Directed by Robin Witt
Produced by Griffin Theatre, Chicago
At Theater Wit
Moving tribute to the resolve of common Britishers to experience love as they struggle with war.
Based on his actual experiences In World War II, playwright Terence Rattigan’s 1942 drama, Flare Path opened in London during the Blitz to appreciative audiences who risked being bombed to take in the tribute to the common English airmen. In 2012, Flare Path was revived in London directed by Trevor Nunn to sold out houses. The Griffin Theatre Company’s production of the wartime masterpiece, Flare Path, is the Chicago premiere. This impressive production proves once again that Griffin Theatre Company is one of the finest non-Equity troupes in Chicago!. Under the leadership of Richard Barletta and Bill Massolia, Griffin Theatre has both selected marvelous plays and presented outstandingly crafted productions.
With Flare Path, set designer Joe Schermoly has transformed Theater Wit’s space into an impressive hotel lobby evocative of those rural small hotels in rural England. This one is near Lincolnshire close to an RAF airbase. Mrs. Oakes (the wry Mary Poole) houses British airman in her establishment. The play takes place in 1942 in one day. We meet the airman: the tail gunner Sergeant Dusty Miller (Dylan Stuckey), Count Skriczevinsky (Gabe Franken), the Polish pilot, and Lieutenant Teddy Graham (Joey deBettencourt), the ace Wellington bomber pilot. All three are visited by their wives this day. Countess Skriczevinsky (Vanessa Greenway) lives at the hotel but Maude Miller (Lauren Pizzi) and Patricia Warren-Teddy’s wife (Darci Nalepa) visit their spouses. We quickly grow to like this band as they realistically present the humanity of the common folk.
But when they are visited by a English born, American heartthrob film star, Pete Kyle (Paul Dunckel), things take an unexpected turn. Patricia knows Kyle well and we wonder why Kyle has arrived in Lincolnshire? She seems to love the adorable Teddy. But when Squadron Leader Swanson (John Connolly) arrives to announce an urgent night bombing mission, the visits by the spouses are delayed by war efforts.
The play vividly depicts the fear and the worry those on the ground suffer while awaiting the return of the airman. Realism reins here as playwright Rattigan’s attention to the customs and habits of the English during the war is presented. Kudos to costume designer Brandon Wardell for the authentic RAF uniforms (my pet peeve is inaccurate military uniforms) and the period perfect female dresses and hair. That , together with the fabulous set, and the rich authentic accents, makes this production channeled 1942 Britain.
As we learn to like and care about all the airmen and the wives, and the energetic waiter, Percy (Daniel Desmarias), we see how love, loyalty, and honor bind the women to their men. We also see how Patricia is torn between her passion for Kyle and her duty as a wife to the vulnerable Teddy. What will she do as Kyle arrives to take her away? While all wait for the airmen to return from their bombing mission, the fear and tension permeates. Director Robin Witt has her dedicated cast fully engaged. Darci Nalepa is wonder as the conflicted soul; while Joe deBettencourt is terrific as the fun-living dashing pilot. The entire cast was flawless. Each character is fully developed.
You’ll quickly become engaged with this heartwarming understated drama. The subtle humanity and wholesomeness of these average folks will win you over. You’d be hard pressed to find better ensemble acting than that of the Griffin Theatre’s cast. The play is well written and structured as it catapults us back to the dark days of WWII. Don’t miss this gem!
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: January 17, 2013
For more info checkout the Flare Path page at theatreinchicago.com
At Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont, Chicago, IL, call 773-975-8150, www.griffintheatre.com, tickets $32, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission, thru February 24, 2013.