Fringe review: ‘onomatopoeia’

Onomatopoeia, ToBo productions, Orlando. Red venue, 50 minutes, $9.

By Elizabeth Maupin
Elizabeth Maupin on Theater

One Fringe pleasure: Walking into the red venue — the tent in the brick courtyard behind Lowndes Shakespeare Center — and hearing the congenial sounds of the Mud Flappers, the old-fashioned folky musical troupe playing backup for the little show called onomatopoeia. If you’ve spent the evening watching Fringe shows, or spent the week on Fringe overload, there’s nothing like listening to some acoustic guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, bass and harmonica to soothe your soul.

Oddly, the Mud Flappers are the high point of onomatopeia, a sweet-tempered show set during the Dust Bowl, in which a young man leaves his beloved to try to make a living, becomes a hobo and finally makes his way home. Written by Antony Bolante, the show is ostentatiously low-tech — a sheet strung up on a clothesline to create a screen for shadowy figures behind it, a sound-effects guy who uses a whistle and head-lamp to become a train.

The wordplay at play’s start, meant to explain the title, may confuse more audience members than it enlightens: Suffice it to say that a bindlestiff is a hobo, and that’s pretty much all you need to know. (Onomatopoeia, by the way, is a word that sounds like its meaning.)

And Bolante’s storytelling is too cryptic by half: His character, identified only as Hobo, wanders from one spot to the next without much of anything happening, and the fact that he doesn’t speak for most of the show is never explained.

Elizabeth Block and Brett Carson add solid support, and Block’s hearty singing is a plus in a show in which so much goes unsaid. Look at onomatopoeia as a concert with some pretty stage pictures, and you won’t be far off.

Remaining shows:
Thursday May 26, 5 p.m.
Friday May 27, 11:55 p.m.
Saturday May 28, 8:50 p.m.
Monday May 30, 5:30 p.m. (Patrons’ Pick performance)

3 responses to “Fringe review: ‘onomatopoeia’

  1. hobo is shot in the throat by a farmer while trespassing during the second scene, hence his muteness for the majority of the story

    • I heard that but didn’t make the connection between that and the stylish bandanna around his throat. Plus he speaks at the end of the show, when he returns home. Ah, well …

  2. Stylish bandanna? I looked like a piece of gauze to me. I agree that the story telling was a bit cryptic, and there were a few technical issues, but overall I found it to be very charming.

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