Review

'Mud Blue Sky' at Road on Lankershim: Comic turbulence at the airport hotel

Marisa Wegrzyn's “Mud Blue Sky,” now at the Road on Lankershim, may arguably lack dramatic substance and may not stick to the psychic ribs long after viewing, but the character-driven play is a winning diversion that is strikingly unpretentious and frequently funny.

The action is set in a present-day hotel room outside Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. Stephen Gifford's set perfectly captures the cheesily stylish, vaguely grungy milieu, where even picking up the television remote can send one scurrying for antiseptic wipes.

Laid-over between shifts, middle-aged flight attendant Beth (Carlyle King) refuses to join her sexy coworker Sam (Whitney Dylan) for a night on the town. Instead, Beth, who suffers from a bad back, arranges to buy pot from her regular supplier, 18-year-old Jonathan (Adam Farabee), who interrupts his disastrous prom night to accommodate her. When Beth invites Jonathan up to her hotel room for payment, the scene is set for the play's diverse personalities to comically clash and bond.

Wegrzyn's slice-of-life naturalism and aphoristic flair are well served by director Mary Lou Belli, an Emmy-winning director and writer schooled in the television trenches. That's in no way damning with faint praise. A savvy old hand, Belli has honed her comic timing to a nicety. Under her guidance, the wonderful cast nails the laughs without ever betraying the play's realistic construct.

As comfortable in her character as old shoes, the drolly funny King never knows a false moment, while Dylan ideally balances crankiness with vulnerability. As Beth and Sam's unemployed former coworker, Amy Tolsky quietly bides her time until she delivers a stunning monologue that raises the stakes from sitcom to high drama. As for Farabee, he is a precociously gifted young performer whose puppyish Jonathan ultimately explodes with youthful loss and desperation.

“Mud Blue Sky,” the Road on Lankershim, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends May 30. $34. (818) 761-8838. www.roadtheatre.org. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

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