The words “Don’t be Afraid” are scrawled on the blackboard backdrop in the first couple minutes of When Last We Flew, which is winding up its run at Diversionary Theatre. Turns out it’s a directive for the restless characters of Harrison David Rivers’ play about being judged and oppressed in Middle America at its most judgmental and oppressive. This is the second time this season Diversionary has landed in Kansas – last summer’s much superior Harmony, Kansas precedied Rivers’ play, which is directed by Colette Robert. When Last We Flew, a non-musical fantasia openly admiring of Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer-winning Angels in America, is nowhere near that epic. But its account of a couple of confused and truth-hungry high schoolers (Cordell Mosteller as Paul, whose refuge is the bathroom and a worn copy of Angels, and Rory Lipede as Natalie, who gets to travel by tornado) and those who love them (or want to love them) is earnest and articulate. The overt flying and feathers imagery notwithstanding, When Last We Flew does elevate the mind.
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.