Special to Road Unraveled
GUEST AUTHOR: Craig Mathias, Theater Correspondent
Hi – me again. Yes, the chili pepper guy. I understand that piece on Hatch, New Mexico, was a rather popular article, so many of you already know that I like spicy food. Well, here’s another personal tidbit: I love the theater.
I’ve been to dozens of live-theater performances, around the world. New York. San Francisco. London. Even high-school theater in Ashland, Massachusetts. Comedies. Tragedies. Histories. Experimental. I’ve enjoyed, well, most of them, and I usually write off any production that I didn’t like as simply being not for me – and likely anyone else, for that matter. I’m tough – but fair – in my reviews.
And, Road Unraveled being a travel site, I think my love of the theater is in fact a consequence of my love of travel. What better way, I ask rhetorically, to soak up some local culture than to visit the theater? Now, many theatrical productions, especially of the Las Vegas variety, are technological marvels with so much complexity that computers, robotics, and similar stuff are required to pull them off. Yes, I also enjoy these, but I personally favor simpler productions that live or die on the skills of the performers. I would have been right at home 4,000 years ago in ancient Greece, riveted by the simple but powerful humanity of the cast. Why, I would have sailed all the way from Phoenicia to catch one of those. Did I mention that I also love sailing? And that perhaps because of its link to a similar past of simplicity and dedication to craft and adventure.Anyway, I was recently in New York City, beginning, like many of you, I’m sure, a cautious return to getting back out there, and going to NYC without seeing a play is, as I understand it, a serious violation of both federal and state law. Not wanting to be locked up any more than I already have for the better part of the past two years, I was happy to see quite literally anything on Broadway or nearby, these venues having reopened only in the past few months. My traveling companions selected Come From Away, a play I’d – never heard of, knew nothing about, and thus would not have even remotely suggested myself, had I even been asked, and I wasn’t. I did see a performance of the opening musical number by the Broadway cast on one of the morning TV shows, but this presentation didn’t strike me one way or the other. OK, a musical. I like those. Fine.
All I knew was that this play was about Canada. So I expected an hour and a half of jokes about Tim Horton’s, Molson and/or Labatts, back bacon, the curious Canadian pronunciation of “about” and “process,” hoseheads (whatever they are), and Rush’s Great White North song and video. I am pleased to report that all of these except the first one above are completely absent from the production, and there is only a single mention in passing of that.
So what is this play really about? Well, I’m not going to tell you. You will find no spoilers here. Yes, feel free to search the Web. But, trust me; the less you know, the better. As is often the case, fewer expectations yield maximum impact.
Is it a comedy? Yes, it is. Is it a drama? Yep, one of those, too. A musical? Also the case; the band, by the way, is fantastic to the point of exceptional, and the singing is positively divine as well. The cast, apart from the musicians, is just six men and six women who play multiple roles each, often shifting quickly between them. The staging is as simple as it gets – a bunch of mismatched chairs and a few tables that are rearranged often but with a subtle precision that again attests to the skills of the actors and producers involved. The only nod to technology is that the central section of the stage rotates, and to great effect when necessary. Similarly, costume changes are rapid but also subtle, but accompanied by dramatic changes in the very personality of a given performer that catch and ride a particular moment. And ride they do – the performance so good that you’ll likely find, as I did, your spirit renewed. And I needed that.
So, without giving away anything in the story, the real power of this wonderfully simple production is in how it whipsaws your emotions. One moment you are trying to hold back the tears – tough to do with a mask on, but bravo to Broadway for putting safety first – and literally a second later you are laughing so hard that once again your mask is a mess. Bring a spare. Regardless, the story is so powerful that I suspect anyone not deeply moved by it simply has no soul.
So, did I love it? Duh, of course I did! Is it one of the finest stage productions I’ve ever seen? Yes, decidedly so. Should you see it? Absolutely, you should. And, after reading this review, do you really need to know what the central topic of this production is, or are you already planning a weekend in the Big Apple? I hope it’s the latter.
Bottom line? This is why we travel: seeing something wonderful you didn’t even know about, being somewhere because the experience would be impossible elsewhere, and, really, simply enjoying being alive. But, OK, granted; travel isn’t 100% back yet. Masks are a pain. But if this Broadway play – yes, this simple, powerful statement of the fundamental, courageous essence of the human spirit – can’t get you back out there, then, well, let me know. I’ll find you something. Chili peppers, perhaps. Or maybe sailing.
More Information: ComeFromAway.com
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* From time to time, our travels are directly impacted by a service or company. This post includes a candid review of our experience seeing Come From Away on Broadway in New York City. We selected this event based on our own research and travel needs; we were not offered and did not receive compensation of any kind from them or any other party in exchange for our review. Learn more about our travel philosophy here.
About The Author:
Craig Mathias is a seasoned world traveler, having visited almost 25 countries on five continents as well as almost all of the United States. He is also a published author, columnist, former elected public official, inventor, conference organizer, and popular speaker at a wide variety of events. Craig’s goal is travel to at least as many countries as his daughter, who is in the lead at the moment.