"Mysterious Skin," adapted by Prince Gomolvilas from Scott Heim's novel, shows there is always a place among the silly clowning at Fringe for adult drama. And by adult, I don't mean people taking their clothes off for fun: I mean thoughtful, challenging and mostly compelling storytelling about a delicate and disturbing subject.
Young adult Brian Lackey thinks he may have been abducted by aliens as a child. Lonely, awkward Avalyn Friesen is sure she has had an alien encounter. Devil-may-care Neil McCormick is drifting through life, making easy money as a gay prostitute.
But all is not as it seems. And seemingly unrelated stories have a connection deep in the past.
Yes, there is cursing -- it's a story about 20somethings -- and yes, there is graphic nudity -- it's a story about sex, too. But those interludes are there for a purpose, and director Jeremy Seghers uses them to tell us something about his characters.
Anthony Pyatt Jr. is appealingly twitchy and gawky as troubled Brian. Michael Martin's lines sometimes get swallowed up in the large Orange Venue but he lets us see the cracks beginning to form in his easy surface confidence. Marcie Schwalm makes Avalyn much more than a freak or object of pity.
Music artfully helps set the scene in the late '80s-early '90s. And lighting and sound help move the story along.
The audience will likely figure out what's really going on before Gomolvilas' script reveals it. But that doesn't make the journey any less tense or emotional.
90 minutes, Orange Venue, $10, Orlando Fringe Festival official page.
• Thursday 17 May; at 11:30pm in the Orange
• Saturday 19 May; at 7:30pm in the Orange
• Monday 21 May; at 10:45pm in the Orange
• Tuesday 22 May; at 6:00pm in the Orange
• Friday 25 May; at 9:15pm in the Orange
• Saturday 26 May; at 3:15pm in the Orange