Prepare for a feel good fest with “Come From Away” at The Fox
By Joanne Fistere
On the morning of September 11, 2001, my brother called me and told me to turn on the news. Having been at the top of the World Trade Center just the month before while on vacation, we were then glued to the tv as we watched the horror of the terrorist attack unfold. What we didn’t know at the time was that 38 planes were being diverted and ordered to land in a small town (population about 10,000) in Newfoundland, Canada, called Gander. Approximately 7,000 people and 19 animals from all across the globe were stranded in Gander with no idea of what happened or how long they would be there. And that is where the story of “Come From Away”, now playing at The Fabulous Fox, begins.
The show opens on the simple town of Gander and the typical beginning of their normal day. We meet the various and sundry characters from the mayor to the teacher to the SPCA worker, all of whom are charming and delightfully quirky. Then normal falls away and the news of the attacks turns their world upside down. We then are on board one plane after another enduring the horror of uncertainty of sitting on a grounded plane being forbidden to offboard. As the passengers are finally allowed to deplane and are greeted by the townspeople they eventually learn what happened back home and fear, desperation, and further confusion take over. The Ganderians spring into action providing food, clothing, and comfort for the almost 7,000 travelers that have shown up on their doorstep. Over the next five days strangers become friends and the original fear fades to familial harmony as the plane passengers become temporary and honorary Newfoundlanders. The show is based on actual interviews with the people who inspired it and there isn’t a false note in any of the telling.
The ensemble of 12 remain onstage for the nonstop hour and 45 minutes. They play multiple roles from the residents of Gander to passengers and crew members of various flights from varying countries. Each and every actor makes the transition seamlessly, so much so that I kept thinking there were at least 30 more people coming on and off from the wings. I love that these uber-talented performers come in assorted shapes, sizes, ages, and skin tones. In other words, they look like everyone and anyone, which makes the story that much more human and relatable. A skilled band of eight sits onstage as well, with many of the musicians covering multiple instruments some with Gaelic influences including the bodhran, pennywhistle, fiddle, Irish flute, and Uilleann pipes. The music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein tell the story simply and beautifully and move the plot along at an energetic pace.
The simple stage setting designed by Beowulf Boritt lends itself to easy transitions from airplane interiors, to coffee shops, to buses, to mountain overlooks. Costumes by Toni-Leslie James and lighting by Howell Binkley offer the same simple additions and shifts that work our imaginations beautifully to take us to the exact locales in a blink of an eye.
With all of the hate and unrest that is happening in the world today this show is a delightful reminder of what the human spirit is capable of. There is a wonderful number entitled “Prayer” that takes place in a church and begins as a Catholic prayer of St. Francis but members of other religions join in bringing in their faiths and languages in harmony demonstrating the spirit of love across faiths that I find extremely moving. At the end of the play, many of the original passengers return to Gander for a 10-year reunion at which time the mayor of Gander says "Tonight we honour what was lost, but we also commemorate what we found." There is loss in “Come From Away” but there is a great deal of heart and goodness that is found. It is definitely a feel-good show for a time when I know I sure can use it, and if you can too, head on down to the Fox.
“Come From Away” at The Fabulous Fox runs through November 5th. For tickets and information go to The Fabulous Fox website.