Sophomore Jackson Margolis and his brother, eighth grader Dylan, regularly review plays presented by the B Street Theatre, now part of The Sofia Tsakopoulos Center for the Arts, at 2700 Capitol Avenue. However, on May 11, Dylan was at a school dance, prompting Jackson to see Chelsea Marcantel’s “Airness” with his mother, Kristin.
When my mom and I entered the aesthetically pleasing modern theatre, I was unaware of the magnitude of the world of air guitar.
I thought it was something a few drunk friends might do at a party or what someone might do as a pastime if they lost their real guitar.
I was mistaken.
“Airness” opened my eyes to a whole new world of passion, dedication and good-hearted ridiculousness.
The show follows a group of misfit air guitarists with stage names such as Cannibal Queen, Shreddy Eddy and Golden Thunder as they travel to a series of dirty bars across the U.S. that serve as locations for regional air-guitar competitions in the hope that they will qualify to compete at nationals.
It opens with a heartbroken but skilled guitarist, Nina, entering a grimy bar to compete in the air guitar competition. “Airness” follows her journey from an insecure musician to an artistic performer.
Through over-the-top adult humor and dramatic irony, director Buck Busfield takes the audience on a cross-country competition to discover the world of air guitar.
In fact, Busfield and artistic producer Dave Perni saw the show for the first time at its premiere in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2017 at the Humana Center, and according to the show’s press packet, Pierni thought that it was so fun that he wanted B Street to do it.
And while the show is fun, I believe that my favorite Irish playwright Oscar Wilde’s famous quote – “Some things are precious because they don’t last” – can be directly applied to “Airness.”
Some of the air guitar is crisp and entertaining, but there is an equal amount that is redundant, and I wouldn’t mind if the air guitar solos were condensed.
And even if all of the air guitar was exemplary, it wouldn’t matter. I can watch someone running around on a stage holding an imaginary guitar and violently strumming it for only so long.
Not to mention the fact that there was no intermission during the two-hour show, which made the experience that much more dreary. (However, since my visit, Busfield has added an intermission, which could potentially make the show an edge-of-your-seat kind of performance instead of a try-to-stay-awake one.)
All that being said, B Street did a solid job with “Airness.”
The acting was convincing, and despite a few butchered lines, I was mostly entertained by the characters. While they weren’t the most developed bunch, actors such as John Lamb, who was also featured in “One Man, Two Guvnors,” and played the role of Mark “Facebender” Lender was hilarious.
He was so consumed by his character that when he would become Mark instead of Facebender, it was if he became an entirely different person.
Peter Stroy, who appeared in “One Man, Two Guvnors,” and played the role of Eddy also gave a memorable performance. He was the most developed character and, out of the bunch, he was the one I was rooting for to win the national championship.
While it was no “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (which is still my favorite B Street show of the year), B Street clearly worked hard putting on this show with its high-level sets and actors.
And though I didn’t connect to the protagonist, Nina, the fast-paced dialogue and energetic blocking kept my attention.
However, though air guitar can be cool, the performances in “Airness” were amateurish. Theoretically, an actor should be good at air guitar, but since it quickly became clear that there was a very low chance that the actors had actually ever held real guitars, the air guitar sections of the show became tiresome.
The show would be much more entertaining if there were a little less time spent on the air guitar and a little more on the air guitarists.
I wasn’t rooting for any of the romances or break-ups, and at one point near the end of the show during one of the really long air guitar solos, I was really just hoping that it would end.
However, B Street does plan to host a regional air guitar competition on Saturday, June 9, and if I’m available, I might go.
If you’re willing to experience a whole new world at the expense of a paper-thin plot, then “Airness” is for you.
But it wasn’t for me and my mom. Her favorite part was when the crew would loudly run across the stage during blackouts, yelling “Rock and roll!”
The show runs until Sunday, June 10, Tuesdays through Sundays. Tickets are $27-$39.
—By Jackson Margolis