First, a blurb of super-good news for you audience types: David Barker's astonishing one-man show, Dodging Bullets, returns as part of the 2010 Phoenix Fringe Festival (where you can catch lots of new stuff during the coming week, by the way) with performances beginning Friday night, April 2, at The Chocolate Factory; more details here.
Okay, on to this week's new review. Just as Dixie Longate still has to hustle the Tupperware, Rene Foss still flies a full schedule for "Northwasted My Life" Airlines, even though she now stars in a popular touring show and has published a book about her decades as a flight attendant. And, rescheduled from earlier in Mesa Arts Center's season, Around the World in a Bad Mood! Confessions of a Flight Attendant is here to raise our tray tables and return our seat backs to the fully upright and locked position.
Never mind whether that disillusions you about the life of an actor; plenty of professions, as Foss ably demonstrates, seem far more glamorous than they are. (Even mine.) A lot of us still travel by air, and this show's evolved since its 1998 cabaret debut to keep us feeling safe while exposing what goes into all the hard work, wacky adventures, and weird rituals of those gals and guys in the sky.
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With her two able actor-helpers, Hector Coris and Rachael Lee, Foss touches on recruitment, training, early years working "on reserve" (i.e., sitting by the phone no more than an hour from the airport, 24/7, 20 days a month), exhausting, disorienting days off in weird places, and the upside of having no close personal relationships. All this while being perky and polite with passengers who aren't always angels but sure provide some interesting stories.
And songs. The current version of the show (it's been in town before, but it's been updated, so you'll see new stuff if you come again) features fewer original songs than it originally did -- it could be that some of them have become dated or inappropriate -- but one of the most charming sequences spotlights two flight attendants (who really want to be actors, of course) trying to charm the pants off a showbiz bigwig in first class by incorporating show tunes and choreography into each bit of customer service.
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There are sections of the show where Foss just perches comfortably on a stool, God bless her, and tells us stories. Some might find it draggy, but I liked seeing her relax and connect with the audience. You can see why she's good at her job, why she's stayed with it (conditions do get better with seniority), and why she's had some success with her show and book -- which she'll be happy to sign and sell to you in the lobby afterward! (It contains material not included in the show and would make a great gift for an airline-employed loved one, I think.)
Around the World in a Bad Mood! Confessions of a Flight Attendant continues through Saturday, April 3, in the Nesbitt/Elliott Playhouse at Mesa Arts Center, 1 East Main Street. Tickets are $34 to $37; order here or call 480-644-6500.