The Layover: Flight Cancelled, Lies Told, Lives Altered
@ Second Stage Theatre
Flashes of old film noir on the many monitors lined up across the stage set the scene beautifully for Second Stage Theatre’s last show of the 2015-16 season, The Layover. Opening with a modern airport lounge esthetic and a cool engaging first scene (fantastic scenic design by Mark Wendland; lighting design by Japhy Weideman), two people, seated beside each other on a plane about to take off, strike up a conversation. As directed by Trip Cullman and written by Leslye Headland, this first moment is both inventive and sexy, and surprisingly engaging. Annie Parisse is impressive as Shellie, making great use of the energetic and smart dialogue she is given, and we are instantly intrigued by her. As we are with Adam Rothenberg as the handsome suave gentleman, Dex, who engages with librarian-sexy Parisse in the flirtatious dance of two people destined to be entwined. It’s a great beginning.
The film noir parallels don’t really start appearing in the text until maybe the third scene once these two attractive leads find themselves stranded in the airport lounge having drinks, and only at that moment, do we get a flash of where this might be going, and we are right, but not completely right. We see black and white images being flashed across the monitors along with airport departure information. The design of this play is stylistically on point, and each visual is a clue to where we think this is going (beautiful and detailed video design by Jeff Sugg). Is Shellie the femme fatale of this noir story? Thematically, film noirs were seen to center on beautiful cunning women of questionable virtues. Should she be trusted or is she weaving a web of deceit? Is Dex the stereotypical male lead lured into the victim role by this mysterious woman? Will there be a crime of passion or a deception that will change their lives for ever?
These are the thoughts that passes through our minds. One has to wonder, “can we ever really know someone or trust someone we just met or are we destined to project what we want to see and hear?” This is the question we are given to contemplate as we watch these two tango while they deal with a cancelled flight on the night before Thanksgiving. Both tell their story and reveal themselves to one another, and we believe them. Our sympathies are given to Shellie. We are suspicious of Dex’s intentions. But we quickly discover what is real and what is fantasy, and are left to try to unwrap and understand these first few scenes. Each scene forward reveals the lies and the truths in ways that are surprising. The Layover makes us question our first impression impulses, leaving us to wonder where the play will take us. Up to this point, the stares across the stage into each other’s lives thoroughly engages.
It seems like a great compelling ride so far, played out well by the cast of characters. I won’t spoil the surprises in store by telling you more about their roles and associations, but the cast (Quincy Dunn-Baker, Arica Himmel, John Procasccino, Amelia Workman) delivers well enough. The film noir concept has a driving force, playing with our, and their desire to believe in the fantasies of another that are concocted based on first impressions and story telling. In today’s age of internet dating and romance, this is more relevant now than back in the day of noir. But sadly, Headland loses sight of where to take this, and how far to run with it. Parisse is brilliant in the last scene, with Sherrie trying so hard to play the femme fatale role that she thinks Dex wants, but she gets it all wrong. Dex’s confusion and disillusionment is palpable as the fantasy crumbles in front of him, but ultimately the play falters here, and doesn’t lead them down a path that feels right or true. We are left feeling the same as Dex, disappointed and confused, wondering how all of this lead to this final mise en scene, and all because of a cancelled flight on a snowy night at the airport.
By Leslye Headland Directed by Trip Cullman
Featuring QUINCY DUNN-BAKER, ARICA HIMMEL, ANNIE PARISSE, JOHN PROCACCINO,
ADAM ROTHENBERG and AMELIA WORKMAN