The characters in Flip Side are stuck in two different worlds, and their contrasts are fascinating. But, aside from an online affair, playwright Ellen Maddow never allows them to interact, and it's hard to feel sympathetic for jealous characters when they refuse to experience anything themselves.
Reviewed by Ilana Novick
It’s not a good sign that Anna Kiraly’s set is more developed than any of the characters in Ellen Maddow’s new play, Flip Side. The characters that inhabit the two mythical worlds of Drizzle Plaza and the Waterfall family home are stuck in one dimension, whereas the set—constructed of wooden beams and transparent paper (for projections)—serves as a house, a restaurant, and a town square. If you like experimental plays, Flip Side is an enigmatic exploration of the longing to be somewhere, and what happens when you discover that “somewhere else” has just as many problems as the place you’re trying to escape.
Drizzle Plaza is the land of the terminally haggard, where people like Frank (Will Badgett) and Daisy (Heidi Schreck) spend their time talking about lost loves and lost opportunities in short, clipped sentences. Their idea of a fun night is spying through their neighbor's windows, grasping for a piece of what they think is a comfortable life. Little do they know that this supposedly content neighbors are actually fighting over the amount of time Alan Flynnalyn (John Hellweg) spends chatting online with his school sweetheart instead of spending time with his wife Marilyn (Tina Shepard). Hellweg’s drooping eyes and slouch suggest a harried husband; the way he constantly clutches his laptop and speaks as if he’s in a chatroom (“LOL”), shows a child looking for a new world to escape to. In the midst of spying, Frank and Daisy meet a pair of elderly women whose X-ray glasses allow them to see not only inside their neighbor’s houses, but inside the world of the Waterfall family.
This is Drizzle Plaza’s flip side, and the Waterfallmanic energy is a sharp contrast to the plaza’s listless residents. Uncle Oscar (David Brooks), and mother Sylvia (also Tina Shepard) are happy always being in motion, going from job to home to gym with a constant smile, as this lets them ignore the inner dissent of their teenage daughter, Cheramoya (Sue Jean Kim), who dances and insults her mother, Sylvia, often at the same time. She's like a Tazmanian devil, pigtails whipping around, perpetually out of breath. As for Sylvia happens to be the woman Alan spends all of his free time talking to.
With all of this spying, I expected more intrigue, more excitement, maybe even more violence, but aside from Cheramoya accidentally throwing a tomato at Drizzle Plaza, the two sides never interact (not counting Alan and Sylvia’s online affair). However juvenile, the tomato throwing could have been an opportunity for the two sides to experience firsthand what they had been passively spying for the entire play. It would force them to see the reality behind what they assume is the better place, and maybe even find some appreciation for the one they’re already in. After all, it’s hard to feel sympathetic for jealous characters when they’re refusing to experience anything themselves.
Flip Side (1 hour 30 minutes)
Connelly Theater (220 East 4th Street)
Tues-Sat at 8pm, through October 19th
Tickets available at www.smarttix.com
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