By D. A. Blackburn
It’s been a year since Williamston Theatre unveiled the first installment of its “Voices From The Midwest” series, but the second work of this trilogy, “Flyover USA: Voices from Men of the Midwest,” is clear evidence that it’s been a fruitful interval.
“Flyover” is a perfect sibling to its sister, “Maidens, Mothers and Crones,” which highlighted feminine voices of the heartland. Though there are some notable differences between the two, a striking family resemblance – in theme and composition style – is evident in their easily-relatable, charming perspectives.
Like its sister, “Flyover” grew out of stories contributed by men from all over the Midwest. And, also like its sister, it’s structured as a series of running vignettes with eerily universal themes. Moreover, writers Dennis E. North and Joseph Zettelmaier have taken a cue from “Maidens” in giving “Flyover” an honest, conversational tone, with an economy of language that amounts to simple eloquence.
The two works depart company most notably in staging. Where “Maidens” employed an elaborate, ornate set, “Flyover” has opted for a more abstract staging that draws all attention to its three performers.
And in the talented hands of John Lepard, Tobin Hissong and Scott Norman, this proves to be a fine decision. Though all occasionally fumbled their dialogue opening night, it was obvious that each felt a sincere, strong connection to the material. They also appeared to have great fun in bringing “Flyover” to life – reveling in the work’s natural humor, but also tackling its more intimate, sentimental moments with poise.
While all three gave fine performances Friday night, it’s really the universality of “Flyover’s” themes that makes the work a refreshing and engaging play. The manner in which stories were collected has a lot to do with this, as does thoughtful work by the show’s writers. Subject matter ranges from music and food of the Midwest, to fatherhood and the rituals of coming-of-age. Though “Flyover” has a lot of ground to cover, North and Zettelmaier have crafted a smart script that speaks to every audience member on some level.
And as the play reminds us, men of the Midwest might not like to admit it, but there were more than a few watery eyes at Williamston Theatre Friday. Thankfully, there were plenty of laughs, too.
‘Flyover USA: Voices from Men of the Midwest’
Williamston Theatre, 122 S. Putnam Rd., Williamston. Thursday through Sunday through June 14. $18-$24. 517-655-746 or http://www.williamstontheatre.org