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|A CurtainUp Review
Charlie Victor Romeo
-- The original review by Les Gutman
"Well, I guess I won't be flying anymore."
That quote is not from one of the pilots in the throes of an actual aircraft emergency in Charlie Victor Romeo. It's from my theater-going companion on our way out, and it is one measure of the powerful way this work resonates for its audience. It may not be typical theater fare, but I'd be hard pressed to remember the last time I saw something more theatrically effective.
"Charlie Victor Romeo"represents the code words for the letters "C," "V" and""R," which form an acronym for "Cockpit Voice Recorder," the black box that gives air safety experts a guide to the causes of air catastrophes. This play puts us in the cockpits of six planes as the pilots wrestle, mentally and physically, to save the aircraft, the passengers and themselves from impending doom. It's harrowing and, although your first instinct might be to dismiss this as a sick downtown stunt, don't be deceived. The creators of this show take their subject as seriously as it demands. They are fastidious and, if the airline experts who've seen it are to be believed, exceptionally realistic.
There is, you will notice, no playwright credited in the box below. That's because the dialogue we hear comes directly from transcripts of the six black boxes. They reveal things about what happens "up there,"some of which we probably would rather not know. We see everything from heroism to panic, from professionalism to incompetence.
Most people will recall at least some of the accidents replayed here. They range from a relatively happy ending (no fatalities) to the deadliest single-airplane accident in aviation history; some transpire with frightening speed; others unfold with achingly slow terror. The latter, though painful, offer unmatchably profound insight into what it is to be human. Arthur Hailey's Airport pales by comparison.
The cast is extremely capable, rendering each of the six scenes with extreme realism. A simple set, in which the audience looks over the nose of the plane into the cockpit, is quite effective. Of equal or perhaps greater importance is the sound design Jamie Mereness has engineered to give the audience the feeling that it is a part of each of these flights, but without over-reaching to manipulate emotions that, quite clearly, are already very much in play.
At $10, this production is certainly a bargain. Then again, as the saying goes, even though you're paying for the whole seat, you'll only use the edge.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co. Click image to buy.
Mendes at the Donmar
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.