If you were an airport employee, would you rather lift bags, check in passengers, and monitor airport security, or tarmac tap–dance, rewrite West Side Story, and drink in the confines of exclusivity? If you were a passenger, would you rather remain delayed in the (presumably) Canadian wilderness, or revolt against the tyrannical systems of airport bureaucracy in fast food aesthetic chic? These are the questions that propel (get ready for the puns to come) the annual spring production of The Mask and Wig Club.
Catching a flight from friendly Pine Creek Airport—the fictional location of the performance, and a name inspired by a real border airport between Canada and Minnesota—is probably not an exciting experience; yet with the appearance of an international terrorist/hero (depends on which character you ask), the emergence of star–crossed workplace romances, and the organization of an unexpected coup d'etat, Mask and Wig takes you on a trip to the airport you probably (never) want to have.
The performance was extremely strong and enjoyable, and definitely one of the best Wig shows I’ve witnessed since arriving to Penn. Why is that so? The talented group set the bar high for shows to follow with the well-developed characters, hysterical sense of humor, and fantastic original musical score of its newest production.
The way that the show juggles various personas to create a cohesive storyline with well-developed characters was extremely impressive. The performance takes off when Dylan (Teddy Lavon, C’16), a hopeful TSA agent, tries to woo Julie (Ryan Solomon, E’17), a Northsouthstern Airlines pilot. Things get turbulent (#sorrynotsorry) when a clique of flight attendants, led by Julie’s snobby boyfriend Chad (Sam Thomas, C’17), abuse their airplane steward status and stall the new pilot’s departing New York flight. A blizzard hits, delays, and entraps everyone within Pine Creek Airport. Chaos flies as the law of the land.
Though this operates as the primary storyline, one of the things I enjoyed the most was that the secondary characters and their respective developments actually played a pivotal role in the plot’s resolution; shoutout to the Tarmac boys and their aspirations to be the Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheims of small Canadian border airports. Likewise, the dynamics between the flight attendants and the rest of the airport employees sets a tension that is comedically palpable and relevant to the story.
The entire cast is fantastic and engaging, but the most notable performances include the TSA dynamic duo Dylan and Roger (James Lengyel, C’16), Northeastern businessman Cooper (Patrick Romano, C’16) and MIT–grad airport employee Lloyd (Nate McLeod, C’17).
Additionally, though the use of comedy in, well, a comedy musical theater function is implied, it is worth noting the way it operates within this performance. Props to Mask and Wig for creating a show which caters to so many different types of humor. From slapstick (refer to tackling middle-aged mothers and roughhousing babies) to parodic (refer to biting commentary on how sororities and all-male musical theater troupes don’t mix very well) to screwball (refer to onboard scene where Lost (or survivalist Ice Age) meets a plane-full of Cooper-led delayed passengers (a scene which to be honest, doesn’t seem all together that unlikely now that I think about it,) the annual Spring production has it all.
The musical component of the production is also stellar: it’s an album’s worth of catchy songs--such as “You’ve got it all Wrong” and “Airline Hell ” (which are now all available on Spotify, FYI.) From the second that the overture begins, audiences are hooked. These are the kinds of songs that you’ll inevitably be humming to yourself almost accidentally at 2a.m. while you tackle your due–the–next–day problem set—not talking from personal experience or anything. The variety is also splendid: from jazz riffs, to ballad, to tap dance tunes, the show delivers a diversity in music which as a whole create a repertoire that exemplifies and embodies the characters and their stories. Interestingly enough, the band even plays rock--something which is unconventional for Wig annual productions. The voices which bring to life the lyrics are also as beautiful, enjoyable, and powerful as the music which accompany them.
The cast, crew, and band of Flight Club were clearly set on wowing audiences. Every Mask & Wig member put love, time, and dedication into the show. This in itself merits that members of the Penn community head downtown to the Clubhouse to witness the hard work of talented and theatrical classmates. And if not to recognize their efforts, at least go for the on-stage musical threesome.