Lucas Papaelias & Marinda Anderson in Airness. Photo by Bill Brymer.
By Chelsea Marcantel
Directed by Meredith McDonough
Review by Kate Barry
Entire contents are copyright © 2017 Kate Barry. All rights reserved.
Admit it – you’ve played air guitar at least once in your life; an irresistibly easy skill that places you in rock star status, it’s the stuff that dreams are made of. At the Humana Festival of New American Plays, Airness follows six air guitar aficionados as they shred their way to glory. Upon first glance, air guitar may seem like a nonsensical concept for such a highly respected and prestigious event like the Humana Festival. It is a drastic departure from Actors Theater’s long line of Pulitzer Prize and Tony winners. but Airness has all the trappings for great entertainment.
We meet Nina, played by Marinda Anderson, who is new to the air guitar circuit. Like any outsider to an inclusively obscure counter culture, Nina enters with hesitance and judgment.Anderson shines as she takes us through Nina’s odyssey in the air guitar world, growing in acceptance and confidence and transforming into a rock god. Her performance of Pat Benatar’s “Shadows of the Night” delivers raw power and just the right amount of 1980’s hair metal camp. Anderson takes a seemingly wallflower, stock character, and turns it into a truly inspirational and empowering portrayal.
As Nina learns more about this seemingly unusual world of air guitar, she relies on “Shreddy Eddy”, played by Nate Miller, for knowledge and guidance. Miller’s straight out-of-a-record- store music geek delivered comedy involving music snobbery and elitism that any hipster or music lover would appreciate. Although “Shreddy Eddy” and Nina become involved in a thinly veiled courtship, Anderson and Miller’s romantic chemistry falls a little flat, and seemed unnecessary among the imaginary guitar slinging focus in the play.
What good is an odyssey through an air guitar tournament without other eccentric contestants? Nina meets an eclectic array of lovable freaks that live and breathe in their alter egos with amazing dance moves and sick licks. Lucas Papaelias steals the show as “Facebender”. Clad in cape and flowing blonde wig from something out of Dungeons and Dragons, Papaelias delivers a lot of heart and passion not only in his performances of The Eagle’s “Hotel California”, and Queen’s “Somebody to Love”, but also in his sonnet-like delivery. Marc Pierre is smooth on his feet and sparkles as much as, if not more than, the golden sequins he dons throughout his performances as “Golden Thunder.” Pierre sets the bar high with his ode to Michael Jackson at the top of the show and continues to raise it throughout the show. Angelina Impellizzeri, as “Cannibal Queen”, delivers the spirit of rock and roll with her middle fingers on proud display and a don’t-mess-with-me attitude to boot. Brian Quijada is a worthy adversary for the rest of the contestant as the returning champ, “D Vicious.” Charged by a brush with fame and defending a title, Quijada delivers a high stakes performance and reminds us all how brutal competition can be.
Throughout the play, actual four-time, reigning United States Air Guitar champion Matt Burns introduces each performer as Nina travels to the Air Guitar World Championships. Burns and the rest of the cast display amazing showmanship and talent, proving that air guitar can turn an ordinary person into something extraordinary.
March 24-April 9, 2017
Part of the 41st Annual Humana Festival for New American Plays
Actors Theater of Louisville
Victor Jory Theater
316 W Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Kate Barry earned her Bachelors in English with a Theater minor from Bellarmine University in 2008. She has worked with many different companies around town including Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions and you have probably purchased tickets from her at that little performing arts center on Main Street as well. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. She has written for LEO Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. Thanks for reading!