Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Broadway Theater Review: Airline Highway

A Group of Airline Highway Characters That Never Take Flight
By Lauren Yarger
A group of down-on-their-luck people gather for the funeral of a close friend in Manhattan Theatre Club’s presentation of Steppenwolf’s Airline Highway, but before it’s all over, we kind of wish the funeral were for us so we don't have to attend.

Lisa D’Amour’s play is just downright depressing and features characters we just can’t warm up to – perhaps because there are so many misfits, we never really get a chance to know them very well. They are a bunch a sad, hopeless folks whom we wish we could help, but we don't know them well enough to want to insert ourselves into the depressing environment.

There’s stripper Krista (Caroline Neff) who isn’t happy that her ex, Bait Boy (Joe Tippett), has returned for the funeral, dragging along his stepdaughter, Zoe (Carolyn Braver), who is doing a school paper on subcultures, like theirs at the Hummingbird Motel on Airline Highway in New Orleans.

Wayne (Scott Jaeck) is the super in the rundown place (designed by Scott Pask), that’s also home to Sissy NaNa (K. Todd Freeman), an orange-haired crossdresser, Francis (Ken Marks), an older biker type who has a thing for Krista, Terry (Tim Edward Rhoze), a guy who tries to earn a few bucks fixing things up for Wayne, and Tanya (Julie White), an aging prostitute, among others, including a tenant who frightens her and who is disliked by the others, but we don’t know why.

The funeral isn’t your typical funeral, however. It’s being held at the request of a very much alive Miss Ruby (Judith Roberts) who is dying, but who wants to hear her friends' eulogies while she still can. The friends decorate and plan the funeral program while reconnecting with Bait Boy, who left the squalor at the Hummingbird behind to make a new life with Zoe’s well-off mother.

Attraction between him and Krista rekindles, however, but she is embarrassed about her current circumstances – she doesn’t even have a room at motel because Wayne threw her out when she got behind on the rent.

At intermission, the woman behind me consoled her companion: “Shows like this start slow, but then they get better. They’ll have the party…..”

It doesn’t really get better. We just have a bunch of misfits who appear to have made poor choices, most of whom aren’t very likable, talking over each other. Krista, on the other hand, shouts all of her lines as directed by Joe Mantello. The characters are all uninteresting stereotypes except for Tanya. We discover a little more about her (and White has been nominated for awards).

She has three kids who she has given up. So I would have liked to know more about her and how she came to become a prostitute, why she decided to keep the children and give them up rather than have abortions and who the fathers were. Does she know? Will she decide to allow contact from the one daughter searching for her birth mother?

How did Bait Boy land a good life on the other side of the tracks and why would he go so long for the name of Bait Boy?

D'Amour never lets us find out. Storytelling gets lost in the clutter, which is disappointing, because I know she’s capable of thought-provoking characters ad themes, like those in Detroit, which I enjoyed very much. When Miss Ruby gives a long discourse on life, the script goes further off track. The message seems to be explore your sexuality, everyone matters and should be loved unconditionally. Unfortunately, we don't know or like these characters enough to comply.

Airline Runway has announced an early closing on June 7. It plays at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th St., NYC. Performances times vary. Tickets are $67 – $130:

Christians might also like to know:
-- Sexual Dialogue
-- Nudity
-- God's name taken in vain

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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