Attended tonight at Longstreet Theater an interesting play that blended elements of drama, dance, music, acrobatics, and model building. What, you say? Well, read on. The University of South Carolina's Department of Theater and Dance (cosponsored with Pacific Performance Project/East) presented Robyn Hunt's Flight, directed by Steven Pearson. Standing in for all heroic women aviators who struggled to touch the skies during the infancy of flight are two turn-of-the-century actresses who also are pilots, temporarily on leave from their day jobs as Paris actresses, as they assemble a plane that has been gifted by a generous benefactress so that they might make a long-distance flight to challenge male-dominated skies. They are part of an emerging feminist movement that seeks equality in suffrage, education, professional opportunity and to shed the restraints (such as clothing restrictions) that hold them back from acheivement, and that denies them their place in the historical record when they do great things. This strain is represented by the filmmaker Alisse, determined to capture the beauty and danger of the two female pilots' efforts. Rounding out the cast is Jean Luc, narrator and guide, and a fellow actor and friend, best known for his role as Peter Pan, Gerard. The playwright blended in elements from historical theater as the actors worked through their frustrations and fears. As the play unfolds the cast literally constructs a half-scale model of a plane on stage. Cudos to whomever made the airplane; it was simply beautiful and elegantly constructed in a manner that allowed the actors to fit it together with style and grace. The plane is almost another character. The play was an interesting study in motion, almost oriental in its precision, and an amazing amount of practice must have been involved to choreograph the intricate dance of construction and storytelling.
The actors were all very good and the presentation smooth. The production could have benefitted from a better sound system or individual mikes. Often words and lines were lost or confusing, even out of the mouths of the senior actors Eric Bultman (Jean Luc) and Robyn Hunt (Alisse). Clearly these two had a positive chemistry. Lenne Klingaman (Madeline) was strong in her role, and most often was the most-clear speaker. Jessi Noel (Sophie) was good, but a bit soft spoken, and I struggled at times to understand what she was saying. Will Shuler (Gerard) rounded out the cast and did a nice job, especially with the piano and accordian. Sadly these plays have so few performances, which seems unfortunate in light of the tremendous work that went into crafting the props and preparing the actors. I especially liked the hanging chari used to represent flight simulation. I bet Bultman and Klingaman never got as great a workout ever in a production. I don't know how many young actors got to participate and learn from this performance, but the actors and crew were a credit to the university.