Orlando Fringe 2024 review: “AWOL” | Orlando

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Time may ridicule us all, but the indignities of aging are particularly ridiculed in “AWOL,” a two-man comedy from writer/actor Rob Gee. Jon Paterson plays Cyril, a misanthropic octogenarian whose only friend in their retirement home is Neville (Gee), a lovable amnesiac whose positive attitude is the exact opposite of his own. Together they blackmail their perpetually stoned caretaker and head to a death metal festival in the hopes of reuniting Cyril with his estranged granddaughter.

Gee and Paterson are both long-time Fringe favorites for good reason, and it's a joy to watch their clownish moves as they escape to freedom. When they're not playing the older couple, both actors take on the roles of biker gang members, rock stars and acid dealers they meet along the way. Gee's wordplay is both funny and wistful as the odd couple complains about a world (that hopefully awaits us all) where bubble features and the daily dinner staple are the biggest topics of conversation. Their absurd conspiracy is sometimes reminiscent of a geriatrician Pinky and the Brain Consequence.

AWOL is a fun, imaginative series with an important message about ageism, but coming from such a well-traveled team, I had high expectations that weren't quite met. Ryan Gladstone's direction is full of frantic physical comedy and distinctive characterizations, but on opening night the timing and blocking were in dire need of tightening up. Ad-lib digressions, amusing in moderation, further slowed the pace, and indulgent local allusions sandwiched between the script's Britishisms also failed.

With a little more polish, I have little doubt that these professionals will turn this into a production that will make you sing, “I hope I don't die before I get old.”

Orlando Fringe Festival: Tickets and Times for “AWOL”

Anna Harden

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