To mask, to vaccinate, to distance, to mandate, to cancel—all topics of deep division in our country and beyond. In all this division, empathy is a rare commodity. The revival of Come From Away at the Ahmanson is a welcome recollection of a moment in time in which a tiny town’s collective empathy turned into love-in-action. The true story of thirty-eight planes carrying over six-thousand global passengers suddenly landing at a nearly forgotten airport in Gander, Newfoundland on 911 is a revelation in human kindness. There were nearly more passengers than residents of the little Island town. The fear, horror, and heartache of the 911 terrorist attacks did not win the day for those travelers who received the ultimate gift of care and love from the strangers who became their unwitting hosts.
The 2018 Ahmanson production of Come From Away stirred us to our feet in jubilation at the curtain call. And just like that opening night crowd, we sprang up in celebration and tears for the dynamic 2022 ensemble as they took their hard-earned bows in this new production. Not only for the actors did we cheer, but also the band; the individual musicians are wizards at their game, but collectively, they make up the equivalent of an entire character. A spare set dressed with trees, chairs, and a table or two, props of hats, phones, and a fish, are more than enough to conjure that magical moment when tragedy met blessing.
I had some concern that this production might pale in comparison to that remarkable night in 2018 when the Center Theatre introduced us to American Airlines Captain Beverly Bass, her crew, and passengers. But, Come From Away is such a well-crafted, intricately detailed show that with the right cast it simply cannot help but wow. Indeed, this cast is as right as rain. Boasting a couple of Come From Away alum, each actor transforms from “Islander” to passenger in the blink of an eye.
Social Media and the like would have us believe that kindness and empathy—the best of what it is to be human—are all but gone. Let this stirring remembrance of such wonders of the human race spark those qualities again.
My 2018 review of the original production began with a quote by Fred (Mister) Rogers. It seems as fitting today as it was then:
Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Fred “Mister” Rogers. Be a helper.
Hurry to the Ahmanson to see Come From Away. It closes all too soon, June 12, 2022. Get your tickets here.