die before I get old.”

Orlando Fringe Festival: Tickets and times for "AWOL"
Location Details

Orlando Family Stage

1001 E. Princeton St., Orlando Central




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