‘Mud Blue Sky’ at CENTERSTAGE by Amanda Gunther

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Tender compassion and wicked wit come to CENTERSTAGE as the world premier of Marisa Wegrzyn’s Mud Blue Sky rounds out the remainder of their 50th Anniversary Season. In this funny new play by Wegrzyn, three flight attendants spend one night in a hotel room along with a rather unusual companion. Along the way they discuss and discover the topics of motherhood, work, missed connections, new opportunities, and prom night with an edgy sense of situational humor that engages the mind and indulges the senses. Directed by Susannah Gellert, this production blends the perfect amount of humor for entertainment’s sake with deep truthful meaning about life allowing the audience to substance beneath the humorous banter that occurs.

 (l to r) Angie (Cynthia Darlow) Jonathan (Justin Kruger) and Sam (Eva Kaminsky). Photo by Richard Anderson.
(l to r) Angie (Cynthia Darlow) Jonathan (Justin Kruger) and Sam (Eva Kaminsky). Photo by Richard Anderson.

Scenic Designer Neil Patel gives us the standard hotel room. Little accents of modern décor and fully functioning lights and a TV help to craft the illusion of location, but his real triumph is the exterior of the hotel. Portions of the play take place on the back parking lot and Patel achieves this effect by covering the stage with gray gravel so that the hotel room and outdoors are distinguished from one another. Combining his efforts with Lighting Designer Scott Zielinski and Sound Designer Victoria Delorio, the trio create impressive moments of large jets flying overhead, reminding the audience of our main character’s profession and how close they are at all times to their work.

Costume Designer Jennifer Moeller presents intricate detail in her work with the flight attendant costumes. They are crisp and sharp, a deep navy color with accentuating red silk scarves, even the little silver flight wing pin is noticeable. Moeller draws a sharp contrast between the refined uniforms and Beth’s much more sloppy laid back clothes once she deconstructs her character inside the hotel room. And the pristinely pressed prom tux for Jonathan isn’t too bad either.

Wegrzyn accomplishes a great deal of characterization in this short play managing to capture the essence of four distinctly different characters and their life stories all from the confines of a single hotel room over the span of one night. She gives us enough depth and insight to their lives to make us desperately want more and truly appreciate all we are given as their evening unwinds around drugs, porn, and the more simplistic things like soda on the pillows and artsy sketches. Wegrzyn manages to captivate the audience early on with her realistic characters and their stories become compelling, even if we’re only privy to a glance.

Directorr has chosen the perfect cast for this production, each actor fitting seamlessly into Wegrzyn’s work as if the role had been written for them. There is a strong bond between the three ladies and their instinctive nurturing energy toward Jonathan that peaks at various points throughout the play is realistic and translates with ease to the audience, allowing us to more readily identify with these characters.

Angie (Cynthia Darlow) is slightly sassy woman with a mild to wild ratio that is delicately balanced in her humorous dialogue. Darlow’s character is more dynamic than the first encounter would allow you to believe, her silly spunk leveled by captivating ability to tell a harrowing tale with the soft and gentle voice of a natural-born narrator. Darlow’s interactions with the others are more subtle, her physicality more reserved but this only enhances her character’s reality, making her moments of joy and sorrow quite poignant.

Jonathan (Justin Kruger) is where this whole mess gets started. An awkward and shy high school boy who’s just been ditched at prom and finds himself waiting to be a pot dealer for the middle-aged sardonic flight attendant— and that’s only part of his story. Kruger masters the notion of his gawky and slightly graceless existence through the vocal control he enforces, always letting his voice be subtle and soft. This allows for his eruptive moments later in the play to have a stunning impact upon the audience. Kruger has a gentle congeniality about him and knows how to time an entrance for maximum comic effect.

The flight attendants in question are Sam (Eva Kaminsky) and Beth (Susan Rome). The pair at first appear as opposite as night and day; Kaminsky being a bright bubble of boisterous energy while Rome’s character is a rather stuffy Debbie-downer sort. The immediate camaraderie felt between the pair solidifies a working relationship between them and makes the conversations, questions, and fights that occur have an organic feel to them. The pair gossips almost as if they were still in high school, a perfect device that reflects just how much alike they truly are to Jonathan.

Kaminsky carries her character with a vivacious energy, constantly physically engaging her body to emphasize her point. She exercises vocal extremes to make her character slightly grating with that overzealous punchy pizzazz, cultivating ripe moments of sheer hysteria when she delivers comic lines. Her delivery has a sharp zing allowing for maximum laughter when appropriate. There is a steep rift between her sexual prowling cougar character and the nurturing kindly mother and when these two opposing forces clash within her an explosion of emotion comes flooding out in her voice and her facial expressions, trickling down into her body. Her darker emotional side is a fierce juxtaposition to the ridiculously carefree character that the audience gets to experience early on; a well balanced portrayal with a firmly grounded reality.

Rome, as the sardonic middle-aged slightly jaded flight attendant is a versatile performer who utilizes a myriad of expressive talents to showcase the true depth of her character. Her physical panic over awkward moments of discovery is riotous and is reflected tenfold in her facial expressions making for a vastly entertaining series of situational comedic moments. Rome’s performance parallels each of her supporting actors, taking the energy from Kaminsky, the awkward notion from Kruger and the natural ease from Darlow and becomes an empathetic character that the audience truly feels for. Her character leads a double life, as most people do, one that is masked in her wry humor on the surface and the other that is much deeper darker and fully charged with fierce emotions. Rome’s performance is stellar in this role, impeccably balancing the levity of her situation with the dismal reality, finding peace in both.

Mud Blue Sky is only laying over for a brief while, so make sure you get a ticket before final boarding call.

Susan Rome (Beth). Photo by Richard Anderson.
Susan Rome (Beth). Photo by Richard Anderson.

Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.

Mud Blue Sky plays through April 14, 2013 at CENTERSTAGE – 700 North Calvert Street, in Baltimore, MD. For tickets call the box office at (410) 332-0033, or purchase them online.