Photo: Joan Marcus


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Opening Night:
April 23, 2015
June 14, 2015

Theater: Samuel J. Friedman Theatre / 261 West 47th Street, New York, NY, 10036


In the parking lot of The Hummingbird, a once-glamorous motel on New Orleans’ infamous Airline Highway, a group of friends gather. A rag-tag collection of strippers, hustlers, and philosophers have come together to celebrate the life of Miss Ruby, an iconic burlesque performer who has requested a funeral before she dies. The party rages through the night as old friends resurface to pay their respects.

  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF Airline Highway

    ‘Airline Highway’ Is a Portrait of the Underclass of New Orleans

    Charles Isherwood

    April 23, 2015: The motley characters in Lisa D’Amour’s ebullient “Airline Highway” are gathering for the funeral of one of their own, Miss Ruby, a former stripper who lived alongside them in a rundown New Orleans motel. Or rather lives. Strictly speaking, Miss Ruby isn’t dead but dying. She has requested the premature funeral — which turns out to be a raucous wake — so she can attend the festivities, even if it means being lugged down from her room to the parking lot on a hospital gurney. The piteous truth is this funeral party might really be held for almost any of the characters, whose lives have crashed and burned, sputtered and stalled, or become mired in confusion, disappointment, addiction. Although they may still have the breath of life in them, and a hunger for stray shards of joy that bleeds through their armor of resignation or defiance, their futures are little brighter than Miss Ruby’s. Ms. D’Amour’s dark comedy, which opened on Thursday at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater in a bright-blazing production directed by Joe Mantello, draws a compassionate but unvarnished collective portrait of the underclass of New Orleans, a city where millions of tourists converge to party, little noticing that among the bottles and beads littering the streets are plenty of people who refuse to let the party end, and often pay a hard price for it. The production, from the Steppenwolf Theater Company in Chicago, here presented by Manhattan Theater Club, brims with humor and pungent life. It features a flawless cast led by the Tony winner Julie White (“The Little Dog Laughed”), whose harrowing performance handily surpasses her superb prior work in lighter comedies. Ms. D’Amour’s play has a loose, baggy structure that sometimes works against it, but this aptly reflects the aimlessness of its characters, who live day to day and would rather not think about the unhappy past or the foggy future.


    Airline Highway Theater review

    Adam Feldman

    April 23, 2015: Life spurts out all over the place in the first two thirds of Lisa D’Amour’s "Airline Highway." The setting is the parking lot of the Humming Bird, a decaying New Orleans motel that brims with scuffed, muddily colorful characters. These include Tanya (Julie White), a haggard, gold-hearted hooker trying to stay off pain pills; Sissy Na Na (K. Todd Freeman), a sassy trans survivor; Krista (Caroline Neff), a baby-faced stripper; and Wayne (Scott Jaeck), the joint’s garrulous manager. In an upstairs room is Miss Ruby (Judith Roberts), an elderly onetime burlesque queen. The others are throwing her a predeath funeral party, and the prodigal son at their makeshift-family reunion is Bait Boy (Joe Tippett), who has escaped their squalor as the boy toy of a rich woman, and who now returns with his girlfriend’s bourgeois teenage daughter (Carolyn Braver) in tow. Although the characters are familiar in many ways, director Joe Mantello and his accomplished cast of 16 breathe spirit into most of them, and the big, boozy party scene has jazzy vigor.


    Lisa D'Amour's colorful mosaic of a community of down-and-outliers comes to Broadway via Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company

    David Rooney

    April 23, 2015: In her terrific 2010 play, "Detroit," Lisa D'Amour showed gimlet-eyed observation, a spiky sense of humor and a vivid feel for a place and people being left behind by the American Dream. In "Airline Highway," she turns to a larger pocket of luckless folks much lower down the economic ladder, this time on the outskirts of post-Katrina New Orleans. But despite being given a dynamic production with a highly capable cast, this rambling character-driven piece lacks the earlier work's drive and clarity of purpose. While it's a vividly populated canvas, the playwright doesn't do anything much of interest with it. The ensemble in Joe Mantello's production, which comes to Broadway from Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company, play characters who either live or congregate at the Hummingbird Motel, a shabby budget dive on the stretch of road connecting the Big Easy to Baton Rouge. Seen from the car park, where the inaction unfolds, this dump is designed with battered realism by Scott Pask, and bathed by Japhy Weideman's lights in shades that run from soupy dusk through the hangover glaze of morning.


    ‘Airline Highway’ Review: A Young Playwright’s Visit to Familiar Territory

    Terry Teachout

    April 23, 2015: It’s so uncommon for up-and-coming playwrights to make it to Broadway nowadays that Lisa D’Amour’s “Airline Highway” is of interest for that reason alone. After its premiere last year by Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company, it has transferred to Broadway mostly intact, and Joe Mantello’s production, in which set designer Scott Pask has put a good-sized chunk of a seedy New Orleans motel onstage, is a young author’s dream. I wish the play were as good, but it’s a wholly derivative piece of work that has been knocked together from refurbished spare theatrical parts. Ms. D’Amour might just as well have called it “The Hot L New Orleans, or, An Iceman Named Saroyan.” The formula is just that: We get to know a gaggle of beautiful losers who’ve ended up at the Humming Bird Motel, there to face their variously hopeless fates in the manner of—yes, you guessed it—a family. All are straight out of Central Casting, including the sad stripper (Caroline Neff), the aging hooker with a heart of gold (Julie White), the angry black transsexual (K. Todd Freeman) and the Pretty Boy Who Got Away and now lives a life of middle-class respectability at which, needless to say, he is chafing (Joe Tippett).

  • NBC NEW YORK REVIEW OF Airline Highway

    Julie White Leads the Cast of MTC's 'Airline Highway'

    Robert Kahn

    April 23, 2015: The misfit hookers, strippers and drug addicts of MTC’s “Airline Highway” spend their days along the famous road leading to the New Orleans airport, but none of them are going anywhere anytime soon. A loose-limbed character study by Lisa D’Amour—her last piece, the anxiety-laden “Detroit,” mined similarly despairing territory—“Airline Highway” arrives via Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company and is directed by Joe Mantello. It’s just opened at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. Drifting in and out of the crumbling Humming Bird Motel are a half-dozen friends, including Tanya, a prostitute (Tony winner Julie White); Wayne, who manages the place (Scott Jaeck); and Krista, a stripper who can no longer afford the rent on one of the dilapidated rooms (Caroline Neff). They’ve assembled in the motel parking lot for the funeral of Miss Ruby, a renowned burlesque parlor owner many of them hold dear. Miss Ruby isn’t dead, but she’s being monitored by hospice and a wish was to be around for her own farewell. (Scott Pask’s vibrant set effectively sets the mood.)



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