San Diego, CA---The first and last time I had an overnight delay on one of my trips to Israel, was in Atlanta. If I tell you that I nearly fell apart, believe me! I ended up in some gawdawful hotel room after midnight and checkout time was ten the next morning. My next connecting flight to Ben Gurion Airport was scheduled to leave at eleven PM. That was fun!
In between their flights in the friendly skies, flight attendants, for the most part spend off hours in seedy hotel rooms waiting for their next flight out. To tell the truth, I never thought much about it. It looked like a glamorous job, flying all over the country, etc. But I guess there’s a limit to how much is glamor and how much is routine and not so much glamor.
It is in this setting, an average hotel room outside Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, that playwright Marisa Wegrzyn sets her new play “Mud Blue Sky”, now in a spiffy and witty production at Moxie Theatre, through June 8th, that we meet up with three (two now and one early retired) flight attendants.
We first glimpse Beth (DeAnna Driscoll), who is what one might call a germ free freak, because she all but disinfects everything she comes into contact with including using her own pillow case instead of the one provided for by the hotel.
She quickly washes her hands, barely touches the comforter as she pulls it down and quickly changes from her work clothes to her own comfy sweats and hoodie rubs her sore back and checks her text messages. She gives a cursive look out the window and answers the door when the knock interrupts her reverie.
She reluctantly opens it to fellow flight attendant Sam (Jo Anne Glover) who looks just like she came out of a bandbox, uniform still spiffy looking and not one hair of her blond…well hair out of place. They begin talking about Angie (Melissa Fernandes) their former co-worker when Sam checks the window and notices a teenager dressed in a tuxedo. Sam surmises he is either going to or coming from his high school prom.
What we learn about him will rock the socks off you making this Wegrzyn’s latest play so darn quirky and funny and yes, thought provoking that it will spark conversation later.
This is not the first time Moxie Theatre has showcased Marisa Wegrzyn’s works. Others include “The Butcher of Baraboo”, “Ten Cent Night” and more recently her 2009 “Hickorydickory” for which she won the third annual Wendy Wasserman Prize given a female playwright under 32 who has yet to reach international attention. As a side note, Jennifer Brawn Gittings walked away with a trophy from the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle in 2012 for Scenic Design for their production of “Hickorydickory”.
In “Mud Blue Sky” three very vulnerable women and one slightly misguided young man come together one fateful night in what some might call coming to Jesus moments when they all spill out their fears, wants, aches, pains, problems at home and facing certain future uncertainties. It is by no means a soap opera. It’s real, it touches on their every day concerns and leaves you to figure out the rest. I like that.
At first both women chat aimlessly about their ‘stuff’. Sam has dishwasher problems at home that she expects her teenaged son to deal with (“Plastic forks in the dishwasher?”) and Beth complains about her chronic back pain. After they decide who will pay the cab driver in the morning, Sam leaves and Beth makes it down to an area on the side of the motel where she meets up with Jonathan (J. Tyler Jones). Yup, the same tuxedo clad high school kid they saw from the window.
She pulls cash from her pocket and he hands he a small sandwich bag with a joint in it. They make small talk about why he’s not at the prom, whether or not he should go to Caltech and she kvetches about her back. She offers advice on his decision not to go away to college but he’s determined to stay on the east coast with his father.
She confesses that she’s ready to retire from her job, layoff’s, good retirement package, etc. Eventually he ends up in her room along with Sam who wants in on the action and eventually, Angie whose sorrows pour out of her like the $400.00 bottle of cognac she brought to share.
Jennifer Eve Thorn directs with a sure hand giving her actors room to be. DeAnna Driscoll’s Beth, at the center of this storm, is picture perfect as the pot smoking, mother figure on the verge of going over the top but holding it together long enough to give one outstanding performance. She’s hilarious and her timing is right on. Her interaction with Jones’ Jonathan, who is young enough to be her son, is pretty funny as they play off one another. Jones, whose boy/man looks are as charming as they come, tilts the comedy just enough to put these three mid life crisis women off guard but in a comical way.
Speaking of timing, Jo Anne Glover’s Sam is right on the button with hers. Both awed and amazed all at once her expressions are priceless especially when she learns that Jonathan was hiding in the room (no spoilers here) and especially when she turns on the TV and a porn movie is showing. On the other end, her concern about her son and their lifestyle strike a solemn note. Holding up the rear, Melissa Fernandes’ Angie, the one dumped by the airline (for excess poundage) and is now left to take care of her invalid mother has the most heartbreaking and sorrowful tale to tell and she does it with truth and conviction.
Maria Bane’s basic hotel room look and side alley trash cans and chain link fence set is wonderfully generic, Jennifer Brawn Gittings costumes are just right and Sherrice Kelly’s lighting with Matt Lescault-Wood’s sound design round out the technical side that when combined with the fine acting and directing of Moxie’s crew make theatre exciting and accessible. It’s worth a try.
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through June 8th
Organization: Moxie Theatre
Production Type: Comedy
Where: 6663 El Cajon Blvd.
Ticket Prices: $20.00-$27.00