When thinking back on my time watching the SHSU theatre programs’s production of Chelsea Marcantel’s “Airness,” I think of only one word to describe my experience.
The high-concept world of competitive air guitar was enthralling.
The cast and crew did an amazing job at bringing the set and characters to life. They helped the audience understand some of the complexities of the environment the cast found themselves in.
Though I found myself engulfed in the world of these characters presented before me, I found myself being consistently taken out of the fantasy due to the alarming number of rehashed clichés and tropes used to propel the story forward.
I found that the backbone of the story was rooted so deeply in these troupes that it made the story feel predictable.
From the first mention of Joan Jett, we knew it was going to be one of her songs in the finale. The “liar revealed” trope in the center of the play felt forced.
And while it did bring about what I consider to be the best scene in the play, the resolution to this conflict felt rushed, and unearned for a majority of the supporting cast.
While the reveal of Nina being D Vicious’ ex-fiancee was unexpected, the payoff of their rivalry was unsatisfying.
From the moment of the reveal it is painfully obvious Nina was going to win the national competition. And while that in and of itself isn’t necessarily bad, the one thing that makes the conclusion unsatisfying is that the air guitar performances of Nina are nowhere near the level of D Vicious’.
The performances of the cast were stellar. While every actor felt amazing in their roles, it really is the two leads of the play that carry the story, and henceforth the rest of the characters.
Allison Giles’ Nina and Tristan Flores’ D Vicious.
Flores brought a palpable electricity to the stage. Every scene he was in felt as though he was forcing the audience to pay attention. His air guitar performances felt different and new each time, with this unparalleled energy, and every dialogue scene was coupled with amazing line delivery and non-verbals.
While Giles’ Nina might not have been as ostentatious a performance as Flores’, her strength in this role came with her connection to the other characters. While at times I felt the alarming number of increasingly abrasive comedic performances was off-putting, it was Giles’ performance that always managed to bring a more “realistic” energy to each scene she was in.
Every dialogue scene she was focal in felt real and poignant. It was her that facilitated my personal favorite scene of the play, the conversation between Nina and Facebender.
This conversation felt almost as though it were to be the antithesis of the play. A forgettable scene only meant to facilitate the plot convenience of Nina’s friends forgiving her, but the portrayal of this scene felt incredibly sincere. This sincerity was not something found throughout the majority of this play. It was shocking at first. The expectation of some poorly timed comedic relief is something I was glad to not see come to fruition.
It felt like a real conversation between two misunderstood people trying to make a connection in the world.
Though I did have some grievances with the alarming number of pure comedic relief with little-to-no substance behind it, the SHSU Theatre’s production of “Airness” proved to be an enjoyable show. For the average theatergoer, this fun romp with interesting characters and stellar performances all around, is sure to be one to remember fondly.