Welcome to the first in The L’s coverage of #serials@theflea, the second cycle of the Flea Theater’s late-night short play competition. If you’re not familiar with the program, here’s the gist: each week there will be five competing episodic plays, each lasting 10 minutes. Performances are held on both Friday and Saturday, with Saturday also boasting a musical guest (this go-round has The Lives of Famous Men, Nathan Leigh and Teen Girl Scientist Monthly on tap).
I would be remiss at this point if I neglected to mention that the event includes free beer (tickets are $10, pertinent info is here and here). Audience voting occurs after the performances, and the top three vote-getters following Saturday’s performance will advance to the next week's round with the subsequent episode of their story while the losing two groups return with part one of a new story.
Behind the plays are either playwrights (duh), the Flea’s resident company (The Bats) self-scripting, or a playwright developing a play with the Bats. Since I have varying levels of familiarity with the playwrights I’ll refrain from weighing in with uninformed opinions until I’ve seen the first round, at which point these posts will be nothing but uninformed opinions.
So, for this week, the new shows include Alena Smith’s O’Hare and Bat Company member John Russo’s Pirates vs. Ninjas: Episode IV, the plot of which I can’t even begin to speculate on. Returning shows include:
UnFuck Yourself, Rhys Bauer!, by Josh Barrett (Episode Two): In the first episode, hotshot Hollywood executive Bauer rapidly sees his life spin right out of control on the eve of the premiere to his new film “Brown River Dreams.” He is beset by poor reviews, a suicidal writer, an investor arrested for arming terrorists, a reporter who records him badmouthing his boss (and is his mistress). Also he gets fired, so in a last-ditch effort to save his job he tells the reporter the studio will be making a 3D adaptation of Cap’n Crunch.
Stray thoughts: Is the title a Lenny Bruce reference? The phrase “Brown River Dreams” is surprisingly SFW to Google image search. With upcoming films based on board games, is it even possible to satirize Hollywood’s lack of vision? Wouldn’t you rather see a Capt’n Crunch movie than the upcoming Monopoly film? Did you know that the good captain’s full name is Horatio Magellan Crunch? It’s true!
The Connectors, by Musa Bacon, Seth Moore and Donaldo Prescod (Episode Four). The Connectors are a pair of detectives who solve Missed Connection ads on Craigslist. In the previous episodes, they got a new case, explored their origin story, and now new loves may spell an end to the duo just as they’re preparing to venture into “the dangerous underbelly of the city.”
Stray thoughts: Is the “missed connections” section as creepy as I imagine it to be or am I being paranoid? Are there still private eyes these days, or has Google killed that job? I know there are private investigators, but is that the same thing? It seems much less noir.
The Escape: The Escapist, by Isaac Kruger (Episode Five). In the ongoing Escape saga, children Jack and Isabel go on adventures with their animals and each week get captured by a villain in what must be some kind of Beckettian nightmare of Sisyphean existentialism. “Previous villains,” the press release tells me, “have included an Evil King and Queen, an evil witch, a brother and sister team of criminals—one of whom dies by being stabbed in the butt with a sword, and finally in the underwater installment, Shargon the Shark.” The names of the pets, incidentally, include Hoppy Hop, Ruffy Ruff and Tweety Tweet (a rabbit, dog and bird, I learn).
Stray thoughts: Each episode of this series has a title beginning with , the fifth of which is “The Escapist.” A Michael Chabon reference? I’m going to guess no, as Mr. Kruger, who wrote this series, is described in the press release as “five years old.” The release makes a point of saying that the series is “entirely Isaac’s writing and is presented absolutely honestly and without condescension.” It is also the Flea’s longest-running serial, described as a “juggernaut.” All of this raises some food for thought, including: how much of a role has Kruger’s age played in the serial’s success? Is it crude for me to speculate that audiences, even audiences drunk on free beer, are voting for him for reasons beyond his artistic ability? Finally, given his age, is it possible I overshot the mark when I described the show as “some kind of Beckettian nightmare of Sisyphean existentialism?” We’ll find out on Saturday.
To further prepare for this weekend (shows are Friday at midnight, Saturday at 11pm and 1am, $10 only at the door), catch-up with the theater’s blogs and recaps, and check back next week for our recap of the first round.