By Philip Pearce
LOCAL PLAYWRIGHT TOM PARKS describes Lucky Lindy, his new play at the Cherry, as “a conversation with Charles Lindbergh.”
It’s Q and A between two people who have never met before, one a major figure in twentieth century history, the other a fictional television personality who interviews famous people, past and present. Their exchanges happen at a time when Lucky Lindy and the century are both in their seventies and he seems to have the leisure to look back, mostly with his accustomed calm but occasionally in small emotional outbursts when the conversation strays into some stormy personal territory.
Parks has made a habit of writing plays about twentieth century notables, but they have largely been strong personalities like Dorothy Parker and Zelda Fitzgerald who carry the kind of explosive emotional baggage that makes for laughs, pathos and drama.
Lucky Lindy is more restrained. Its ordered interview structure works well with a celebrity as reticent and almost withdrawn as was Charles Lindbergh, who made history more by what he did and what happened to him than by much originality of thought or individuality of personality even in his troubling political attitudes.
Parks’ script imagines Lindbergh’s interviewer as a sharp-tongued but sympathetic media veteran named Maggie, played with plenty of zip and assurance by Lynette Winter. Before Lindy checks in, she trades television technical chat and Hollywood banter with her network director, played from a back row seat that doubles as his sound booth by an un-credited Tom Parks. He and Maggie speculate, as well they might, on why Lindbergh has chosen this late moment to open himself up to an American public he has with some justice regarded with deep resentment for much of his life.
Keith Decker, an actor capable of passion and intensity in most stage circumstances, is an impressively polite and cautiously coherent Lindbergh. He keeps the surface of things smooth and serene until Maggie shifts from his sensational solo transatlantic flight in the Spirit of St. Louis and his marriage to Anne Morrow into the raw and ugly territory of his infant son’s kidnapping and death and the cheap sensational publicity that sprang from it.
Segueing this way between studio floor and sound booth makes for a nice change of pace and emphasis on an action that is otherwise just two people seated center stage talking to each other. But the voice from the sound booth floats down from behind the backs of the audience and in the process sometimes sounds muffled and distorted. The idea is good one, but some electronic amplification would help.
The enthusiastic houseful of patrons who packed the theater on opening night contained a lot of aviation buffs, if I’m any judge. The man on my right wore a flight jacket, and my neighbor on the left proudly downloaded shots of the plane he keeps in top shape and flies regularly out of Monterey Airport.
A longer and more searching script might have made wide and wild guesses about hidden depths lurking beneath Lindbergh’s middle-American reticence. Wisely, this 45-minute one act just sticks to the facts. They are presented, like the subject himself, with an intellectual clarity that keeps you well-informed but, like the subject himself, leaves you a bit emotionally detached.