EVERY DAY A LITTLE DEATH
“The choices a person makes every single moment of every single day can have far-reaching repercussions that are not always readily apparent, or even thinkable. This is the premise of Anthony Jaswinski's play Airport Hilton, an eerie, touching, and ultimately thought-provoking work that was recently given a smashing production by the intrepid Invisible City Theater Company. Tautly directed by David Epstein, Airport Hilton plays fast and loose with time, place, and perception, twisting and turning with an almost cinematic precision. Everything is familiar, nothing is what it seems, and every time it looks like Jaswinski has inserted a stock plot device, the next scene shifts everything around with an unexpected turn that shakes up all preconceived notions. It was intoxicating to watch, especially given the uniformly superb performances of the high-powered ensemble. Gerry Lehane as Paul, a husband faced with the death of his pregnant wife in a plane crash, defined unbearable loss with just the simplest of emotive gestures; Cecelia Frontero perfectly captured the officiousness of corporatespeak and yet managed to be genuinely sympathetic at the same time; Maggie Bell gave stunning life to the memory of Lauren, the wife; and Elizabeth Horn, one of the most adept comic actresses on the scene, stole the show with her hilarious yet moving portrait of a former security professional, Susan Piper, who has lost her lover in the same disaster. Also excellent were J.T. Patton as a security guard kept on his toes by Piper, and Kristin Woodburn as the woman conducting an adulterous affair with Paul, conveniently in the same airport Hilton where all of the "survivors" have been summoned. In keeping with the tautness of the production, it was designed by Gaye Niver-Agi to be as spare and uncompromising as necessary, and Jason J. Rainone lit it with white-hot precision. Winner of a 2004 OOBR award for their scintillating production of The Beggar's Opera, the Invisible City Theatre Company is one to watch, as is Jaswinski. Who knows where they will go next? Wherever it is, it is bound to be surprising, definitely challenging, and most probably wonderful.
A TERMINAL LIFE
"What life do you live in? This philosophical question, in all of its glorious ambiguity, begs a response from both those who hear it, and those who ask it. It simply cannot, nor should not, be ignored. Six simple words that, when appropriately arranged, wield the uncanny ability to elicit an emotional response, if not an intellectual self-debate. If you couple this query with the topic of air travel, the connotation of tragedy is unavoidable. And it is the answer to this question that lies at the heart of the Invisible City Theatre Company’s latest production; Anthony Jaswinski’s Airport Hilton. Jaswinski’s heart-wrenching tale concerns itself with Paul Cowler (Gerry Lehane), a middle-aged lawyer who attempts to reassemble his shattered life in the aftermath of a plane crash that has claimed the lives of his wife and unborn child. In the depths of his hotel room, Paul confronts his past, considers his future, and struggles to reconcile his guilt over an extra-marital affair. The world-premiere production plays itself out at Manhattan Theatre Source, ICTC’s resident venue. The small, unobtrusive 50-seat house enhances the intimate nature inherent in Jaswinski’s script, complete with an exposed set that is reminiscent of a rehearsal studio. Think of it as a playground for the imagination, elaborate and rich on an individual level. Director David Epstein is to be commended on his staging of fluid, if not seamless, transitions between scenes that chronologically conflict. In his hands, the audience is safely whisked through disparate periods of time that prove to be an aesthetic asset to the production rather than spectator vertigo. This is a director that larger, more “professional” houses could benefit from observing. Similarly, credit is to be given to the entire cast. Gerry Lehane’s (Paul) performance is both moving and impactive. Through his demure approach and wonderful simplicity, the audience is left to savor the cathartic fruits of his labors. Cecelia Frontero (Annette) plays the comforting counselor in a manner that is authoritative yet vulnerable. Frontero’s mere presence is, at times, the tonal embodiment of the scene. Elizabeth Horn’s performance as Susan, Paul’s fellow “survivor” and confidant, is both bold and remarkable. Horn’s strong presence counters the more unassuming LeHane’s beautifully without being overbearing. This alone merits a return trip. Despite its heavy theme, Airport Hilton has some extraordinarily funny moments that, as is evident in all good dramatic writing, provides the audience with emotional breathers. And, while this structure may seem formulaic, the payoff is a production that leaves its audience contemplating the shadowy recesses of human mortality."