The phlyax vases, as they are known, show a raised platform, varying in height, resting on wooden posts, with a decorated rear wall made from panels of wood or canvas. This backdrop often had a doorway opening onto the stage through which the actors would have entered, and occasionally had window openings that may have been employed for comic purposes. The space behind the backdrop was probably used as a tiring area, and also to store stage properties. A short flight of steps, varying in number from 6–8, stood at the front of the platform, suggesting a stage height of approximately 1 metre. Draperies were often hung from the edge of the stage to the ground to mask the wooden posts on which the platform was stood. The vases indicate that both the stage and the ground around it was used for performance, as many depict actors climbing the stairs leading to the platform or stood apart from the stage looking on.
The phlyax stage sometimes had a small stage cover protruding from the rear wall over the stage, held aloft by wooden supports attached to the posts of the main structure. These supports were usually decorated, often to resemble one of the classical orders. Other stage properties depicted on the vases, include small porches and alters, baskets, chests, tables, weapons and chairs. It is undetermined whether the stages were permanent or whether they were temporary and the property of travelling troupes. The stages appear very simple in structure implying that they were capable of being dismantled and transported. However, some scholars have argued that the stages were depicted in a simplified manner because of the limited space available to the vase painters.
The phlyax plays were mimes, and were mainly performed in the Greek colonies of southern Italy and Sicily. The subject matter of the plays was either the parodying of myths, especially the way in which myths were presented in Athenian tragedy, or depictions of comic scenes from everyday life. The characters depicted on the vases are usually grotesque, wearing padded costumes and tights, masks, cloaks, tunics, and armour, and the males are invariably outfitted with a prominent phallus.