Tonight is my third encounter in just under a year with the shadowy stranger calling itself AIRPORT SECURITY, and thankfully it hasn’t managed to file a restraining order on me yet.
My first time with AS was last July at the studio theatre of the Oiving Greenboig, where an early reading was being held for the new play by Gruppo Rubato, with something called a ‘talkback’ afterwards. I found out about this mini-event after some judicious lurking on Facebook (truly, a friend to stalkers of ALL stripes) and decided to head on along. I felt more than a bit of an outsider, as this was obviously something the players were opening up to, say, OTHER theatrical types instead of seat-filling rubes like myself. But I was still riding my post-FRINGE high and needed more stories, so off I trekked to crash the party.
The reading was sparse and informal, with no sets or costumes, actors reading off of scripts and stands, but it was still dandy fun. I recognized a load of the players from the Fringe, which was nice…Simon Bradshaw from the epic THIS IS A RECORDING, Kate Smith from WE NEVER CLOTHED, Nick DiGaetano from the sublime INCLEMENT WEATHER, Cat Leger from…er, behind the mike in the beer tent, and a few others who, in my hazy memory I THINK were Kris Joseph and Tania Levy, but it was a while ago, I didn’t really know them all that well yet, and…well, quite frankly, I’m really not that observant. Let’s just move along, shall we?
The reading covered ambitious ground, weaving a host of characters together through the satirized trials and tribulations of the modern flying (or not-flying) experience, as well as a mysterious, Kafka-esque framing device that quite tickled me. Several of the scenes in this reading would later be turned into short movies (spoiler alert!). It was obviously still a work in progress, but a layman like me was pretty jazzed at this look into the process. Afterwards, playwright Pat Gauthier asked for feedback from the audience (ie: me, and the other, smarter people around me), about what worked, what didn’t work, which actors were the ‘weak links’ (he didn’t actually ask that), etc. I naturally remained silent, cause I’m a pussy, even though I knew, in my heart of blackest hearts, that something was missing, and it was ALL about the backpacker. She was the key…but I stayed silent! Would they hear my unvoiced pleas? Would they figure it out before it was too late? Was I, in all staggering likelihood, completely and totally wrong??
Flash forward to March 31st, because who needs all that winter? And we arrive at Gruppo Rubato’s SAW Gallery fundraiser for, yes, AIRPORT SECURITY, now fully formed and getting ready to strut its stuff. But first, I presume they need cash, therefore fundraiser. I did my part by drinking heavily throughout (you’re welcome), but it really was a good night. Along with a reading of a former Fringe play, THE MAN WHO WENT TO WORK ONE DAY AND GOT EATEN BY A BEAR (by messrs.Bradshaw and Joseph, the spritely Natalie Joy Quesnel, and someone in an awesome bear costume who I think maybe was Tania Levy..?) , we got treated to the aforementioned short films. There are three in all, all available on Gruppo Rubato’s website for your lazy viewing pleasure. They include PASSENGER PROTECT (awesome), THE PASTE PROTOCOL (hilarious), and MISSING (…swing and a miss. Sorry. Nice idea, belongs in a different play. But 2 out of 3 ain’t bad..!) Like I said, a good night, I had a swell time, and my appetite was all whetted for the real deal. It was time for some AIRPORT SECURITY!!
…or, it would be two and a half months later, when it’s now. And now AS is back and ready for its debut run. Starring a virtual Justice League of Ottawa acting talent (Smith, Bradshaw, Joseph, Levy and Leger), it’s hard to see how things could go wrong.
So my night arrives, back where it all started, at the Oiving Greenboig theatre. I down a St Ambroise and chat with the barman about the play. He seems enthused, as I expected. He mentions the set, of all things, and when I get into the space, I sort of see what he means. Keep in mind, when I first saw the show, there was NO set, no props, nothing. So the presence of a pair of oddly shaped frames on either side of the showspace was interesting. Once it got going, I understood completely. Those pair of bulkheads/whatever were used to maximum efficacity, changing shape as needed like Metamorpho on a coke binge.
The play itself..? Well, the first thing I noticed was that it was NOT sold out! What the F? Did Ottawans have no class? Did they not read my Justice League comparison several days before I actually wrote it and get excited? Fuckwads. Whatever. There was a decent crowd. And our cast delivered. Like, ‘happy ending’ delivered. And that’s not even taking into account them getting Kate Smith into her underwear (thanks for that, by the way).
The show had been tidied up since my first visit, tightened, focussed. And the cast, like I said, was as good as you could ask for. Kris Joseph oozed as much smarm and/or charm as the scene needed. Tania Levy was unwavering in her main role as an overfretting flyer, and a few smaller roles. And Catriona Leger, who I’ve never really seen in any role besides ‘that charming chick on the stage in the beer tent at Fringe’, must have taken whole courses in scene-stealing somewhere, because she knocked me off my ass every time she passed by. No shit, that gal is FUNNY.
Then there’s Simon Bradshaw and Kate Smith. Individually, they’re teeny titans of tee-atricality (okay, it’s not perfect. Fuck you, get your own blog). But together…well, if there were really such a thing as comedy gold? Then Smith and Bradshaw combined are the Ottawa equivalent of the Klondike gold rush.
Everyone was fantastic. They’d pulled the show together, and made it into a great night out. Gauthier and gang deserve a good round of applause, which our crowd tonite happily gave them.
There are a few problems, natch…the ending is still a bit weak, my troubles with the ultimate fate of the backpacker remain (and I’m STILL not gonna say what my problem actually IS, because I’m probably very dumb), and one more minor foible…the name. It’s not a PROBLEM-problem, but it is kind of a problem. Just because it no longer applies.
See, those mini-movies from the website that I pimped earlier (Gruppo Rubato, I’m waiting for my cut), they used to be in the show. And they, after all is said and done, are among the more satirical pieces IN the show. So now that they’re gone…well, the name ‘Airport Security’ has a little less ring. Really, its now more of a fun show about the foibles of airport regulations than any nonsense involving what assholes refer to as ‘the Post 9-11 World’…which is what anyone heading to a 2010 play calling itself AIRPORT SECURITY would probably expect. And that Kafka-esque framing sequence I mentioned earlier seems a little further out of place in the show now…still wicked cool, just a bit more jarring. Then again, fuck people’s expectations, non?
Whatever. I’m getting too drunk to type, so here’s the final say: It’s good stuff. A touch softened message-wise, but still great theatre, with a great cast. Now hurry up and go SEE it, because it’s wicked funny. And now I have to find another goddam show to stalk.
See you at the Fringe (just a week away..!),