Review: Will you get swept up by 9/11-themed ‘Come from Away’?


The good people of Gander, a remote outpost on the island of Newfoundland, think of themselves as the people of “The Rock.” In their way of thinking, everyone else in the world has “Come from Away.”

And yet, after the events of 9/11 shook Americans to the core, this small, insular and hardscrabble community welcomed us strangers from afar with open arms. When 38 airplanes ferrying 7,000 passengers were forced to land in remote Newfoundland on 9/11, nobody there tried to hide between walls. Instead the natives of Gander exercised their humanity and let Americans into not just their country but in many cases into their homes. They treated us like one of their own.

Irene Sankoff and David Hein, who co-wrote the book, music and lyrics, channel the gale force of good will generated by the citizens of Gander to try and make us feel better about human nature.

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Unfortunately, stung as we are by the tragedies now erupting at our own borders, it’s hard not to find something quite wistful about this Tony-winning musical with its thrumming folk score and its life-affirming thrust. The shadows of current events loom in our minds even as we watch this upbeat morality tale unfurl on stage.

Of course, optimism in the face of chaos can be redemptive and this show’s producers, among them former TheatreWorks honcho Randy Adams, know how to whet the audience’s appetite for a sentimental journey.

An ensemble piece with no stars and few breakout songs, this is a simple story about a complicated time, the day after the Twin Towers fell. The 12-person cast pivots through roles big and small, from an African-American man from New York (a hilarious turn by James Earl Jones II, a distant cousin of the iconic Darth Vader actor) who is accustomed to having to watch his back, to a sunny Texas mother (Christine Toy Johnson) and a priggish English scientist (Chamblee Ferguson). All of them end up stranded in Canada. The locals dub them “plane people” but they bend over backwards to make them at home.

The narrative spins through small but moving moments for 100 minutes that transport us to a day when Americans had to depend on the kindness of strangers. Some scenes verge on cloying (a gay couple’s arc feels forced). But for the most part, director Christopher Ashley gives the big-hearted crowdpleaser an irresistible propulsive sheen, carving out touching scenes as one unlikely couple comes together, another breaks apart and all of the Americans learn a lesson in hospitality without strings.

The actors deftly evoke dozens of idiosyncratic accents …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Lifestyle

      

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