Friday, September 23, 2011

theatre notes. september skies.

S. and I headed down to the Odd Duck Studio for what we thought was going to be a sketch comedy parody of Back to the Future. I had a two-for-one coupon. We were early, so we ate a hot dog around the corner at Po Dog and then went back to the theater. Neither of us paid any attention to the posters outside the theater, which in retrospect was rather foolish of us. The Odd Duck Studio is a hole-in-the-wall theater that takes you into a little storefront with bars on the windows, down a hallway lined with various art/theater notices, widening into a small concession stand/ticket office, and then finally to the 35-seat black-box theater itself. The kid at the concession stand was perplexed by our two-for-one coupon, then politely told us it was pay-what-you-can, which only confused us further. Then we took our seats and looked more closely at the program: We were about to see September Skies, and not the Pork Filled Players. WHOOPS.

Eventually we figured it out: the website which proclaimed that Pork to the Future was "coming up next" was out of date, and in fact it had occurred two years earlier. There is something fateful and poetic about showing up two years late for a parody of Back to the Future. TWO. YEARS. LATE. It was all the more poetic because the play we were about to see instead is about fate. The story takes place on September 10, 2001 and early in the morning of September 11, 2001. The setting is Boston Logan Airport (with an interlude in a hotel bar). Anyone who has not spent the past ten years in the remote Amazon will know what will happen to these two people, who through various twists of fate and choices find themselves on the 7:45 am American Airlines flight 11 from Boston to Los Angeles. This flight left Boston on the morning of September 11, 2001, and crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City an hour later. The play ends as they board the plane, but we already know their fate, because it is written down in our histories.

It is not really fair to call September Skies a 9/11 play. The circumstances and timeline of its setting give it a kind of immediacy, an emotional connection for nearly everyone who sees it, but that is only because 9/11 is still new for us. A century from now it might be seen the way we see something set the day before the sailing of the Titanic. We all know that they're going to hit the iceberg, but what matters is the human story spread before us, and how we connect to it. And here, the story is about fate: about cancelled flights and chance meetings with someone met briefly at a party some time ago, about falling into - or out of - love, and self-doubt, and the choices we make. And how cell phones were really, really tiny about ten years ago before the iPhone came along and turned everything around again. It's an interlude, a moment between a man and a woman, where nothing is decided but for the hope that perhaps, someday, they might meet again. Haven't we all had that?

September Skies, written and directed by Jim Moran and produced by the Eclectic Theatre Company, is at the Odd Duck Studio through October 1st.

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