nytheatre.com review by David Reinwald
June 4, 2005
Flat!, created and presented by The Operating Theater, describes itself as a show which is “inspired by the exploits of the BBC and similar lowly budgeted productions” that sets out to “combine video, animation, and live action to engage in a dialogue with the public through the paper-thin façade of American actors badly pretending to be a British family.” This description sheds a little light on its intention, but does not necessarily relate to the resulting effect it had on me.
Flat! creates a sitcom through the balance of live acting and edited film sequences which are interspersed as if in one continuous stream of events. I found the video component to be quite fun, even though the transitions between the video and live acting and vice versa are not always clear-cut. Truly, the video itself seems to be the star of the show. It is impeccably filmed, edited, and produced. The video also helps to frame the context of watching twelve episodes of this sitcom through its scrolling credits and an annoyingly catchy theme song, which seemed to take on the role as the sparse connective element between episodes. Midway through the show, I could not get the song out of my head: “We’re different but we agree, so let’s build a little family . . . in our family, in our family FLAT!”
Yet, beyond this, it is difficult for me to identify the plot of this show, or sitcom, for that matter. The humor is consistently dry. Much of it is campy, while some of it is just tasteless. For most of the show, I felt like I really had never jumped on the bandwagon of laughter. The show is the product of a giant handful of creators. It is clear, however, that the show is pulled unstably in a myriad of directions by its talented ensemble cast of eleven actors, its team of twelve writers, and its directors and producers.
Flat! is simply unclassifiable; I was never really sure what it was trying to be. Experimental theatre? Performance art? A farce? A spoof? A parody? Digitally-enhanced theatre? Flat! is all of these. The ravaging and eclectic mix within it may be entertaining for some, while for others—simply mind-boggling.