“Come From Away” at Seattle Repertory Theatre

Cast Photo by Chris Benin

Photo by Chris Bennion

Seattle Rep could not have imagined when they planned this year’s calendar just how apropos “Come From Away” would be, couldn’t know just how deeply it would resonate with its audiences. During a period when we are all mourning the tragic events in Paris, when we are reminded of our great losses on 9/11, comes a joyful musical that is a testimony to human kindness, generosity, and neighborliness.

This is the story of how the people of Gander welcomed and cared for the thousands of passengers whose planes were diverted to Newfoundland on the morning of 9/11. It’s not soppy, not designed to make you weep, though you just might shed a tear. No it’s a rollicking, upbeat musical featuring the stirring Celtic music of Newfoundland with its penny whistle, numerous stringed instruments, and the traditional Irish drum. It’s a foot stomping, hand clapping musical feast built around a poignant response to a horrifying reality.

Gander, with no advance warning, became the temporary home for four days for a population of plane passengers and personnel equal to the town’s own population. The play so beautifully reveals the enormity of the task and the creative manner in which it was carried out.

We see and even feel the gamut of emotions that overwhelmed townspeople and stranded passengers. “What’s happened? Why are we here?” “Where will we find beds enough?” “Have we enough food?” “Toilet paper! Is there enough?” And then such things as, “My son’s a New York firefighter, and I can’t get any news of his safety.”

And in the midst of the frantic arrangements, fears, and strangeness of it all, friendships are made; people come together in a spirit of good will and collaboration; even romance blooms. All the while the music reverberates through the theatre, bounces off its walls, and reinforces life affirmation in this most tragic of times.

Director Christopher Ashley has fine-tuned his cast to perform as an impeccable ensemble capable of moving with the precision of a Marine drill team. Most of the play involves the full cast as well as the lively orchestra supervised by Ian Eisendrath.

This is a co-production with La Jolla Playhouse in California.

Through Dec. 13 at Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer St., Seattle, (206-443-2222 or www.seattlerep.org).

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