Arts & Theater

Theater review: ‘Flying Machine’ takes off at B Street

John Lamb, left, and Jason Kuykendall portray brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright in the B Street Family Series production of “The Flying Machine.”
John Lamb, left, and Jason Kuykendall portray brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright in the B Street Family Series production of “The Flying Machine.” B Street staff

The world we live in has changed monumentally in the past 110 years, but the way the world changes remains remarkably the same. Invention and innovation are still products of persistent resilient researchers who keep asking questions and looking for solutions to problems. Showing us how it’s done is Jerry Montoya’s crisply entertaining new B Street Family Series play, “The Flying Machine.”

The play is designed for children 5 and older but clever enough to engage any age as it takes us back to just before the turn of the 20th century when heavier-than-air manned flight was still an elusive, dangerous concept. Montoya’s play shows the exhausting trial-and-error process that marked the stumbling development of the flying machine while humanizing the two brothers responsible for the advancement.

Veteran B Street acting company members Jason Kuykendall and John Lamb bring a bright, playful energy to the mildly combative but also complementary Wright brothers whose enduring partnership forms the basis of their eventual success.

Moving from newspaper salesmen to bicycle repairmen and bicycle makers to inventors, the brothers had a hard-headed entrepreneurial spirit that allowed them to bounce back from numerous setbacks.

The brothers’ most significant breakthrough was invention of the three-axis control, allowing a pilot to effectively steer an aircraft while maintaining its stability using a steerable rear rudder.

“The Flying Machine” culminates on Dec. 17, 1903, as Oliver and Wilbur Wright achieve their long-held dream of safely flying a heavier-than-air manned flying apparatus.

Leading up to that finely dramatized moment is much of what pushed Kuykendall’s excitable Wilbur and Lamb’s circumspect Orville to the pivotal day at Kill Devil Hills, N.C., 4 miles south of Kitty Hawk where the famous first flight is popularly placed.

The brothers come to North Carolina from their workshop in Dayton, Ohio, because the winds on the bluffs would be advantageous to the flying system they had developed.

Along the way they are inspired by the German aviator Otto Lilienthal and French American aviation enthusiast Octave Chanute as they build on successes and failures of the others in their field.

David Silberman and Casey McClellan round out the cast, playing numerous characters, including the Wright brothers’ bicycle shop mechanic who would be instrumental in building the engine that would power the flying machine.

Montoya, who also directed the production, keeps the focus on Wilbur’s drive to make a mark in the world as he continually pushes brother Orville, who must figure out how to fund the experiments.

The essential design by Samantha Reno includes a realistic facsimile of the final Wright brothers flying machine, which adds tremendously to the production’s sense of fun and adventure.

Call The Bee’s Marcus Crowder, (916) 321-1120.

THE FLYING MACHINE

What: Jerry Montoya writes and directs a B Street Theatre Family Series world premiere about the Wright brothers. With John Lamb and Jason Kuykendall.

When: 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Nov. 9.

Where: B Street Theatre Family Series Stage, 2727 B St., Sacramento

Tickets: $8-$20

Information: (916) 443-5300, www.bstreettheatre.org

Time: One hour and 20 minutes, including one intermission

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