Sometimes it’s those who have the least to celebrate who are most inclined to show gratitude and party.
The denizens of the Hummingbird Motel on Airline Highway, the title of Lisa D’Amour’s vibrant new play at MTC’s Friedman Theatre through June 7th, are such a community.
The parking lot on Airline Highway is about to be the scene for Miss Ruby’s (Judith Roberts) funeral. Miss Ruby is still alive, however, but she is revered and her request to be eulogized while she can still hear the kind words of the mourners seems perfectly reasonable.
The inhabitants of the Hummingbird are marginal to New Orleans. They don’t live in the Quarter. They joke about never having been to the Jazz Festival. They eke out what little living they can by doing odd jobs, like Terry (Tim Edward Rhoze), or dancing in strip clubs, like Krista (the heartbreaking Caroline Neff), or hooking, like Tanya (Julie White.) Wayne (Scott Jacek) makes his way managing the Motel.
The set (by Scott Pask), the ragtag two story front porch of the Motel and the lot on the roadfront, fills the stage. A parked car doubles as a buffet table on which Tanya, with the help of Sissy Na Na (the mesmerizing K. Todd Freeman), organizes the festivities.
The only one of the Humm ingbird occupants seeking to escape is Baitboy (Joe Tippett.) Technically, he already has. He moved to Atlanta with a woman he picked up when he worked one of the clubs; she has a lot of money, a business, and a large house. Baitboy, a nom-de-guerre from his old life, is known in Atlanta as Greg; Greg brings his girlfriend’s daughter, Zoe (Carolyn Braver) to New Orleans where she wants to “research” the Hummingbird folk. Greg abandoned Krista when he left. She, despite encouragement that she reinvent herself from Sissy Na Na, can’t keep the lies she tells about how well she’s doing straight.
Airline Highway, like the Hummingbird family, has a big sloppy heart. Structurally, it suffers from having too many wonderful narrators. Structurally, it is also saved by its characters’ stories. Airline Highway repects them. by not treating them as colorful sub-cultural symbols..
The demi-monde Airline Highway depicts is operatic and grand. There is a free-wheeling quality to the play, and Joe Mantello’s direction of the superb Steppenwolf cast is excellent. Freeman and White both have well-earned nominated as Best Featured for their performances. David Zinn has the Best Costume Design nomination, and Japhy Weideman is nominated for Best Lighting Design,
For more information, please visit http://airlinehighwaybroadway.com/