Paul Sand’s new play, THE PILOT WHO CRASHED THE PARTY, boasts an intriguing title. And the description, which hints at an homage/satire of drawing room dramas, conjures images of well-dressed people with impeccable manners spouting sparkling conversation ala Noel Coward or Philip Barry. The Pilot might make you wonder if Shaw’s MISALLIANCE could also be an inspiration.
The opening, in which the cast is discovered celebrating Sally’s (Jacqueline Wright) birthday party by playing a complicated murder mystery game, feels a bit more like a screwball comedy. And the way the party guests seem mostly oblivious to the torrential storm outside, courtesy of the vivid sound by Shoshana Kuttner, the atmospheric lighting by Azra King-Abadi, and Fritz Davis’ rain projections, tells us that this is no typical drawing room play. Also atypical is the wonderfully detailed set by Jeff Rack, quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen in the Broadwater space before.
The partygoers finally notice a small plane which seems in trouble and then crashes. The Pilot (Sol Mason) stumbles in and collapses. When he regains consciousness, he has no idea who he is or what has happened. The washed-out roads and continuing rain mean that no doctor can reach the home. Concerned about the possibility the pilot has suffered a concussion, the group agrees to take turns sitting up with him to make sure he doesn’t fall asleep. The night passes with each partygoer joining the Pilot as they project their impressions or desires onto him.
Sand also directs the production, coaxing strong and quirky performances from his talented cast. Wright is a celebrated scene-stealer in LA’s intimate theaters, and she delights with every appearance. Mason’s Pilot is, by plot necessity, a blank slate. But, intentional or not, one can see much of the young Paul Sand in his performance. Claudia Ferri’s Italian movie star is a bundle of nerves, and Debra Lane’s Caterer for the evening reveals a classically trained voice and a very bizarre story. The remaining men in the cast feel less defined, but Lee Boek and Francis C. Edimobi ably add to the growing absurdism of the story. Classy and welcome additions to the cast are onstage Violinist Yennie Lam and Cellist Chris Rorrer.
Playwright Sand has given Director Sand a difficult problem in the repetitive nature of the individual cast members sitting with the Pilot. While each scene has its own dramatic arc, the play itself never finds a motor to power all these disparate stories into compelling theatre.
Broadwater Main Stage April 8 – May 7, 2023 www.onstage411.com/Pilot.