Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Margin Notes: In Flight

Jackson Thompson and Danielle O'Farrell as Ted and Marty.
Photo by John Hoffman.
In Flight

Seen on: Monday, 5/11/15.
My grade: B+

Plot and Background
Marty runs The Omega Traveler, an in-flight magazine for a major airline, and is using her background in literary journals to try to bring a sense of poetry and adventure to an otherwise dry arena. Trying to hire two new writers with that particular flair, battling creative control from her boss at the airline, and also exploring that little thing we call a personal life, Marty must confront the question of what is more important - poetry and distance, or reality and experience? Written in rhymed couplets, Jenny Lyn Bader's new play is produced by Turn To Flesh Productions, which specializes in new plays dealing with modern themes, written in classical styles.

What I Knew Beforehand
I'd seen a few of Turn to Flesh's previous productions and had a generally favorable opinion of them. I knew this was a new play entirely in rhyming couplets. I think that's it.


Play: There's a lot to be admired here - the craft of the thing, the fact that the rhymes didn't feel forced, and that I caught only a few slant rhymes when listening for it. And the idea of it, of trying to reincorporate a sense of poetry, of vivid imagery, of time actually spent describing a thing, into a travel magazine, to reintroduce the romantic notions of travel and experiencing life ("An in-flight magazine - but it's intense!") - this was all very appealing and infectious. Marty's struggle to find a balance between the ethics of poetic perfection and a flawed reality, a dream versus a life lived, was elegantly placed against the office she never leaves, opting instead to send out writers to report on places she's never been. However, the seemingly randomly-inserted subplot of corporate corruption felt shoe-horned in, and more a means to an end (the acquiring of magazine control) than an actual character- or idea-exploration. The argument with Melanie didn't enlighten us further to Marty's arc, nor really to anyone else's. And I could argue that she was too quick to forgive spoiler for spoiler, but why ruin the fun for you?

Rajesh Bose as Art.
Photo by John Hoffman.
Cast: The cast mostly handled the verse writing competently, with Danielle O'Farrell as Marty and Rajesh Bose as Art shining the brightest as they made their text sparkle (indeed, Bose should get an MVP award for his performance: not only was he consistently funny, entertaining, and completely comfortable with the heightened language, the night I saw it he was working with a spasming hip and could barely move - and he was still wonderful). O'Farrell managed well the balance Marty must keep between letting herself get swept up into poetic dreaming, and staying grounded in the reality of running and editing a magazine. As for her two writers, Jackson Thompson's listmaker Ted had an earnest - if clownish - likability, and Drew Ledbetter's novelist Andrew had a roguish though pretentious charm to him. Lynnette R. Freeman brings an infectious energy to Page, one of the other candidates, and exudes warmth and intelligence. Ginger Grace's Melanie seemed to struggle more with her lines and the rhythm of the thing than the rest of the cast, but in a way it worked for the show - after all, she's the least at ease with the poetry Marty is trying to incorporate into the magazine to begin with.

Design: Elli Engstrom's set is a mix of utilitarian - Ikea-esque desk and shelves - and poetic - a large floor-to-ceiling window section on which Chelsie McPhilimy's fanciful lights are projected, and (her most stunning piece) the painting of the ancient-looking world map, starting on a wall panel and spilling across the floor. This dichotomy is a wonderful match of form to content - reflecting the conflict of poetry within an in-flight magazine for an airline. Nicole Slaven's costumes are somewhat less successful - while the economy of Marty's ever-changing cardigans is to be respected, and while Page's African prints and turbans were stunning, high-powered CEO Melanie's mismatched suits felt cheaper, less coordinated, than a woman in her position should allow herself to appear.


Running: Now playing at The WorkShop Theatre (Turn To Flesh Productions) - Opening: May 14, 2015. Closing: May 23, 2015
Category: play in verse
Length: 2 hours, 5 minutes, including intermission.

Creative Team

Playwright: Jenny Lyn Bader
Director: Jessica Bauman
Designers: Elli Engstrom (Set), Nicole Slaven (Costume), Chelsie McPhilimy (Lighting), Iris McElroy (Sound), Alissa Sumerano (Prop), Carman Lacivita (Fight Choreographer).
Cast: Danielle O'Farrell, Ginger Grace, Lynnette R. Freeman, Rajesh Bose, Drew Ledbetter, Jackson Thompson.

Drew Ledbetter as Andrew. Photo by John Hoffman.

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