The Curious Red Fly/Blue Bottle Takes Wing at Here


The housefly is a fairly innocuous creature. Really, how much can a Musca domestica achieve in a 20-day life cycle? But when not crawling over picnic fare or avoiding swatters, a fly occasionally deigns to inspire German philosophers and Off-Broadway playwrights. Red Fly/Blue Bottle—a music-theater piece composed by Christina Campanella, with book and lyrics by Stephanie Fleischmann—takes its minimal narrative cue from a Ludwig Wittgenstein quotation. Wittgenstein wrote that his philosophy aimed “to shew the fly the way out of the fly-bottle.”

In the play, the metaphorical fly is a young woman named Clarissa (Jesse Hawley). Her lover (Chris Lee) has left her to fight in a secret war, and she’s paralyzed by her confusion and loss. Meanwhile, she’s observed by an older woman (Black-Eyed Susan) who repairs radios and plays language games. The play’s songs charm, though the lyrics seem written in the style of a mildly creepy primer: “This is a train song/It is a train song/It’s a song/Of a train gone.”

The nursery rhyme and lack of plot ought to make the piece maddening, but instead, it’s sweetly strange. From elliptical imagery and approximate rhyme, director Mallory Catlett has conjured a complete, unique universe—with ample assistance from Miranda K. Hardy’s lights, Jim Findlay’s set, and Jeremy Wilson’s live soundscape. Red Fly just might generate some buzz.

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