Honored for being a "Unique Theatrical Experience" by the Drama Desk, and extended from a three-month run to a seven-month, sold-out smash, Off- Off-Broadway's Charlie Victor Romeo will get its first regional staging. Minneapolis' Guthrie Theatre will present the play in its Lab space May 17-24.
"CVR" is the acronym for "Cockpit Voice Recorder" — I.e., the little, indestructible black box that records transmissions to and from the airline pilots. In Charlie Victor Romeo, the performers act out the final minutes of real plane flights that crashed.
Charlie Victor Romeo's OOB run, produced by Collective: Unconscious Theatre, opened Oct. 21, 1999 and was initially scheduled to run through mid-January 2000, then through April 1, until it finally closed May 27 of that year. The piece returned in 2000 as part of the New York International Fringe Festival. Collective: Unconscious works out of a tiny, 54-seat storefront on Ludlow Street of NYC's Lower East Side. Audiences for the New York run of CVR were seated on folding chairs and risers and, at first, greeted by stewardesses who went through the usual cautionary procedures about oxygen masks and emergency exits. The rest of the evening was set in the cockpit as we watch pilots cope with such unexpected horrors as birds getting sucked into the engine, broken control panels, wind shear and malfunctioning equipment. All dialogue was taken from undoctored cvr transcripts; each segment ended with the number of actual casualties.
Adding to the show's nightmarish feel was Jamie Mereness' Drama Desk Award-winning sound design, featuring buzzers, beeps and alarms punctuating the ever-present hum of aircrafts. Mereness will also serve as sound designer for the Guthrie staging.
CVR is conceived, produced and directed by Bob Berger, Patrick Daniels and Irving Gregory. They appeared in the show in NYC and will do so again in MN, as will Julia Randall and original castmembers Michael Bruno, Audrey Crabtree, Dan Krumm and Stuart Rudin. In a February 2000 interview with Time Out - New York, Berger noted, "We didn't want to trivialize or sensationalize anything. We knew that this would have to be really straight and really serious. It's very sensitive stuff."
For tickets ($28-$30) and information on Charlie Victor Romeo at the Guthrie Lab, 700 North First St., call (612) 377-2224.
-- By David Lefkowitz