Sol Mason, Jacqueline Wright, Debra Lane, Claudia Ferri, Francis C. Edemobi and Lee Boek in The Pilot Who Crashed the Party. Photo by Jenny Graham.
Paul Sand, 91, introduces his world premiere play The Pilot Who Crashed the Party onstage at the Broadwater with a well-earned at sense of pride. The result of years of writing, rewriting and workshopping, The Pilot comes to life as a charming, engaging whodunit. Sand even directs this production.
Described as an offbeat homage to the drawing room dramas of the ’30s, The Pilot opens as a group of friends is solving a murder mystery game. They gathered at the sprawling home of Sally (Jacqueline Wright) in the Santa Monica Mountains. Outside a storm rages; inside it’s a 50th birthday celebration for Sally.
Suddenly outside crashes in, as a small plane goes down on the property. A wing ends up on the dining room table and a pilot (Sol Mason, who eerily resembles a young Paul Sand) shows up at the front door.
Who is this handsome pilot? A birthday gift for Sally? An amateur flyer? A spy? The pilot can provide no insight. He’s in a fugue state caused by the crash and thinks he arrived by car.
With the hillside roads washed out by mudslides, continuing deluge, plus power and cell tower outages, the guests are left to their own devices. Daniel (Lee Boek), Laura (Claudia Ferri), Ilo (Francis C. Edemobi) and the caterer (Debra Lane) all have their own theories, projecting themselves onto him as they take turns caring for him and trying to keep him awake and safe. Only cellist Chris Rorrer offers no opinion, simply background music that sometimes shifts to the foreground.
At least one piece of the puzzle is solved late in the play by a character played by Marcia Lynn Anthony. By then, the audience has been thoroughly entertained. The clever script, direction and production values keep things moving and clues flowing. The acting sometimes struggles to keep up. But all in all, The Pilot Who Crashed the Party is an entertaining and intellectually challenging comedy/mystery combining the traditions of Anthony Shaffer, Noel Coward and Jean Cocteau.
Those top-notch production values come from scenic designer Jeff G. Rack, lighting designer Azra King-Abadi, sound designer Shoshana Kuttner and projection designer Fritz Davis.
Performances of The Pilot Who Crashed the Party take place Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m., April 8 through May 7. General admission is $35. The Broadwater Theatre is located at 6320 Santa Monica Blvd. Tickets are available here.