Though this was a short run (as part of the Ice Factory Festival) it was a powerful one – filled, as it was, with snakes. Flying snakes.
I could write a review as short as the run: Meta. Meta-meta. Meta with a side of meta. Snakes. The end.
But I don’t think that would be fair to Everywhere Theatre Group and the enormous amount of work they put into this groundbreaking, innovative, highly original show. While I didn’t exactly buy everything they were selling me, I sure loved the dish it was served up on. So much of this play worked for me that the parts that didn’t are – if not dismissible – then at least completely forgivable.
We start with Teddy Nicholas and Leah Nanako Winkler – the writers of the show – addressing the audience directly, matter-of-factly explaining their humble (and somewhat horrifying) beginnings and then quickly bowing out as their stand-ins move on to play heightened versions of them. It’s effective. Equally effective is how the lack of melodrama used to underline these grim monologues which pepper the show winds up making these moments the most riveting. Constantly intertwining deep thoughts (delivered in somber tones) with campy action that explodes in your face Snakes winds up delivering an inside out horror story where the gentle moments are unsettling ones. Snakes offers an impossible story of scientists, snakes, a serum, heroes — all played over tales of childhood abuse where alcoholic parents give nothing to their children except a grim resolve to get away. The monotone would have you believe that they’ve been left with nothing; but then there’s the meta: of course something’s left … you’re watching it. They’ve been left with the thing that drives them, consumes them, awakens them, ignites them. It’s theatre. It’s Flying Snakes in 3D.
The ensuing snake story which rolls out is campy – played for laughs and often intentionally overacted. But wait – there’s also plays within plays. So while you get your scientific story complete with a justice league (or in this case, a band of F.U.C.K.E.R.S. – Four Universally Combative Kill ERS) and a lot of hi-ya! ka-pow! and fake blood (effective) and snakes (which the audience get to throw) there’s more. You also get the story of entitled rich kids, or in this case entitled middle class kids (the Snakes of a whole different type), who had no idea how glorious their home life was. Sure, they had divorce, or dad was dying and maybe crazy mom kept a tight rein on the funds. Sure, those struggles were tough, gosh darn it … but hey, You middle class Snakes, you gotta understand … others are getting KILLED (ka-pow!) out there for their art. Others will NEVER pay off that debt from film school, NEVER have health insurance … NEVER be a white American male like you are.
Throughout it all the absolutely stunning video/sound design by Chase Voorhees was compelling, alluring and dramatic. In another meta-meta move despite the setup of film versus theatre, Voorhees and company show that a top-notch multi-media backdrop can elevate live theatre rather than detract from it (or destroy it completely.)
Sounds crazy? Crazy like a snake!
In between the brilliant parts, the hilarious parts, the innovative parts there were some definite plot holes. Some scenes needed work – some bits went on too long, some points were made over and over, or diverted from an otherwise sharp premise. There was a little too much kitchen sink at times. But this show had me saying – so what? So what if this is one hell of a crazy mix up with snakes and melodrama and monologues and mayhem?
Because the real message of Flying Snakes in 3D came to you later, at home, plot be damned. Despite all the plot holes, tangents and mis-steps it was wrapped up in layer upon layer of smart, thoughtful, good theatre – theatre that was by the people, of the people and for the people. Yes, not all of it made sense. Yes, not every moment was fascinating. But the moments that won me over made me excited about theatre in a way I hadn’t expected and I hope that Everywhere Theatre Group continues to push the envelope, continues to give their all for their art, and continues to produce work that comes with props which I get to throw. I may not have loved the show as much as I wanted to going in but I sure loved how it made me feel about theatre. And THAT is wonderful.
July 4 – 7
Flying Snakes In 3D
produced by Everywhere Theatre Group
Written and directed by Leah Nanako Winkler and Teddy Nicholas, with video/sound design by Chase Voorhees