Red-Eye Annex Theatre at Velocity MainSpace Theater
Through Sept 11.

Embarking on a simulated overnight flight complete with zero legroom and chatty fellow passengers may not be most people's idea of a pleasant evening's entertainment. But the new late-night show from Annex feeds off exactly this combination of closeness and stimulation, straining for a hothouse effect where a close space packed full of people might bloom into a garden of bons mots and miniature revelations.

Although Red-Eye, written and directed by Stranger writer Bret Fetzer, flirts very briefly with topical issues of terrorism and security (there's a fake metal detector at the door), the play is far more concerned with upsetting the conventions of theater. There is no stage--audience members are seated alongside actors in rows of three, separated by a center aisle. The actors stand in turn and deliver monologues about their fleeting crushes or hazily defined illnesses while the flight attendant stands blankly by. Various landmarks along the cross-country flight are represented by actors (most notably the hilarious and petulant Jennifer Pratt) who hold big square paintings and glide intermittently beside the rows of seats.

The play proceeds at a military clip and nothing particularly disturbing happens, so when a quotation about flying being a combination of "boredom and terror" elicited sympathetic laughter from the audience, it was clear that the recognition rested on individual memory rather than this collective experience. Red-Eye is not about flight, despite all the references to the history of flying. It is about how audiences are afraid to break the tacit rules between the actors and the crowd, as if they don't trust the actors, when interacted with, to sustain the performance. Not a single person requested beverages from the beverage cart, and when an actress "fell asleep" on my friend's shoulder, she didn't even ask her to move.

Support The Stranger