According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.

Friday, August 25, 2006

FRINGE 2006: Absolute Flight

Review by Aaron Riccio

The cast is all winners, and I'm not just saying that: will Amy Landon, Marishka Phillips, Cameron Hughes, Effie Johnson, Garth T. Mark or Keith Eric Chappelle be the one to fly?
Photo/Sam Rosen

In a world that already has shows as hilariously full of self-loathing as Who Wants to Be a Superhero, do we really need parodies of reality TV like Absolute Flight? Sure, why not? "Reality" is a simple, painless device that brings disparate characters into close proximity, complete with pre-installed motivations--in this case, the right to be dropped from a plane while buckled into some wings, i.e., to fly. All the author needs is some playful banter and a twist or two and a play is born. To be sure, Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich has done more than adapt a genre, but for all the manic nuances, Absolute Flight seems a bit tethered by its own substance.

To apply the play's beautiful ending to itself, Absolute Flight takes awhile to get off the ground. It runs on a tarmac made of sound bites and groveling, and only ascends when we see that the actors have infused these characters with souls, too. The more depraved, the more likeable--and these are some very likeable characters. From Michael, the "war veteran and sex-crazed cripple," to Joshua, a man "who pretends he's an alien because he's too fat to be human," to Iris, a bright young thing who constantly chirrups "I could die at any moment" (with stage-four ovarian cancer, she just might). Yes, it's that kind of comedy.

The next bit's a little choppy as it heads through the turbulence of plot development. In this case, it's a little backstage intrigue before the Season Finale, and a dramatic buildup to finding out the "celebrity" contestant's tragic past; by the second act, we've Leveled Off, and we're ready to take a plunge of glory. Blumenthal-Ehrlich piles on so many neuroses at once that there's a constant cacophony of pathos, and the actors (led by Effie Johnson) sure love smearing themselves with that muck.

What can I say? It's entertaining to watch good actors dirty themselves with dark comedy. And it's shocking to find that all this "reality" has a point: the ending pulls Absolute Flight away from those who would simply dismiss the concept as lowbrow and puerile. Nothing's perfect, but for a show about reality, this one feels just right.

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