For more than 2,000 years, the rich Irish tradition of oral storytelling has provided entertainment while sharing folklore and wisdom. Kevin Flynn is a worthy practitioner of this tradition, employing self-deprecating humor and deeply felt emotion to spin a rich Irish-American life story.
From a legacy of ironworkers—including grandfather Paddy Flynn pictured in the iconic photo “Lunch Atop a Skyscraper,” Kevin Flynn emerged as…a professional soccer player and a standup comic. He didn’t want to disappoint his dad, but he couldn’t be an ironworker, suspended over a work-in-progress building or bridge. He was afraid of heights. Plus, he selfishly wanted to keep all ten of his fingers.
Kevin’s dad is the deserving hero of Fear of Heights, his maxims serving as guideposts for Kevin, the other Flynns and all who see this show. Give more than you get. Do the right thing, not the easy thing. Don’t be lazy and cheap.
Being true to his dad’s teachings ended up sidetracking a promising comedy and TV hosting career. A bad experience in Hancock Park didn’t help. Ultimately the name Kevin Flynn is not as well known as many he drops in his moving/laugh-out-loud show, like Janeane Garofalo, Marlee Matlin (the subject of one of the funniest stories I’ve ever heard), Jeff Goldblum and Mickey Rooney (the subject of a story that mirrored my own horrifying encounter with the former child star).
There were a couple of times I felt I’d been left hanging, only to get caught up in the pivot and then experience the joy of a callback that ties it all together. I wanted to know what happened to the mother of Flynn’s daughter Caitlin, to whom the show is dedicated. But Flynn obviously heard the voice of his father (and his lawyer) advising, “If you can’t say something nice…”
Fame and fortune were young Flynn’s goals, and mature Flynn’s done better than most at attaining them. But family and a sense of perspective turn out to be his greatest achievements, as Fear of Heights makes clear.
Fear of Heights closes on Oct. 29. Last chances to see it are Thursday through Saturday at 8:00pm and Sunday at 4:00pm at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd. in West LA. Tickets, $30, are available here.