As you walk into Center Stage's Head Theatre, you may be reminded of the last play at the Head Theatre...that was THE MOUNTAINTOP and it featured a motel bedroom.
Well, so does MUD BLUE SKY. I thought it was like the movie "Groundhog Day". Would every Center Stage now take place in a hotel room? Well, Set Designer Neil Patel's hotel room is a little bit more modern, but it's still a hotel with the bathroom in the rear center stage.
One difference is the black and white film of old airports circa 1950's and 1960's thanks to the film made by the Encylocpedia Brittanica that is played in a loop on the back wall of the hotel room accompanied by the occasional sound of an airplane over head.
Since the play takes place nearby O'Hare Airport in Chicago, Lighting Designer Scott Zielinski opens the evening with a row of landing lights that shocks the audience. And more sounds of an airplane.
Ok, we get the idea that we are close to an airport.
Chicago's Steppenwolf's Theatre commissioned this play by young playwright Marisa Wegrzyn. It was done as a reading in November 2011. However, Steppenwolf made the decision not to present the play and left it to Center Stage to stage the World Premiere. One may ask why. In my view, it was a wise decision.
When asked to describe what the play was about, Wegrzyn said "Exhaustion". That's how I felt after I saw MUD BLUE SKY.
Billed as a comedy, I was so looking forward to a nice comedy at Center Stage. I am known as one who is not embarrased to laugh out loud. I can honestly say, I think I laughed once during the 90 minute intermission-less evening.
If Center Stage wanted to present a comedy about flight attendants, I wish they did the hysterical BOEING, BOEING.
Director Susanna Geller has assembled a fine cast though. Playing the three flight attendants are Susan Rome (Beth), Eva Kaminsky (Sam) and Cythia Darlow (Angie). Rome is a gifted actor. I was enthralled with her performance in LAS MENINAS at the Rep Stage. Kaminsky has great comedic timing. Darlow, whose character was fired as a flight attendant for being overweight, has one big scene at the end of the play and I just couldn't hear her.
The only other character is Justin Kruger, who plays 18 year-old Jonathan who has been left by his Prom Date. He's in a tux wearing Converse All-Stars. Does every costume designer (here Jennifer Moeller) use these iconic sneakers somewhere?
And what is his role in the play? He's a drug dealer who has Beth as a client. He also deals in high school and that's how he's so popular and gets to date pretty girls. Not only does Beth smoke weed, her friends Sam and Angie also partake. Does this really make sense to anyone? Here we have three flight attendants who all smoke grass? Oh...they also drink $400 bottles of cognac. Don't they have to pass drug tests?
Yes, I did not understand the premise. Wegrzyn is in Hollywood trying to strike it rich in televison. Most of the evening in fact seems like a situation comedy (without the laughs). There was a joke that while Jonathan was lying in bed next to the sleeping Beth, he put on porn on pay-per-view. There was also a joke that while Sam used the hotel bathroom, Jonathan was hiding in the bath tub. Isn't this hysterical??
The actors really give it their all. Rome tends to be a little bit stoic but Kaminsky is all fire on stage. Kruger seems to float through the evening until the end when it is presumed he may have been sexaully attackedy by Sam in her own hotel room since his tux and bow tie become untidy.
I'm always curious how the audience reacts at the end of a play. On opening night, when there is usually excitement in the air, there was only a tepid response and only a very few giving standing ovations. It was not the actor's fault or the director. It was the script.
And why is it called MUD BLUE SKY? I have no idea. It truly is lightweight.
MUD BLUE SKY continues at Center Stage until April 14. For tickets, call 410-332-0033 or visit www.centerstage.org.
Next up at Center Stage is the wonderful CLYBOURNE PARK by Bruce Norris playing in rotating repertory with the World Premiere of BENEATHA'S PLACE by Center Stage Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah. CYLBOURNE PARK runs April 10 - June 16 and BENEATHA'S PLACE runs May 8 to June 16.