If you have ever joyfully immersed yourself in the deeply mysterious and rewarding jazz solos of Miles Davis or Thelonius Monk, the theatrical version of those performances is now available for your viewing. And while Wings by Arthur Kopit is less than completely successful as a play, the performance at the heart of the piece is one you will not soon forget.
Dorothy Silver, in what is basically a solo with backup now at Lakewood's Beck Center, is surpassingly brilliant as stroke patient Emily Stilson. Interestingly, we are spared the sight of this aphasia-stricken septuagenarian as others see her. Instead, the playwright ushers us inside Emily's brain and body, experiencing how she answers doctors' questions and subsequently not understanding why they can't hear or understand her. Such is the profound frustration of losing one's ability to communicate.
We learn from Emily's jaunts into her memory bank that she had been an aviatrix and wing-walking daredevil in her youth, circa World War I. And she uses that background to try to understand what is happening to her in the present. She imagines her brain having crashed, and she is now at a farmhouse disguised as a hospital, with enemy agents (the doctors and therapists) plying her for information.
Initially speaking in doubletalk, with real words gradually mixed in as her condition improves, Silver negotiates this challenging word- and soundscape with unerring precision. She rhapsodizes (about flying), she rails at the docs, she is sarcastic and tender, she is angry and devastated. In short she is everything, and she is magnificent.
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