Oh, you should have seen me at the preview of Fly By Night I attended. I was a feelzy wreck on-and-off during the final 20 minutes of the show with my AGGRESSIVE sobbing. Like, I was in fear I would turn around from my front-row seat and have the entire house - which on this night, also included Gabriel Ebert, Lindsay Nicole Chambers and Mare Winningham - just staring at me with judgement eyes of judgement.
Because Fly By Night, for whatever other strengths it has, made me genuinely nostalgic for the period of time in the show (1965 New York, leading up to the infamous blackout in the Northeast) and euphoric as we watch the central characters drifting through the motions, pondering their lives and the universe and occasionally looking up at the sky along the way. All of it comes to a highly emotional moment as the black-out tests the interpersonal connections the audience spent two hours plus to learn about, bringing together some while separating others.
The team of Kim Rosenstock, Will Connolly and Michael Mitnick - plus Carolyn Cantor’s direction - make for some of the most breath-taking, heart-breaking, tear-inducing songs and moments I have ever seen. The score is era-approporiate and strong, the visuals floor-to-ceiling (literally) stunning and the writing…well, the writing is not infallible. But then again, what the fuck is? So what if the story needs a contrived scene or two (oh God, there is a fortune-teller scene) to propel the story forward? Who cares that the narrator, the default stand-in for several other non-principal characters in the story, should of had his role downsized a tad and another actor/actress covering the leftovers?
What is happening on that Playwrights Horizon’s stage is…well, life with a metaphysical filter. The story is a love-triangle with a twist, as a portion of it unfolds in a non-chronological fashion (a fantastic touch!). And throughout the show’s entirety, you are there with them. Every up, down, fleeting thought, bit of optimism, bit of pessimism, gazing and yearning off into the distance, phone chat…everything. Good thing is, we want to be there; we want to FEEL along with them. And if you are like me, you may just cry along the way because the heartfelt moments of Fly By Night doesn’t resort to heavy-handed manipulation or cheap machinations.
I’ve seen Adam Chanler-Berat, Patti Murin and Allison Case in other roles, but all three of them are petri-dish levels of casting perfection in Fly By Night. Berat’s Harold is the quintessential adorkable male love interest and will make you feel all the feels. Murin and Case are sisters that cross paths romantically with Harold - Murin playing the glowing, wannabe Broadway star to perfection and Case fully-inhabiting the astrology-loving, easy-going, head in the clouds kindred spirit. All three of them fulfill the demands of their parts and have such insane on-stage presence to boot, so much so, I hope a future show (or a future incarnation of this show) recasts them all again.
It all works and you should go see this show before it jettisons off before month’s end. And if you are of the make-up wearing kind, break out the waterproof sort for this go-around - you may just be glad you did.
Photo Credit: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times