Fly By Night: Cute with a capital Q

At the Jungle Theater, through July 23

Chris Koza (b.g.), James Detmar, Joy Dolo, Jim Lichtscheidl, Royer Bockus and Joshua James Campbell in Fly By Night. Photo by Dan Norman.

Pity the poor critic at the Jungle‘s zippy production of Fly By Night. Look at him, bent dyspeptically over his stained notebook, scrawling Scrooge-isms like, “convoluted,” “clichèd,” “cutesy.” Ish. I don’t wanna continue in this vein and you don’t want me to. I’ll do some calisthenics and try again. Excuse me.

Gosh and golly, Fly By Night is a lot of fun. The story, of two wide-eyed South Dakota-ites, Miriam and Daphne, coming to the Large Apple and finding love (definitely) and success (sorta kinda) entertains and compels, even if it is familiar. Miriam and Daphne count stars (3),  have no trouble finding affordable apartments. Daphne, an actor, lands the lead in a magnum opus entitled The Human Condition. Miriam gets a job. Life is marvelous.

The two actors playing the women, Leah Anderson and Royer Bockus, thrill. They sing excellently (and Bockus’s first rate skill in this area far out-weighs her nasal voice). They display genuine charisma. I would follow these women to the far reaches of deepest Brooklyn.

Both Miriam and Daphne fall in love with the same fellow, Harold (ye olde love triangle forms the center of the story). Harold, reeling from the death of his sainted mother, finds her old acoustic guitar in a closet and five short months later, is playing like a pro. Wowdow!

As everyone knows, accomplished rock and roller Chris Koza plays Harold and his pleasant presence, combo’d with his outstanding musical chops, makes us forget what a bland character this is. Koza leads a terrific band, barely visible upstage, and they lend the proceedings energy. Especial kudos to conductor Mark Christine and to John Munson.

Fly By Night jumps around. A lot. It goes from NYC to SD and back again, backwards and forwards in time. Etc. Our guide here is Jim Lictscheidl. Lichtscheidl narrates and also deftly plays a series of side characters, sometimes with just a word, weaving in and out of the action, with a sly boy-am-I-ever-having-fun grin. In this Lichtscheidl reveals himself to be a Major Talent. His performance really makes Fly By Night.

The cast is rounded out nicely by Joy Dolo, who is slightly wasted but is, as always, wonderful as Crabble (?) the Sandwich Queen. And Joshua James Campbell is very good as Joey the playwright, compulsively rewriting the last scene of his masterwork, The Human Condition (I can truly identify here). James Detmar effectively plays the wounded Mr. McClam.

The action of Fly By Night culminates on November 9, 1965, the afternoon of the Big Blackout. This causes…

All right. There are some nifty plot twists in this show. It would be the height of irresponsibility for me to reveal them. So I won’t. But know that they’re coming.

The program indicates that Fly By Night was written by Will Connolly, Kim Rosenstock and Michael Mitnick. Who wrote the music? The book? Maybe they all did. The music is tuneful (and will keep your toes a-tapping). As for the story, well, they make it work.

Fly By Night is well directed by Jungle AD Sarah Rasmussen who snappily and cleverly stages this highly cinematic piece. Also, Rasmussen and her designers – Joseph Stanley, Barry Browning, Sean Healey and Trevor Bowen – have, as is always the case at the Jungle, made Fly By Night look terrific.

The opening night audience had a terrific time at Fly By Night and so, as long as you keep your expectations modest, will you. It’s worth noting that the Jungle is air conditioned.

John Olive is a playwright, a novelist and a nonfiction writer living in Minneapolis. His book, Tell Me A Story In The Dark, about the magic of bedtime stories, has been published. Please visit his informational website.



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