“Airness” – The Phoenix Theatre Company

Theater Review – March 10, 2019


Hormel Theatre, The Phoenix Theatre Company
Phoenix, AZ

New plays are always exciting especially if the playwright is also relatively untested.  Audiences approach such a play with no expectations and they wonder if the characters will be unique and if the story is different and interesting.

Such is the situation with The Phoenix Theatre Company’s “Airness” by Chelsea Marcantel.  The local production is only the third time the piece has been presented.  The title refers to a new music phenomenon where performers simulate guitar strumming while miming but not singing rock tunes.  It has evolved into national competitions where the artists neither play a real guitar nor sing.

Unfortunately, there is nothing about “Airness” that appeals.  Watching performers fake guitar playing while mouthing a song’s lyrics is dull so the play drags on and on.  This jab has nothing to do with the six-person cast that tries against impossible odds to make this monotony vibrant.  No matter how hard the cast works, the bland material goes nowhere and no one will care as the characters ramble boringly.

Set in a seedy Staten Island bar, five performers are rehearsing for a national competition as they try to perfect playing non-existent guitars.  The competition involves creating moves to accompany the songs so that the phony gyrations help the performers sell the rock tunes.  Insecure Nina walks into the bar as the five perpetrators offer Nina different encouragements designed to overcome her fears.

Pasha Yamotahari’s staging is restricted by Aaron Jackson’s sleazy bar setting that results in tediously repetitious entrances, exits, and performances.  As the play progresses and the script develops no nuances and the characters never change, you guess correctly what will happen.  Nina is the only character to change minimally, so the coaching of the others and demonstrations of what might help pull Nina out of her funk become predictable.  The staging can’t help that inevitable script weaknesses.

Michelle Chin worked hard to make Nina’s insecurities penetrating but even this fabulously gifted local performer can’t succeed.  Alyssa Chiarello brought a dollop of sincerity to the Cannibal Queen who seems to be fighting her own doubts.  Michael Kary’s unusual red hair wig made him a bit amusing as Shreddy Eddy while Victor Cervantes Jr.’s gold leggings and richer security made him forceful as Golden Thunder.  Caleb Reese’s D Vicious is the group’s most assured performer and Marshall Glass’ Facebender is the group’s showiest.

“Airness’” plot is dull, the characters create no interest, and the rock theme makes the show an atypical entry for The Phoenix Theatre Company’s audience.  If the show’s selection is designed to attract a younger audience, the boring script will forever keep this group away from theater.  “Airness” continues to March 31.  For tickets, call The Phoenix Theatre Company box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: C