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Goethe Institut – Mainstage, 812 7th Street NW

Remaining Performances:
Thursday, Jul 14th 10 p.m.
Saturday, Jul 16th 1 p.m.
Tuesday, Jul 19th 8:15 p.m.
Friday, Jul 22nd 10 p.m.

They say: “An untold story of 9/11, the stranding of 6000 airline passengers in Gander, Newfoundland (Canada), population 10,000. This “heartwarming & hilarious” solo performance recounts the story of Irish, English and Americans traveling to New York on that most unforgettable day.”

Glen’s Take: Michael Walsh is the real thing – an actor who creates vivid characters without pushing them down our throat, who assigns each one a small, economical gesture that delineates them clearly, and who transitions from each to each with a fluid, practiced grace. There’s a lot to be said for Fringe’s lunging eagerness to get all-up-in our collective grill, but it’s refreshing — and in the realm of solo shows, unusual — to catch such an unforced and naturalistic performer simply inviting us to engage with him and his story.

Which is not to say that Walsh isn’t putting in the work — it’s just that much of it’s been done before the audience take their seats. The show’s shape and tone feel fully considered; Between Takeoff and Landing is a funny, nuanced evening of theater, and Walsh is smart about the people he depicts.

There’s himself, of course, an affable guy just trying to get home when his Aer Lingus flight from Dublin to New York gets grounded for four days in Newfoundland following 9/11. There’s Siobhan, the good-time gal who keeps everyone’s spirits up by keeping the spirits flowing; Carl, the Newfoundlander who invites the stranded passengers to sleep on the floor of his Elks’ Club lodge; a trio of Irish lads who’re there to act as a sort of drunken Greek chorus, and several others as well.  All seem palpably real — especially to the older couple I sat behind, who told me they’d been stranded on Newfoundland themselves during the same period. (Let the record show that they greeted Walsh’s Newfie accent with hoots of recognition.)

Quibbles? Well at 70 minutes, the show’s strict chronology seems a little constricting. (“Day Three,” said Walsh at around the 50 minute mark, which set the couple in front of me into a bout of seat-shifting.) But Walsh fills those days and nights well, with several neatly constructed set pieces.

See it if:  Your face is weary of so many Fringe shows getting in it, and is looking instead for something it can get into.

Skip it if: “What, no dildos? No Maxi-pads? FUCK THAT NOISE.”