Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Mud Blue Sky

From left, Tara Sissom, Jamie Jones, Elisabeth Nunziato and Alexander Pannullo
deal with a 7-Up explosion in "Mud Blue Sky,"
on stage now at the B Street Theatre in Sacramento. Courtesy photo

 There was a time when many high school girls wanted to be stewardesses (in the era before men were allowed to serve airline passengers and they became “flight attendants.”)

There was something about the glamor of the life, flying all over the globe, serving famous passengers. The dress code was strict, there was a set weight limit and girls learned how to wear the proper amount of makeup so they always looked perfectly beautiful. The life was glamorized in the recent television series “Pan Am.”

Marisa Wegrzyn’s “Mud Blue Sky,” now on the B Street Theatre’s Main Stage, shows the reality behind the glitz and the glamor. The life of constant layovers leads to many nights in dingy hotels, absurdly early mornings and much time spent away from loved ones.

While this script is very funny, the work probably should be more properly considered a “dramedy” for the moments of pathos and sensitivity it displays. But mostly it’s just knee-slapping funny.

The setting is a dreary hotel near Chicago’s O’Hare airport and Beth (Jamie Jones) has just checked into her room, one of questionable cleanliness. She’s exhausted, her back hurts, and she just wants to be alone.

Sam (Elisabeth Nunziato), however, is ready to party and tries to entice Beth into a night of drinking and carousing. When not trying to play the party girl, Sam is on the phone dealing with her teenage son spending his first week at home alone, and feeling guilty that she isn’t there to help him with the problems he is encountering.

Beth seems desperate to get Sam out of her room, supposedly so she can get some sleep before their 5 a.m. wake-up call.

Nunziato and Jones have worked together so much over the years that watching the sparring between them in this play is like watching old friends bicker.

As it turns out, Beth isn’t planning on sleeping at all, but is meeting her teenage drug dealer, Jonathan (Alexander Pannullo), in the parking lot to buy some marijuana from him to help her get through the night. He has been her supplier for a couple of years and they have an odd friendly relationship.

It’s Jonathan’s prom night and his date has ditched him to go out with other friends. He looks rather lost in his tuxedo selling drugs to a middle-aged woman in a parking lot.

Pannullo is new to B Street and one might think he came from the young people’s program, so convincing is his teenage Jonathan. In fact, he is a UC San Diego graduate with a solid list of theatrical credentials behind him.

Jonathan ends up in Beth’s room to collect money from her, where he is discovered by Sam, who is later joined by Angie (Tara Sissom), a former flight attendant who lost her job because of her weight problems.

The dialog among these four souls, each at loose ends over what to do about their various concerns, is rapid-fire and funny, but there is an undercurrent of sadness for all of them. There is Sam’s guilt over being an absent mother, Beth’s decision about whether to take a severance package and leave the job before she is fired, Jonathan’s angst about what to do with his life and Angie’s apparent happy life, hiding how much she misses the camaraderie of the flying world.

There is no real plot to this show, and no real resolution at the end, but it’s more like sitting around with some old friends, having a few drinks, laughing and sharing memories. Like taking a brief flight, the passengers/audience can enjoy sharing the moments before the plane lands and the play ends.

Opening-night patrons are always treated to champagne and hors d’oeuvres at the end of the play. This night, we were greeted with Styrofoam containers of airplane-like dinners and bowls of peanuts. It was the perfect way to keep everyone in the mood for a while longer.

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