Karel Sloane-Boekbinder 
Member since Oct 21, 2016


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Re: “Review: Airline Highway

I hesitated to write this because, creativity, as Henri Matisse reminds us, takes courage. The creative urge to expose some significant truth of human nature, expose it so that we can collectively marvel at it and learn from it is what connects all artists to the act of creation. This desire to be courageous is evident in Airline Highway, is evident in every aspect of the production. I want so much to applaud this couragethe wonderful directing, acting and set design. Thats why I hesitate to express something counter. The need for bravery, especially in the truthful, authentic depiction of people disempowered by society, however, is what is driving my response.

In our modern times, bravery is not only needed, it is essential; the courage to depict people in difficult circumstances that, despite all, claim greatness. Claim greatness so that the rest of us not only witness their success, we witness that success is possible. A platform to witness the disempowered transcend through sheer force of will where they have come from and be better, productive, successful people is hard to come by.

It saddens and distresses me this act of courageous creativity doesnt go further down the road for most of the characters in Airline Highway. There is one that stands out. Sissy Na Na. Early on, we learn what she has lived through. And then we see, an early life that was broken has not broken her but broken her open; she does not wear the wounded parts of her on the outside where they could potentially wound others. Instead, she is in a visible state of transformationshe is transitioning from man to woman, transitioning from a disconnected identity into her whole, authentic self. Despite her history, as the play progresses, we see (are shown not told) that her history does not consume or control her destiny. Despite a history of great difficulty, she, unlike most of the others, is not a substance abuser. Instead, she compassionately provides round the clock care to her beloved terminally ill friend. She takes charge of festivities and organizes the decorative transformation of the whole hotel with the means she has access to. She spearheads communal song, the collective coming together to share in the grieving, celebration and honoring of her friend, beloved not only by her but beloved by many.

My sadness, my distress emanate from the lack of story arcs for the other characters. I wish there had been more like her, other characters not only empowered by the makeshift family they have created but others claiming this power and vibrancy, others transforming their destinies in spite of the places they have previously traveled through. How brave it would be to rearrange the public misconception that those initially damaged by experience are NOT forever ruined. How courageous it would be to tell stories that depict the truth of those that claim power in the face of the unspeakable, defy it as they redefine themselves.

I know some of these characters are based on real people. I know a difficult past has the ability to derail, sometimes permanently. I also know there are real-life others like Sissy Na Na that defy past and define their destiny, and, that all too often, we dont get to see these stories unfold.

Go to see Airline Highway. Be a champion. Applaud the human potential, in the midst of ruin, to move resiliently forward.

Posted by Karel Sloane-Boekbinder on 10/21/2016 at 2:21 PM

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