At one time female flight attendants held a gauzy romantic place in our collective consciousness.
They were called stewardesses then. They were happy-go-lucky adventuresses serving cocktails and safety tips. They told you keep your safety belt fastened in case of unexpected turbulence and pulled your seat backs into an upright position for landing.
After you landed and were waiting for your luggage, they strolled smartly by, pulling their tidy rolling bags heading to some lounge for drinks with a pilot or lonely businessman. So the fantasies went.
In Marisa Wegrzyn’s affable yet weightless play “Mud Blue Sky,” now at B Street Theatre’s Main Stage, we follow the flight attendants beyond the terminal, going inside their lives on regular layover at a bland hotel in Rosemont, Ill., near Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. The narrative takes place in real time in the room of Beth, a career flight attendant.
Director Lyndsay Burch’s easygoing production has an aimless, often amusing, but non-affecting quality. Elizabeth Hadden’s effectively bland scene design defines the world, though swatches of obtrusive music upset the equilibrium.
In the skillful hands of actress Jamie Jones, we glimpse a full life in 90 minutes as Beth contemplates her future and possible retirement. She’s aging out of the job, already has a bad back and smokes marijuana to ease her constant discomfort.
What she doesn’t have is a decent retirement plan or tangible idea of what she might do if she stops flying. Yet there is a goodness and decency about her (much of it Jones’ doing), which makes her plight of interest to us even as it is unremarkable and the stakes nearly nonexistent.
In distinct contrast to Beth is her brassy flying partner, Sam, wielding a sharp, incisive pin that she uses to prick anyone’s hopeful balloon. In Elisabeth Nunziato’s live-wire performance, Sam gets on everyone’s last nerve, one smarmy comment away from banishment. Sam has a teenage son and is vaguely aware of how little presence she has in his life as she makes her living by traveling. She parties and pushes buttons as a way of masking her unhappiness.
Familiar B Street presence Tara Sissom shows up as a former colleague who was pushed out of her job because of weight gain. Despite the seeming rootlessness of their occupation, Sissom’s Angie feels unhinged without her job or friends.
Alexander Pannullo makes an auspicious B Street debut with a sharp performance as the disaffected high school-age pot dealer, Jonathan. It’s prom night, but Jonathan’s date has dumped him, and he has answered Beth’s call for some product. A nervously fidgeting kid, Jonathan gets pulled into the attendants’ wayward night, during which his own issues surface as well.
There could be a poignancy or horror with these characters, particularly the women. But those moments don’t quite materialize or pass without effect. They’re nice middle-class WASPs, feeling trapped in a void of diminished possibilities, knowingly doomed to mediocre existences. But do they have to be?
The play never really asks the question it sets itself up for. Wegrzyn scratches the surface of her characters’ ennui but speckles it with melodrama, letting them and the audience off the hook.
Mud Blue Sky
What: Marisa Wegrzyn’s character-driven play, directed by Lyndsay Burch, starring Jamie Jones, Elisabeth Nunziato, Tara Sissom and Alexander Pannullo
When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays, 2 and 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays, 5 and 9 p.m. Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays, through June 5
Where: B Street Theatre Mainstage, 2711 B St., Sacramento
Cost: $23-$35, $5 student rush
Information: 916-443-5300, bstreettheatre.org
Time: 90 minutes, no intermission