You decide the macabre outcome in ‘Iris and the Ax’ at the Turnkey Theater


Accessories for the “iris and the ax” at the Turnkey Theater. Courtesy of the theater

The sound is strange. The visuals are scary. The story is full of suspense.

Turnkey theater“Iris and the Ax” from “Iris and the Ax” actually has an ax – and you have to figure out who wields it and who gets hit.

Continuing their mission of presenting interactive black box theater, the six-month-old San Diego company invites you to choose your own adventure, to determine the outcome of this inventive murder mystery.

The story is set in 1870. Iris, a young Civil War widow who recently lost her parents and sister to a cholera epidemic, feels lucky to have married the charming and well-to-do Charles Cypress.

When we meet her, her car arrives right at Charles’ sprawling Victorian mansion north of San Francisco. But almost immediately, the beautiful lush landscaped retreat begins to look more and more sinister.

Some staff are robotic and non-communicating. Iris’s husband Jekyll-and-Hyde turns savagely from kind and concerned to boorish and cruel.

You figure out the choices she makes, to figure out what’s going on, and figure out why there is a strange graveyard of young women in the woods, and how she will save herself from a similar fate.

You are guided by the symbolism of the Victorian language of flowers (you can even purchase a specially curated copy of Jessica Roux’s “Floriography,” a beautifully illustrated dictionary of flower meanings that includes notes and clues to Iris’s drama. tucked away in the pages.

At a certain point in history, you may be asked, for example, to choose between Belladonna, which represents Silence, and Edelweiss, which symbolizes Courage or Audacity.

Iris plays a unique role in this production. She’s not a secondary character, no wallflower or shrinking violet. She’s the centerpiece, and she’s got agency; she is determined to eliminate the castle’s problems and take matters into her own hands.

Will she triumph? It’s up to you.

The smart and imaginative video production is distinguished by the fact that the scenes are presented as hand-drawn illustrations (created in color by Kay De, with excellent video design by G. Adam Parrocha). Sound (by Andrew Gutierrez) enhances visuals.

The characters are effectively portrayed by the voiceover of six actors, directed by Marisa Taylor Scott as Iris, Kaivan Mohsenzadah as her husband, Charles, and Jamie Boyd as Iris’s maid, Ivy. (note the names of the flowers of the women).

Multi-talented multi-union Katie B. Turner (Founder-Owner-Artistic Director of Turnkey Theater) expertly wrote, directed and produced the play, and also serves as our ghostly and macabre guide.

Another unusual aspect of this unique production: there are two ways of seeing it.

You can see an interactive live presentation on October 15 or 16. Or, you can watch anytime, on demand, throughout October.

Either way, it’s perfect for the Halloween season: ghostly, gothic, and melodramatic, with intrigue and floral informational treats.


  • “Iris and the ax” from San Diego Turnkey theater
  • Live interactive events: October 15 and 16 at 8 p.m. Tickets ($ 25 to $ 65 per device, depending on the number of people watching and participating) available on https: //our.show.irislivestream
  • On demand: online from October 1 to 31 (for $ 20 to $ 65) at https://our.show/irisondemand
  • Duration: 60-90 minutes, depending on the choices you make during the show

Pat Launer, member of American Association of Theater Critics, is a longtime San Diego art writer and Emmy Award-winning theater critic. An archive of his previews and reviews can be found at patlauner.com.







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