An ordinary-looking teddy bear comes to life and fights off monsters from under the bed and in the closet as soon as the little boy clutching him falls asleep. The tyke wakes up none the wiser.
A melancholy older Superman (Lee Liebeskind) recalls his early years and grieves over the passing of Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen.
A modern Red Riding Hood (Megan Reichelt) in a hoodie demolishes attackers in the woods while channeling Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
In “Flying V Fights: Heroes & Monsters,” the Flying V troupe has conceived of new mini-narratives for comic book, pop culture and mythological icons. Then, playing around with stage combat, they’ve framed their ideas into 13 action-packed, mostly wordless, but far from silent, episodes. The result is an engaging 85-minute set of choreographed fights, acrobatics and mimed dramas. It is fun stuff, especially for comic-book nerds, but for ordinary mortals, too, if they don’t mind being left briefly clueless now and then.
The Bethesda-based troupe has carved its niche by devising its own pop culture and myth-infused works. Some are full-blown scripts, such as the piracy/poesy plays “The Pirate Laureate of Port Town” and “The Pirate Laureate and the King of the Sea,” by company member Zachary Fernebok. Others are looser, more group-created pieces like “Flying V Fights,” of which “Heroes & Monsters” is the second installment, after last year’s “Love is a Battlefield.” A few of the 13 episodes remain frustratingly obscure to non-comic-book aficionados. But there is much to savor throughout, in fight director Jonathan Ezra Rubin’s choreographed battles across the rocky ledges and scaffolds of Andrea “Dre” Moore’s fight-friendly set and the rich (and loud) alternative rock and classical music in Neil McFadden’s sound design.
Kristin A. Thompson’s lighting adds menace and mystery throughout and in the teddy bear scene, a sweet sense of dawn breaking as the defeated monsters retreat.
Moments touch the heart: In “The Monster’s Journey,” the Frankenstein Monster (Tim Torre) fights off hostile villagers with the help of the Blind Girl (Madeline Key) and the Wolf (Jon Jon Johnson), only to lose his friends in battle. Other moments just exude magic: Three puppeteers creep on like shadows in the teddy bear tale, grab the plush toy from the sleeping boy, attach sticks to it and bring it to monster-fighting life.
One of the strongest episodes devised by the company is also a departure in tone from the others: Johnson enters a quiet saloon in “Devil at the Bar,” takes up a violin with malicious intent and fiddles “The Devil’s Trill Sonata” by Giuseppe Tartini. As if possessed, the bar patrons take to punching, stabbing and tossing one another over the bar. It is a dazzler. “The Greatest Story Never Told,” featuring Robert Bowen Smith as an everyman character, proves a total charmer of an epilogue, but one must not give it away.
Don’t go to “Flying V: Heroes & Monsters” expecting to grasp all that transpires but do go expecting to experience energetic theatrical flights of fancy, which land more often than they stumble.
By Jason Schlafstein, Jonathan Ezra Rubin and the Ensemble. Co-directed by Schlafstein and Rubin. With Tori Bertocci and Ryan Tumulty. Costume design, Brittany Graham; fight director Jonathan Ezra Rubin. About 85 minutes, no intermission. Through June 28 at The Writer’s Center, 4508 Walsh St., Bethesda. $15-$25. www.flyingvtheatre.com.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.