In a first collaboration between CAM Raleigh and Burning Coal Theatre Company, the U.S. premiere of British playwright Clare Bayley’s Blue Sky opened Thursday night in the main exhibition hall of CAM Raleigh, on the first floor. Burning Coal artistic director Jerome Davis observes in his page in the program that “… [I]t would be wise for us to have a serious discussion about whether Rule of Law identifies us or is simply a glittery mask under which we hide ….” Blue Sky lifts the mask for a brief 90 minutes and peers into the disgrace of “extraordinary rendition,” the goofy phrase that the United States Government used attempting to veil that they kidnapped suspected enemies during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and then returned them for questioning to places where torture is used, in order to avoid committing that crime in the name of the citizens of our country. Some of that action occurred in Johnston County, NC, through a CIA front company called Aero Contractors.
The play takes place in England, near a small airfield where “renditioned” victims stop over on their way to their destinations. A truth-driven journalist coerces a former boyfriend and his daughter into helping her obtain flight information for the story she is researching, resulting in opening old emotional wounds and upsetting the lives of all three. Also involved is the young Pakistani wife of a victim of rendition, whose life is thrown into chaos by the reporter’s persistence. A sub-story tells us of the relationship between the man and his now dead Salvadoran wife, as well with his daughter.
CAM Raleigh is an ideal building in which to stage a play of this nature; the space is airy and high, and the walls reverberate nicely to the low growls of airplane engines as they fly over and by. Excellent use of sound design is attributable to Patrick Calhoun. The set is rudimentary and functional, intended to speed up frequent scene changes, and mostly serves that purpose. Scenic design kudos go to Elizabeth Newton. Lighting designer Nick Solyom provides nicely dramatic atmospherics, separating action areas.
Gus Heagerty, a University of North Carolina School of the Arts graduate, was invited from Washington, DC, to direct this show. He selected four talented actors to form a cohesive ensemble who pace the action flawlessly, rising and ebbing as needed and telling each story well.
Shannon Malone plays the reporter, Jane, with all the drive and frustration of an edgy investigator, wily and coy when it is called for and hard as a firearm when necessary.
Ana, the daughter, is played by Mya Ison, who brings a thoughtfulness and maturity to her teenaged character, and exudes a passion in her search for knowledge of her mother and her desire to better the world she lives in.
John Allore admirably plays Ray, the feckless plane-watcher entangled over his head in a world he prefers not to see. Allore aptly manages his character’s struggles with his relationship with his late wife, getting to know his daughter, and dealing with the indomitable Jane.
Rimsha Afzal shows the disappointment of Mina Ahmad, the Pakistani wife who believes her husband has left her for another woman, and the fear and anger at becoming involved in a morass of international intrigue.
Although this story relates to a narrow portion of the hostilities that currently engulfs the world, it also points up the depth and complexities of the state of affairs in which we live now.
SECOND OPINION: Jan. 29th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article57367163.html; and Jan. 27th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/blue-sky/Event?oid=4947593.
Burning Coal Theatre Company and CAM Raleigh present BLUE SKY at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 30, 2 p.m. Jan. 31, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 4, 10 p.m. Feb. 5, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 6, 2 p.m. Feb. 7, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 11-13, and 2 p.m. Feb. 14 at CAM Raleigh, 409 W. Martin St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27603.
TICKETS: $25 ($15 students and active-duty military personnel and $20 seniors 65+), except “Pay-What-You-Can” performance at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 31st, $5 Student Rush Tickets (sold at the door, 5 minutes before curtain), $15 Thursdays, and $15 per person for groups of 10 or more.
BOX OFFICE: 919-834-4001 or http://www.etix.com/.
SHOW: http://burningcoal.org/blue-sky/, http://camraleigh.org/2016/01/blue-sky/, and https://www.facebook.com/events/726046410828920/.
STUDY GUIDE: http://burningcoal.org/wp-content/uploads/bssgsm.pdf.
Burning Coal Theatre Company: http://www.burningcoal.org/, https://www.facebook.com/Burning.Coal.Theatre, and https://twitter.com/burningcoaltc.
CAM Raleigh: http://camraleigh.org/, https://www.facebook.com/camraleigh/, and https://twitter.com/camraleigh.
NOTE 1: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 31st, performance, which will be preceded at 1 p.m. by a “Tactile Touch Tour” of the set.
NOTE 2: The show on Friday, Feb. 5th, will start at 10 p.m., following the First Friday festivities.
NOTE 3: At 6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 6th, author and human rights advocate Robin Kirk and Christina Cowger of North Carolina Stop Torture Now will lead a discussion on the Surveillance State.
NOTE 4: At 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 11th, there will be a preshow poetry reading by So and So, which will be FREE to ticket holders for any Blue Sky performance.
Blue Sky (2012 British drama): https://bayleyclare.wordpress.com/theatre/blue-sky/ (official web page),
Clare Bayley (London playwright): https://bayleyclare.wordpress.com/ (official website), http://www.doollee.com/PlaywrightsB/bayley-clare.html (Doollee.com: The Playwrights Database), https://twitter.com/BayleyClare (Twitter page).
Gus Heagerty (Washington, DC director): https://www.facebook.com/augustus.heagerty (Facebook page) and https://twitter.com/gusheagerty (Twitter page).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.