The audience walking into the Dixon Place for the opening weekend of puppeteer James Godwin's one-man show The Flatiron Hex was not sure what kind of show to expect, and walking out we still weren't exactly sure what we'd just witnessed, but we can't say that we didn't enjoy whatever it was.
Taking place in Dixon Place's black box theater on a set made up of moveable countertops and two light projectors, Godwin's story begins with the man himself portraying a shaman named Wylie Walker in what appears to be a post-apocalyptic version of New York called NYORG where denizens and creatures of various deformities roam and live a media-frenzied life. Wylie interacts with a host of other characters throughout the play, all portrayed by puppets controlled and voiced by Godwin as well. The story begins with Wylie being summoned to reboot a control mechanism to prevent a storm from decimating the city, but when he finds he is missing an important tool to engage the sequence, he must embark on a quest through the city and even underneath it to locate it. Along the way Wylie finds himself up to his neck in mysteries, cover-ups and political scheming.
The effects of the show range from hand puppets, string puppets, remote-controlled puppets and even shadow puppets. The puppet work brings a fantastical and artistic element to the story, though seeing one man control all of them does have the tendency to take us out of the story. Writing-wise The Flatiron Hex drags for the first half of its 90-minute runtime as the audience is still struggling to understand the world they are suddenly thrust into and possibly confused by the offbeat humor. However, at or around the halftime mark, the story goes utterly bananas. The play falls down a rabbit hole of insanity and keeps tumbling down until its climax; this crazed second half is what saves the show from being just a bizarre puppet-filled detective story. It's like a film noir as written by Lewis Carroll. Or a Genesis music video.
The Flatiron Hex is put on by a small team including Godwin and director/co-writer Tom Burnett, whose staging had the former on his feet constantly throughout the show, setting up the puppets and getting all of the pieces into their correct places. One has to admire the precision that goes into such a production. Ultimately this is not a show for everyone, but for those with a taste for the outlandish and weird, The Flatiron Hex is a humorous ride of the imagination.