Orlando Fringe 2024 review: 'Queer Up!'

Midway between a comedic cabaret and self-help drama.


Midway between a comedic cabaret and self-help drama, Queer Up! lets writer/star Natalie Anne Doliner narrate the story of her life as a Kinsey Scale level-six lesbian who’s been married as many times as King Henry VIII – and not only to other women. She’s accompanied onstage by Marcie Schwalm as her homophobic Jewish mother; dancer David Houde as her “pre-frontal chorus” inner man; and musician Ned Wilkinson, who accompanies the trio on tuneful songs from the likes of Indigo Girls, Cat Stevens, and Les Miserables, many with wittily lesbianized lyrics.

As someone who has been challenging gender norms since kindergarten, Doliner has plenty of doleful memories to share between songs, from the grade school “wedding” that ended in tears, to her long estrangement from her mother and alcoholism. Thankfully, director Fred Berning, Jr. helps keep the monologues visually interesting, with Houde acting as Doliner’s dynamic shadow, and rainbow-centric lighting by Berning, Jr, and Rowyn Sam.

While it’s inherent in the nature of an autobiographical show like this to be self-centered and self-serving (as when glossing over marriages to a number of “narcissistic straight men” I happen to know), I was happy to see Doliner’s mom given a moment of grace to unload her own burdens, rather than remaining a stock villain. As for the inflammatory-to-some title, Doliner advocates for “queer” as an all-inclusive alternative to LGBTQQIA2S+ (“which could be a bank code’), and calls “queering up” a prouder vertical version of coming out. “Visibility matters” and “love is love” may not be especially groundbreaking or statements to make at Fringe, but the polished performers of Queer Up! are saying them with three-part harmony that’s hard to resist.

Queer Up!
Location Details

Mandell Theater, Lowndes Shakespeare Center

812 E. Rollins St., Loch Haven Park Mills 50

407-447-1700

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