It’s Thursday night. You and your friends don’t know what to do. It’s New York City, so you want to see something live. But what? Everyone has an opinion. Do you go see a comedy? A drama? A musical? Grab drinks? Maybe just something short. Nobody can agree. All seems hopeless.
Enter Serials, a must-see late-night competition at The Flea Theater. Teams of actors perform five “episodes” of five original serial plays, ten minutes each. All genres welcome. Audience members vote on their top three. The winning serials continue the next week with a new “episode.” The losing serials get canceled, and the team starts again next week with a new premise. But there is a catch: each episode is written in the week leading up to the performance, and teams have only six hours to practice before showtime.
The creativity on display in Serials is endless. Two of the plays, “The Amazoning Race” (writer Gina Femia) and “Raise Your Glasses,” (writer Marina Tempelsman) featured original songs. The sci-fi thriller Swan Song, a new pilot (writer Oscar Cabrera), was performed almost entirely in eerie silence. Serials feels a lot like Saturday Night Live would if the SNL cast decided that comedy was too limiting a genre. It’s professionals pushed to new, strange places by pressure and competition, and the results are pure pleasure.
The performers are all members of The Bats, the resident acting company for The Flea Theater, and the shows are directed by some of NYC’s most exciting freelance directors. The night’s MCs, Peter McNally and Annie Perales, provide banter between the performances and a recap for returning stories, one of which was on its 8th episode. Each attendee gets a drink ticket which they can use before the show or during intermission.
The format is ingenious. A returning customer will never see the same show twice, and faithful attendance is rewarded with new episodes of their favorite stories. About half of the audience had seen Serials before, and I got the feeling that the show has a dedicated following. The mood is friendly and welcoming; the MCs handed out ice cream sandwiches to first-time attendees at the top of the show.
Serials provides something uniquely modern and millennial to the theater: a sense of ownership and shared interaction. Swipe right if you would like to see more. Swipe left if you’re not interested and you might see something completely different next week. If you’ve seen Serials once, you’ll want to come back again and again.
Serials starts at 10 pm at The Flea Theater and lasts about an hour and a half with an intermission. Tickets are available here.