Below is a review of Red Flags by Capital W, premiering at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. While there are no major spoilers, we do discuss general themes, thoughts, and feelings.
I met Emma online. She is beautiful, she loves Jane Austen books, she is a writer. Yeah, her profile revealed that she is a little unsure of herself and is disappointed in life itself—but isn’t everyone? We settle into a booth at a quaint café, and within minutes, we’re joking about me murdering her on our date, intimately discussing her parent’s divorce, and looking at numerous pictures of her rescue dog.
I can already tell, this is not going to be a normal date.
Red Flags, a new immersive theater experience by Capital W, is a brutally honest exploration of dating in modern society. The entire hour-long experience consists of you and Emma, on a date. It’s exciting, it’s interactive, and it’s incredibly immersive. The date may be fictitious, but it feels as real as any other first date I have been on. It is a real moment between two people—no matter what you call it.
Emma herself is an amalgamation of multiple bad date horror stories. While a single date with an endless barrage of red flags could have quickly devolved into a comical caricature, Red Flags never does. This is due to both writer Lauren Ludwig’s genuine dialogue and actress Lauren Flans’ powerful and raw talent. Together, they bring Emma to life. But it’s Flans who imbues her with a vulnerability and honesty that is refreshing in today’s dating culture. Her worries, her fears, and her insecurities are broadcast across the table, unashamed of what you might think.
The beauty of this is that it creates a safe space for you to share as well. I found myself opening up to Emma and sharing secrets and fears that even surprised me. At one point, while discussing our pasts, Emma looked up at me, commenting on a pattern she noticed in my answers. Together, we worked through something that I was even unaware of about myself.
Despite her many flaws, Emma is incredibly likable. The way Emma would smile nervously when I complimented her; the way she squeezed my hand when I described what our life would be like; the way she never hesitated to share her fears with me, as if to say: if you want to be with me, here’s the real me. This honesty was refreshing. I found myself wanting to validate Emma’s words, make her feel heard, and help her overcome her struggles. Flans portrays Emma with such an affable affection that even I looked past some of her larger flaws. It’s this aspect that I find most interesting. I accepted Emma for who she was and decided to help her. Others might be more offended by her behaviors—maybe even chastise her for her transgressions. Each person will have a different threshold for what is a red flag. Exploring that aspect of yourself in the safety of a theatrical experience is something truly unique and something most of us will never have the pleasure of doing outside of Red Flags.
I walked away from this experience feeling connected to another person. While other one-on-one experiences in the past felt overly scripted, Red Flags felt natural and organic. We progressed from getting to know each other, to revealing secrets, to an ending that even made me surprised at how I felt. While this was my experience, everyone’s will be different, depending on their responses. Some will dislike Emma, others will just tolerate her, and some may even fall for her on the first date. This is the beauty, and the hardship, of dating. We all have different walls up, different vulnerabilities—but the unexpected connection that I felt on a terrible first date will be treasured for a long time to come.
Red Flags is an intimate journey exploring the worries and fears in dating. It puts two people together and forces them to be present and to share, and may even lead to an unexpected connection on a bad date. This is the beauty of Red Flags: it is unapologetically real and honest. It will make you feel something for Emma; it will push you outside of your comfort zone; and it will leave you inextricably intertwined with someone who was a stranger only hours prior. If you are a fan of interactive theater, want to feel something real, or just yearn for a connection with another person—I urge you to see this show.
Red Flags is written and directed by Lauren Ludwig, is produced by Monica Miklas, and stars Lauren Flags. While Red Flags is currently sold out during the Hollywood Fringe Festival, Capital W is currently planning an extension; to find out when tickets go on sale and to sign up for their mailing list, click here.