For its West Coast premiere of Lisa D’Amour’s Airline Highway, ion theatre has forsaken its blackbox space in Hillcrest for the roomier confines of the Tenth Avenue Arts Center downtown. A wise decision, considering that during the play’s wild Act 2 party scene, as many as 17 actors crowd the stage.
D’Amour’s earthy tale of the down-and-out residents of the Hummingbird Hotel along New Orleans’ titular Airline Highway, and how they hold a Mardi Gras-style “living funeral” for their beloved matriarch (an ex burlesque queen), is not just a slice of underbelly life. It’s a turbulent dissection of losers and survivors. The Hummingbird’s denizens are real-seeming people with frailties and demons. Claudio Raygoza skillfully directs the debauchery, the devotion and the naked drama that unfold, sometimes all at once, on the behind-the-hotel set. With the exception of a teenage outsider who D’Amour’s script has tell us what it all means, Airline Highway is destination theater.
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.