REVIEW: Airness soars in YPAS theater debut


Erin Quinlan

The characters often monologue and explain things to each other. Photo by Erin Quinlan.

Grace Fridy

Four spotlights strike the stage, followed by the strumming of invisible electric guitars. The Quiet Riot’s “Cum on Feel The Noize” is an acute way to accompany the four air-guitarists on stage, and it also excites the audience enough to warrant repeat viewings.

As Golden Thunder, Facebender, Cannibal Queen and Shreddy Eddy each bring their own unique emotions and attributes to the stage, their friend D-Vicious wows the crowd and wins the National Air Guitar competition. Thus begins the trials and tribulations of our main character. No, it’s not D-Vicious with his stunning skillset, it’s Nina. 

Nina has a sanctimonious outlook towards the crew of air guitarists we meet in the first scene (minus D-Vicious, who has abandoned his friends for greener pastures), as she performs with a real band. However, their use of escapism through invisible instruments shows her how to play the right way. 

This fun underground rock scene with wild characters provides a thrilling framework for comedy. The real backdrops and set design also contain striking realism to a Staten Island dive bar. The extreme dedication of the air guitarists is a wonderful set-up for drama when combined with Nina’s dismissal of air guitar as a serious art form. These absurdities are fathomable due to the genuine technique each performer applies to their work. 

Nina has an unknown vendetta with Cannibal Queen, despite their similarities as women in a male-dominated trade. Why? Well after a shouting match between Nina and D-Vicious, it is revealed that Nina is his ex-fiancé, while Cannibal Queen is his long-term friend with benefits. Their mutually destructive relationship ended with DV unexpectedly moving out and leaving Nina only with Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love A Bad Name” for solace. 

In a fit of rage, Nina insults her new friends and their air guitar dedication, and explains that she wants to compete as a way to exact revenge on D-Vicious. 

After some intense bonding and forgiveness, Nina begins to find herself, deciding her stage name will be “The Nina”. The Nina learns her friend’s trade by observing their air guitar performances, but it still doesn’t prepare her for something she has never performed successfully, especially with D-Vicious using his status to try and intimidate her into dropping the event. 

A deflated sense of hope seems to detract from The Nina’s aspirations, but with a chance to redeem herself and her friends, Nina is able to pull through. 

The Nina is invited to a secret redemption competition. There, she realizes she needs to stop pretending to be a good air guitarist and instead just be herself. 

One friend showers her in glitter as she sings while another directs air towards her hair, but the focus of the competition remains her confidence. The Nina’s performance is unequivocally her own, compared to earlier performances that were passionate yet directionless.

 Joan Jett, a female rocker and Nina’s inspiration, represents her acceptance of becoming an air guitarist and also shows how she is bonding with a new group member. Nina embraces herself not just as a performer, but as a powerful female performer after taking her Cannibal Queen’s advice to just be herself and show off her talents.

Airness’s themes of self-acceptance and confidence are expressed through thematic music. The characters explain the importance of their song choice early on to demonstrate to the audience why they should focus on the music. 

Every whimsical character in Airness brings a unique feel to the show. The heartwarming and raw Facebender emphasizes the importance of compassion and living life to the fullest. The absurd yet thoughtful Golden Thunder combines showmanship with important social issues. Cannibal Queen is more than the queen of technical guitar, as she is passionate and ready to let other people know. Shreddy Eddy’s pure love for air guitar and eagerness to share his joy with others is simply moving. 

Friendship is a prevailing theme throughout the show. The group survives Nina’s criticism, D-Vicious’s lack of compassion and most importantly the regional air guitar tournament. Through impassioned songs and electric monologues, the group of friends forms a deep bond with the audience members, and leave them wanting more adventures with the air guitar squad.

Public performances of Airness this Friday and Saturday (September 23-24) will be held at 7 P.M. in the Robert West Experimental Theater. School matinees are scheduled for September 23. 

Each actor’s versatile performance turns this into a must-watch, with meaningful dramatic scenes contrasted by hilarious events that keep you on your toes. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students. 

Airness, much like Tom Hanks, masters the art of achieving balance between comedy and drama. Maybe that’s why this Tom Hanks quote from his SNL appearance is so fitting. 

“If I can laugh and pray in 90 minutes, that’s money well spent,” said Hanks.