HERE ON THE FLIGHT PATH
by Norm Foster
Surrey Arts Centre
Arts Club Theatre Company
This was Jerry's review of the
production when it opened at the Granville Island Stage in January.
Imagine a horny, middle-aged divorced guy sharing his thoughts about three attractive women who move in next to him over the course of three years. The sitcom scenario conjures all kinds of awful possibilities from airheaded jiggle-comedy à la Three’s Company to the gross-out misogyny of a Howard Stern radio show.
Fortunately, in Here on the Flight Path popular Canadian playwright Norm Foster takes the high road without neglecting the laughs. In the Arts Club production of this modest play, first mounted at Gateway Theatre in 2004, two of Vancouver’s most attractive comic actors adeptly manage material that’s funny, quietly intelligent, and sweetly tender.
John (David Mackay), a newspaper columnist mildly bitter about his failed marriage, hangs out on his balcony somewhere near an airport, drinking beer and talking a lot about what it means to be a man looking for sex. His interest is definitely engaged by the three women who successively occupy the apartment and balcony next door: hooker Fay, aspiring singer/actress Angel, and broken-hearted Gwen—all played by a variously bewigged Jennifer Lines. John’s relationship with each of them turns deeper and more complicated than either he or the audience expects.
At its best Foster’s writing is both funny and thoughtful, as when John proposes that courting couples should exchange resumés and a five-year lease take the place of the marriage license. The script gives John two or three big laughs a minute and Mackay makes the most of the character’s sharp wit with great comic timing and a deft delivery. He nicely underplays John who subtly grows from something of a jerk into a genuine mensch.
Lines does naive, jaded, tough, and devastated with equal skill. She really knows how to work a comic line, from Gwen’s matter-of-fact reference to her painful post-love poem (“Love Is a Tar Pit”) to Fay's pointed cynicism: "Men are like kitchen tile—you lay them right the first time and you can walk on them for 20 years." Her naïve, wired Angel comes close to bubbling over the top but Lines pulls her back just in time and makes her raucously funny when rehearsing Angel’s first audition or belting out her personal anthem, "Don't Rain on My Parade." When Angel finally gets a part—in Positively Ahab, a musical version of Moby Dick—her big number is a love song called "Whale Be Together Again."
Director Rachel Ditor nicely manages the transitions between sillier and more serious moments, broad comedy and quiet introspection. Don’t expect anything too ambitious from this show. Despite the roar of jumbo jets on the soundtrack, the flight path of these lives is more like that of a small prop plane. It doesn’t aim too high or too far but flies along just fine.