note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Carl A. Rossi
You can’t beat CHARLIE VICTOR ROMEO at the Zero Arrow Theatre for white-knuckled suspense: in a cockpit setting, five actors and two actresses act out the final moments of Black Box transcriptions from six real-life airline emergencies, all of the planes going down due to human error, mechanical malfunction or Nature itself. (The evening’s title is a nickname for the CVR, or Cockpit Voice Recorder.) Some may take offense at such material being offered as entertainment, others may pass due to the high death factor, but CHARLIE VICTOR ROMEO is neither sensationalized nor morbid but, instead, a tribute to the everyday men and women who take our lives in their hands upon take-off and do all that is humanly possible to set us safely on the ground, again. For the record, all of the transcripts used are from 1985 to 1996 (the show itself was conceived in 1999); none of these crashes resulted from terrorist attacks --- thus, memories of 9/11 are no excuse for not attending this show where the audience begins as terrified passengers but comes to feel itself part of these crews, so human in their banter, bickering and unflappability. (Perhaps the most heartbreaking moments are the offstage voices from the control towers, safe on the ground and staying calm for the crews’ sake to the very end.)
Considering the company worked from bare-boned transcripts, the juice of life squeezed out of them, the talented cast floods us with vivid turns of human nature under pressure and in minute detail, and Jamie Mereness’ breathtaking soundtrack, recreating the sounds of a plane in health, warning and death agony, plays around and underneath you, sealing you in with the actors for ninety unrelenting minutes; Death comes each time as a silencing black-out with the outcome flashed upon a screen. CHARLIE VICTOR ROMEO is not everyone’s idea of a night out but if the requirements of Art are to disturb, provoke and enlighten, then this is Art, indeed --- and you’ll never feel so glad, afterwards, to feel your feet on terra firma, once again.