By Andy Boyd and Blythe Roberson; Directed by Andy Boyd
Produced by Mirror Dimly
Part of the 2015 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 8.28.15
VENUE #15: Robert Moss Theater at 440 Studios, 440 Lafayette Street, 3rd Floor
by Emilyn Kowaleski on 8.18.15
BOTTOM LINE: A rich historical story that seems ideal for the stage.
Most of us are familiar with Roald Dahl as the author of some of our most beloved children's novels. What many don't know is that before sitting down to pen these imaginative tales Dahl lived a James Bond-like existence as a spy for the Royal Air Force during World War II; a story so rich, it almost seems like fiction unto itself.
This is the story the writing team, Andy Boyd and Blythe Roberson bring you in Yesterday was Beautiful. It opens on an injured Dahl (Luke Rose) in conversation with his commander, Harold Balfour (Jacqui Rossi). Balfour switches Dahl from pilot to diplomat, sending him to America to, "drum up support for the RAF,” a task which ends up prompting Dahl’s fortunate discovery of his literary and illustrative talents. Later, Dahl meets the accomplished Clare Luce (Ava Langford) in a bar. She bluntly tells him that she’s caught in a sexless marriage and wants to take him home, thus beginning their torrid but casual affair. Dahl recounts the meeting to Balfour who convinces Dahl to use the relationship in order to gain classified wartime information. Things get messy, however, when Dahl falls hard for the sexy Luce.
Luce and Dahl, outside of their illicit engagements, passionately debate international and sexual politics. Balfour’s character adds a twist of slightly absurd comedic levity, as he runs an amusing gag of reciting comically-long lists of sexual innuendos to describe their activities. Rossi, who beneath her aged garb (she appears to be in her 20’s), seizes the grand bend in age and gender, tackling Balfour’s language and physicality with a delightful sense of play.
The production as a whole is somewhat stiffly rendered and requires several intense suspensions of disbelief, which are at points distracting to the story. However, it is evident how excited the team is to illustrate this surprising piece of history.
(Yesterday Was Beautiful plays at VENUE #15: Robert Moss Theater at 440 Studios, 440 Lafayette Street, 3rd Floor, through August 28, 2015. Performances are Sun 8/16 at 4:45; Wed 8/19 at 8:15; Fri 8/21 at 2; Wed 8/26 at 4:30; and Fri 8/28 at 7:45. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more information visit yesterdaywasbeautifulplay.tumblr.com.)