Point of Departure
nytheatre.com review by Michael Mraz
September 17, 2011
Going to the airport these days is becoming an increasingly daunting task. Gone are the days of families seeing their loved ones off at the gate and free checked baggage; replacing them are endless hidden fees and more and more waiting, for countless new reasons. One never knows if their airport experience will last 45 minutes or 3 hours. And although the new protocols are for our best protection, flying has become something out of an absurd comedy; and that's exactly what Smoke & Mirrors Collaborative's fantastic Point of Departure, playing at Theater for the New City, taps into.
Point of Departure is an 80-minute roller-coaster ride through the surreal obstacles that plague the modern-day airport-goer. Through a blend of sound (both prerecorded and actor-created), light, modern dance, video multimedia, and vignettes, everything from hidden fees, delays, airport-spanning gate changes, increasingly invasive security, annoyingly clueless travelers, and more is covered and given an over-the-top, absurdist spin. What's perhaps the funniest thing about the tremendously taut, darkly comic script is that, having been through several airport travesties myself, the situations don't really end up feeling all that far-fetched or absurd. The company has taken such a relatable situation and made it a very entertaining trip.
The show is extremely well composed from top to bottom. Kortney Barber's sound design creates a very believable airport atmosphere, with a cacophony of announcements, general hubbub, babies crying, cell phones, and seemingly everything else you've ever heard at an airport. Gertjan Houben's lighting fits the mood of every change from reality to uber-reality perfectly and actually has its biggest starring moment during a blackout, with a brilliantly choreographed sequence where we follow "floating" pieces of glow-taped luggage on a roller-coaster journey through the airport conveyor belts. His video sequences, created with Katy Scoggin, also inform the humor of each scene and become a character unto themselves.
The dance interludes are masterfully choreographed by Zoey Martinson. Each one is visually stunning while conveying intensely different feelings, especially the final "flying" dance featuring some pretty amazing acrobatics (impressively led by ensemble member Johnson Chong). It's this diverse use of movement and physicality, along with Jonathan D Martin's creative staging, that really defines Point of Departure. It's such an entertaining, visceral experience that it's almost impossible to describe all of the fun, fascinating stage pictures created (and really there are too many to try to mention here). The cast fearlessly throws themselves into the style and their energy and commitment bring this world to life. Not just through the characters they play, but through the total audio-visual experience they create. Chong, Adam McNulty, Court Wing, MacKenzie Meehan, and Zoey Martinson have created a true ensemble theater experience and their trust in the material and each other is evident (and well-deserved).
All in all, Point of Departure is just great fun all the way through. Even when it's not immediately evident how a specific scene or sequence fits in as a whole (which is quite rare), it's still fascinating to watch. Every moment imagines a new, hilarious way to show us something very mundane and, often, very frustrating. All of the collaborators in Smoke & Mirrors deserve great credit because, if nothing else, the next time I'm stuck in airport security for 3 hours behind 10 people who don't know that belt buckles are made of metal, I'll have a lot to smile about.