FLY BY NIGHT: Romantically Charming and Laugh Out Loud Funny

FLY BY NIGHT: Romantically Charming and Laugh Out Loud Funny

James Romney and Meredith Kochan in FLY BY NIGHT. (Photo by Adam Veness)

Review: FLY BY NIGHT at Theo Ubique

By Haley Slamon

Do you believe in fate? When watching the show playing right now in the intimate black box that is the No Exit Cafe, you might start wanting to. In their newest production of the Off-Broadway musical FLY BY NIGHT, Theo Ubique has created a charmingly balanced story of love, humor, despair, sandwiches, and the momentary coincidences that shape existence. The non-linear plotline shows ridiculous situations that are then explained by strings of seemingly meaningless encounters that end up changing the character’s lives. The memories of experiences past are inextricably tied with a hope for the future that makes the show seem shiningly optimistic even in its darkest moments. FLY BY NIGHT is a beautifully performed piece about the freedom of choice and the inescapability of destiny, and despite the rollercoaster of emotions it puts the audience through, could make someone wish that there is some conclusion to their life that is cosmically tailored to their needs.

The show, set in New York City in 1965, follows the relationship between Harold, an enthusiastic but awkward sandwich maker (James C.W. Romney), Daphne, an unstoppable star in the making (Meredith Kochan), and her sister Miriam, a tentative waitress concerned with her place in the world (Kyrie Anderson). The three create a love triangle that emphasizes the joy and unstoppable passion of finding your soulmate, even if your soulmate is engaged to your sister. Along the way, we meet a cast of characters: Harold’s mourning father (Sean Thomas), the prickly boss at the sandwich shop (Daniel Waters), and Daphne’s tortured rich boy director (Jonathan Stombres), each with their own memories and desires. All of these desires are intermingled and eventually realized one way or another during the infamous 1965 northeast blackout. However, this doesn’t happen before all of the events are helped along by The Narrator (Jordan Phelps), a collection of characters that is an even mix of antagonists, wise advice givers, and impartial observers. Their stories weave together to create, as The Narrator calls it, “The invisible fabric that connects us all.”

From a technical standpoint, the show can only really be called magically simplistic. Strings of fairy lights, a metal framework, naked hanging light bulbs, and two small projection screens are the main things that create the scenery, and yet it is enough to transform the No Exit Cafe into an immersive dreamworld. The actors use the entire room, the intimate space making it much more believable that the audience are patron’s in Miriam’s diner, or sitting on the streets of a dark Manhattan. This simplicity also balances out the lofty ideas of fate in the show beautifully, as it makes the themes seem far more sincere than mystical or preachy.

While the magical fairy lights mimicking a sky of South Dakota stars are lovely, they are not the only things on stage in this show that sparkle. In the small cast of seven, there isn’t a bad, or even mediocre actor among them. Anderson’s sweet internal acting style and Kochan’s brassy unstoppable energy are perfect mirrors for the sisters and each other, as they tackle everything from boppy 60’s love songs to contemporary musical theater ballads. Romney’s belt in his anthems of self-discovery and Thomas’s loving number about his late wife can melt hearts, while Phelps runs around bringing hilarity to South Dakota housewives, grouchy managers, and crazy fortune tellers. Even the smallest roles played by Stombres and Waters have laugh-out-loud moments and acting discoveries that make audiences root for them. A list of victories and highlights could be made for every actor in this show, and the fun moments they create together are apparent in every single scene. There really is only one thing this production can be criticized for, and that is the diversity of the casting. Regardless of the phenomenal acting or that the show is set in the mid-60’s, the fact that the cast is seven white people remains an unavoidable one. It’s hard to question the casting choices when the actors are so good, but it is still possible that there were other more diverse options, so this needs to be noted.

Overall, FLY BY NIGHT is beautiful, both in its crafting and execution. It is sincere and gentle, but not overly precious or sentimental. It balances love, joy, fear, hope, and sadness, bringing the audience along through each of these emotions. The ticket price isn’t the lowest in town, ranging from $30 – $64 depending on if you reserve the included dinner, but the caliber of the show really makes it worth the price of admission, especially when they offer $15 student rush tickets and discounts for students and seniors. If you want to embrace your hopeless romantic that believes in the magic of reality, regardless of your age, this is the show for you.

About author

Haley Slamon

Originally from San Francisco, Haley Slamon is a recent transplant to the Chicago area. When she is not auditioning for shows, Haley enjoys seeing theater that showcases diverse and underrepresented groups that she identifies with (namely queer, plus sized women), knitting, playing piano or guitar, and binge-watching Netflix. She is proud to be helping PerformInk nurture the wonderful companies that are attempting to improve the art-form and their communities by creating engaging, diverse, and meaningful performances.