Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Walter Cronkite is Dead
Also see Susan's review of One Night With Fanny Brice
Playwright Joe Calarco, who also directed this production, set it up as a bridge between representatives of "red-state" and "blue-state" America and the importance of looking beneath the surface. He does provide a few small flashes of surprise behind the facades of the characters, but basically it's a case of two strangers talking and neither one listening very much.
James Kronzer's set is a facsimile of a gate area of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (not far from the theater) in the midst of a storm that has grounded all flights on the East Coast. Patty (Edelen) is a garrulous transplant from Tennessee whose flight to London has been indefinitely delayed, and Margaret (Robinette) is a lifelong Washingtonian, a dowager awaiting her son for a shuttle flight to New York where she will board a flight to Moscow. (A small quibble: Why did Calarco choose National, which doesn't actually provide trans-Atlantic service, rather than Dulles International Airport? The audience might expect some back-and-forth about the merits of the airport's namesake, but the subject of the 40th president never arises.)
Patty, with her down-home twang and her relentless need to converse with someone, anyone, explains that she has visited much of Europe with her daughter in the past, but this year the mother-daughter relationship has become strained and her daughter has decided not to go. As Margaret attempts to isolate herself with a guidebook and a carafe of wine, Patty rattles on: "This is what I do. I annoy people." Of course, Margaret's well-bred sense of politeness means that eventually she gives up and joins the conversation.
Topics that come up during the intermission-less performance include devotion to the Kennedy family mystique; concern that The Exorcist might have been a true story; how knowing how to smoke a cigarette was once a mark of distinction; and the belief that the London production of The Lion King must be better than Broadway because, after all, the British have a much longer theatrical tradition.
Both performers give the material all they can, and much of the humor and pathos come from subtle moments: the haunted look that flickers through Robinette's eyes, the sense that Edelen needs to keep movingeven if just from one foot to the other.