Among the shows revived at this year's Orlando Fringe Festival are three Sentinel "best of the festival" winners from years past: "Dance for Grandma" "Onomatopoeia" and "6 Guitars."
In "Dance for Grandma," Scott Whittemore combines endearingly low-key magic, songs both comic and sentimental on a ukulele, and charming storytelling in a sweet tribute to grandmothers everywhere.
"Onomatopoeia" is a sweetly nostalgic tale of love and hard times, featuring skillfully performed old-timey music.
In "6 Guitars," Chase Padgett embodies six different characters — from an African-American senior citizen to a twentysomething rocker doofus — as he also shows off his musical chops on the guitar. This love letter to music is engaging, funny and expertly polished.
But to give the rookies a chance, we're putting only never-before-recognized Fringe shows on our annual "best of the fest" list. (We know "Man 1, Bank 0" was here before, but not when the Sentinel picked the best of the fest.)
Here are condensed critiques of the 10 shows selected by the Sentinel reviewing team. For the full reviews of these — and every ticketed show at this year's festival — go to OrlandoSentinel.com/fringe.
Now, alphabetically, the Best of the Fest:
'Arts or Crafts'
At last, a play that dares to ask a question that has haunted me for years: "Where is the art in 'The Wedding Singer'?"
Rob Roznowski's extremely funny play "Arts or Crafts" is a series of vignettes that might make audience members think about how we define art as a society — if only they can catch their breath from laughing so hard.
A talented cast, directed by Debra Christopher and Cathy Randazzo, gallivants through a series of sketches that don't try to explain the difference between art and craft, but rather let the audience laugh at such universal objects of mirth as pompous critics, crack-revealing plumbers and pretensions of all sorts.
In one skit, the "Mona Lisa" wonders why she is considered among the world's greatest works of art. "I wasn't even smiling," she says with a puzzled frown, while other actors strike other famous painted poses.
This tight-knit troupe has it all: timing, delivery, physicality. How are they so funny? It's an art.
60 mins. Rated G-14. Gold venue. Shows: 5-24, 7:45 p.m.; 5-26, 4 p.m.
"The Boxer" isn't fighting fair. There's something about the combination of a depression-era setting and the silent movie approach that just makes a sentimental moment hit that much harder.
As for the laughs? Those are completely thanks to Jester Theater's cast. Gemma Fearn plays the winsome but resourceful heroine in this hilarious tribute to silent film. A meal ticket – and maybe, true love – comes along in the person of the Boxer (Brandon Roberts), who is bound for a prizefight despite the fact that he cannot punch through a slice of bologna.
Fans of Roberts' mugging in PB&J Theatre Factory's many silent comedies ("Sport," "Sleigh") will not be surprised to see that he's completely in his element here, as is the rest of the cast. Hardly a minute goes by without at least a chuckle during the Boxer's road to the ring, and a cleverly staged dream sequence had me in tears.
60 mins. Rated G. Pink venue. Shows: 5-23, 7 p.m.; 5-25, 6:15 p.m.; 5-26, 11:15 a.m.