Bonnie's Last Flight
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Theater review by Sandy MacDonald
Eliza Bent’s twee new play Bonnie's Last Flight is set on a plane, but the comedy doesn’t achieve liftoff. The production’s designers do their best, with middling success, to replicate the signifiers of a standard airplane cabin. But the name of the airline, Smelta, is an early clue as to the sophistication level of this 80-minute journey to nowhere.
After 31 years on the job, senior flight attendant Jan (Barbara Walsh) looks forward to retiring and embarking on what she’s convinced is her true métier as best-selling “auteur.” Walsh’s accent is part mid-Atlantic, part Brooklyn: It’s as though Barbara Stanwyck had been summoned from the grave to pass out snacks while rattling off would-be-snappy rejoinders. Abetting Jan in her stewarding duties are her longtime colleague Greig (Greig Sargeant, laxly inhabiting the stock role of haughty gay bestie) and a gung-ho newbie, LeeAnne (Ceci Fernandez, who alone summons sufficient brio to pep up the proceedings).
Jan’s backstory is as ridden with clichés as her career-reboot scheme, which may be intentional. It’s kindest to assume that the Bonnie’s Last Flight’s generous dollops of sentimentalism—an infant given up at birth, a beloved corgi who lends the play its title—are meant to read as sob-story camp. But it’s a thin line between tongue-in-cheek and just plain dumb.
Playwright Bent has a cameo as a time-traveling Mark Twain, who appears to have taken comic-delivery tips from Groucho Marx. Seersucker suit and straw boater notwithstanding, her Twain impression lacks its subject’s signature wit.
4th Street Theatre (Off Broadway). By Eliza Bent. Directed by Annie Tippe. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 20mins. No intermission.