Metro Weekly

DC Theater Review: ‘Flight’ at Studio is dazzling and imaginative

An immersive hybrid of theater and art installation, 'Flight' might be the best show you ever see inside a private booth.

Flight bu Vox Motus -- Photo: Drew Farrell
Flight — Photo: Drew Farrell

Every seat is the best seat in the house for the 25 or fewer patrons at each performance of Flight (★★★★★) at the Studio Theatre. Like travelers at a friendly border crossing, audience members pass through multiple checkpoints entering the venue’s Stage 4, awaiting take-off in a spacious waiting room.

But best be prepared to go it alone, as each passenger is led solo to a private booth where the show’s epic journey unfolds within the intimate confines of each viewer’s imagination.

Inside the darkened booth, intricately detailed dioramas, 230 in all, depict the harrowing odyssey of orphaned Afghan brothers Aryan and Kabir escaping war-torn Kabul, desperate to reach the relative safety of Europe.

Sculpted in miniature, each vivid scene is rendered with revealing depth and dimension, presented by directors Jamie Harrison and Candice Edmunds in an array of cinematic “shots,” from tense closeups to gorgeous panoramic vistas. The action is elegantly paced and suspenseful, even though the painted wood and cardboard figures don’t move.

It’s the dioramas that stay in motion, each frame or scene rotating slowly past the viewer, augmented by precision lighting, an evocative score, and sound effects that you can feel through your headphones and in your seat.

Adapted by Oliver Emanuel from Caroline Brothers’ novel Hinterland, the production by the Glasgow-based Vox Motus has toured internationally to much acclaim.

Brilliantly designed by Harrison — who’s also the magic and illusions designer for Broadway’s Harry Potter and the Cursed ChildFlight succeeds both as an immeasurably intimate audio-visual experience, and as profoundly moving storytelling.

Two brothers bound by love and hope, Aryan and Kabir reflect the humanity of millions of refugees, persevering through devastating horrors to find a place where they simply can exist safely and peacefully. Their quest, expressed in the escape mantra Aryan teaches Kabir — “Kabul, Tehran, Istanbul, Athens, Rome, Paris, London” — might cost them their lives, and certainly comes with a painful loss of innocence.

“Why,” Kabir asks his older brother, “didn’t you tell me people could be like this?” Flight resolutely captures the breadth of human suffering in the midst of war and violence, as it also beautifully portrays the fortitude and determination it takes to survive such circumstances, and pursue a brighter future.

Flight runs through March 6, at Studio Theatre’s Stage 4, 1501 14th St. NW. Tickets are $42 to $52. Call 202-332-3300, or visit www.StudioTheatre.org.

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