By: May. 14, 2017

I was curious if an acting troupe that billed itself as "a feast for your ears" would live up to my expectations. At my visit to Urban Phoenix Saturday for the continuation of the inaugural Tampa International Fringe Festival, the cast of TALES OF MILD INTEREST (TMI) certainly did. They had me and the audience laughing, groaning, and laughing again at the extremely well-written antics of a live radio program - complete with commercial jingles the actors sang and live foley artists for precision sound effects.

The talented team of founders Jesse Hutson and Erica Garraffa, along with Mike Garraffa, James Hollingsworth, Kelly Clow, Nathen VanZile, Yvelisse Cedrez, Bianca Badia, Eddie Gomez, Laura Gonzalez, Eric Swearingen, and Nathan Juliano, complimented by foley artist, Heather Smith, provided the perfect blend of memorable accents, dry humor and purposely bad puns with a storyline I could visualize my grandfather sitting around the radio listening to as a child.

By no means is this your typical theatre performance.

Whether I watched the foley artist add the perfect sound effects to a line or watched the actors on stage react to the sound effects, I knew this was something special. I even closed my eyes and imagined what it was like in 30s and 40s before the picture was already painted for us on TV.

Dressed in black and white, the cast was easily the best dressed in the inaugural festival, but killer fashion-sense aside, this team nailed it.

The story opens with the announcer telling the sad tale of Lord Pendleton's missing chocolate biscuit "and now we return you to.... PENDLETON PARK."

The droll British serial introduces us to the haughty Lady Pendleton (ERICA) who takes her tea with brandy (or just brandy) and Lord Pendleton (JESSE) who was traumatized in the snowy winter as a child by having to go into his front yard, and poor ever-suffering housemaid Moira (LAURA) who hasn't seen the sun in 13 years and who Lord Pendleton takes credit for all her ideas, the twin brother Bertram (KELLY) of recently deceased butler Wendel and a street urchin (JAMES) that taunts Wendel's replacement.

The second serial THE B-TEAM! features Sgt. Strikes (ERIC), The Dung Beetle (NATHAN), The Incredulous Shrug (YVELISSE), The Lone Wolf (NATHEN), and the Realtor (MIKE), completely disorganized less-than-superheroes. Victory City is protected by superheroes, but The B-Team is who you call "when the real superheroes aren't available." The unlikely heroes must fight their nemesis Mr. Moneybags (EDDIE) to save Victory City. Each actor made this series fun and really funny with over-the-top characterizations. The looks given by teenage not-even-sure-if-she-cares-enough-to-be-a-hero The Incredulous Shrug cinched it.

The final serial SWAMPY GUNDERSON: DRACULA HUNTER tells about a grizzled swamp hobo Dracula hunter (JESSE) who poses a high school student in a California public high school where Draculitis is a huge problem and adopts an unwilling sidekick (JAMES) to "heart stake Draculas in the heart."

Despite laughing at all three performances until my mascara pooled, it was Lord and Lady Pendelton that stole my heart. TMI is what happens when the crazy imaginations of two local performers run completely free and create an experimental vision you can definitely see with your ears.