The show is arguably more timely now than when it premiered at the Lower East Side's tiny Collective Unconscious Theatre. The performers act out the final minutes of real plane flights that crashed. "CVR" is the acronym for Cockpit Voice Recorder" — aka, the little, indestructible black box that records transmissions to and from the pilots. CVR's run expired before the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
Audiences for CVR at Collective Unconscious were seated on folding chairs and risers and, at first, greeted by stewardesses who go through the usual cautionary procedures about oxygen masks and emergency exits. The rest of the evening is 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 is taken from undoctored CVR transcripts; each segment ends with a screen projection detailing the number of actual casualties. Audiences typically emerged from the show shaken and silent.
Adding to the show's nightmarish feel is Jamie Mereness' Drama Desk Award-winning sound design, featuring buzzers, beeps and alarms punctuating the ever-present hum of aircrafts. Co-designing the piece are Pat Daniels (set) and Peter O'Clair (lighting).
The show was created and directed by Bob Berger, Patrick Daniels and Irving Gregory (who also appeared in the show).
Word of the production's authenticity got out to the aviation industry, and flight schools began to send their student pilots to the show as part of their training. Producers estimate that over one-third of the production's audiences have been members of the aviation community. Charlie Victor Romeo first opened October 21, 1999 and was initially scheduled to run through mid-January 2000, then through April 1, 2000. It finally closed May 27, 2000—all told, a incredibly long run in the 16-shows and-out world of Off-Off-Broadway.
All seats are $30. P.S. 122 is located at 150 1st Ave. (at E. 9th St.). For general information call (212) 477-5829.