AIRNESS by Chelsea Marcantel, directed by Christina A. Coakley, choreographed by Jessica Redish | Photo: Cameron Whitman Photography

DC Theatre Scene: AIRNESS

An air guitar comedy whose wildly talented cast strikes a comedy chord

“The whole impetus of air guitar is world peace,” earnestly intones a grown man who goes by the name Golden Thunder right before he goes out on stage in a dingy bar to play a pretend instrument. This one moment, perhaps more than any other, perfectly encapsulates Chelsea Marcantel’s hit air guitar play, Airness, currently being given its DC premiere in a joint production between The Keegan Theatre and 1st Stage. It’s a show about people taking a deeply silly thing extremely seriously and delighting the audience in the process.

Director Christina A. Coakley and choreographer Jessica Redish coax nuanced, energetic, and charming performances out of the cast — not for nothing, but some of these characters could have easily veered into the stereotypical in less capable hands. I’ve admired Billie Krishawn’s (The Nina) work since I first came across her in last year’s Andromeda Breaks, and she continues to be just as beguiling here, drawing the eye and ear in every scene she’s in. As Facebender, Chris Stezin is essentially playing two roles in one, and does so with aplomb; the scene in which he breaks down why he got involved in air guitar is one of the most memorable and meaningful of the whole play (and I wish Marcantel would give us an entire spin-off centered on his daily life).

As D Vicious, Drew Kopas gives the audience an easy villain to hate, but the combination of the script and his and Krishawn’s performances muddy those waters in complex, compelling ways — The Nina and D Vicious are the villains in each other’s stories, neither purely good nor evil. … And as the announcer, actual air guitar competitor Forrest A. “The Fahking Rockr” Hainline IV lends an added touch of authenticity to the proceedings.

As a member of the theatre community, so much of what Marcantel has to say about the merits of “playing pretend” and feeling special when you’re up on a stage rang so very true (as did lines like, “Journey is for step-moms and frat boys”). If you’ve ever had a passion the rest of the world looked down upon, Airness will have you cheering, booing, and jumping out of seat right along with its wildly talented cast.

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