Genius. Fearless. Absolutely fun. Flying V Fights: The Secret History of the Unknown World is a pop culture junkie’s wet dream. And, given the violence, skin, and sexual innuendos, there’s no better way to describe it.
This world, the world Flying V has imagined and breathed to life, is one where all of our favorite weird and wild characters thrive, side by side, connected in wondrous, strange ways. Tarzan is the child of Dr. Moreau, who is a castaway from the Nautilus when under the stewardship of Captain Nemo’s son, who uncovers, not a giant squid, but the legendary Leviathan, originating from the undiscovered Monster Island. Above ground, Inspector Holmes has pursued Jack the Ripper to Chicago, fingering him as the infamous White City Killer—aka Dr. Jekyll—during the World’s Fair, where Nikola Tesla may or may not have made alien contact. And, all that is just in Act I. The first half of Act I. Along the way, Flying V pays homage to West Side Story, Twilight Zone, Dr. Who, Zorro, The Defenders, Tomb Raider, James Bond, numerous authors, and on and on and on.
Knowledge of pop culture will heighten your enjoyment but a lack of won’t lessen your experience. The production stands on its own, largely because it overlays it all with stellar fight scenes, witty banter and voiceovers, and moody music, sound effects, and projections, often looking like a steam-punked film noir. It also embraces its overflow of comic book, pulp fiction, TV, film, and good-old-fashion novel references like a boss. Any hesitation and Secret History would collapse under its own weight. But, that’s what Flying V does best. Go all in.
A thematic thread does run through each, seemingly, disparate scene, and pulls tautly in Act II, reverberating as it does, making you aware that perhaps there is a larger message afoot. One about acceptance. Think its trying living in a multi-cultural America where illegal immigrants, Muslims, or a gay married couple may be your neighbor? Try existing in an America where actual Martians and zombies reside. With civil rights identical to yours because, of course, this is the land of equality and freedoms—of speech, worship, and press. Naturally, we would not lock up the Martians. We’d co-exist.
Act I takes some time in setting the mood and establishing that thread, which Act II benefits from. It has a quicker pace and sees the return of some characters in hilarious ways. Directors Jason Schlafstein and Jonathan Ezra Rubin have done a remarkable job fitting it all in and having it make sense. You’ll find something to love, but you’ll also likely be left puzzled on occasion. I mean, I may have been the only Whovian in the audience, geeking out over the appearance of a “Time Inspector” in a long colorful scarf.
Em Whitworth is the MVP with her zombie-flapper-turned-wrestling-pro-extraordinaire, defeating Vandal Randall, who can only be described as the lovechild of Hulk Hogan and Apollo Creed. Whitworth steals all her scenes.
But make no mistake, every player is as strong as the next and has their moment(s). James Finley as a classic, clean-cut Superman pre-WWII. Jon Jon Johnson as a measured, steady 1950’s suburban homeowner prepping for a dinner party with a side of surprise meat. Christina Day as an ass-kicking, super strong teen in a leather jacket.
Flying V Fights: The Secret History of the Unknown World
closes July 2, 2017
Details and Tickets
Megan Reichelt as a lovesick vampire-ess slow dancing with her human partner in the Victorian era. Michelle Polera as a sexy, whip cracking anthropologist a la Indiana Jones. Danny Cackley as angsty-Eddie, just a kid at monster summer camp. Timotheus German as an aged Lone Ranger-esque hero with a bad back. And Ryan Tumlty and Noah Schaefer for filling in for Jason Tamborini, who broke his foot the day before opening night. Couldn’t even tell they were tossed in last minute.
I’ve not seen any other Flying V fight shows, but I have an unabashed love for the group based on other productions. They devise and imagine stories for people who don’t know they love theatre while challenging ideas of what makes a great stage performance and using pop culture to comment on larger issues. The Secret History of the Unknown World is no different. Inventive, refreshing, and a genuine delight. Flying V has done it again. Enjoy the ride.
Flying V Fights: The Secret History of the Unknown World . Directed by Jason Schlafstein and Jonathan Ezra Rubin. Script by Matt Bassett and Jason Schlafstein. Original Music by Navid Azeez and Michael Winch. Featuring Danny Cackley, Christina Day, James Finley, Timotheus German, Jon Jon Johnson, Michelle Polera, Megan Reichelt, Jason Tamborini, Em Whitworth, Noah Schaefer, and Ryan Tumulty. Production: Jonathan Ezra Rubin (Fight Director), Noah Schaefer (Assistant Director and Choreography), Seth Alcorn (Dramaturgy), Andrew Berry (Special Effects and Laser Design), Greg Condon (Master Carpenter), Phil da Costa (Audience Experience), Paul Deziel (Projections Design), Susannah Edwards (Front of House Associate), Caitlyn Fitzgerald (Stage Management Team), Ian Jordan (Additional Carpentry), Neil McFadden (Sound Design), Britney Mongold (Assistant Scenic Design and Scenic Charge), Andrea ‘Dre’ Moore (Properties and Puppet Design), Sydney Moore (Costume Design), Elizabeth Morton (Wardrobe Crew), Jos. B. Musumeci, Jr. (Scenic Design), Niusha Nawab (Additional Properties), Samantha Owen (Stage Management Team), Susanna Pretzer (Writing Assistant), Mallory Shear (Assistant Fight Director), Elliot Shugoll (Master Electrician), Kristin A. Thompson (Lighting Design), Robin Weiner (Assistant Costume Design), and Matt Wolfe (Technical Director). Production Stage Manger, Tess Wagner. Produced by Flying V Theatre . Reviewed by Kelly McCorkendale