In “Flying Standby,” playwright/actress Tonya Meeks accomplishes the seemingly impossible: She brings a one-woman tour de force double-whammy of writing and performance that seamlessly draws her audience into a world that engages, entertains, teaches and seems too impossible to believe it’s autobiographical. These talents are rare in such dramatic endeavors. Too often, plays based upon the playwright’s personal experiences feel uncomfortably as if the platform was built upon a need for therapeutic catharsis. Ms. Meeks’ powerful piece however feels anything but. The world she creates is indeed almost too bizarre to believe. But the way it is crafted – both in terms of writing and acting – assures that what you see on stage probably happened.
And it is engaging as hell.
As she glides almost effortlessly between portrayals of both herself and her mother, Meeks demonstrates what a REAL one-woman show ought to be. We know she is playing all the characters, but her ability to alter her entire being for each makes the dramatic suspension of disbelief almost unnecessary. She is that good. Her characters, although real to life, BECOME real to life on stage. Mannerisms, cadence of speech, behavior – all both paradigm in distinction, but also real. This is great stuff.
The pathos, humor, choices to make, lessons to learn are all profound in their authenticity. They are also so profound because they are built from truth and played AS truth. In another piece, they could easily feel absurd. In Meeks’ hommage to a mother in whom child protective services would certainly be interested, they become a desperate need to present a complete picture of a mother-daughter relationship that although perhaps appearing the stuff of reality television, in the end is unquestionably meant to explain a unversal truth: Parents and children as they really are, not some sitcom version of what we’d like them to be. A beautifully painted dramatic arc reveals Meeks’ final acceptance of loving the mother she had, instead of perhaps the one she wanted. There is no question that amidst the chaos, insecurity, fear and sadness, these were two women who understood their relationship, loved each other and found that love in a perpetually swinging balance between which woman was actually mothering the other.
For anyone who has loved a parent in disappointment, survived despite the lack of skills expected to be provided by them and found themselves questioning how nature versus nurture can continue to affect and effect their own adult choices, “Flying Standby” is a MUST SEE.
For anyone else: JUST GO!
You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you will probably leave the theater and immediately call your own mother to tell her you love her no matter what.
It is a good thing and Ms. Meeks brings it!