Fringe review: ‘Oddlie,’ freeFall Theatre and Bag of Beans Productions, Tampa Bay, FL
By Elizabeth Maupin
Oddlie got her name because she “looked oddly,” and she lives in a garbage heap – “the garbage heap where people in this city of garbage heaps dumped their trash.” Her sole companion is a discarded baby doll, and she yearns for connection: She needs to be seen and heard.
But Oddlie has a gift for poetry, if she can only learn how to use it, and the Fringe show that bears her name has a gift as well. Poet/singer/actor Aleshea Harris conveys worlds in the theater piece called Oddlie, and, with musicians Nicholas J. White and James Martin Roberts and director Eric Davis, she has created a haunting play for both eye and ear.
This show may be set in a trash heap, but it’s a strangely beautiful one. A single straight-backed chair hangs at an angle above the pile of stuff others have thrown away; another character’s wheelchair seems to have been created as a 3-D collage. Harris looks like a ballerina in her gown of this and that.
Even more, it’s gorgeous to hear. White and Roberts add a haunting backdrop of guitar, mandolin, horn and percussion (most of it on an orange plastic Home Depot bucket). And Harris’s free verse cuts to the essence of things. “Poetry always starts with feeling – feeling sharp, clear, thin as razor cuts on skin,” she says, and “When the pencil meets the page, what’s hiding underneath comes out and struts.”
Harris herself does not strut; her character’s is a more diffident beauty, an evanescent one, although she learns to stand tall and proud like her teacher, an old woman who says she comes from a planet “where poets live like queens.”
It’s the language that struts in Oddlie – a language so rich and proud that it demands to be savored. Oddlie learns to find her voice; her audiences must learn to hear it.
Remaining performances: 5 p.m. Friday 5/28, 4 p.m. Saturday 5/29. Green venue.
(Top photo courtesy of freeFall Theatre. Bottom photo by Kristen Wheeler/Orlando International fringe Theatre Festival.)