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May 29, 2013 7:00 am0 commentsViews: 371
Zoe Lewis     Photo by Eileen Counihan

Zoe Lewis    Photo by Eileen Counihan

Across the Pond Lands at the Provincetown Theater

by Steve Desroches

Zoe Lewis just became an American citizen. But with her crisp British accent, affinity for a “proper cup of tea,” and the sentimental pangs she feels when watching Downton Abbey, Lewis is still very much a Brit at heart. It’s a common phenomenon that is increasing as humans become more mobile and move further and further away from the place of their birth and childhood. We maintain an identity based on both where we come from and where we live. And then there’s the space in between, which is what is explored in Lewis’ new musical Across the Pond, a story set 18,000 feet midway over the Atlantic on a flight from Heathrow to JFK – quite literally the space in between.

“I’ve got a foot in both homes,” says Lewis, sitting on the front steps of Frog Cottage, the Court Street home she shares with her partner Sharon Topher. “I get on a plane and I go ‘home.’ And then I hop on the plane [back] and I’m still going ‘home’.”

The modern world is divided by all kinds of human-made boundaries and borders, often arbitrary lines drawn here and there that create ideas and concepts of identity. But the life of the traveler can transcend those divisions, as can the no man’s land of international air space in an airplane with people from all over the world confined in a small area where no one can claim citizenship or residency. It makes for a fun and contemplative setting to explore the idea of who we are and where exactly home is.

“It makes you questions your identity,” says Lewis of her recent experience of getting an American passport. “I’m an American citizen, but I’m still Zoe. I’ve lived more than half my life here, but I’m still English at heart. I miss it, but it’s not the England I left behind. I romanticize it.”

In Across the Pond a cast of characters, both passengers and crew, are flying from London to New York, when mid flight “something happens” that makes each person explore culture versus citizenship, what are our differences and what do we have in common with our fellow humans, and where exactly is home. Directed by Donna Drake Across the Pond stars Lewis as Lavender Brown, an elderly British woman, Mark Meehan as an American businessman, Topher as Goldie Silverman, chief flight attendant on Manchester Airlines, Dana McCoy as an American tourist, Brandon Cordeiro as a backpacker, Michael Burke as Nigel from first class, and O’Neill Haynes as Betty the flight attendant. With 12 songs, some previously written but mostly new work by Lewis, Across the Pond becomes a trip to remember.

Set designer Ellen Rousseau is turning the Provincetown Theater into both an airport and an airplane. The audience will enter the lobby, which will be transformed to an airport terminal, followed by a security checkpoint before entering the theater, which in this case will be a 747 where the in-flight entertainment is a soundtrack by Lewis.

“I’ve always been musical,” says Lewis. “But it’s great to now put pictures to the songs.”

In 2011 Lewis presented her very first musical, Snail Road, along with producers Mark Cortale and Susan Grilli of Counter Productions, and directed by Drake. It went on to be a huge hit with its love letter to Provincetown storyline, snappy musical score, clever plot twists, and loveable characters. Lewis writes most of her music and plays on the bus as she travels back and forth from New York and Provincetown, when she isn’t traveling the world playing on Olivia Cruises or looking for a new beat to infuse into her world-music style. And Lewis confesses that she is already thinking of her next musical, evidence that her mind travels as much and as fast as she does physically. Indeed, Provincetown is her home, but Lewis is at home anywhere in the world, which at this point happens to be in the theater.

“When you are suspended between countries in the sky you’re rootless… Home is an irrevocable state of mind, wrote James Baldwin in Giovanni’s Room,” says Lewis. “It’s all a choice. It depends on how you want to see it. It’s a state of mind, home.”

Across the Pond runs at the Provincetown Theater, 238 Bradford St., Thursday through Sunday at 7:30 p.m., May 30 – June 9. Tickets are $24 for “Economy” and $28 for “First Class” and are available at the box office, by calling 508.487.7487, or at
www.provincetowntheater.org.