Review: WHEN SHE HAD WINGS lifts the spirit at The Violet Crown City Church

A play by Susan Zeder. Brought to the Austin stage by TILT Performance Group. The show runs through Jun 18, 2022

By: Jun. 16, 2022
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Review: WHEN SHE HAD WINGS lifts the spirit at The Violet Crown City Church

9-year-old Beatrix (or simply B) knows that before she could walk, she could fly but she can't remember how! She is worried that if she doesn't remember before she turns 10 (in two days), it will all be gone! In a summer thunderstorm, B's treehouse is hit by lightning, and a mysterious stranger appears. This strange character can't speak except in squawks, single words, and occasionally the letters "KHAQQ" ... the call letters of the plane Amelia Earhart was flying when she disappeared and was never found. Is this creature a bird, an older woman who escaped from a senior care facility, or could she possibly be Amelia Earhart herself? These two unique characters now must help each other remember how to fly ... literally and metaphorically.

B (Kristen Gooch and Jourdan Huerta), spends most of her time in a treehouse shaped like an old propeller airplane. Her avid imagination goes beyond the normal expression of the creativity of children at that age, and it is understandable as B has some issues to deal with at home. B lives with an over-protective dad (played with charm and gentleness by Ben G. Bazán). Her mother is absent from the scene and we only learn about her in subtle comments B makes, comments such as: "my mom calls sometimes but not often" or "she wants to send me fat camp". The script is phenomenal at using child play to convey a complex story of deep emotions and personal conflict. B's obsession with flying symbolizes her desperate need to be free and to be weightless as a response to the conflicts with both her parents. Ms. Huerta as B (opening night) is adorable and can expertly portray a very witty and sassy 9-year-old B.

The mysterious stranger that appears after a thunderstorm, brings depth to the story. A (MsBoye), is trapped in her own mind and body and finds the need to escape her own reality in no better way than flying. The connection between these two very unique characters is as delightful as the chemistry between Ms. Huerta and MsBoye. Even though A communicates mainly through sounds and movement, MsBoye's performance is so endearing that it pulls the audience into her quest to remember how to fly.

Sound effects in When She Had Wings are done foley-style by Toby Al-Trabulsi and Yadira Uranga, and add character and charm to the entire play. Their sounds are very much like the sounds a child would make when playing, making it very entertaining for younger audiences. The wingmen, played by Sam McDonald and Jarret Suhr aid in the scene transitions, facilitate A's memory flashbacks and make toys and props come alive. Both sets of actors help bring a world of child-like imagination to life.

Rounding up the cast is Blake Common as the attendant, who provides a touch of reality to A's character and lends A a helping hand on that one last flight.

There are many elements in this play that appeal to audiences of all ages. Younger audiences will appreciate B's struggles to remember how to fly, as something that symbolizes - without being too obvious - the pains of growing up. Adults will relate to the more complex themes in the piece, themes around parenting, learning to love who we are, and the sad reality of growing old. Grab your young ones, hold on to your elders, and remember how to fly as you can still catch B, A and the garden gnomes in When She Had Wings this weekend at the Violet Crown City Church!

TILT Performance Group

Venue: Violet Crown City Church - 1300 Morrow Street - Austin, TX

Dates: Thursday to Saturday Jun 10-18, 2022. All shows are at 7:30pm.


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