By Lori Perkins
New York City theaters opened back up about two months ago, and New Yorkers have started trickling back to Broadway without the sold-out tickets that come with out-of-town visitors, meaning people who live in the city can actually get tickets. And that is how I managed to score preview tickets to Flying Over Sunset, which opens today!
I wanted to make sure I saw this because the description of a play by the author of Sunday in the Park with George about Aldous Huxley (author of Brave New World), Clare Booth Luce (conservative Republican author of The Women and wife of the founder of Time and Life magazines) and Cary Grant (Hollywood star from the 30s until the 50s) dropping acid together in a musical was just too much for me to resist. Its quirkiness made me afraid it would either sell out too quickly (it’s slated for a limited 12-week run at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater through February 6) or maybe even close early for lack of sales.
I had no idea what to expect, and the fact that it is a musical did not fill me with enthusiasm, but I was game.
It is oddly wonderful. The imagined group acid dropping never actually happened, so it’s all supposition and the playwright’s imagination, although all three real-life personages did indeed drop acid (not together) and talked about it at length. They probably did know each other through the fourth character in the play, Gerald Heard, a gay writer and psychedelics guru in the 50s with many influential and famous friends.
That is the set up here. They all meet by chance at the famous Brown Derby restaurant in L.A., where they agree to get together and drop acid at Luce’s Malibu mansion, where we see they are all grieving in their own way – Huxley, the recent death of his wife from breast cancer; Luce, the death of her once passionate marriage and real death of her mother and daughter from car accidents; and Grant, the death of his fourth marriage and matinee idol status as he ages. The theme is heavy, and would be weighed down were it not for the musical interludes and singing, which only happens when they drop acid. And it works!
The actors are magnificent, as is the set, which changes effortlessly with images projected on to a white curved backdrop.
I hope the show is extended, so that the traveling tourists can see this in the spring, but I am so glad I was able to catch it. You should too, if you can.
If not, I bet that this will be made into an indie film (maybe without the music, but that would be a shame) starring Cate Blanchett as the ageing Clare Booth Luce, Johnny Depp as Aldous Huxley and George Clooney as the ageing Cary Grant.