We got off to a rough start. Traffic had us cutting it close. We could not find the garage we prepaid to save our lives. Ended up parking much further from the theater than we should have, considering my husband is currently on crutches. We even ended up being those people, having to make our way to our seats after the show had begun. But you know what? It was all worth it.
Even though we had to stand in the back of the theater for the first song, I got choked up almost immediately. I wasn’t even entirely sure what the song was about! I can’t explain it, but I can tell you what it means.
They were doing something right.
Once we finally got into our seats, the narrative came together. Come From Away focuses on one of the several planes diverted to Nova Scotia, Canada on September 11. It’s funny because that description in and of itself doesn’t capture what the story is actually about. It’s about hope and the kindness of strangers.
The production is unique in that it’s a multipurpose, minimalistic set and all the actors play multiple parts. I always worry that something like that can be easily confusing. But once you’re immersed in the story, it all just works.
One of Jenn Colella’s roles is that of the plane’s pilot, Beverley. While the very tangential feeling feminist song about women pilots (“Me and the Sky”) missed the mark for me, her storyline was particularly heart wrenching. As a little girl dreaming of doing something no other women had done, finally achieving it, and then having the joy of it ripped away on that fateful day.
Another favorite scene of mine features De’lon Grant as Bob. In a small twist of fate, Bob ends up staying in the mayor’s house. Upon deciding to host a town-wide cook-out, that mayor sends Bob out… to take the grills from everyone’s yards. I’ve never lived in a small town, but I guess things like that don’t sound any alarms? Bob, a native New Yorker and African-American man, on the other hand, thinks what man of us would:
“I’m going to get shot.”
The moment is both sad (that’s our reality) and funny (the mayor truly thought nothing of it), and it perfectly encapsulates the emotional roller coaster of that day and those that followed.
I was born in New York City and have been back here for close to 15 years. Even though I was away at school on 9/11, I felt it. My heart broke. But beyond the initial shock and sadness, there was a glimmer in the way that people helped each other in the days after.
I think that’s why Come From Away affected me so viscerally. It brought back those raw emotions, but good and bad. And for theatre, that’s magic.
If you haven’t had the chance to see it yet, please do. Do and never forget.
UPDATE: It has just been announced that Come From Away will be transferring to the West End, opening at the Phoenix Theatre in February. If you find yourself in London this winter/spring, be sure to check it out!