The world premiere of the original and ingenious three-part audio drama, “The Flats,” is a prime example of how to create an engaging theatrical experience despite the limits imposed by our Covid-ridden world.
Commissioned by the Aurora Theatre Company in response to the pandemic, “The Flats” was jointly written by three award-winning local playwrights: Lauren Gunderson (“I and You,”“The Book of Will”), Cleavon Smith (TheatreFirst’s “Last Sermon of Sister Imani”), and Jonathan Spector (“Eureka Day”).
Skillfully directed by Aurora’s Artistic Director Josh Costello (“The Importance of Being Earnest,” “Eureka Day”), “The Flats” is about three Berkeley residents who each live in an apartment in a triplex building. A shelter-in-place order caused by a mysterious threat has thrown their lives into chaos.
Brooke (Khary L. Moye), a Black man, is used to navigating his way through Berkeley’s mostly white world. Harmony (Lauren English, ACT’s “Gloria”) is a white suburban mom from Sacramento, newly separated (or should one say “freed”?) from her husband and three children. Leonard (Anthony Fusco, lead actor in many ACT and Cal Shakes productions) is an aging Berkeley hippie podcaster who has seen a lot and believes little.
The one-hour long first act of “The Flats,” which opened on October 23, 2020, introduces the three characters as they begin to learn about each other. We acquire just enough information about them to pique our interest and whet our appetite for additional plot development. The cause of the mysterious threat lurks menacingly in the background. The realistic sound effects (Everett Elton Bradman, Sound Designer) compliment the three actors’ vocalization talent.
When asked why Aurora is creating audio rather than Zoom visual productions, Josh Costello said, “With Zoom, actors can’t make eye contact, and it’s difficult to sync up correctly. Aurora’s expertise is in presenting nuanced language-based drama rather than video.”
I’m a big fan of audiobooks, so for me, listening to an audio play is very natural and comfortable. I love the way listening to fiction and theater allows one’s imagination to take wing. And “The Flats” was developed as expertly as if one of the experienced major audio producers was behind the scenes. So if this experience is new to you, please give it a chance; you’ll like it.
“The Flats” second and third acts begin October 30 and November 6, 2020, respectively. One must purchase individual or membership tickets to listen online. Aurora’s new membership program ($150 single) ($250 dual) is available for purchase at www.auroratheatre.org/memberships.
Members may listen online at any time during Aurora’s 2020/2021 season. Memberships include virtual tickets to a second audio drama in the spring; access to monthly performances; a monthly book club exploring the works of playwright August Wilson; interactive virtual salons with leading Bay Area actors, directors, playwrights, and designers; and access to readings of new plays in development playing at the Aurora Theatre through 2020.
This article originally appeared on Berkeleyside.
By Emily S. Mendel
©Emily S. Mendel 2020 All Rights Reserved