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    Charlie Victor Romeo

    Crash course

    The amazing "Charlie Victor Romeo" puts you in the cockpit on an adrenaline-fueled ride through six air disasters.


    (Originally reviewed at Collective: Unconscious in February 2000.)

    American Airlines Flight 1572 closes in on East Granby, Conn., on Nov. 12, 1995. Seventy-eight people are aboard. The pilots have no idea that their altimeter has malfunctioned and they are 76 feet closer to the ground than they think.

    Directed by: Bob Berger, Patrick Daniels, Irving Gregory, Michael Bruno, Stuart Rudin.
    Produced by: Bob Berger, Patrick Daniels, Irving Gregory, Michael Bruno, Stuart Rudin.
    Cast: Julia Berger, Audrey Crabtree, Justin Davila, Jim Grady, Dan Krumm, Stuart Rudin, Darby Thompson, Oliver Wyman, Bob Berger.
    Sound design by: Jamie Mereness, Patrick Daniels, Peter O'Clair.
    Set design by: Jamie Mereness, Patrick Daniels, Peter O'Clair.

    Related links: Official site | Alternate site
    P.S. 122
    150 First Ave. at 9th St.
    Opens: May 26, 2004
    Tues.-Sun. 8 p.m., Sat. 3 p.m.
    (212) 477-5288
    Tickets: $30

    Fringe Festival 2000

    • Fringe overview
    • Angry Little People
    • Charlie Victor Romeo
    • Compensation
    • Finally
    • The Monument
    • Thankless Jobs of the Apocalypse
    • Verbatim
    • Woman in the Animal Kingdom

    • Fringe 2001
    • Fringe 2001 listings
    The ground controller notifies them of severe weather conditions: rainy, wind 30 knots and gusty.

    Here's what the captain tells the passengers:

    "Right now they're reporting some, uh, moderate turbulence on the descent. Might get a little choppy on the way down."

    Here's what the captain tells the flight attendants:

    "It's gonna get bumpy. . . . They'll be throwing up."

    Here's what the first officer tells the captain:

    "When I was new with the airlines, I watched a guy . . . land in 30 knots of direct cross . . . and it scared the shit out of me. Actually, it scared me bad."

    This is the scene just before the first air crash dramatized in "Charlie Victor Romeo," and the first thing about the play that fascinates you will be how little we in our seats know about the fear and frenzy that might be going on in the cockpit. The discussion among the crew can be completely different from the placid pronouncements we hear over the loudspeaker.

    Charlie Victor Romeo

    But there's more to this play — it's not just a play about interesting in-flight conversations. The concept is unusual but simple: Actors sit in an airplane cockpit and re-enact the voice recorder transcripts from six doomed flights, almost word for word. The meaning of the play is less simple: It's about life, fate, technology and humanity.

    One of the eeriest and most gripping episodes involves a plane over Peru which has lost all of its instruments. The pilots pore over the instrument panel trying to figure out which readings are right and which are wrong, but as the flight continues it's clear that they have no idea where they are, how high up, or how fast they're going. They might as well be in a leaky rowboat in the middle of the ocean.

    If this happened to you on the road, you'd just pull to the side, shut off the engine and call a tow truck; but when it happens to a plane in midflight, the pilots have no way to get down. They are rootless and powerless, alive but already dead. "Right now we're stalling!" the co-pilot warns. "We're not stalling!" shouts the pilot, looking over the instruments. "It's fictitious! It's all fictitious!"

      Charlie Victor Romeo
    "Charlie Victor Romeo" is staged with haunting simplicity — the pilots are lit sometimes just by the instrument lights in front of them behind a minimalist nose cone. The episodes are punctuated by school safety film-type projections explaining the outcome of the crash — sometimes people survived, sometimes they didn't.

    The acting is truly impressive. The actors are saddled with repetitive, technical dialogue that rarely resembles a normal conversation and must be exceptionally hard to memorize and deliver. But they do it, not just with competence but with spectacular success — maintaining the professional pilot's sense of control under crisis but using every tiny opening in the lines to convey the sense of suppressed panic. And physically, you can almost see every buffeting of the planes just in the expressions of the crew members, who after all are fixed to their seats. The cast is called on to show the subtle signs of humanity in seemingly emotionless roles, and they do a tremendous job.

    Do I really want to see a play about plane crashes, you may be asking yourself. Yes, you do! "Charlie Victor Romeo" is not only about confronting your fears and the arbitrariness of fate, but also about appreciating the number of things that go right every time we fly and the heroic potential of the people we entrust our lives to. It may be the most intense drama playing in New York — you'll leave exhausted but thrilled.

    FEBRUARY 12, 2000

    Reader comments on Charlie Victor Romeo:

  • Saw it. See it.   from John Clavis, Oct 4, 2000
  • Brilliant   from J.Y. in Wisconsin, Dec 11, 2000
  • Excellent, what a ride   from Mike D. in Culver City, CA., Jul 9, 2001
  • Very Good- Great Credibility   from Russ, Oct 14, 2002
  • Please help   from Orestes Cross, Mar 12, 2005
  • Charlie Victor Romeo   from John T, Sep 23, 2005
  • Charlie Victor Romeo On Dvd?   from Mark, Jan 6, 2006

  • Post a comment on "Charlie Victor Romeo"