Review: Five Flights at the Davenport Theatre
Thomas Burns Scully
- OnStage New York Critic
Occasionally plays come along that are such a pressing mix of bizarre and delightful you can’t help but get swept away by them. Five Flights by Adam Bock was just such a play. As a story it was structured like a Jenga tower on the penultimate pull, it’s characters flitting between being quirky and certifiably insane. And yet, in spite of its seeming gregariousness, the Playing Company’s recent rendition of the piece managed to be nothing less than thoroughly charming.
The play sees a group of disparate yet connected family members and their hangers-on vying for control over their father’s inheritance. Principally, a large aviary he built to house a bird he believed to hold the spirit of his dead wife. As his descendants grapple with their mixed feelings about their father and his prized building, they deal with the ravages of love, both requited and unrequited. Those that surround them allow the decaying aviary to take on totemic status for a variety of causes. Including the formation of a church that worships birds, and a ritzy housing development. As these conflicting sides argue over the correct course of action, the son in the middle of it all struggles to make sense of everything for the audience.
Cesar Brandi plays the melancholically endearing son, Ed, wonderfully. He fights hard for clarity and mutual understanding. Anna Fikhman is a cold-as-ice eighties empowered woman archetype who narrowly escapes being a cliche by virtue of some unusual writing choices and Finkhman’s commitment to her humanization. Harrison Santana is delightfully contradictory as a gay hockey player who loves ballet. He and his frattish teammate played by Alexander Pepper make for a Segal-Radnor double-act that is at once silly, yet completely believable. Lizi Myers as Olivia always feels like she is on the verge of an excitement induced heart-attack, which feels appropriately overzealous for someone who founds a bird-church. Jody Doo as Adele rounds out the cast with impenetrable heart and provides the play’s possibly unwarranted twist. Nevertheless she grounds the story, if anything just by playing an efficacious victim of circumstance.
Bock’s writing is light and unusual, which often works to the play’s advantage, but also leads it in to alleys where a clear message is lost and the audience is left marooned on a stray plot point. As an overall concept, the play works, but it occasionally feels like a draft that needed a harsher editor. Under Holly Payne-Strange’s direction the cast are largely able to overcome the problems of being much younger than the characters they are playing. There is a certain amount of strain against the lack of wrinkles, but it never compromises the play. The Playing Company offer a lot with materials that don’t all quite fit together, succeeding in creating engaging theatre against the odds. Definitely worth your time.
This review was written by Thomas Burns Scully, a New York based writer, actor and musician. His work has been lauded by TimeOut NY, the New York Times, BAFTA US, the Abbey Theatre Dublin and other smaller organizations too numerous to mention. His theatrical writing has been performed on three continents. He performs improv comedy professionally and plays lead guitar in two bands. He is generally considered to be the thrifty person’s Renaissance man.
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