A story of a friendship, recovery and betrayal, Adriana Sevan’s contribution to Center Theater Group’s “Solomania” program is an inviting character study with a cinematic air. “Taking Flight,” a New York story that pivots off 9/11 and touches on the exotic and the mundane, has all the earmarks of Hollywood chick pic, but pays dividends in the theater through rich description and exacting language.
To some extent this is Adriana Sevan’s therapeutic way of coming to grips with a shattered relationship and how her giving nature backfired on her need for gratitude. Her best friend Rhonda was in the middle of planning an elaborate neo-Tuscan, pseudo-Bon Jovi wedding on Long Island when the attacks on the World Trade Center left her in a hospital fighting for her life.
Adriana, unsure of her role, goes for broke as savior, willing to give up every spare second to be by Rhonda’s side regardless of the cost to her relationship with boyfriend Brian, her own family or acting career.
Rhonda spends months in ICU — through Thanksgiving, Christmas and the new year — with Adriana ensuring she never gets lonely and always has a hand to hold. Rhonda’s smile and love is reward enough.
Sevan bounces between the coldness of the intensive care unit and the warmth of their days spent on self-help retreats or shopping or talking relationships. Ghosts and goddesses are called upon to guide Rhonda to health, including Esperanza Middleschmerz, who dances a samba to get through pain.
Rhonda progress slowly; as she moves to rehab, a worn-out Adriana cuts the dependency.
Eventually, though, it causes a schism in their relationship. As a consequence, the two women develop wildly differing ids: Adriana wants recognition as a healer; Rhonda sees herself as self-made, with anyone who demands a share in her recovery an emotional carpetbagger. They don’t speak for 3½ years, during which time they develop vastly different lives.
The title, “Taking Flight,” refers to the play’s closing moments; it ends satisfactorily, if a bit cleanly, with a sense of forgiveness all around.
Sevan has drawn two rich characters and given just enough attention to other people in their lives that they, too, appear in the mind’s eye. Through succinct descriptions, Sevan transports the aud from one locale to another without projections or sets. This work has a healthy life ahead of it.
On opening night, Sevan fell during the Esperanza dance, which required the performance to be stopped for more than a half-hour. She performed nearly two-thirds of the piece seated in a chair with her knee bandaged and elevated. Since most of the show is done in a chair, Sevan is expected to be able to continue with the show’s run, even if she has damage to her leg. Director Giovanna Sardelli and Sevan will be working on blocking changes before the next perf, which is Friday.