Writer: James Godwin &Tom Burnett
Director: Tom Burnett
Reviewer: Jamie Rosler
New York City in the not-too-distant post-apocalyptic future, or perhaps present day in a different dimension. “A big storm was coming. There was always a big storm coming.” Politicians with ulterior motives, sentient robots, anthropomorphised body parts and people with shamanic powers comprise the city’s population, or at least the portion of the population we meet in The Flatiron Hex. A virus escapes into the city sewers as the latest big storm approaches the city, and Wiley is fired for failure to do his job accurately, but Wiley is being framed. Will he find out what’s really going on before the storm hits and before the mayoral elections are complete?
Film noir, puppetry, video, and projection come together in James Godwin’s latest piece, an offbeat and funny exploration of media, politics, religious ritual, and climate change, all of which are addressed but never preached about. There are no clear judgements about or opinions on these themes, but rather about the characters’ choices, reactions, and behaviors in the face of certain events. It is the choices we make that define our place in the world, regardless of how that world is structured and populated.
The Flatiron Hex is a funny show, but sometime it tries too hard to make the joke, missing the humor in exchange for a moment that seems to have the subtext of, “It’s a joke; get it?” There is a lot about this show and its story that asks the audience to suspend its disbelief, and that gives the audience credit for being aware, intelligent, and capable. It is unfortunate, then, that there are moments that trade subtlety for brazen attempts at joke-making.
The sound design is integral to the success of this show, and designer, director, and co-writer Tom Burnett does a phenomenal job creating soundscapes and truly enhancing the experience. Sound alone is responsible for the intense effectiveness of some of the show’s more affecting moments.
A technically difficult show, James Godwin does a wonderful job transitioning back and forth smoothly and quickly from puppeteer to stage actor and back again. Through various technical hiccups, he kept his cool and his sense of humor. Once or twice it felt like the forced humor mentioned above, but is more forgivable considering the circumstances. However some of the technical difficulties might stem from the fact that Godwin plays Wiley as both a real-live human, and occasionally as a puppet. It is unclear why the distinction is made, and is perhaps the only thing in this world that defies suspension of disbelief, and instead seems like a sloppy directing or performance choice that should have been tackled during rehearsals.
Far from flawless, The Flatiron Hex is entertaining, and at least a bit thought-provoking. It garners honest emotional reactions of various stripes throughout its 90-minute run, and explores both the real and fantastical possibilities for our future in a way that hopes to make heavy topics more easily approachable.
Runs until 30th May 2015 | Photo: Jim Moore