Orlando Fringe Winter Mini-Fest 2020: 'How to Really Really Really Love A Woman,' 'St. Kilda,' and 'Dandy Darkly's California Screaming'

click to enlarge Jody Christopherson in St. Kilda
Jody Christopherson in St. Kilda
Here are three reviews from day 2 of the 2020 Orlando Fringe Winter Mini-Fest, which continues through Jan. 12 at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center. For more information see this week’s Live Active Cultures, and visit ofwinterminifest.com for tickets.

How to Really, Really? Really! Love a Woman

Dance Naked Productions, Portand OR
Remaining performances:
Saturday 1/11 at 7pm, Sunday 1/12 at 7:30pm

Eleanor O’Brien, who last appeared at the Orlando Fringe back in 2012 with a sex-positive primer on BDSM, has returned after 8 years with a one-woman vagina monologue about her oral sex-inspired spiritual awakening. A sci-fi twist sets the action a decade in the future, when widespread goddess worship has transformed global society into a gynocentric matriarchy; the framing device provides some crowd-pleasing punchlines about female presidents, but isn’t essential to O’Brien’s message. The tone is set in the opening moments with an invitation to engage in auto-erotic nipple pinching, and an offer of free lube for any masturbators in the audience. Those who remain in the theater after that introduction can’t say they weren’t warned about the uncensored exploration of feminine pleasure that follows. Setting a new standard for “Fringe shows I’m glad I didn’t take my mother to,” How to Really Really Really Love a Woman is one of the most explicit performances I’ve ever attended that didn’t involve any nudity. It’s not that my mom wouldn’t appreciate this inspiring, informational celebration of the divine feminine, but witnessing graphic pantomimes of cunnilingus is awkward enough when seated next to strangers. It’s therefore a testament to O’Brien’s charming combination of self-confidence and vulnerability that this sensual solo show — which she wittily describes as a “revulval” or “HEAD talk” — comes across as relatable and empowering as opposed to obscene or exploitative, even for us audience members without yonis of our own.

St. Kilda

Jody Christopherson, New York NY
Remaining Performances:
Saturday 1/11 at 8:45pm, Sunday 1/12 at 4pm

Fresh from illegally burying her grandmother, a Nebraska woman (Jody Christopherson) flees to Scotland with a mysterious map she inherited, which leads her to a lonely fog-blanketed island mysteriously abandoned by its inhabitants. What starts as a typical “woman abroad” travelogue swiftly twists into a Gaelic Hostel, and then contorts again into a Celtic Cthulu tale as faerie folklore comes to the freaky forefront. With minimal costuming and even less lighting, Christopherson can command an audience with only her words, and her story has all the essential elements of a compelling creepy campfire fright. However, she simultaneously uses a live audio looping device to create a soundtrack of raspy breaths and rattling gravel that runs beneath her monologue. Although the noises enhance the haunted house atmosphere, their creation isn’t smoothly integrated into the dialogue’s pacing, and the pauses to build the sound clips hamper the dramatic momentum. Christopherson has flair for pop-culture poetry (the island is likened to “a Jurassic Park film directed by Alfred Hitchcock”) and at times creates a kind of auditory magic. But between a well-intentioned but tonally problematic introduction about indigenous people, and multiple minor but distracting miscues throughout, St. Kilda isn’t yet quite polished enough to achieve its full potential as a Scottish Midsommar for stage.
click to enlarge Dandy Darkly in All Aboard!, 2019 - Photo courtesy Orlando Fringe
Photo courtesy Orlando Fringe
Dandy Darkly in All Aboard!, 2019

Dandy Darkly’s California Screaming!

Dandy Darkly, Los Angeles CA
Remaining Performances:
Saturday 1/11 at 10pm, Sunday 1/12 at 4:20pm

The one-of-a-kind storyteller who won last Fringe’s Critics’ Choice award for Best Show has come screaming back to Orlando with the world premiere of his latest monologue, which merges three previously performed stories into the typical Tinseltown tragedy of a once-beloved fright flick final girl known only as “America’s Sweetheart.” The scream queen’s declining career and violent death intertwine with the lives of a heartsick virtual reality addict and homicidal mortician in this dystopic dive into Hollywood horror. Dressed like Liberace’s vision of a 1930s film director, Dandy spins dizzying images on the movie screen of your mind that will delight and disgust, and his deliriously alliterative dialogue merges his melodious voice with an omnipresent silent film-style soundtrack in a manner that’s almost hypnotic. Darkly is always a compelling performer, and his latest is loaded with big laughs along with some serious chills. However, the stories this time don’t flow together quite as seamlessly as they did in All Aboard. I personally found the fantastical elements of Dandy’s previous shows slightly more mesmerizing than these relative realistic plots, while the final flashback story seemed somewhat anti-climatic after the devastating third act. However, with just a little more time and tightening, I feel confident California Screaming will stand tall among Darkly’s other acclaimed tales.

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