Learning to Fly | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe


Learning to Fly, Signal Ensemble Theatre, at Wing & Groove Theatre. There's nothing like seeing a play about a fatal plane crash when you have to fly the next morning. The irony of it all gives me new reason to live. Writer-director Ronan Marra's new work has its share of Twilight Zone elements, like a guardian angel suddenly appearing and a disembodied voice coming from a painting. Sadly, this clumsy magic realism can't distract from the relentless talkiness of the play's four overwritten relationship scenes, given a passable production by another new company.

Will, afraid of flying and even more so of his airline-owner dad, and Sarah, a brash free spirit who could irritate any man out of love within minutes, meet cute on a flight when they discover uncanny similarities in their past experiences, re-created in redundant flashbacks. In numbing detail Marra illustrates infidelity, insecurity, and denial as if they'd just been invented. As director, he slows the action where someone else would have mowed down the dialogue like crabgrass (and cut an endless body-painting scene).

When the characters aren't delivering PowerPoint lectures on each other's faults, there are a few rich moments. Marra crushes them under an avalanche of unproductive exposition, all the more wasteful since the two are going to die anyway. Kevin Schwendeman and Erin Myers manage to be as fresh as the script's formulas permit.

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Give $35/month →  
  Give $10/month →  
  Give  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 

Add a comment