BWW Review: IN REGARD TO FLIGHT, THE REMARKABLE CONCLUSION OF THE HUCK ETERNAL CYCLE at Just Off-Broadway Theatre, Kansas City
Phil Kinen's Big Show presents "In Regard to Flight" now showing at the Just Off Broadway Theatre, Kansas City, MO. Flight is the concluding episode in a cycle of 6 plays Kinen has written as a sequel to Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn". This final offering seeks to summarize Huck's adult life as he and dying friend Tom Sawyer seek to make peace with their past through the strength of their lifelong friendship.
"In Regard to Flight" includes elements introduced in Kinen's earlier works that stray from Twain's original story. At subsequent times in Huck's life Kinen has him ballooning in New Mexico, Tom Sawyer a Senator, Huck spending time on a Mississippi River "Neverland" island with Peter Pan, Huck meeting his illegitimate son then losing him, Huck befriending a native American Iktomi, and winding up on his Flying Circle Estate in New Mexico.
Kinen's final installment in the series has Huck looking back at his time on Neverland Island, with Peter Pan, in on stage flashbacks. The aging Huck, now being looked after by Tom and his doctor, is pushed to face the reality that many of the stories of his past were fiction that he needs to let go of. Resisting, Huck confides in doubting Tom that the stories are true, but he just can't remember everything because of the passage of so much time. Tom has been somewhat convinced by the doctor that Huck suffers from delusions, but as Huck speaks Tom begins to relive some of their history together realizing that it may, in the end, be a comfort to hold on to those special places that are real in the mind, even if not entirely real.
Huck is particularly reflective when speaking of his time with Peter on the island. He seems to hold tightly to the innocence of love they shared by keeping momentos of their relationship. He has even had a music box made that recreates the tune that Peter played on his flute. What is not revealed is if Peter represents a real person, or an internal metaphor Huck created to overcome the childhood abuses he endured.
Unlike Twain, Kinen has not ventured much into the racial attitudes of the era that sparked so much controversy in the original story. Huck has also transformed into a knowledgeable author begging the question did he learned enough from adoptive mother widow Douglas to become the person he is later in his life, or if he was simply smart enough to be self-taught? The show is, however, thoughtfully written and the dialog between Huck and Tom holds the audience throughout. The flashbacks provide insight into Huck's fading mind and provide clarity to his feelings of regret. In the end, the bonds of friendship overcome the pains of the past, whether they be real or imagined.
Joshua Gleeson (Huck Finn) gives a spirited performance as the aging adventurer. Gleeson is convincing as he expresses the inner struggle of the reflective Huck. He expresses well the determination of the elderly character to hold strongly to his historical perspective, even when his best friend has doubts. Philip Hooser (Tom Sawyer) is emotionally compelling as the cancer-ridden old senator. Hooser presents Tom as a man who increasingly yearns for the days he and friend Huck spent together in their youth. He potently expresses the fear Tom has when considering what happens after death, and it is that point around which Huck and Tom's friendship rallies.
Jake Leet (young Huck Finn) portrays the character much as the one remembered from Twain's original series. Leet gives Huck the bounding energy that embodies the budding young adventurer. He is aptly inquisitive and innocent when engaging with Peter on the island, and yet contemplative as he debates staying with Peter or continuing his journey. Roan Ricker (Peter Pan) is charming as the enigmatic character. Even though Ricker makes Peter real enough, there is still a hint of mystery in his performance that adds yet another layer to the portrayal. As we see Peter at the end of the show, Ricker again compels Huck, along with the audience, to consider the joyfulness of being a boy who can fly.
In Regard to Flight is directed by Lake Leet & Phil Kinen and runs through October 21, 2018. The production team includes: Production Manager - Tony Beasley, Lighting Design - Waren Deckert, Costume Design - Leslie Flores-Spindler, House & Set Crew - Michelle Boyer & Ryan Shepherd, Photography - Paul Andrews, "Neverland's Promise" Composed by Ry Kincaid.
Tickets available at the door. Just Off-Broadway Theatre is located at 3051 Penn Valley Dr, Kansas City, MO 64108 and there is plenty of free parking in the theatre lot. Not a show for children, this one has adult content and language and there is a 15 minute intermission.
Photos Courtesy of Phil Kinen's Big Show Productions