by Shirley Lorraine
Flight Delays Spark Reluctant Acquaintance
Theaters must have a back-up plan when the scheduled season runs into bumps. At the Ojai Art Center Theater, the cancellation of a scheduled production of Blithe Spirit created an opening that held an opportunity for two accomplished actresses, Jill Dolan and Sindy McKay, to reprise their roles as strangers in an airport in Walter Cronkite is Dead by Joe Calarco, now playing through October 16.
The two appeared in the production in 2019 at another venue. Having seen and enjoyed that one, I was entranced by the way the two slipped into their roles like donning a comfortable old coat. The staging employs the original, effectively simple set by Tom Eubanks as well as recorded “airport” announcements that are well worth paying attention to.
Margaret (Jill Dolan) is a woman embarking on her first air flight ever. She carries considerable mental baggage and a large measure of fright. It doesn’t help that a raging storm has delayed or cancelled flights, leaving passengers to languish in the few sparse waiting areas of the airport. Her attempt at calm is interrupted by the arrival of hurricane Patty (Sindy McKay), a seasoned traveler and compulsive talker.
Margaret is significantly uptight and minimalistic, while Patty is casual, slightly chaotic and curious. To Margaret’s dismay, Patty’s belongings and manners spill over the “shared” space in unapologetic abandon.
On the surface, the two appear to be from completely different worlds and situations. As time passes and delays continue however, they discover numerous similarities and eventually even enjoy each other’s company. The journey of their plight is a mixture of amusement, tension, pathos, reflection, realizations and acceptance.
Considering the current weather conditions on the East Coast, I couldn’t help but think of how a version of this scenario is probably playing out in many airports across the globe. How timely.
The dialogue reminds one to see beyond oneself and be kind to fellow travelers who may be struggling with the conditions both outside and below the surface.
As so often happens in unfamiliar public surroundings, one never knows what to expect. Both actresses are so at ease in their roles, neither missed a single, solitary beat as their table suddenly became shorter on opening night, not once, but twice. The audience reacted more than the two did, carrying on without a hitch. Kudos, ladies.
The 90-minute production is played without intermission so sit back and just enjoy the interaction. Curtain time for this production is 7:30 and you won’t want to miss the “intro” of Walter Cronkite giving the news.
There is nothing like live theater, in my opinion, to transport one to other worlds and embrace viewpoints and thoughts of others. I recommend attending Walter Cronkite is Dead. Time well spent.
Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. The Ojai Art Center is located at 113 S. Montgomery Street. www.ojaiact.org (805) 640-8797.