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?
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.