BWW Review: UP at University Of Utah Department Of Theatre
Bridget Carpenter's UP (THE MAN IN THE FLYING CHAIR) is a curiosity of a play, with its tone alternating between humor and pathos. It is largely a meandering tale of one man's dismal attempt to recapture a former glory, but there's an emotional payoff in the final scene.
The University of Utah Department of Theatre's production of UP is satisfying. There are vivid characterizations under Chris DuVal's direction, and each of the actors has a high-flying moment.
A truck driver named Larry Walters became a brief celebrity ("Lawnchair Larry") in 1982 when he propelled 15,000 feet into the air on a lawn chair attached to 45 helium-filled weather balloons.
Carpenter is most known as a producer for the "Parenthood" and "Friday Night Lights" TV series, but also wrote the book for the musical adaptation of "Freaky Fridays." She fictionalizes the story set 15 years after the aerial stunt, and Walter Griffin (Dominic Zappala) is now a father and husband who putters around the basement with new inventions, while his frustrated, breadwinning wife Helen (Kelsey June Jensen) has sacrificed her ambitions for a steady post office job.
His high school-age son Mikey (Louis Hillegass IV) has developed a friendship with the pregnant Maria (Emily Nash) and her shadily entrepreneurial aunt (Ashley K. Patlan). Walter is obsessed with Philippe Petit's famed 1974 wire-walk between the twin World Trade Center towers, and he occasionally interacts with Petit (PJ Volk).
There's no hint of a possible resolution between Walter and Helen's domestic discord or how Maria will manage motherhood. UP yearns to be an uplifting cautionary fable, advising us to choose our dreams carefully, but the script never really gets off the ground.