Women Pilots Soar in Cape Rep's 'Bottom of the Sky'
By: Jeannette de Beauvoir, May 8, 2012
I went to see “The Bottom of the Sky” at the Cape Rep Theater in Brewster really wanting to like it. I like and respect the playwright, Art Devine. I am passionate about the subject matter—women pilots—and have written two novels and a short play about them myself.
I wanted to like it, but I had no idea that I would like it so much.
Set between the two World Wars, the main storyline follows two sisters who discover the sheer blazing joy of flight. But as they learn to fly, the audience travels through many other layers: the story of a family torn apart by circumstances, the story of the narrow-mindedness and pseudo-science that led to eugenics, the story of adapting—or not—to the social circumstances of one’s time.
The Reverend (played with panache by Marty Allegretti) has a problem: women. His brother-in-law’s wife has inconveniently died in childbirth and he is willing to raise only one of the two daughters she leaves behind. Penelope, played by Kedian Keohan, is the unfortunate child he plans to mold into his own view of what women should be.
Prepare for takeoff...
The Bottom of the Sky
Performances through June 3, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 PM; Sunday matinees at 2 PM
Special 7 PM performance on Wednesday, May 30Cape Rep’s Indoor Theatre
3299 Route 6A, Brewster
Reservations: (508) 896-1888
As the Reverend drawls early on in the play, a woman should not be mistaken into thinking that just "because she is allowed to vote, men want to hear her opinion.”
The other daughter, Jeanne Marie, has the more enviable lot: she’s adopted by Hattie, a barnstorming pilot who one day at the local fair took the sisters up into the sky. As Jeanne Marie grows up, Hattie becomes a role model as well as a parental figure.
Hats off to the cast
Played by Raquel Wallace as a child and Caitlin Mills as an adult, Jeanne Marie is a feisty, independent and oddly vulnerable character, whose ideas about her place in the world are far ahead of her time.
Hattie, played by Laura Latreille, is quirky (she carries a tobacco tin holding her deceased husband’s ashes, which she talks to all the time), but better than anyone else, she gives audiences a glimpse of the passion and excitement that inspired the first generation of women aviators.
When women first learned how to fly, they were making less of a statement about men than they were simply ignoring them: all that really matters to pilots, from Harriet Quimby to Hattie herself, is the joy of flight, and Latreille lets us in on that feeling.
The cast is excellent, nearly everyone taking on taxing multiple roles throughout the production, but the shining star of the show has to be Jackie Davis, playing the dual roles of devoted housekeeper Paulette and fearless aviator Regina.
Her characters are extremely well written, bringing both pathos and humor to the play; but what she does with them is nothing short of extraordinary.
The rewards of risk
Cape Rep director Janine Perry notes that while “the financial risk of a new play is so high, and the audience so difficult to cultivate,” she never had any qualms about commissioning this new work from Devine.
“I knew he would give us something extraordinary,” she said.
Extraordinary, too, has been the response. Dan Wolf, the state senator (D-Harwich) and owner of Cape Air, took the director and cast on a flight to show them how small planes are flown and to give them a taste of the sky that the play’s characters so love.
If “The Bottom of the Sky” is any indication, we’re in for a stellar season at the Cape Rep!