Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Airline Highway @ The Samuel Friedman Theater

The Hummingbird Motel is the church where retired burlesque club owner and prophet to those with “bad luck, bad tempers” who suffer “no bullshit, no pretending” conducts one last sermon to her congregation of duckies in “Airline Highway by Lisa D’Amour and directed by Joe Mantello. Miss Ruby is about to meet her Maker so her flock is going to give her a send-off complete with booze, music and tortilla chips-be-damned in the place where they “don’t bury all [their] dirty stuff under the sidewalk.”

With young Zoe, guest of former resident bad boy, as the witness to the event, her query for high school sociology paper on subcultures spotlights the “messy and honest and real” lives of these morally questionable misfits. The characters, as colorful as the streamers and a New Orleans funeral procession have mostly reconciled the ghosts of their past, integrating them into their lives. And where they haven’t, there is inconsolable grief and heartache. Miss Ruby scolds all for letting the world make them feel small and disposable. Her greatest encouragement is to revel in the mystery of our sexual selves.

Thoroughly entertaining, the cast delivers an authentic presentation of these down-and-out, has- beens, wannabes, and parental disappointments in such a way to endear them to us. We are at once grateful to not be in their situation while also envious of their loyalty and dedication to each other. For them, there is no greener grass; reflecting upon what might have been is a luxury they cannot afford. And in that place, they find freedom where there is “no magic fucking fairy dust” to give them any delusions about who they are and their place in the world.

As I left the Samuel Friedman, I saw several of the cast mates out chatting with the matinee crowd. Maybe that it was the first warm, sunny day in the City for months had something to do with it, but it seemed more likely that these people truly enjoyed what they created and presented to us and were happy to bask and reminisce.

Opening night is April 23 and I say “Go!” And then maybe make your way down to New Orleans for some beignets at Café du Monde where you can sit and watch people, much like the Hummingbird Motel residents, headed home in the wee hours, who will ask nothing of you other than to live your life the best you can and to not forget them.

Review By: Michele Seven
Photos By:Sara Krulwich

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