nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
July 20, 2006
Flying Dreams is another quirky, off-kilter musical fantasy from the singular pen and imagination of Sharon Fogarty. It's about a man named Herman and his strange history, from birth to age 25 (or thereabouts), when he finally is able to get out from under the quashing thumb of his difficult, dominating mother, Lydia.
Indeed, we're actually witness, in an early scene, to Herman's birth: Lydia, an ambitious vaudeville entertainer, performs right up until the very moment that baby Herman makes his first appearance, on stage, in the middle of her act. Lydia brings her son into the family business right away, writing him into her act as a sort of live ventriloquist's dummy (and her nickname for the boy is, appropriately, "Puppet"). Herman may not have been born in a trunk, but for most of his childhood he apparently lives in one, sleeping and traveling in his mother's luggage until he's far too large to do either comfortably.
Lydia's maltreatment of little Herman extends beyond her gross violations of child labor laws, however; she's emotionally a disaster as a parent, alternately resenting and ignoring her child while venturing off without warning to find a man to seduce/bed in any strange town that her show business career happens to take her to.
Herman has Tourette Syndrome, a condition his mother never seems to understand or accept; and he is also gay, and aware of this from a very early age, lusting after his mother's male dancing partners and desiring, perhaps even more significantly, some kind of angel to whisk him away from his unhappy life and bring him safety and security.
Lydia doesn't improve with age, and when disease and old age catch up with her, Herman eventually makes a decision that we can construe as either vitally necessary and brave or selfish and brutal. The exaggerations of the plot, and the whole structure of the show, suggest that some sort of allegory is being played out here: Fogarty doesn't judge her protagonist, just charts out his universe the way he sees it and invites us to try to walk in his admittedly unique shoes for an hour and try to imagine what it would be like to be an awkward gay kid with Tourette whose mother was a megalomaniacal nymphomaniac.
Now, it's probably not at all obvious that, for all the dark and shadowy shadings of Flying Dreams, the show's predominant mood is actually fairly merry: Fogarty, inhabiting the grotesque Lydia herself with over-the-top relish and also serving as director, plays up the macabre comedy of her story, and the piece indeed plays more or less as a comedy. Right in the middle of it there's a satirical number that could only have been written by Fogarty called "Keeping Every A-hole Alive":
Need your dough and so we'll toss her to and fro
She's a product of a drug
Look how she's cutting up the rug
Yes we shoot her up with morphine and we tell her that she's loved
As she's insured until the end of time.
Pete Aguero plays Herman with sensitivity but without pathos. Matthew Porter plays all of the men in Lydia's life and Herman's imagination with brio and pizzazz. Peter Dizozza provides invaluable accompaniment on keyboard.