|Cast of The Flight Before Xmas|
The Flight Before Xmas
Seattle Public Theater
Through December 24, 2017
A sweet, family-friendly new Christmas-time play is performing at Seattle Public Theater, penned by versatile local playwright Maggie Lee. SPT has retired it’s perennial Best Christmas Pageant, and is trying this new show. The Flight Before Xmas brings disparate humans into contact with each other as they all wait for a flight that must be delayed by weather.
It’s a nightmare that can bring out either the worst in people or the best. In this case, it’s a little of both. It’s a situation we can all identify with: the sinking feeling of being out of control of events while wishing desperately to get to the next thing.
It’s Christmas Eve at SeaTac Airport and we meet a family headed to Hawaii, all in matching shirts, a businesswoman trying to make an important meeting, a young couple of Lesbians, two sets of kids traveling between family households in their now-obligatory need to share visitation, a complaining older woman, a single man, and an airport airline employee who tries hard to provide great customer service.
The interactions are fun to watch and Lee throws in a bit of magic theatricality. To while away the time, the man tells stories of various lands and their Christmas rituals, at which point the entire cast stops and turns into supporting players for those stories. When Douglas (Manuel Cawaling), a world traveler, describes that Japanese celebrate with buckets of KFC, suddenly everyone starts passing out drumsticks and dancing around.
Two of Ben (Tadd Morgan) and Nicole (Jenn Ruzumna)’s three daughters, Eleanor (Elora Coble) and Gemma (Nava Ruthfield), are happy to go to Hawaii. But Lizzie (Lydia Hayes) is pouting and thinks Christmas in Hawaii is completely wrong. Morgan and Ruzumna make a good-parent team trying to keep their kids patient and demonstrating how they listen well, too.
When Gemma accidentally lets young Harrison’s (Hersh Powers) cat out of the carrier into the airport, Harrison’s big sister, Maya (Kaiya Crothall) and the other pair of shuttling kids, Owen (Diego Cruz) and Frances (Lauren Hwang) pitch in to try to find it. Their budding friendship is a nice support to see.
Margo (Kiki Abba, with some of the best sardonic laugh lines), a kid-unfriendly businesswoman, worries about missing a huge interview. Rosemary (Deniece Bleha, as a very cranky grandma) is one of the least effective characters, but since she’s about the only one who displays a significantly different attitude, one can see why Lee included her.
Young college-age girlfriends, Laurel (Marisol Gonzalez) and Amanda (Tessa Weinland), are traveling to meet Laurel’s parents who do not yet know of Laurel’s real interests in sexual partners and who are portrayed as very conservative. Amanda gets a chance to learn to let Laurel come out to her parents in her own time.
As Penny the airline employee, Skye Stephenson has a lovely manner, while clearly trying to master her own disappointments in the delay. She’d be at home at any airline counter in the U.S.!
As with most Christmas kid-friendly fare, there are little bits of learning about how to behave better and get along with each other. Pretty much every circumstance is relatable, and of course, at the end, everyone has a dose of Good Cheer as the plane finally boards.