by Ed Malin · May 24, 2015
Travel writing can be considered literature. Everyone from Dumas to Che Guevara wrote travelogues. In our age, where airline magazines offer travel ideas albeit with a distinct agenda, it may be time to ask “is any of this stuff real?” I spent a couplet of hours enjoying Jenny Lyn Bader’s take on this in her new verse play In Flight, directed by Jessica Bauman.
Vera Martinelli, a.k.a Marty (Danielle O’Farrell) is tasked with hiring travel writers for the Omega Airlines in-flight magazine. As Marty's demanding boss, Melanie (Ginger Grace) points out, it’s a business where an unthinking mistake like publishing a great article about a destination Omega doesn’t serve could be the end for a writer . Marty and Art (Rajesh Bose) have a variety of possible recruits, some of them far too creative to fit in. Andrew (Drew Ledbetter), a meticulous man, is hired to go write about Brazil, Bhutan, and other unforgettable places. Another writer, Ted (Jackson Thompson), prefers to plan everything in advance and pack light. He has a grey journal which goes well with any trip to Eastern Europe, and asserts that one must bring soap to the Czech Republic, for they now know what it is but still haven’t figured out what it’s for. He goes into great detail; his description of local jams is jam-packed. But it is Andrew whom Marty finds lovable. Andrew, who can’t find a word for the color of the sea. Aquamarine won’t cut it.
At the top of Act II, following a costly, failed rescue attempt, Marty, Ted, Melanie and Art talk about the deceased Andrew in ways they never would have used when he was alive. Sadly, Andrew was caught in the tumult of the Bhutanese revolution and only his charred visa identification was found. When Marty is left alone to grieve, Andrew appears with story in hand. His ignorance of the trouble overseas stems from his having written his article in the library, in quest for the real Bhutan. Ted and Andrew are booted out (with some debate over how to print a retraction of an obit), and in the corporate shakeup which follows, Marty finds a way to leverage her knowledge of Melanie’s misconduct and become ruler of the travel world. Will she finally have what she has always wanted? Is there some way she and Andrew can find a new lease on love? Is there anyone for Ted? Actually, there is. Her name is Page (Lynette Freeman), she has Ted’s old job, she’s going to New Zealand, and she, too, has got a little list.
Verse plays can surely take you to wonderful places. In this charming effort from Turn to Flesh Productions, we are asked to consider if the way we feel about a place is more real than what we would see if we went there. The verse is very amusing, as is the sardonic incidental music (“Straighten Up And Fly Right”, “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”, et cetera). With the meter running, the talented cast is free to express so many outstanding and outlandish truths. Elli Engstrom’s set, replete with a map of the world on its side, shows us that life is what we make of it.