15 January 2019

Notes on 'Flashcard Tangle'

Caught in the process of remembering and making sense, "the past" — to borrow a phrase from Jonathan Dollimore — may seem "more coherent than it actually was". Such is the temptation of sharing our histories, and such is the objective of storytelling.

Flashcard Tangle takes its audiences back to their childhood, straddling the line between children's musical and musical musical, between wisdom and naïveté. There's an analog feel to it: third- and fourth-graders are outside of their homes, at the playground running around, talking to each other face-to-face!

And how at once they talk like their age and not. Though it's easy to accept the wiser lines they throw. If to follow a story is to put ourselves in the shoes of a character, we would've said the same, knowing what we know now. That or I'm giving the cast less credit than they deserve.

Serious play: Thank you, The League of Avengers V for saving my Sunday from drabness.
Flashcard Tangle by Jef Flores. (Power Mac Center Spotlight, 13 January 2019)

Going by lobby chit-chat and social media posts, theatergoers generally find the production "cute". The adjective is bandied about to convey warm fuzzy feelings, endearment, fun, anything but derogatory. In fact the only time it's used in bad light is when show-runner Jef Flores shares his qualms about critics who might fault him for banality.

The C-Word is not to be dismissed. Sianne Ngai, if I may loosely quote her, describes cuteness as an aesthetization of powerlessness, hinging on a sentimental attitude towards the infantile, non-complex and unthreatening. "What we love because it submits to us." Flashcard Tangle is malleable under our touch. It makes no demand of us other than we enjoy it. But how much it gives.

You can predict plot points and see dialogues coming from a mile, yet you wait for them anyway. Jef is making some sound artistic choices here, turning the familiar into its most ideal form. Quite a tightrope act, as well, to have viewers gush instead of cringe when a misstep can quickly cause the latter. And all praises to the young actors who fill the black box with an energy that'll no doubt last a long while.

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