Which song would you perform to win an air guitar competition?

By Andrew Andrews

Olivia Miller stars as “The Nina” in Shadowland Stages’ production of Chelsea Marcantel’s Airness, directed by Brendan Burke. Original photo by Jeff Knapp.

Nina shows up at a Staten Island bar to enter the local air guitar contest.

Already a real-life guitarist in a real-life band, Nina thinks she can just win the crowd by “playing” Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’.

Discovering she’s actually up against a pack of dedicated, nerdy competitors from all over the country, Nina freezes on stage and learns that the “sport” is more about camaraderie and authenticity to oneself than having better accuracy than the competition.

After last year’s five-star performance of the intense drama The Niceties and nearly-as-good closing rom-com Handle With Care, Shadowland’s first production this season is a light-hearted comedy wrapped around the vengeance of a woman scorned.

Tramaine Bembury, Sean Walsh, Miller, Justin Pietropaolo, Peter Evangelista and Kelsey Leland comprise the cast. Original photo by Elena Holy.

Watching Airness is quite different than last year’s more gripping productions, and felt a lot like catching a play in its later stages of development at a mid-Manhattan incubator such as The Chain Theater or The Tank, especially in regards to the slightly-above-minimal set design.

It also reminded me of the typical television sitcom experience, enhanced by the thrill of an in-person performance. Despite the live action, it specifically reminded me of the television cartoon sitcom Futurama—not only because one of the characters is nicknamed “Bender,” and not only because actor Sean Walsh sounds a lot like Billy West, who voices the cartoon’s lead character Phillip J. Fry!

Like a TV sitcom, there’s something in both the writing and the direction of this production that screams “don’t take this play too seriously,” making for a pleasant experience, but not one that I’d consider noteworthy by any means.

Last season, I recommended driving an hour or more through pouring rain to catch The Niceties—it was simply that commanding of a production. With gas prices now hovering around $5/gallon and ticket prices in the $40s, I’d say Airness is worth a short drive in nice weather to catch a matinee.


Andrew Andrews attended Airness at Shadowland Stages in Ellenville on Saturday, June 4, 2022 @ 2:00pm to write this review.