Play Review: ‘Here on the Flight Path’ Is a Smooth Journey

By J.E. Ballantyne Jr.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Toronto is a wonderful city. Many things to do and see. So perhaps that is the reason that playwright Norm Foster chose this location for his comedy “Here On the Flight Path.” Foster is considered the Canadian Neil Simon, because his wit and writings dealing with everyday life.

The Youngstown Playhouse opened its production of the play Friday in the Moyer Room.

“Here On the Flight Path” finds its main character, John Cummings, living in the Aurora Terrace Apartments in a carefree albeit cynical type of life. The play is told in a series of flashbacks as John addresses the audience about his neighbors next door. Three women occupy the neighboring apartment, each at a different time, with each one staying only a relatively short period of time.

His interactions with the three totally different character types provides some wild comedy and illustrates Foster’s great talent at writing quick one liners but also in redirecting high comedy into sentimental moments at the blink of an eye.

Brendan Boyle takes on the demanding role of Cummings, who writes a newspaper column cleverly titled “Cummings and Goings.” A title he takes great pride in. Boyle has a tour-de-force role. He is the hub that spins the whole wheel and he never leaves the stage except during intermission and scene breaks.

Boyle presents a lovable character in Cummings even though he is very opinionated on many subjects. The more opinionated, however, the better the audience likes him. Boyle sets up each scene with his neighbors who then glide on and we are transported back to the “beginning” of each encounter.

Boyle is very smooth with a great sense of comedy timing. His rubbery facial expressions only add to the many facets of John’s character. He is somewhat bitter about his failed marriage but the audience learns very quickly about his other likes and dislikes(especially poetry and poets). Boyle reaches deep into the character of Cummings to make him a real person. Everybody knows people who share John’s many opinions.

Since Cummings is dealing with situations that are very real, although on a high comedy level, the audience can easily identify with the character. And Boyle makes Cummings the perfect foil for each new neighbor as each presents him with lifestyles and problems that test his narrow view of life.

Fay, played by Terri Norling is neighbor No. 1 who has just moved in and catches John’s wandering eye. Fay is somewhat mysterious, at least for a few moments, as she enjoys playing with John’s curiosity as to her profession. She calls herself a consultant but books clients at high prices in hotels. The cat and mouse game, as John tries to figure this out, is well done.

Norling is well cast as Fay, the fitness junkie, as she plays John like a puppet during her scene. Comfortable on stage and in the character, Norling presents a character that is fine with her life but at the same time shows that desire to break away from a “forced profession” and into something that she can actually take pride in. Her development of the character is seamless as the friendship with John becomes more trusting and comfortable.

Fay eventually moves out of the apartment and is replaced by Jenna Cintavey as Angel, an aspiring singer. Cintavey has proven her comedic ability many times on the Playhouse stage as well as on others. She plays Angel with unbounded energy, positive vibes and an underlying base of naivete. Angel lights up the entire neighborhood as she bounces around the apartment balcony touting her motto.

Cintavey gives Angel a real zest for life but she can also turn that off like a switch and go to suspicion or melancholy with equal skill. Cintavey gives the character a breath of fresh air with each entrance and its seems to be contagious to the audience. The audience rides the high waves with her but also feels empathy for her when the road gets tough.

When Angel vacates, John meets Gwen, the new tenant. Gwen enters the picture in a totally different way than Fay or Angel. Gwen is in emotional distress on her first appearance on the balcony as she just recently left her husband. This character is written much lower key than the other two women.

Gwen could easily get swallowed up by the memories of the other two, but not in this case. Jaclyn-Sarah Senich holds her own with the tough task of starting out on a more dramatic level than the other two. What helps is the crazy reason she offers for leaving hubby, Wayne. Senich walks a fine line while describing Wayne’s annoying behavior but keeps an emotional edge to it to maintain her sensitive emotional state.

Just as with Norling and Cintavey, Senich is tasked with a character change that needs to be done with skill to make it believable. Senich hits the mark with ease.

But the three women aren’t the only ones with a challenge to their roles. By show’s end we see a real change in Cummings. Boyle handles the change with such ease that you don’t realize it has happened until late in the play. Cummings learns a great deal from each neighbor interaction. That is a two way street, as each of the three women also move out of the apartment with a renewed sense of life.

Director Ben Gavitt has directed this show two previous times. It is obvious that he knows the show and the playwright’s work very well. He has put a jewel on stage in the Playhouse Moyer Room. His expertise with the script is obvious in his casting and his direction. Gavitt also designed the set with Marie Keen-James. Their design of two fourth-floor apartment balconies was workable, believable and uncluttered.

Leslie Brown’s lighting design worked well jumping back and forth from John’s narration periods to real time.

Neil Simon hasn’t been done around here for awhile. But that’s alright, we’ve got Norm Foster’s “Here On the Flight Path” at the Youngstown Playhouse. If you are looking for a side-splitting night of comedy, jump in the car and drive over and meet the zany characters at the Aurora Terrace Apartments; fourth floor.

“Here On the Flight Path” continues:
May 11, 17, 18 at 7:30 p.m.
May 12, 19 at 2:30 p.m.

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