The Different Dimensions of Flatland at the Annex Theater by Lydia Youngman
We all took shots before the show. It was the start of a new tradition at the Annex Theater: every show would include one midnight performance, each christened with a sip of Canadian Club Whisky.
Tucked away near the corner of Park Avenue and Clay Street, we almost missed it at first. The Annex is small, the stage a rectangular platform running through the middle of the room. With twenty to thirty people in attendance, the theater was packed. Everyone sat with their backs against the walls.
I’d never seen a show where you could watch both the performance and the audience simultaneously. In some ways, it was fascinating to watch as people saw the story unfold. However, seeing the drooping eyelids your fellow audience members highlighted the fact that eventually it had become two in the morning.
Flatland, a play adapted by Evan Moritz from the 1884 novella by Edwin Abbott, follows the story of Chromatistes (Caroline Preziosi), a rebellious Circle living in a hierarchical world of two-dimensional shapes, as he learns that his world is more than two-dimensional. It is a show driven by a political message. Flatland urges you to challenge everything you’ve ever been told.
The costume designer, Susan MacCorkle, did an excellent job transforming the cast into obtuse and simple outlines. Everyone wore swaths of white fabric, twisted and folded into their respective shapes.
The Triangles’ pants ballooned outward to create the isosceles silhouette. The Circles in the Priesthood of Circles maneuvered big hoops under their clothes to give them a rounded shape and evoke the image of a saint’s halo. In another dimension, two exiled Council Members wore white spacesuits with lizard-like tails sprouting from boxy helmets.
The other half of the transformation from humans into shapes was generated through performance. As inter-dimensional time travelers, Ren Pepitone and Eric Park never stopped moving. They ran and tumbled and swayed to give the constant impression that they were hovering on a different dimensional plane than the rest of the characters.
Though in parts confusingly technical—I wasn’t always sure what the rules of the later dimensions were, but it never got in the way of understanding the story’s main thread—Flatland is entertaining and thought-provoking. It bombards you with questions. As you watch Chromatistes discover the different dimensions of his world, you can’t help but wonder if there are other mysteries in your own. Are you living in Flatland right now? Are there other spaces to your world that are hidden from you?
Tonally, Flatland is a cross between science fiction and drama, but it is not without comedic elements as well. As a grandfatherly Square, David Iden perfectly captured the descent from humor to gravity that the performance as a whole mirrored.
Flatland at the Annex Theater has a seamless, dreamlike quality. Everything about it—the costumes; the constant swishing, circling, and shuffling movements of the cast; the music (by Allison Clendaniel & Nudie Suits); and the graphic lines and cubes projected onto the stage—all served to enhance the show’s mathematical and galactic intensity.
Putting on an inter-dimensional show about time travel with a cast of nine and a completely exposed stage is ambitious, but the production used the space to its advantage. With sets and costumes both minimalist bold, Flatland relied heavily on its actors to bring a bizarre world to life. Their performances transformed fiction and imagination into something authentic and compelling.
Flatland ran at the Annex Theater until February 7.
Images courtesy of the Annex Theater.
Lydia Youngman is a writer from Albany, New York. The facts: Irish dancer. Loves working with little kids. Terrible with directions. Fears spiders like Ron Weasley, unless someone else in the room is fears spiders more, then yes, fine she will kill the spider.