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THEATER REVIEW

Her dreams of the stage in not-so-friendly skies

November 02, 2004|Rob Kendt | Special to The Times

Don't you just hate it when an editor cuts the best line from your review? And hello -- let's talk about onstage nudity: Why is it never the person you want to see who gets naked?

Oops, sorry -- that's an excerpt from my one-man show about the wacky, never-dull life of a theater critic. I'm polishing it up for the national booking circuit after seeing "Around the World in a Bad Mood," subtitled "Confessions of a Flight Attendant," the agreeably flimsy solo show written by and starring Rene Foss, a real-life stewardess. It's now at the Hermosa Beach Playhouse, with a subsequent run at the El Portal Theatre.

The show covers pretty much what you'd expect about the mile-high milieu, from meal service mishaps to safety-belt silliness. But Foss -- whose smile is so big and bright her name ought to be Floss -- delivers it with such enthusiasm it's almost infectious to the uninitiated.

It's an even bigger hit with her peers: A pre-show roll call identified alumni of many carriers, and this primed-for-laughter crowd ate up her lampoon of life at 39,000 feet like so many complimentary peanuts.

Not that we laypeople don't recognize her 767-sized targets. Who hasn't witnessed the barely contained contempt of a flight attendant in the face of peremptory passenger abuse? "I'll be right back," Foss informs us, is essentially the airline service equivalent of a middle finger.

At its best, Foss' show has a wickedly playful feeling of payback. Though she ultimately waxes sentimental about her two-decade career in the air -- and her own mother's tour of duty in the "golden age" of the 1950s -- she misses few opportunities to riff on passengers' sense of entitlement, pilot arrogance, the industry's cost-cutting and the spiritual toll of smiling through boredom, resentment and trash collection.

This sense of getting her due extends, a little less attractively, to the acting career Foss says she'd always wanted. Look at me now, she essentially tells us in so many words: I'm living my dream of being an actress!

Well, sort of. She dons a wig to play a matronly stewardess trainer with a Midwestern accent as pungent as lutefisk. She pulls on a coat and a cap to assay a pilot with a Southern drawl, a gun ("I'm deputized") and a fifth of Jack Daniel's. And she performs an airline-themed version of "Macbeth" with puppets made of airsick bags.

The night scores direct hits with an in-the-know audience. If you or someone you love works as what the Replacements once called "a waitress in the sky," by all means, book seats on "Around the World."

*

'Around the World in a Bad Mood'

Where: Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities at the Hermosa Beach Playhouse, Pier Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway, Hermosa Beach

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday through

Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday

Ends: Sunday

Price: $35 to $45

Contact: (310) 372-4477

Running time: 90 minutes

Also

Where: San Fernando Valley Playhouse at the El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood

When: 8 p.m. Nov. 10-12 and Nov. 16-19, 2 and 8 p.m. Nov. 13 and Nov. 20, 2 and 7 p.m. Nov. 14 and Nov. 21

Ends: Nov. 21

Contact: (818) 764-2400

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