Fly By Night at Playwrights Horizon

This past weekend, I took on a three-show-weekend. I saw Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder and Fly By Night on Saturday, and Holler If Ya Hear Me on Sunday. I'm going to review all of them, but I figured I'd start with my favorite, and the one closing first. Since Fly By Night is part of Playwrights Horizons' Spring Season, it will end its run on Sunday the 29th.

Holy crap am I glad I got to see this show. There are some shows you watch that are pure flights of fancy-- entertainment with a focus on diversion. This is not that kind of show. Fly By Night is the kind of show that manages to tell a story that, in addition to making you laugh and jam out, will also make you re-examine your life. How are you living? Why are you living? What does it all mean, and is there even a point? It's been called  Off-Broadway's answer to The Fault In Our Stars.

Set over the course of a year culminating in the 1965 Black-Out that brought the entire northeast to its knees, Fly By Night centers around Harold, a 20-something guy working as a sandwich-maker at a dreary little deli in New York City. It begins with the death of his mother, Cecily, after which his father hopes to mourn with Harold, but Harold would much rather flee the scene and try to move on. Meanwhile, Miriam and Daphne are sisters who leave South Dakota for New York, wherein they find themselves in a love triangle with Harold. It's a story that has a bit of magic, humor, and a whole lot of bouncing between the ideas of destiny and the mundane, causing us to consider that maybe our divine destinies are made up of not just the great highs and lows, but the everyday choices we make, including the moments when we don't know what the hell we are doing.

The music is absolutely amazing. I need a cast recording right now, but it looks like I'll have to wait til December. There is a live band in the middle of the stage, Austin/Brooklyn band Foe Destroyer, that is just unbelievably amazing, and they accompany the show. I cannot sing high enough praises for where the music takes this show.

The writing of this show is so well-done, presenting a story that is both nuanced and raucous. There is quite a bit of jumping around in the narration of the story, which is at once playful and ingenious. It creates a world where time and space fold into itself into PH's relatively small stage, and where the lives of our heroes intersect and parallel in ways that a linear story-telling method would not allow for. It goes back to the idea that hindsight is 20/20, and the moments that are turning points in our lives often don't feel like it when they are upon us, and only after seeing the outcome do we realize how one small decision, or one encounter, has become a part of our lives in a big way. The characters are sometimes exaggerated, but nonetheless interesting, sympathetic, and likeable, even when cranky. Every character reaches some sort of big realizations about their time on earth, or its meaning, but the show doesn't feel preachy or supercilious. It feels authentic, its emotionality genuine.

I cannot say whether or not this show's story has a happy ending or a sad one. I don't think the show really cares if it's sad or happy, because it was meaningful. A show or a life, it's about whether or not a life is fulfilling, and how we connect with others. I think this show not only tells a story about the importance of a life of meaning and connection, but leads one in its own right. I highly recommend grabbing seats to this show before it ends its run!

Harper's Rating: 5 / 5 (!!!)

Amazing music
Fantastic performances by all the cast
Intimate performance space-- no bad seats in the house
Great storyline that's playful and funny, but also deep and thought-provoking
You might cry. You probably will cry. But everyone will cry with you.
That's really the only con. I loved this show.

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  1. I love Broadway plays so much! When all my friends get excited about going to concerts, I get excited about seeing a new show! It's such a problem (I don't think its a problem) that I saw The Book of Mormon three times when it came to Chicago last year! I wanted to see this play so bad but I won't be in New York until late July!

    I'm going to see Fly By Night 2 more times on Closing Day/Night