"Loon," a charmingly poignant show by a Portland, Ore.-based physical-theater troupe, took three top honors in the Orlando Fringe Festival's Critics Choice awards Sunday night.
The Critics Choice awards are new to the Fringe this year. The festival itself remains unjuried — anyone whose name is drawn in the random lottery can present a show. And Fringe executives did not play a part in selecting these award winners, which were chosen by an independent panel of theater reviewers.
I voted on the panel, representing the team of Orlando Sentinel reviewers who critique the festival's shows. Other voters were: Seth Kubersky and Steve Schneider, both writers for the Orlando Weekly, and Elizabeth Maupin, longtime Sentinel theater critic who retired from the newspaper in 2010.
"Loon," devised by Kate Braidwood and Andrew Phoenix, was awarded Best Show and Best Original Work. The show, directed by Phoenix, is performed by Braidwood, who sports a full-face mask that transforms her into a middle-aged man. The whimsical story follows his travails as he seeks love … with the moon.
For her role, Braidwood picked up the award for Best Female Performance.
"Loon" has been honored at other Fringe festivals, including a Best of Fest award at the 2012 Vancouver International Fringe Festival, and a Critics Choice Award at last year's Edmonton International Fringe Festival.
The other multiple winner in Orlando was "Brutal Imagination," a poetic look at the real-life case of Susan Smith, the South Carolina woman who killed her children in 1994 — but blamed the crime on a black man she invented.
"Brutal Imagination," produced by Orlando-based Project Spotlight and written by Cornelius Eady, won Best Drama. Actor Robert Wright, portraying the fictitious black man, was awarded Best Male Performance.
John Grady's "Little Pussy" won the award for Best Solo Show. Grady, based in New York City, crafted a diverting memoir of bullying that subtly explores what it means to be a man.
Best Comedy went to "God Is a Scottish Drag Queen." Mike Delmont of Victoria, B.C., plays the Almighty in a 1980s power suit — a floral women's power suit, in case you missed the title — in this fast-paced one-deity comedy.
"6 Guitars," which debuted at the 2010 Orlando Fringe Festival, was the only show of several revivals to pick up an award. In the show, written by Central Floridians Chase Padgett and Jay Hopkins, Padgett portrays six different characters who comically explain their love of a particular genre of music. Augmented this year with additional songs by Padgett, "6 Guitars" won the Best Musical award.
"Mr. Robb Goes to the Fringe" was named Best Variety Show. Clown Robb Zeiser combines tricks and gentle comedy in his congenial, well-crafted show.
Finally, Best Dance Production was awarded to Flamenco Del Sol Dance Company of Sanford for its show "Misa Flamenca." The stylish production creatively mixes the art of flamenco dancing with the service music of a Catholic Mass.
Here's a list of the 2013 Orlando Fringe Festival Critics Choice awards:
• Best Show: "Loon," Wonderheads.
• Best Original Work: "Loon," Wonderheads.
• Best Solo Show: "Little Pussy," John Grady.
• Best Comedy: "God Is a Scottish Drag Queen," Mike Delamont.
• Best Drama: "Brutal Imagination," Project Spotlight.
• Best Musical: "6 Guitars," Chase Padgett Productions.
• Best Variety Show: "Mr. Robb Goes to the Fringe," This and That Productions.
• Best Dance Production: "Misa Flamenca," Flamenco Del Sol Dance Company.
• Best Female Performance: Kate Braidwood, "Loon."