Fly By Night. Cough + theatre = ?

I was still getting over a cold when I went to see Fly By Night at Playwrights Horizons, but I wasn't about to let a little coughing get in the way of me seeing theatre. I mean, yes, I was sick, but when it came down to either just lying in bed and feeling sorry for myself or seeing a brand new musical, my choice was pretty clear.

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My boyfriend and I entered Playwrights Horizons and we made quick use of the show's photo booth before heading upstairs to our seats. When I was purchasing tickets online, there were very few seats available because the show was in such high demand, so the seats I ended up getting were more towards the back of the theatre. I was a little worried that we wouldn't be able to see as well from where we were seated, but this proved to be no problem at all. The structure of the theatre allowed everyone to see the stage perfectly regardless of their seats.

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As the lights dimmed, I felt a bit of a tickle in my throat but I didn't think anything of it. I simply cleared my throat as quietly as possible and directed my attention to the stage. But what started as a minor tickle quickly morphed into something I could no longer ignore and I found myself in the middle of a large scale coughing fit. I tried to muffle it into my arm, but to no avail. Everyone was staring at me as I tried to get myself together and the poor actor on stage had to speak his monologue throughout all of the chaos. I had to think quickly. I was using all the strength I had to hold in the urge to cough, and then when I finally had to let it out, I would try to cough only during applause or laughter. There was one terrible stretch of time when I had to decide whether or not to leave the theatre and get some water or just tough it out. On the one hand, there are very few things I hate more than leaving in the middle of a live show, but on the other hand, my coughing was getting seriously out of hand. Thankfully, I was spared from having to do any of those things because my coughing magically stopped just as suddenly as it had begun.

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Intermission rolled around, and I was grateful to have the opportunity to buy water so I wouldn't ever have to cough through five minutes of a show again. At the food kiosk downstairs, one item in particular jumped out at me: an "intermission" candy bar! It was a bar of milk chocolate that was literally labeled "Intermission," and I had to have it. I did. And it was pretty tasty too.

The second act of the show was a lot more enjoyable for me since I had my trusty water bottle at my side. Towards the end of the show, I took a sip from said water bottle at the exact moment that the actor playing Joey Storms instructed the character of Daphne to lower her voice because "her pony [was] falling asleep." It was one of those "you had to be there" moments, but the entire audience was in hysterics, myself included. Except I had a mouthful of water, and laughing is probably the last thing you'd want to do in that situation. Tears slipping down my eyes, I willed myself to swallow the water and not spit it out all over my boyfriend next to me. I managed this, but evidently I owed the universe some more humiliation in exchange for this one bit of good fortune, because I started coughing anew. Somewhere in the midst of this latest choking bout, I wondered to myself when exactly I had become the very audience member that I always hated: both disruptive and loud. I was able to put a stop to my choking before I received too many death glares, and I sat enraptured as Fly By Nightcame to a close.

In Fly By Night there were two moments that struck me more than anything else. One was the line "It's not what you're listening to, it's who you're listening with." I think it was a combination of the truth to the lyrics and the beauty of the song, but I found myself tearing up, and even days since I've seen the show, I can't get those words out of my head. The other was one of the most miraculous things I've ever seen pulled off in an off Broadway theatre. When a blackout affected the whole northeast on November 9th, 1965, New York City was plunged into genuine darkness and a starry sky, a foreign concept to most New Yorkers, was visible. And Fly By Nightgave us that. The entire theatre was pitch black and then, in the time it took me to blink, Playwrights Horizons created a night sky filled with stars inside the very theatre with hundreds of tiny light bulbs. But it felt like we were in our own personal planetarium. And for a girl who made many of her childhood wishes on helicopters that she had to imagine were stars, that was something else.

As the audience was ushered outside of the theatre, we were each handed our own Fly By Nightpin with the words "I Trust Stars" printed on it, and I stuck it on my pocket book immediately.

$10 Student tickets (you must purchase a membership); $25 HOTTIX

Fly By Night @ Playwrights Horizons, thru June 29