Moxie Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Boulevard, Suite N, Rolando
$27 - $40
Marisa Wegrzyn’s serio-comedy takes a behind-the-scenes look at off-duty “people persons.”
The scene, done in vivid, stereotypical detail by Maria Bane, is room 208 of a, let’s be kind, modestly priced hotel next door to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. When Beth enters, the stark brown stripes down the walls don’t put her off. Nor does the mechanical clacky-whirl of the bathroom fan. She’s too tired.
But not tired enough to inspect the room for bedbugs with the expertise of an international spy debugging electronic kibitzers.
It’s clear that Beth knows a thing or two about public accommodations.
When she landed the job, Beth became a “stewardess.” Now, many years later and contemplating retirement, she’s a “flight attendant.”
Her feet are screaming, but not as loud as her aching back. She’s got a 5:30 tomorrow, so maybe just toke a spliff — purchased from a 17-year-old in a tuxedo – and hit the hay.
Deanna Driscoll plays Beth. After she mutely sets the scene — her feet really hurt, that room needs inspecting — Driscoll gives a deeply felt, down-home funny portrayal of a caregiver with battle fatigue.
Beth’s probably seen more of the country, and more of humanity — first class and coach — than most Americans. And she’s got grisly stories to tell (of sexist drunks and used diapers). But, darndest thing, she isn’t just a “survivor.” She still holds out for an upturn.
Wegrzyn’s 90-minute script has a few lulls, usually when shifting gears, but throughout Driscoll gives a pitch-perfect, outstanding performance.
Room 208 becomes a mini-convention for the service industry. Along with Beth, her co-attendant Sam (an appropriately icy Jo Anne Glover in a terse blond wig) drops in. Sam has a child at home wreaking havoc, and a roving eye. And, given an impulse to have others wait on her, it’s hard to believe she waits on others for a living.
And it hurts to hear that Angie (“a cautionary tale”) was laid off two years ago and hasn’t been the same since. Melissa Fernandes’ Angie tells a story, near the end, guaranteed to coerce tears, and underline a subtext. Among other things, Mud Blue Sky is about being “really alone.”
Typical Beth. She tells young Jonathan “don’t believe anything you hear,” fixing him with a look that says, “believe me.” Jonathan sells varying grades of marijuana. Smart enough for Cal Tech, un-socialized enough to have his prom date dump him, which is why he wears a rented tux, Jonathan gets an education and a half in and around room 208. J. Tyler Jones strikes a nice balance between a veneer of cool control and baffled innocence undereneath.
In a sense, Jonathan-the-pusher also works in the “service industry.” By play’s end the expression becomes an oxymoron, since the industry is number-crunching the service out of existence.