Ready to rock: 5 reasons to see ‘Airness’ at Loft Theatre

Allison Kelly as Nina "The Nina" O'Neal in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Airness."

Credit: SCOTT J KIMMINS

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Allison Kelly as Nina "The Nina" O'Neal in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Airness."

Credit: SCOTT J KIMMINS

Credit: SCOTT J KIMMINS

Area premiere play spotlights world of competitive air guitar

The Human Race Theatre Company is 35 years old, but they’re not afraid to let loose every now and then. Case in point: the troupe’s refreshingly fun area premiere of Chelsea Marcantell’s comedy “Airness,” continuing through Nov. 7 at the Loft Theatre.

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The cast of the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Airness."

Credit: SCOTT J KIMMINS

The cast of the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Airness."

Credit: SCOTT J KIMMINS

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The cast of the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Airness."

Credit: SCOTT J KIMMINS

Credit: SCOTT J KIMMINS

Breezily directed by Jamie Cordes with air guitar consultation by Lloyd “Stonehenge” Weema, AirLeigh Legal and Jerrod Dewey of Cleveland Air Guitar, this kooky one-act centers on Nina, a young guitar player. Nina is taken in by a group of musical misfits with a genuine passion and appreciation for competitive air guitar, particularly instructing her on the “six pillars” on which she’ll be judged: artistic merit, originality, feeling, technical ability, charisma, and the elusive art of “airness.” As Nina bonds with her newfound friends at various dive bars and competitions (Dick Block provides a nifty set filled with posters of Bon Jovi, Heart, Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix and more rock legends), she comes to realize just how special air guitar can be while learning more about herself in the process.

In addition to Janet G. Powell’s array of delightfully individualistic costumes, here are five reasons why you should check out this unique show, whose title is derived from the Urban Dictionary definition of an air guitar performance that “transcends the medium and becomes a higher form of artistic expression.”

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Zack Steele as Ed “Shreddy Eddy” Leary in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Airness."

Credit: SCOTT J KIMMINS

Zack Steele as Ed “Shreddy Eddy” Leary in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Airness."

Credit: SCOTT J KIMMINS

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Zack Steele as Ed “Shreddy Eddy” Leary in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Airness."

Credit: SCOTT J KIMMINS

Credit: SCOTT J KIMMINS

The charming commitment of ‘Shreddy Eddy’

Humorously wearing a blue beanie, red glasses and Bart Simpson T-shirt, Wright State University musical theatre graduate Zack Steele inhabits Ed “Shreddy Eddy” Leary with charming, laser-sharp, non-jokey commitment. Although Nina is the play’s focal point (and admirably portrayed by Allison Kelly), Ed is its relatable foundation. In his return to the Loft Theatre, Steele gives his terrific tenor a rest (his memorable credits include “Les Misérables,” “Sweeney Todd” and “Follies”), but his energetic air guitar performance of “I Don’t Want to Grow Up” by The Ramones nonetheless provides great insight, musically and contextually, into Ed’s fundamental desire to live his life on his terms.

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Drew Vidal (Facebender) and Allison Kelly (Nina) in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Airness."

Credit: SCOTT J KIMMINS

Drew Vidal (Facebender) and Allison Kelly (Nina) in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Airness."

Credit: SCOTT J KIMMINS

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Drew Vidal (Facebender) and Allison Kelly (Nina) in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Airness."

Credit: SCOTT J KIMMINS

Credit: SCOTT J KIMMINS

‘Facebender,’ a father figure with a scarred past

The last time Drew Vidal appeared at the Loft Theatre, he was the earnest Gentleman Caller opposite Claire Kennedy’s Laura Wingfield in “The Glass Menagerie.” As Mark “Facebender” Lender, Vidal smoothly fits the role of respected patriarch, eager to listen to his loyal cohorts (including Andrew Ian Adams as goofy Gabe “Golden Thunder” Partidge) while maintaining a sense of pride in who he is as an air guitarist. He’s particularly strong in a scene opposite Kelly in which Facebender reveals his scarred relationship with his family, a monologue ultimately resonating as meaningful subtext when he later performs his air guitar treatment of REO Speedwagon’s “Keep on Loving You.”

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Rasell Holt as David “D Vicious” Cooper in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Airness."

Credit: SCOTT J KIMMINS

Rasell Holt as David “D Vicious” Cooper in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Airness."

Credit: SCOTT J KIMMINS

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Rasell Holt as David “D Vicious” Cooper in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Airness."

Credit: SCOTT J KIMMINS

Credit: SCOTT J KIMMINS

The arrogance of ‘D Vicious’ on full display

In his Human Race Theatre debut, Rasell Holt shines as arrogant, egotistical and misogynistic villain David “D Vicious” Cooper, reigning air guitar champion. With athletic showmanship, Holt attacks every moment, particularly bringing surprising vulnerability to a flashback in which D Vicious auditions for a Sprite commercial overseen by a no-nonsense executive (an effective James Roselli in multiple roles).

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Reanne Acasio as Astrid “Cannibal Queen” Anderson and Rasell Holt as David "D Vicious" Cooper in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Airness."

Credit: SCOTT J KIMMINS

Reanne Acasio as Astrid “Cannibal Queen” Anderson and Rasell Holt as David "D Vicious" Cooper in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Airness."

Credit: SCOTT J KIMMINS

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Reanne Acasio as Astrid “Cannibal Queen” Anderson and Rasell Holt as David "D Vicious" Cooper in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Airness."

Credit: SCOTT J KIMMINS

Credit: SCOTT J KIMMINS

The ‘Cannibal Queen’ who knows what she wants

Reanne Acasio injects steely resilience and formidable attitude into her feisty portrayal of Astrid “Cannibal Queen” Anderson, a complicated woman who finds release and respect in her artistry. Impeccably dressed in black leather boots, leopard print attire, flowing black cape, black stovepipe hat, and skeleton belt and earrings, Acasio embodies the true essence of a mean girl with a lot of bite (“This is how mean people make friends – we instruct.”). Her air guitar skills also impress as she brings her full body into the movement with a beautifully expressive fluidity that reaches to the ends of her fingertips.

A story that deepens with each scene

“Airness” is a departure from the Human Race Theatre norm, but signifies the company’s willingness to expand its audience in order to build for the future. Plus, air guitar isn’t an instantly accessible topic so the play definitely takes time to find its footing. However, as each scene progresses and deepens, you’ll likely find yourself becoming more invested in these oddball characters and the unexpected family they create. So, put another dime in the jukebox, baby, and head over to the Loft Theatre to see this endearing salute to rock and roll.

HOW TO GO

What: “Airness”

Where: Loft Theatre, 126 N. Main St., Dayton

When: Though Nov. 7; 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday

Cost: $17-$53

Tickets: Call Dayton Live box office at 937-228-3630 or visit humanracetheatre.org.

FYI: Following local mandates set by the City of Dayton and Dayton Live, all audiences must show proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test, and all are required to wear masks.

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The Human Race Theatre Company continues its 35th anniversary season with the area premiere of Chelsea Marcantel’s play “Airness,” slated Oct. 21-Nov. 7 at the Loft Theatre.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

The Human Race Theatre Company continues its 35th anniversary season with the area premiere of Chelsea Marcantel’s play “Airness,” slated Oct. 21-Nov. 7 at the Loft Theatre.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

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The Human Race Theatre Company continues its 35th anniversary season with the area premiere of Chelsea Marcantel’s play “Airness,” slated Oct. 21-Nov. 7 at the Loft Theatre.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

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