Sunday, August 21, 2011

Five Flights

Convergence continuum’s FIVE FLIGHTS stumbles on opening night

In its New York run, Adam Bock’s FIVE FLIGHTS was called “an intricately constructed comedy about love and grief that is incredibly funny, surprisingly touching and soaring with joyful humanity.” I wish I could say the same thing about the convergence continuum production. Unfortunately, on opening night, with some members of the cast fighting to just remember, let alone make sense of their lines, the pauses, stumbles, and oft panicked looks on their faces, took much of the very breadth out of the production.

The script which is about religion, belief, love, and loss is divided into four sections: "The Narrative", "A Vision", "The Mad Scenes", "The Conclusion . . .plus,” and " A Little Dance.”

The plot revolves around three adult siblings whose father, in an act of devotion to his recently dead, bird-loving wife, builds an aviary in his wife’s honor to house a bird which landed on him during her funeral. He perceives the feathered creature to be his wife’s reincarnation. After both the bird and the father die, a decision must be made about what to do with the now decaying edifice, which, in reality, is a metaphor for the various flight patterns each of the lives of the participants takes.

The decision is left to three siblings, two of whom we meet during the play. The deciders are sensitive Ed, who was hurt by a gay relationship gone bad; his sister Adele, who is steered into decisions by her love for Olivia, a fanatical preacher of charismatic religion who wants the site for her church; and Jane, the compulsive wife of Bobby, the never seen brother. The confusion is compounded by the entrance of Tom, a hockey player who falls in love with Ed.

Zak Hudak (Ed) and Clinton Elston (Tom) shortly after first meeting look at each other. Hudak with his huge deer-caught-in-the-headlights eyes, Elston in his macho way, move forward, try and figure out how to wrap their arms around each other, awkwardly move their bodies in formations that would create the right contact points, figure whose nose goes to the right and whose to the left, and awkwardly kiss. Then all hell breaks loose and the duo is a tangle of flying body parts. It is a classic bit of theatricality…hysterically funny yet sensual.

Besides the kissing scene, Clyde Simon’s direction gives a fun interpretation to viewing a ballet in which the characters’ eyes and heads bob in time to Tchaikovsky’s music. Unfortunately, the timing was not exactly right, so the effect was somewhat lost.

Simon, who relishes titillation, inserts a nude locker room and shower scene. Though it may appeal to some of the con con audience, the nudity adds little to the development of the play, itself.

Hudak gives a nice textured performance as the conflicted Ed. A master at facial comedy, he creates a humorous, often pathetic yet appealing characterization. Elston, as Ed’s want-to-be lover, is convincing, and has both the physicality and the macho hockey player mannerisms needed for the role. They play well off each other well.

Elaine Flagler is overly strident as Jane. She screams most of her lines in a hysterical high pitched whine. The usual competent Laura Hammer (Olivia), stumbles through her lines. It’s hard to tell whether the blank spaces in dialogue are caused by her forgetfulness or she is getting the wrong cues. Jaclyn Cifranic (Adele) has some nice moments, but never seems comfortable in the role. Robert Branch, as Andre, Tom’s hockey playing buddy, has some funny moments, but has an off-putting accent.

Capsule Judgement: Based on the opening night performance, it’s pretty hard to judge con con’s FIVE FLIGHTS. After the cast learns their lines, the delightful and meaningful script might take flight. As of now, it, like the aviary in which it takes places, is in need of some repair.