Fringe 2018 review: Mini-operas 'Companion' and 'Safe Word' are by turns steamy and silly

If you think that opera is archaic and unsexy, the first-ever Fringe show from Opera Orlando will blow your … mind. The Companion and Safe Word, a pair of dirty-minded miniature operas from Three Way, by composer Robert Paterson and librettist David Cote, should serve as ample proof that this antique art form can still address relevant, and even risqué, topics as well as pop culture does – only with a lot more vibrato.

In the first story, former Ringling Bros. ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson is Joe, an android gigolo with glitchy upgrades, whose owner Maya (Samantha Barnes Daniel) refuses human suitors in favor of her chromium Prince Charming. Next, Mistress Salome (Sarah Purser) welcomes a new client (Jacob Pence) into her dominatrix dungeon, but the diaper-wearing douche doesn’t follow her rules. Under director Eric Pinder, these stories are by turns steamy and silly, but they never lose sight of their subjects’ essential humanity.

Paterson’s score (which is played live by music director Deniz Uz) is primarily relies on recitativo, but each character gets at least one solid aria, which these classical-trained singers handily blow out the Goldman Theater’s back wall. The Companion is the stronger of the two pieces, thanks to Iverson’s sensitive portrayal of a sentient sex-toy (seriously!), though Safe Word closes with a clever twist I didn’t see coming. If you want to claim you got a dose of high culture at the Fringe, while still ogling some flesh, Opera Orlando may just hit that G-spot above high C.

The Companion and Safe Word
Opera Orlando
13 & Up – Strong Language, Mature Themes, Whips, Bondage
60 Minutes
Yellow Venue
Wednesday, May 16th 6:30pm
Friday, May 18th 10:00pm
Wednesday, May 23rd 8:15pm
Thursday, May 24th 9:00pm
Saturday, May 26th 7:15pm
Sunday, May 27th 10:45pm

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