Whoever said that travel is broadening never met a modern-day flight attendant.
The three women of Marisa Wegrzyn’s world premiere, world-wearily funny play Mud Blue Sky, are drudges at 50,000 feet. Their backs ache, their dogs are barkin’, they figure out what city they are in by the cable TV selection in their interchangeable hotel rooms and no one ever told them in flight training school that their “duties as assigned” would include fishing soiled diapers out of seat pockets and enduring pats on the fanny from businessmen as they roll the beverage cart down the aisle.
Not to mention that the baggage from their lives follows them from city to city.
Beth (Susan Rome, greatly affecting as an older woman worn down by decades of drifting and a lack of planning or contemplation) has a back injury she tries to medicate with pot bought from a tuxedo-ed teenager Jonathan (Justin Kruger, a bundle of frustration and vulnerability), a high school dealer and budding artist. Beth is considering a crummy retirement package and a chance to start over in middle age.
Her co-worker Sam (Eva Kaminsky, exuding a desperate, jangling energy) tries to cut loose and be free spirited, but her ever-present smartphone ties her to her teenaged son, who sends texts about broken dishwashers and melted forks. Retired flight attendant Angie (Cynthia Darlow, giving her character both sweetness and resignation) takes care of her ailing mother and deals with the disappointment of divorce.
The three get together for a reunion during a layover in a Chicago business hotel rendered by set designer Neil Patel as a generic cocoon that could be located anywhere in America. Over expensive cognac, pot and cable porn, they ponder the randomness of their lives—half-lives actually, since all three seem caught in limbo between worlds and are never quite at ease or fully present either up in the air or at home.
Jonathan serves as the interloper in their little party, and also is the catalyst for what appears to be the rare moment of self-reflection. These women are not the most inwardly focused people around, instead they just go, go, go—all bustle and motion—until they simply stop.
A playwright barely 30, Miss Wegrzyn writes characters that are stooped with the weight of care and carelessness. Beth’s tiredness goes deeper than bone-deep—the air miles she’s earned have accumulated on her very soul, making her prickly and brittle. Her routines—getting high at her hotel, watching a little “Saturday Night Live”—are like something from another era, as if she hasn’t kept up with the times.
Sam, the peppy party girl, is another relic clinging to the tried-and-true—going to IHOP for junk food, drinking herself stupid, playing the Cougar card by trying to seduce Jonathan to settle her drug tab. Although quick with the hilarious, cutting quip and still somewhat unpredictable, Sam just needs to hang it up and end her hyper-extended adolescence.
And Angie, perhaps she’s the sad-sackiest of them all—alone, saddled with taking care of her mother and missing her old job, especially since anonymous hotel rooms were the only place she could sleep. Even young Jonathan is a gnarled knot of woe—dumped by his prom date, smart and awkward and grappling with a dead mother and a grieving, drinking father.
This is a lot to pack in a play that doesn’t even run an hour and a half. Mud Blue Sky starts out as a snappy, soberingly snarky show about a trio of haphazardly-living women coming together in a hotel room for a night of bitching and reminiscing.
Miss Wegrzyn is at her best capturing the insider humor and talking shop dialogue relating to the ins and outs of being a flight attendant.
Mud Blue Sky
Closes April 14, 2013
700 North Calvert Street
Baltimore, MD. 21202
1 hour 25 minutes with no intermission
Tuesdays thru Sundays
Details and tickets
There’s all that and more in Mud Blue Sky, including a maudlin monologue by Angie concerning loneliness and euthanasia and a discordantly upbeat ending that pops up completely out of nowhere, given all the sturm und drang that came before.
Oddly, everyone in the play gets their own kind of slapped-on optimistic resolution, which is jarring considering that up to this point they have not exhibited any characteristics other than unhappiness and stasis. When you get right down to it, these are not characters you want to spend a lot of time with—they are the people you’d much rather rush past as they are just passing through.
Mud Blue Sky by Marisa Wegrzyn . Directed by Susanna Gellert . Featuring Angie Cynthia Darlow, Sam Eva Kaminsky, Jonathan Justin Kruger, and Beth Kate Levy.
Scenic Designer: Neil Patel . Costume Designer: Jennifer Moeller . Lighting Designer: Scott Zielinski, Sound Designer: Victoria Delorio, Stage Manager: Captain Kate Murphy, Assistant Stage Manager Laura Smith . Dramaturg: Kellie Mecleary . Produced by CenterStage . Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.