Chicago Theater Review: MUD BLUE SKY (A Red Orchid)

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by Lawrence Bommer on April 14, 2014

in Theater-Chicago


An episodic evening set in and around a hotel near O’Hare Airport, Marisa Wegrzyn’s itinerant one-act both celebrates and red-flags those encounters, seemingly causeless and effectless, that in fact change and define us–at the time, A Scene from MUD BLUE SKY A Red Orchid Theater.more than we know or need to. It promises to be wild but, better, ends up being true.

In Wegrzyn’s “coming of age” slice of life, the run-ins combine four rootless survivors: three once and current stewardesses and a rejected boy on prom night. Their default drive is loneliness. Funny and never false, the very ordinary magic of Mud Blue Sky lies in the playing more than the writing. Happily, Shade Murray’s staging, A Red Orchid Theatre local premiere, manages to find purpose and direction in Room 208 and the parking lot outside its window.

On the verge of retiring from her service in the sky, Beth (ever glum, deadpan and often frazzled Natalie West) suffers from chronic back pain and just wants some sleep. But before her 5:30 a.m. wake-up call she’s arranged a drug sale with her teenage “pot boy” Jonathan (jejune Matt Farabee). Garbed in a tuxedo (it’s his prom night) and sick of being merely young, Jonathan ends up watching porn in Beth’s hotel room with women much older than the high school girls he’d left at the party. These are Beth’s high-flying “cougar” colleague Sam (Mierka Girten, resembling Nora Dunne and channeling carnality and bitchiness), a sometimes selfish mom worried about her troubled kid TJ, and recently fired stewardess Angie (Kirsten Fitzgerald), now tending her sick mother in La Grange.

Nothing much happens here and, more importantly, nothing that wouldn’t under the circumstances (more than weaker plays can say). If Sam makes an incomplete pass at Jonathan, Angie provides maternal counsel. Beth becomes his mentor and, Scene from MUD BLUE SKY A Red Orchid Theater.perhaps, future employer. (She hopes to start a micro brewery and, with his talent for drawing, he could design the labels.)

The playwright clearly relishes the challenge of connecting and contrasting three very different drifters. Each has a moment of truth—how Sam first met Jonathan through the TSA at O’Hare, how Angie got $1,000 from a desperate wife she met at the baggage carousel, how much more Jonathan wants than an ear lick from his prom date, the “cautionary tale” that seems to be Angie’s entire life.

Murray makes Wegrzyn’s marvelous miscellany matter. Only later do you realize that Mud Blue Sky (a title that is, like much here, whatever you make of it) plays variations on a theme of isolation. People, we never learn enough, can be good to and for each other. There’s no telling when, who or why—just what. So, just wait. That’s wisdom enough for 90 minutes.

Mud Blue Sky
A Red Orchid Theatre in Chicago
scheduled to end on May 25, 2014
EXTENDED to June 29, 2014
for tickets call 312-943-8722 or visit

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