New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media

This article is from our magazine. To view it in its original format, click here

Danger In The Sky

By Gary Wien

originally published: 10/19/2015

Danger In The SkyIf the truth is stranger than fiction, perhaps reality is more suspenseful.  That premise is put to the test in the play Charlie Victor Romeo.  Written by Robert Berger, Patrick Daniels, and Irving Gregory, the play opens the 11th season for South Camden Theatre Company in October.  

Charlie Victor Romeo takes actual transcripts from the “black box” cockpit voice recorders of six airplanes which all faced emergency and sometimes fatal situations.  Actors relive these terrifying moments in the sky exactly as they played out in real life.  This fascinating play won a pair of Drama Desk Awards in 2000, including one for Outstanding Unique Theatrical Experience.  South Camden Theatre Company’s production is the regional premiere of this fine work, which is rarely performed.

The cast includes Eric Carter, Kevin Doyle, Jason Cutts, Stacy Skinner, Tyler S. Elliott, Cindy Starcher, and Paul Sollimo.  The production is directed by Joseph M. Paprzycki, the Founding Producing Artistic Director of the company, who saw the play staged in New York in 2003.

“My friend called me and said you have to get up here and see this play,” recalled Paprzycki.  “I saw it in the East Village in a public school basement where they were doing it.  It was jarring theatre and it stayed with me all of this time.  I wondered if I could do that here. I started looking into it and finally found a way to get the rights, which was not easy.  I think they’ve only licensed it one or two times.”

The six different situations take the audience on a roller coaster ride that lures you in with moments that are almost comic, such as pilots flirting with flight attendants.   But with the audience disarmed, the scenes start getting darker.

“You’ve better be ready for a ride because the scenes are terrifying,” said Paprzycki.  “And they’re real.”

The article continues after this ad


The reality of the situations is something that truly hits home.  These aren’t imaginary characters whose lives are in danger, these were real people caught in situations that could easily happen to you or me while flying.  We all try to put the dangers out of our minds when we enter our seats, but the dangers are always there.  Paprzycki admits that he has found himself paying closer attention to details while flying ever since he got involved with the play.  A trip to Boston in July was delayed while the crew had a maintenance guy check out a situation with the front tire.  Paprzycki watched what everyone was doing, what they were touching, how they were reacting, and even how they were sitting; all of which gave him insight for the play.  Likewise, historical tv coverage about the incidents proved invaluable for Paprzycki and the cast members to get a better understanding of the gravity of these situations.

“The direction I’ve given to the cast from the minute we started is, ‘This is a play in which you’re going to constantly remember one word as you’re acting - training,’” explained Paprzycki.  “I told them, ‘No matter what your personality is, you’ve been trained.  You’re highly trained professionals and that training has to come through in everything you’re doing.  Even though you might be scared to death, the training has to show.’”

That training comes through when a crew hears a boom during a flight.  The sound tells them something is obviously wrong, but they don’t know if it’s a bomb, a door blowing off, or the loss of an engine.  Incidents in the play range from bulkheads rupturing (causing the loss of the vertical fin and all hydraulics) to a simple piece of tape left over the static ports when the maintenance crew last washed the plane (resulting in the failure of crucial flight instruments to work properly).

During rehearsals, the cast was continuously pushed a little farther and farther into the realities of the situations.  One of the most intense moments of the play deals with United Airlines Flight 232.  At one point, the air traffic controller mentions “there is a four-lane highway you can look at.” Paprzycki asked the actors what that means.  The reply was, “It means you’re going to kill at least 100 innocent people on the ground.”  Paprzycki said, “Yeah, think about just how devastating that is.”  When the actors redid the scene again, their faces showed the realization of being told they could land on a highway that is probably packed with cars and innocent people who will be killed.  Paprzycki told the actors, “When you start hearing these things we have to see the reaction of you the person — through the training — because we know that the audience is thinking, ‘What if my daughter and my three grandchildren are in a car on that highway?’”

“I’m finding all new emotions with this production,” he continued.  “Emotions I haven’t worked with in plays I’ve directed before because this is so different.  The one thing I want to make sure our cast constantly does is keep the people in it.  It’s easy to get pulled aside when they’re fighting the plane or it won’t turn to the left or the right, but I keep hammering home the term they use throughout the play, ‘All the souls on board.’  This is real tragedy here.  These are real lives and real people.  And I don’t want to lose that when telling the story.   I want the audience to walk out the way I did and start thinking about the play an hour or two later and say to themselves, ‘Wait a minute… these were real people.  They weren’t made up from a playwright.’ When you start thinking about all these poor people, it really hits home.”

In a bit of fortuitous casting, the two women both have connections to pilots in real life — something unknown to Paprzycki during the audition process.  One laughed when Paprzycki called her and said she had the role.  She explained her husband is a pilot that flies for FedEx.  Knowing the strong possibility of emotional danger for her, Paprzycki asked her to think it over.  A day later she called him back to say she was on board.

The other woman has a best friend who is a pilot who came to one of the early rehearsals and helped the cast with their questions.  While most plays require actors to learn about their characters — their relationships, backstories, etc. — this play forces actors to learn a new language as well.  Having someone with real world experience proved invaluable to the process.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the play is the use of the last recorded words ever said by some of these people.  You are literally witnessing a reenactment of their final moments.  Writers often think of the power of words, but few ever think of the final words they’ll ever write or say out loud.  Audience members may or may not be thinking about the finality of these words as something momentous on a conscious level, but subconsciously it adds to the power of the play and makes it more of a jarring experience.

