BWW Review: Flying V's WE'RE GONNA DIE An Instant Rock Cult Classic
Summer is on the wing, mulberries are ripe on the tree (a little early, but hey), folks are compiling their beach reading lists-what a perfect time to contemplate your very own, inevitable mortality!
Yeah, like, death and stuff. Things in your body falling apart, loved ones dying slowly and horrifyingly.
Great. That oughtta leave 'em dancing in the aisles.
Well, actually it can leave you dancing - and blowing bubbles and tossing beach balls in the air. Fur real. Just come on down to Bethesda's Writer's Center for Flying V Theatre's latest offering, New York playwright Young Jean Lee's We're Gonna Die.
Staged as a night-club act, complete with a rockin-good band, Flying V company member Farrell Parker takes you on a young woman's truly gut-wrenching journey, punching back at every piece of rotten luck that comes her way.
Director Josh Sobel, fresh off a successful production of this show at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre, has brought DC audiences a taste of a somewhat idiosyncratic but incredibly daring young artist, who doesn't hesitate to absorb some of life's greatest challenges and come out swinging. And Parker is just the talent you need to pull off such a challenging one-person show.
A note to the wary: if death doesn't strike you as a winning subject for a show, one indication of the cult following We're Gonna Die has developed is when it played in London, Lee performed her own monologues but the songs were performed by none other than David Byrne, founder and leader singer of the legendary band Talking Heads.
(I think I'll just let that tidbit stand on its own...)
The Writer's Center space is laid out in mock-club style, with a runway, lounge chairs and high tables near the bandstand - a bit eclectic, in keeping with the raw spirit of Flying V. Kristin A. Thompson's lighting enhances the rock-concert feel of the musical numbers, and Jennifer Hopkins leavens the stand-up, barstool-talk nature of the show by giving Parker and the band some goofy dance moves. Parker's costume, designed by Brittany Graham, offers a balance between goth, glitter, with even a widows-weed shawl, black and silver providing a visual key to the character of the piece.
To this critic, the material could use a little more work. We're Gonna Die is a hit show, to be sure, with lots to offer; my only wish was that Lee could have shaped it a little more, rounding out her narrative-which otherwise consists of a series of anecdotes whose only connecting thread is its narrator. She has a substantial body of work to her credit (check out her take on King Lear online!), and is not to be missed. A little more work, and she'll have a classic on her hands.
OPENING ACTS - I put this in all caps because another reason to see Flying V's current show is its rotating cast of opening acts, from folk singers to stand-up comediennes. For Memorial Day Weekend, the opener was singer-songwriter Zia Hassan, whose bright, clever lyrics are as uplifting and filled with light as Lee's are dark and foreboding. His roots in the 90's folk scene are apparent, with his hottest guitar licks reminiscent of Sean Colvin or David Wilcox in their prime. A new dad, his outlook on life is understandably optimistic, and his tenor vocals are utterly endearing. Check him out whenever you see him listed, folks!
[Production Poster artwork by Monica Gallagher.]
Running time: 1 hour and 50 minutes, with one intermission.
We're Gonna Die runs through June 15; performances are Thursdays and Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 7PM and 10PM, with Sunday matinees at 4PM. Performances are at The Writer's Center, 4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD.
Tickets can be purchased through Brown Paper Tickets online at http://flyingv.brownpapertickets.com, or at the door starting one hour before the performance.