review: wings

Wings

By Arthur Kopit
Directed by John Doyle
Featuring Jan Maxwell
Second Stage Theatre, 305 West 43rd, 4th Floor
production web site:
http://www.2st.com/component/option,com_plays/task,viewPlay/id,138

October 24, 2010 — November 21, 2010

Reviewed by Martha Wade Steketee
October 23, 2010

Emily Stilson (Jan Maxwell) surrounded

It’s a quiet thing, these life moments of transition.  One moment Emily Stilson (Jan Maxwell) is reading a book in a chair, and the next medical interventions and swirling people in white and a life changed and continually changing. A stroke begins our play and layers of perception — sound, light, meaning, relationships — provide us with the balance of a sixty minute experience.  Yes, it’s Wings.  And for a very special month, Jan Maxwell and an able cast of men and women portraying doctors, nurses, and fellow patients present a delightfully orchestrated, often painfully poignant, and always mesmerizing experience of an independent woman, once a wing walker and aviator in her youth, suddenly forced to see life through a stroke and her rehabilitation.  Altered perception on stage from the inside out, with an arc toward gradual wellness.

This is a woman who has lived a life, apparently has been married, is a woman of some means we glean from her clothing and her private medical care.  We feel her struggle to understand the words around her and to articulate her own thoughts.  A particularly heartbreaking sequence of dialogue mid play evokes a whole world of forgetting for me.  Emily reports visitors from earlier one day: “My children came to visit.  At least they say they are.  I’ve never seen these people before in my life.”  Gasp.

The set (Scott Pask) and lights (Jane Cox) and sound (Bray Poor) and projections (Peter Nigrini) are choreographed by director John Doyle to work seamlessly with the words by playwright Arthur Kopit and create a quickly shifting world of images, sounds, sights — from memory and stroke altered perceptions of our core patient and hero Emily.  The sweet mostly double and triple cast medical professionals and fellow patients complete the sixty minute experience.

© Martha Wade Steketee (October 28, 2010)

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