“What I can say is that you have never seen live theatre like this as it is both terrifying, true to life, and hopefully it will stay with you for a long time,” said Paprzycki.  “I’ve never done anything like this in South Camden and I wanted to start our second decade with something completely different as Monty Python used to say.”

Charlie Victor Romeo

October 16 - November 1

South Camden Theatre Company

400 Jasper Street, Camden, NJ

Danger In The Sky


For more by this author, click here

The Panto Company Presents "Beauty and the Beast" at The Newton Theatre
(NEWTON, NJ) -- When you think of a dying rose and a clock, candlestick andteapot who talk... you are thinking Beauty and the Beast. One of this season's spellbinding family shows from The Panto Company USA stars Dame Dotty Potty, Loopy Louie, Gaston, Belle and of course The Beast!  The company brings their show to The Newton Theatre on Sunday, March 3 at 3:00pm.
La Strada Ensemble Theater Presents "La Bella Familia" by Edwin Sanchez
(OCEAN GROVE, NJ) -- La Strada Ensemble Theater presents La Bella Familia by Edwin Sanchez from January 18-20.  The play deals with a Puerto Rican hit woman and the gentlest man in the world move next door to the neighbors from hell and everyone learns, the hard way, that family comes first.
Art House Productions Presents "The Passion Project" by Reid Farrington
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- Art House Productions presents the unique theatrical experience that is Reid Farrington’s The Passion Project performed by Laura K. Nicoll.  Eight performances will take place from February 21st to March 3rd. The Passion Project is a 30 minute vibration between performance, film, and installation. Carl Th.Dreyer’s 1928 immortal masterpiece, “The Passion of Joan of Arc” is the main narrative along with the history behind the making of the film, a discussion with a Danish archivist, the story of making this project, as well as Joan’s own story –– her trial, torture, and execution. The Passion Project explodes the film into the three dimensions; placing the audience inside the film, sitting next to Joan, subjecting them to the relentless rhythm of 35 mm film projection.
4th Wall Theatre Presents "Intimate Apparel" by Lynn Nottage
(MAPLEWOOD, NJ) -- 4TH WALL THEATRE continues its 22nd season with a one weekend run of Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel.  The show will be presented as part of the Black History Month celebrations on February 22, 23, and 24 at the Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts in Maplewood, NJ.  The show is directed by 4th Wall Executive Director Gwen Ricks-Spencer.
East Lynne Theater, the Henry Sawyer Inn, and Twin Gable's Inn present Murder Mystery Weekends
(CAPE MAY, NJ) -- The award-winning East Lynne Theater Company, with The Henry Sawyer Inn and Twin Gables Inn, present Murder Mystery Weekends on February 15-16, March 8-9, March 22-23, March 29-30, and April 5-6. Participants can test their crime-solving skills while staying in one of these lovely Bed & Breakfasts. East Lynne Theater Company's Murder Mystery Weekends were cited among one of the top five in the country by "AM NY."  

It's "Apple Season" at NJ Rep
Every family has stories. Some are funny. Some are sweet. Some are sad. And some are never shared. Those are often the most powerful.
Rise of the Goatman
Theater For The New City presents Beltsville/Rockville, Part 1: Rise of the Goatman, an original play by Englewood resident Matt Okin (Artistic Director of Black Box Studios), from December 27 through January 13. In this pseudo-Southern Gothic dark comedy, a vibrant group of teens from two very different suburban neighborhoods clash over class differences, drugs, and sex - and the existence of the legendary ‘Goatman’ in 1986. Cut to 2013, and the adolescent kids of those very same teens are struggling to make sense of their family histories - and the same “mythological” creature - that could be holding them back in life.
PHOTOS from "The Winter's Tale" at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey
(MADISON, NJ) -- The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s concludes its 56th season with its sixth and final Main Stage production, The Winter's Tale. Last seen at The Shakespeare Theatre in 2008, Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte directs this production of Shakespeare’s tragicomedic romance. Veteran company members Jacqueline Antaramian, Jon Barker, Erin Partin, John Keabler, Raphael Nash Thompson,Seamus Mulcahy, Patrick Toon, and Ames Adamson are among a cast of 20 actors. Performances run now through December 30. 
REVIEW: "It's A Wonderful Life" At Mile Square Theatre
Nestled in a corner of Hoboken, on the second floor, lies the studios of radio station WMST.  It’s a wonderful art deco studio, replete with fine wooden walls, embedded with colorful lights an applause sign.  On stage, we’ve got a few chairs, several microphones and a whole corner wedged with all the necessary props – piano, men’s shoes, sheet metal – to create the audio effects for the production of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Betsy Aidem Puts A Woman's Touch On George Street Playhouse's "A Doll's House, Part 2"
Betsy Aidem is a veteran actress you might have seen on Broadway. Or maybe on an episode of “Law & Order: SVU.” Or maybe on the big screen last year in “The Greatest Showman.” But over the next few weeks in New Brunswick, Aidem is adding a brand-new section to her résumé — by helming a sequel (of sorts) to a classic play that’s more than 100 years old.

Event calendar
Thursday, Jan 17, 2019


Open Mic Night! @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 7:30pm


"Apple Season" by E.M. Lewis @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 8:00pm


AMERICAN GIRL LIVE @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 7:00pm

View all events


For more on our awards, click here

New Jersey Stage © 2019 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 |

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.