Innovative verse play takes on the world of the in-flight travel magazine.
Turn to Flesh Productions is a new theater company taking New York by storm. Their goal: to produce modern plays in a classical style, by which they mean in verse. This month's play from their workshop series, In Flight by Jenny Lyn Bader, takes place in the very modern world of an in-flight travel magazine office, and is written in rhyming couplets. Trust me, it actually works.
The play opens with Marty, the editor-in-chief of the Omega travel magazine, interviewing applicants for an open travel writer position for the magazine in a humorous rapid-fire style. Under pressure from the owner, Melanie, Marty hires Melanie's less-than-brilliant son, Ted, as well as Andrew, a novelist with no travel writing experience but prose that makes his new boss swoon.
Marty quickly develops a preference for Andrew, which leads to a full blown affair. Things are suddenly thrown awry, however, when a rebellion breaks out in Bhutan while Andrew is visiting. But all is not what it seems, and Ted throws another wrench into the mix when he discovers damning evidence about Omega Airlines' business practices that could land his mother in jail.
As this was just a staged reading, with actors using scripts and music stands and only a small world map on the back wall for a set, the audience was able to really focus on the text. You can drive yourself crazy trying to catch all of the rhymes, which are obvious in longer speeches but harder to find in short dialogues, but once you let go of that desire you can truly enjoy the language. The rhymes allow some moments to be musical and others to be silly when the actor has to make the odd rhyme work. Each character develops their own distinctive voice within the verse--Andrew's romanticism, for instance, or Ted's innocent immaturity.
If there is a moral of this play, it's that writing is sexy. For a play about writers, the verse form was a perfect choice, and Andrew's way with words and ability to see the beauty in every situation seduces the magazine's readership as much as it does Marty. There is also something wonderfully ironic about the fact that this story of far-reaching places centers around an editor who herself is afraid to travel, so that those foreign majesties have to be constructed through words.
Getting Off Too Easy?
Bader's play is brutal with its plot twists, but ultimately resolves itself with a rather sugary ending. Marty wins love, autonomy in her job and overcomes her fear of travel, at little personal cost. While Adrianna Dufay performs the role with the right combination of awkward humor and grace, the resolution still felt to me like a writer's fantasy. Redemption is likewise a little too easy for the charming Andrew (Rajesh Bose) who cannot admit his faults, and for the puppy-like Ted (Daniel Tracy) who is not a good enough writer to keep on but manages to stay anyway.
The playwright could definitely afford to be a little harder on her characters, but the actors did a great job bringing this story to life. It's a play that would only work in verse, which is a success for everything Turn to Flesh stands for. The workshop series continues next month with Tornado Dreams by Anne Dimock--for more information, check out their website.
This article was previously published on CHARGED.fm.