Orlando Fringe 2024 review: 'Bobby Lee Blood'

Kyona Levine Farmer’s play boldly addresses provocative issues of generational trauma and childhood abuse.

Years after her philandering father was shot by the cops, a young woman returns to her hometown in rural Florida to uncover long-buried family secrets in "Bobby Lee Blood," a searing social drama from writer/director Kyona Levine Farmer. In an intriguing twist, the show is being performed by two different sets of performers, with an all-Black cast at two showtimes, and white-presenting actors for the other three. During the press preview, the first act featured most of the former group, while the second starred the latter, with Soph Siegel as the protagonist Naomi (alternately played by Ryanne De Milord).

This unusual arrangement means I can’t review the exact show viewers will see, but both casts include some solid actors who inhabit their troubled personas with empathy and humor; Lee Kelly was a standout in the first half as both the titular bad dad and an unctuous reverend, as was Franny Titus in the latter as his shattered sidepiece. But even the best of them struggle with the stiffly presentational blocking, which frequently forgoes eye contact between actors in favor of awkward one-sided conversations.

Farmer’s play boldly addresses provocative issues of generational trauma and childhood abuse, as Naomi struggles to decide if her bloodline’s misfortune is a spiritual malady or a medical condition. But the late-innings introduction of a couple of broadly drawn half-siblings (both played by Sierra Vennes, alternating with L’Niarae Blevins) tips the kitchen-sink tone toward self-parody, before the final minutes veer wildly from a CSI-style crisis to an overly tidy conclusion.

The race-conscious double casting is an interesting concept that won’t make much impact for the average one-time attendee, so I wonder if resources would have been better spent focusing on a single ensemble. And I’m also uncertain if using the same script for both does justice to the unequal experiences white and Black people face navigating America’s mental health and legal systems. Even so, this emotional roller coaster features some compelling characters and gripping acting, whichever group you see, giving melodrama fans plenty to chew on.

Orlando Fringe: Times and tickets for "Bobby Lee Blood"
Location Details

Orlando Family Stage

1001 E. Princeton St., Orlando Central



Event Details


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