Sexy, visceral, and physical, Flying V’s original ensemble piece Flying V Fights: Love is a Battlefield packs a wallop. From love taps to sucker punches and even gladiatorial contest, Flying V Fights explores romance and sex, dispensing with spoken dialogue. Here, the couples speak with their hands, fists, quarterstaffs, rapiers, and wrestling moves. The results are mixed, but overall satisfying.
The six-member cast, as directed by Flying V’s managing director Jonathan Ezra Rubin, make a game company demonstrating that love between two people can leave a mark. Rubin, an accomplished fight director, has worked closely with his skillful performers to offer a full array of staged violence. But these are not just exercises in stage combat to show off their great moves. There is heart and soul among the nameless characters. They are desperate to make love and share love. Presented as a series of individual vignettes, the scenes play out like themes and variations of varying degrees of love and hurt, pain and gain. The ensemble – three male, three female – mix and match throughout the couplings to show that relationships of any persuasion can be passionate or terrifying.
The show opens with a mega-match that sets the tone for Flying V Fights, equal parts playful and dangerous. A dual, girls with remotes controlling their men, a chase straight out of “Scooby Doo” – lays out the ground work for love that can run the gamut from joy to anxiety, betrayal and obsession. The entire company – Theresa Buechler, Danny Cackley, Natalie Cutcher, Rebecca Hausman, Jon Jon Johnson, and Robert Bowen Smith – shows off their comedic skills and masterful moves in this first scene. The intimacy of the Writer’s Center space and clever set design by Andrea Moore gives the lovers and fighters a perfect setting to begin their battles.
There are a number of standouts, dramatically and physically, such as “Oh My Heart,” featuring Buechler, Cackley, and Bowen Smith. Cackley and Buechler are a new couple who make a tender and immediate connection. As they explore the beauty of physical love, Bowen Smith is seen in parallel, as a former boyfriend, whose heart is literally ripped out as his girlfriend’s live moves on without him.
FLYING V FIGHTS: LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD
Closes June 29, 2014
4508 Walsh Street
1 hour, 30 minutes
Thursday thru Sunday
In “Strange Love,” Cutcher and Bowen Smith play two people who almost miss each other on a beach but thanks to sudden death and creative puppetry, they end up together. Another pair, Johnson and Hausman, play out an edgy tango, but with knives, generating plenty of heated chemistry. Johnson comes back with Buechler for an unconventional break-up scene where the dialogue is heard in voice-over and the actual break-up is played out as a kung fu battle.
A highlight of Flying V Fights is not a scene but the sound design by Neil McFadden, providing the entire soundtrack running under the sights and sounds of the scenes. Carefully chosen, and quite possibly providing much inspiration for Rubin and his performers, the songs chosen add a layer of poetry and lyricism over the sometimes brutal and exciting battles on display. In the program, audience members can scan a barcode that pulls up the inspired playlist on Spotify. “You Give Love a Bad Name,” “Wrecking Ball,” “I Only Want to Be with You,” “Hurt,” and, of course, “Love is a Battlefield” are just a few of the tracks that show us love can be patient and kind, but it can also leave you bloody and bruised.
Flying V Fights: Love is a Battlefield, a devised work . Directed by Jonathan Ezra Rubin . Featuring Theresa Buechler, Danny Cackley, Natalie Cutcher, Rebecca Hausman, Jon Jon Johnson, and Robert Bowen Smith . Technical Direction: Andrew Berry . Prop and Set Design: Andrea “Dre” Moore . Lighting: Kristin A. Thompson . Sound: Neil McFadden . Costume Design: Jesse Shipley . Audience Design: Tea Shearer . Dramaturgy: Megan Reichelt . Associate Director: Jason Schlafstein . Stage Management: Chelsea Crenshaw . Produced by Flying V Theatre . Reviewed by Jeff Walker.