Flight attendants take off at Aurora Theatre
They greet you at the door, they bring you a blanket, they serve you drinks and trays of food, they make sure your seat belt is fastened, and when it’s all over and your’e safely on the ground, they chirp a cheery good-bye. Likely you’ll never see them again.
They’re flight attendants, and you get to meet three of them off duty (boy, are they off duty!), in Marisa Wegrzyn’s sneakily funny Mud Blue Sky, now at Aurora Theatre.
The first laugh in the play comes when Beth slips off her shoes in the Chicago hotel room she’ll occupy until she has to haul out of bed early next morning to serve passengers on her next flight out. The audience giggles at her groan of pleasure as those shoes hit the floor. Clearly she’s longing for a quiet night of rest, but she’s out of luck. Two sister flight attendants interrupt big time, as does an 18-year-old kid abandoned by his date on prom night.
His name is Jonathan, and he deals drugs.
Mud Blue Sky is a slice-of-life play, less a story than a series of encounters that occur after hours at an anonymous hotel—a four-person one night stand. In its 100 uninterrupted minutes you slip into the psyches of three women who have been serving passengers for many years. One, Angie, is already retired, another, Beth, is seriously thinking about opting out (she’d like to start a micro brewery), and the third, Samantha, is still hanging in there on sheer adrenaline; she loves to party. The fourth player, low-self-esteem Jonathan, gets a work-out from these women, who alternately want to use him, to mother him, maybe even to sleep with him in exchange for the high-grade pot he’s stashed in his rented tux.
If the play has a subject, it’s the lives of unmarried middle-class working women. Jetting here and there, to Paris even, may sound glamorous, but Mud Blue Sky disabuses us of that notion. The job is a grind. It wears you down, and the pay isn’t all that great. Too, it wreaks havoc with your love life and your inner clock.
Director Tom Ross deploys his actors deftly about the three-sided Aurora stage space, eliciting agreeably bright performances from them on a simple but versatile set by Kate Boyd. The production is enhanced by Chris Houston’s sound design, marked by the thunderous roar of jets, and by Cassandra Carpenter’s character-perfect costumes and Kurt Landisman’s effective lighting.
The cast is likable and savvy; Jami Jones as wry and weary Beth, Rebecca Dines as lively, game-for-anything Sam, Devin S. O’Brien as shyly uncertain Jonathan. As Angie, Laura Jane Bailey doesn’t show up until the show is nearly half over, but when she does, she supplies its finest moments in a monologue about meeting a handicapped woman on a flight and accompanying her home to her dying husband. Her quietly riveting delivery lifts the play to a higher realm.
The first play in Aurora’s 24th season, Mud Blue Sky plays on Addison Street until September 27th, followed by Amy Freed’s The Monster Builder in November. For tickets/information call 843-4822 or visit auroratheatre.org.