Seattle Public Theater’s “The Flight Before Xmas” chronicles an all-too-common holiday scene — the delayed flight — and manages to be amusing and heartwarming.
Waiting to catch a delayed plane for hours during the holiday season? Ready to wring the necks of your companions, the airline personnel with no answers for you, and yourself for traveling on the busiest week of the year?
That is hardly the time to embrace the concept of a Christmastime play about a group of strangers stuck in the same unfortunate (and all too common) circumstance.
So let’s consider Seattle Public Theater (SPT) bold for presenting a new seasonal entertainment about holiday stress — let alone encouraging Seattle playwright Maggie Lee to write it.
“The Flight Before Xmas”
By Maggie Lee. Plays in repertory with “Christmastown: A Holiday Noir” through Dec. 24 at Seattle Public Theater, 7312 West Green Lake Drive N., Seattle; $17-$34 (206-524-1300 or seattlepublictheater.org)
“The Flight Before Xmas” thankfully condenses hours of hurry-up-and-wait at an airport gate into a fairly compact one-act play. Even at that length, it can make you antsy at times.
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Nonetheless, the play (which is unrelated to a made-for-TV film with a similar title) is populated with recognizable character types of various ages, and is sufficiently G-rated to qualify as family-friendly entertainment. It is also speckled with amusing exchanges, and aims to be heartwarming without cloying.
In short order, Lee introduces us to a cluster of perturbed travelers eager to be on their way. There’s a family headed for Maui, all decked out in identical loud Hawaiian shirts. (One of the kids grouses that it makes them look like members of some creepy cult.)
Two sets of likable tweens are shuttling between their divorced parents. A workaholic, huddling wretchedly over her computer, has a meltdown over whether she’ll make an important business date in time.
A caricatured elderly woman who is a nonstop complainer — about the delay, the airlines and little boys, among other things — annoys everyone else. But a friendly gentleman now and again regales the assembled with fantastical tales, which makes for a nice change between the bouts of bickering, empathizing and the minor drama of a lost kitten.
About half of the cast is made up of youth actors, and under Amy Poisson’s direction they do a creditable job of impersonating wise little elves and bored teens — without veering too far into cute sitcom territory.
More polished, understandably, are some of the adult actors — in particular, Skye Stephenson as an airline employee trying to smile through gritted teeth while delivering more bad news about takeoff delays; Kiki Abba as a humorously harried tech drudge; and Manuel Cawaling, as a lonely guy who finds fellowship in an unlikely place.
Among the trivial and more serious mini-dramas, the most poignant involves a young female couple as one partner (Tessa Weinland) realizes the conservative parents of her girlfriend (Marisol Gonzalez), whom she’ll soon meet over Christmas dinner, have no idea their daughter is gay.
This dilemma is treated deftly and gently by Lee in “The Flight Before Xmas.” For bawdier, more stylish (and adult) seasonal fare, I refer you to SPT’s additional holiday show, the recurring noir-esque caper, “Christmastown.”