Review: ‘The Companion and Safe Word’ – Orlando Fringe 2018

When Opera Orlando goes to the Fringe, it brings along a good-sized dildo.

The sex toy is a prop in one of a double bill by the group — “The Companion” and “Safe Word” (both taken from a work titled “Three Way.” The two 30-minute operas are by composer Robert Paterson and librettist David Cote, and both are about s-e-x – specifically the naughty kind.

You don’t have to be an opera fan to find laughs in these comic pieces, sung in English, and very understandable in the small Yellow venue. Although I would have liked an additional “aria” or two, Paterson has composed some tuneful melodies — especially “Pain and release, torture and tears” for “Safe Word,” about bondage play. Cote can turn a phrase, and knows his topics — hey, no judgment here — “If you keep singing, you’ll get the ball gag!” a dominatrix warns.

The cast of pros has fun with the material, directed with an eye to the humor by Eric Pinder.

In the lighter “Companion,” about a woman’s dissatisfaction with her sex robot, Samantha Barnes Daniel shows the technological frustration we all endure with gritted teeth, what with unwelcome pop-up ads or expensive upgrades — “This model’s already ancient” sniffs a tech worker about her three-month old robot.

Johnathan Lee Iverson, so good in Garden Theatre’s recent “Tennessee Walk,” also stands out here, playing the robot with mechanical precision and slightly unfocused and uncannily inhuman eyes.

Sarah Purser makes a swell dominatrix (onstage at least; I don’t know her personally), and Jacob Pence is a fine comic sight as he juxtaposes his baritone against pink panties.

The Fringe Factor: Opera meets chains and leather — without a Valkyrie in sight.

Curtain Call: If you don’t like opera (or don’t think you do), but you like Fringe (or sex) this might be just the ticket for you. Just don’t expect a similar experience the next time “Tosca” comes to town.

Where & When: Yellow venue, 60 minutes, $12, 13 and up (that would be a rating for liberal parents). 8:15 p.m. May 23, 9 p.m. May 24, 7:15 p.m. May 26, 10:45 p.m. May 27.

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