Back before stewardesses transmogrified into flight attendants, even flying coach could occasion a frisson of excitement. Mud Blue Sky, which just opened at the Aurora in Berkeley, shows the price of that excitement.
The action opens with Beth (Jamie Jones) entering her hotel room so wearily she’s a very likable antithesis of stewardess glamor as we watch her power through fatigue just long enough to connect with her pot dealer. This is no high-flying Barbie-stew (pun intended). She’s the take-charge one: your mother – or maybe you – keeping eyelids popped open while trying not to advertise she’s been doing it on autopilot for a mighty long time.
Sam (Rebecca Dines) is Beth’s opposite, but only because she’s younger and still game. Dines brings such an electric quality to her character that nobody’s going to be too angry at her for eliminating any possibility of sleep.
This is no high-flying Barbie-stew
Jonathan (Devin S. O’Brien) is Beth’s pot guy. This high school student is the betwixt-and-between character who’s so adolescently awkward he doesn’t protest when these ladies promise to pay later for his weed. This is his prom night, and he tries not to advertise that he’s been dumped by his date. Like the Sam and Beth, he’s stuck between worlds.
Despite the character’s awkwardness and fatigue, you’ll still lean forward to catch the dialogue between these three. Lines like “swilling in the bathtub gin of self regret” get delivered with such total aplomb it will take your breath away, and old feints – quick hide in the bathroom! – are new again.
Angie (Laura Jane Bailey) arrives midstream with a $400 bottle of cognac and infuses this comedy with a different kind of energy. Overweight, out-of-work and divorced, her life seems the inevitable outcome of a stew’s professional trajectory. However, playwright Marisa Wegryzn is too smart to follow such an easy path. Bailey’s such a skilled actress that the sweet story about the source of cognac has the effect of elevating the play beyond sitcom equivalent.
This set isn’t one of the Aurora’s more spectacular (think Mamet’s American Buffalo, and Chad Deity), but the off-stage cutaways to the hotel hallway and bathroom are so visually interesting that you’ll still wonder how the Aurora pulls off such detailed effects.
Mud Blue Sky is on stage in Berkeley through September 27.
Photos: David Allen.