(Chris Jones’s article appeared in the Chicago Tribune, 12/14.)
In the beginning," observes a dying character in Lisa D'Amour's fascinating new Steppenwolf Theatre Company drama, "Airline Highway," "there was sex."
Miss Ruby, who is played by the remarkable actress Judith Roberts, and whose imminent demise is the reason for the memorial gathering of her fellow denizens of the gritty Hummingbird Motel, isn't so much talking about copulation as she is a defining attribute of a place. That would be New Orleans, The Crescent City, The Big Easy, NOLA, the one town in the South with both license and absolution to conduct a continuous, Bourbon Street Bacchanal for drunken invaders whose tongues hang down low, all the way into their booze-to-go.
But at what price? And who's paying?
Get a few miles out of New Orleans and you might as well be in Atlanta, this play suggests. In fact, if one was to really boil down what "Airline Highway" is about, you could do worse than say it's a play about the struggles of the eclectic members of the underclass of New Orleans to live their lives without abeyance to the confining economic and moral values of the homogenous New South.