Flatland – A Try Angle

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Flatland, Photo Courtesy: Annex Theater

A REVIEW BY ACHILLES FEELS

Annex Theatre performs regularly in the Psychic Readings pad over on Park avenue, a tiny corner row house with a surprising amount of space.  There’s just something delicious and mysterious about being led into a long tennis-court style theatre arrangement with large white projection screens covering every visible surface.  We got an adorable curtain speech by co-director Isa Leal, laying FLAT on her back to address both sides of the audience simultaneously.  Killer start.  If they can do this much with such a tiny space, BTW, I can’t wait to see how much ass they kick in their new digs at Le Mondo.

Flatland is based on a satirical novella Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions written in 1884 by Edwin Abbott Abbott.  The work that results here is part Tron, part Ayn Rand’s Anthem, and part The Island [Shake and stir?-TBO].  The story follows a class war of sorts between objects of segregated planes.  For example, a triangle is lesser, class-wise, than a circle. These planar objects have no concept of the third, fourth, or ninth dimensions and, so, objects of a higher dimension, such as a 3D sphere, or the concept of time, move in and out of the FLATLAND like ghosts or deep cover spies.  [Jesus, do I have to bring my fucking math textbooks?-TBO] This hierarchy is confusing, but it’s not a critical plot element and the story holds its own without a thorough understanding of Euclidean geometry [Woo-hoo!-TBO]. The circles who judge and rule this FLATLAND are highly corrupt, quite self-serving, with the “lesser” shapes at the whim of the usurper’s insecure natures.  Ignorance and fear rule this world and fuck, that sounds just like Baltimore (America?) right now. Deep within the class struggle, we get a a love story, ain’t it always the way.  Higher dimensions begin to dwell on the circle who paints herself red, or Chromatistes (Caroline Preziosi).  She’s a radical, colors are blasphemy, as they void the means of class identification. Eventually we loop back to present time, the toxic judicial system is overthrown, and all is renewed in FLATLAND.  The story, adapted by co-directors Evan Moritz and Isa Leal, at times is touching and wonderful, and at others beats you a bit about the head with the oppressive system of government.  While I was consistently entertained, I did think the production could do with a trim.  An eighty-five minute one-act would have done nicely, but I pick, I pick.

Visually, Annex did not disappoint.  Using large (moving!) flat surfaces as projection screens, set designer Douglas Johnson and projections artist Kevin Blackistone collaborated effectively to set the matrix for FLATLAND.  I enjoyed Johnson’s large swaths of white, which nod to the void of large sheets of paper.  Blackistone’s use of projection, sometimes just a simple line, to paint the vastness of dimension, was lovely, though I did wish he did a bit more technically to better align the edge blending and full-framing of the surfaces.  Costumes by Susan MacCorkle were stunning, perhaps some of the most amazing I’ve seen in Baltimore.  Her grasp of fabric, her exceptional craftsmanship, provided an amazing ‘gasm of a fashion show. All of her costumes are white.  Every damned, breathtaking one, lending them seamlessly to light, projection, and movement.  I can tell that deep thought and development went into each and every costume on this stage.  Brava.  Lighting by Mason Ross was simple, stripped down, and effective.  His use of simple, gentle color and the deliberate integration with the projection design allowed scenes to shift time and place nicely.  FLATLAND takes place in a void, and Ross filled that void with volume and emotion.

The acting in FLATLAND is spot-on.  I enjoyed the stage, though performances by Trustina Fafa Sabah (Sphere), Eric Park (G/Triangle/G, and also: SWOON! that’s a tall drink of water right there, baby!), and Ren Pepitone (12/ Triangle 2 / G2) really stood out to me as exceptional.  Park and Pepitone move fluidly, with interwoven body positions bordering on acro-yoga.  Sabah has a steely calm in her demeanor and her gentle voice is transcendent .  Dave Iden plays several characters, but his acid-trip Beetlejuice swap into the nineth dimensional Fenir rocked.  Lee Conderacci plays a Human at one point and all I could think was Sarah Palin. #Perfection.  Other performers in the work did well, though it was a challenge identifying who was who, as almost everyone is triple cast and the costume changes fly like the wind.

The Bottom Line:  Interestingly enough, I really, truly enjoyed this production from Annex.  TBO always raves about their shows, but I’ve always worried that they’d be a bit too “performancy” for my taste.  However, FLATLAND had wonderful production values, clear, concise direction, fabulous performances and beautiful choreography.  It could have been shorter and an inch more subtle, but overall, not a mark was missed.  The work speaks true and relevant, even though the mothertext is well over a hundred years old.   Oh and Eric Park is gorgeous, if nothing else, go and see him in that skin-tight onesie.

Running at Annex Theater until February 7th.

SECOND OPINION?

http://www.citypaper.com/arts/stage/bcp-012716-stage-flatland-20160126-story.html

Email Achilles Feels at achillesfeels@gmail.com

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