Flip Side, the Talking Band's Latest, Ventures to the Waterfalls

In Flip Side, a raincoat-clad biddy comments: "Sometimes people are like advent calendars, full of little windows that open and open." An advent calendar is a pretty good metaphor for shows by the Talking Band, a 34-year-old performance group. Each of their plays provides small and precious glimpses into various lives, but with Flip Side, the chocolates inside aren't as delicious as usual.

A piece that follows a variety of attempts at romance and amity, Flip Side emerged from a peculiar method of theatermaking: In a reversal of the typical process, the Talking Band commissioned set and video design from Anna Kiraly, then structured the play around her offerings. This might have met with better success had Kiraly's designs proved more inspiring. She creates a series of upright wooden platforms to which the actors affix scrims and plastic sheeting. From this landscape, playwright Ellen Maddow has conjured two contrasting spaces—the nearly uninhabited Drizzle Plaza and the cheerfully congested world of the Waterfalls. Various characters volley between them.

The story is sweet and the actors likable, Will Badgett, Sue Jean Kim, and Heidi Schreck especially. The bursts of a cappella singing, composed and arranged by "Blue" Gene Tyranny, actually charm—an almost unprecedented event. But there's a whimsy and thinness to Maddow's script and Paul Zimet's direction that renders the sunny show rather wet.

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