Annie Lanzillotto in The Flat Earth
(© Alex Ruhland-Syquia)
Annie Lanzillotto in The Flat Earth
(© Alex Ruhland-Syquia)
Annie Lanzillotto is eager to rediscover a sense of community. That's abundantly clear from her charming solo show The Flat Earth: WheredaFFFhuck Did New York Go?, being presented at Dixon Place, in which she laments the effects of gentrification and paints a nostalgic glow on how New York used to be.

As a kid, Lanzillotto and her friends would perch up on top of a mailbox and tell each other stories. Perhaps that accounts for the writer/performer's dynamic ability to weave her tales in such a compelling manner. She discusses being evicted by her landlord, her hospitalization for cancer, the bureaucracy involved in petitioning the city for low income housing -- which includes needing to have a mailbox with your name on it before even getting an application -- and touring friends around the city and being amazed about how much of what she remembers is simply no longer there.

There are some raunchy elements to her stories, such as when she describes making out with straight girls on the pier to the music of Earth, Wind, and Fire. At times, her words are also quite poetic. Noting how a traffic light's green lens was not working, she talks about how she "crossed in the absence of red."

The play's title references the flattening of the earth that was necessary to pave roads and erect buildings in Manhattan. "New York has a destiny of glitter," she asserts, holding up a piece of schist taken from underneath the city that does, indeed, sparkle like glitter. Her vision of New York is romantic and utopian, but Lanzillotto also expresses a frustration and anger that acknowledges the disconnect between her love of the city and the rising rents and corporate interests that are changing the feel of various neighborhoods.

Alex "Ducky" Edginton-Giordano's set includes working traffic lights that are mounted onto a bench press that Lanzillotto actually lifts at one point. It's a clever visual metaphor for attempting to raise the city up through sheer force of will.

Throughout the performance, Lanzillotto keeps repeating how she can't do things alone anymore. She involves the audience at every stage of the show. Even before it properly begins, she walks amongst the crowd, greeting old friends and introducing herself to those she doesn't know. She brings people on stage to assist with certain segments, and to close the evening, she brings everyone outside and around the corner, inviting patrons to get up onto the blue mailbox on the corner of Prince and Elizabeth Streets and tell their own New York story.