Triangle Arts and Entertainment – News and Reviews Theatre Dance Music Arts

“VALPARAISO” BY DON DeLILLO | June 18 – July 23


The Free Association Theatre Ensemble of Raleigh, NC presents VALPARAISO, a 1999 play by American novelist Don DeLillo, on June 18-19 and 24-27 and July 1-3 at Common Ground Theatre in west Durham. The play follows a man on an ill-fated business trip to Valparaiso, IN, who lands instead not in his alternate destination of Valparaiso, FL, but in Valparaiso, Chile.

FATE invites Triangle theatergoers to “Come fly Air Reliance and witness one man’s meteoric rise and tragic fall, all from your Coach or First Class seat — it’s better than an in-flight movie!”

“I found this play in a bookstore, while I waited on a friend to finish shopping,” says FATE founder and artistic director Julya M. Mirro. “It was misfiled, in the discounted novel area rather than the plays, probably because it was a hardback. I had not heard of it, but when I picked it up and read a few pages at random, it sounded really interesting, and seemed to be a good fit for FATE.”

She adds, “I like the fact that the play is about the various facets of the media — what it is, how it’s used, abused, its power, its foibles. I love the language in the play ([which was] one of the first things that drew me to it), and the levels on which it plays.

“I like the amorphous quality of the story and production value,” says Mirro, “and the truths it manages to almost sneak by the audience. I think it’s a clever play, with all of its mercurial emotions; and it has an almost Brechtian feel in action/inaction. The story and presentation really suited my style, and I have been eager to direct it since I read it a few years ago. I think it’s rather surprising in many ways, and I hope that the audience feels encouraged to talk about it!”

Mirro says, “The story is that of a business man, Michael Majeski (John Paul Middlesworth), who leaves his fairly mundane life and wife (Julie-Kate Cooper) behind as he embarks on a business trip, and the subsequent media storm that follows his trip back home, having gone half-way around the world to complete an apparent mistake. The play chronicles Michael’s experiences with the media.

“Act One follows him through seven different interviews (with Interviewers Nicola Lefler, Ken Wolpert, Jeff Bergman, Miranda Day, and Oliver Vest),” explains Julya Mirro, “and is followed by Act Two’s ‘live TV’ recording of a show best described as a combination Jerry Springer/Oprah/Dr. Phil, known as ‘D — Watch It!’

“Delfina (Lisa Levin) and Teddy (Kevin Roberge) take Michael and Livia on the final leg of their journey,” says Mirro. “Along the way, flight attendants (Noelle Barnard and Nancy Jones) remind us of Michael’s flight, and provide clues to the trip.”

In addition to producer and director Julya Mirro, who doubles as a Jill of All Trades for VALPARAISO, the FATE creative team for the show includes technical director and sound designer Brian Clark, set designers Deirdre Lewis and Leslie A. Pless, lighting designer Julya Mirro, costume designer Lauren Polak, and properties manager and stage manager Deirdre Lewis. The show also features what the director calls “minor choreography” by Noelle Barnard, Nancy Jones, and Julya Mirro, who helped out on the technical direction and set, costume, and sound design.

“Inspired by airport gates, waiting areas, and baggage claim, the set consists of seating designed to be temporary, luggage, and a stationary bike,” notes Julya Mirro. She adds, “The lighting’s main purpose to direct the audience’s attention to the movement and the timeline.”

Mirro says the show’s costumes are “inspired by Air Reliance. [T]heir red, white, and blue logo and promotional materials [are] primarily designed by Julya Mirro, [and] the characters’ clothing helps define character relevance in Michael’s life, and tie in to the Air Reliance flight attendants.”

She adds, “The show runs without an intermission, and is about 90 minutes long…. The production content is mature, and recommended for adults. Parents are encouraged to speak with us about the show prior to attendance for more information. There will be a few moments of cigarette smoke in the production.”

Producer and director Julya Mirro says, “The major challenge in terms of staging [VALPARAISO] was ensuring its amorphous quality and balancing that with some semblance of reality — ‘reality TV’ is integral to the understanding of the story. The other major challenge came to the actors in terms of the language; there is much repetition and many lines seem disjointed or out of sequence. This proved to be a lateral puzzle in both memorization and creating consistency and logic for the audience in following motivation and purpose in the characters’ actions and behaviors.”

Free Association Theatre Ensemble presents VALPARAISO at 8 p.m. June 18-19 and 24-26, 2 p.m. June 27, and 8 p.m. July 1-3 at Common Ground Theatre, 4815B Hillsborough Rd., Durham, North Carolina 27705.

NOTE: Coach Seats include one boarding pass and in-flight peanuts or pretzels. First Class Seats include one boarding pass, preferential seating, in-flight peanuts or pretzels, and drink (wine available for those of age).


by Robert W. McDowell
Robert McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review of Raleigh, NC. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.E-mail RobertM748[at] to start your FREE subscription to this weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter.

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