Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Come from Away
Also see Zander's review of My Name is Asher Lev
Unexpectedly, airplane passengers destined for other locales are currently heading for the town of Gander in Newfoundland. Claude (Kevin Carolan), mayor of Gander, and others must ready the town for the arrival of some 7000 individuals. Humanity speaks most positively as village residents rise to the task, which involves basic necessities: food, lodging, and so forth. Meanwhile, passengers and airplane crew members find themselves trying to figure out just what is going on as they are not allowed to leave the planes. Hence, they sing "28 Hours/Wherever We Are."
Eventually, they find themselves amid the good people of Gander. The company sings "Darkness and Trees," which is most appropriate since Beowulf Boritt's snappy set includes very long and hovering trees. (Those who have read Richard Powers' prize winning novel "The Overstory" might make a quick connection here: people and trees (tree trunks in this case) living together.)
Not surprisingly, the passengers are disoriented and fretful, worried about members of their families, concerned about survival. That said, they are stunned and heartened by and with the hospitality evidenced by new friends. Their fears, however, are real. Hannah (Danielle K. Thomas) is terrified since her son is missing in New York City.
Still, some manage to spend time at a local hangout. This passes for normality. Relationships, too, are possible (or not): one pairing has potential while another seems destined for failure. Thus, within the context of the story, with book, music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein, there's both compassion and passion. Instead of mass hysteria or heightened anxiety, people show better sides. Come from Away is a story based on true happenings and speaks mightily of Canadian generosity.
Cast members play the people in the town as well as the people on the plane. The transitioning is swift and fluentnobody misses a beat. While no song is really memorable, the tunes are catchy and performers deliver with zest or, at times, more wistfully. A group of musicians situated at the back of the stage remain mostly unseen until the presentation draws to a close. Joyously, they come downstage to celebrate.
Director Christopher Ashley helps the production to fully realize its promise. The set includes wooden chairs and tables, and Ashley does well to move the spirited ensemble group of actors around and about quickly. It is most suitable that the stage is not overloaded; instead, dialogue drives this lovely play forward. Hannah (Danielle K. Thomas) is appropriately emotional while Beulah (Julie Johnson) is most giving in her role as a woman who will house many of those passengers who simply need to find a place. Kelly Devine's musical staging is beneficial.
Michael Rubinoff, based in Toronto, developed the concept for this show which is, by turns, exciting and touching. Sankoff and Hein became involved and furnished the script. The 12 actors who move from one character to the next are disciplined and delightfully versatile.
At the performance I attended, however, the sound system was less than reliable. From the outset, actors' delivery of some individual words was difficult to decipher. This was typically not the case as company members sang together. I hope the situation has been remedied.
Come from Away, through May 5, 2019, at the Bushnell Performing Arts Center, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford CT. For tickets, call 860-987-5900 or visit bushnell.org. For more information on the tour, visit comefromaway.com/tour.php. .