Dobama Theatre’s ‘Airness’ is a bit of harmless invisible fun



From dive bars across the world hopeful participants are graded from 4.0 to 6.0 on Technical Merit, Stage Presence and Airness. They advance to the Regional with hopes of participating in the Nationals and dream of dreams the World Championship in Finland. Yes, World Air Guitar Championship is a real thing.

Ever since Rock and Roll swept the world, wannabees have strapped on their invisible ax, cranked the stereo to 9 and played their hearts out to crowds of equally invisible fans before mom and dad got home. Then someone got the idea for a worldwide competition to promote world peace. Playwright Chelsea Marcantel took this concept and made a play about it. “Airness” is currently on stage at Dobama Theatre.

Nina (who actually plays a real guitar in a band) as a lark has entered her very first air guitar competition thinking that with her real life musical experience winning will be a breeze. She becomes friends with a group of regulars who all dream of being the world champion. Nina (soon to become The Nina) discovers that musical ability is just a small fraction of the performance. She sets out on an inner journey to set herself free on stage and find her “airness” while discovering that all she needs is already inside of her.

So how does this performance stack up? Using the same 4.0-6.0 criteria let us start with the set designed by Aaron Benson. For the most part it has that overused distressed bar vibe that many of us are familiar with. There is the green room, the stage and the bar itself. This may seem a bit nit picky but there is an issue with the booze bottles behind the bar. If you look close you notice two or three repeats of various types of hooch and a fairly large representation of top shelf high priced alcohol that would not be caught dead in places like this. Score 5.6.

As for the actors, the company is made up of Mariah Burks as The Nina, Mike Glavan as D Vicious, Luke Brett as Shreddy Eddy, Corin B. Self as Golden Thunder, Erin Scerbak as Cannibal Queen, Tim Keo as Face Bender and Trey Gilpin as The Announcer. For the most part the cast does a good job but as in most new productions this year they seem to be pushing the roles a bit. There is also a problem with the “she is cheating on her husband to be with him who is cheating on his fiance who is seeking revenge” that took away from the main story line because it took up so much of the show. Score 5.7.

Now we look at the air guitar performances themselves. Having watched You Tube videos of the actual reigning champions I find that the Technical Merit points are a bit farcical. Real life guitar players could never do some of the pretend moves that air guitarists display including switching from right hand to left hand (an impossible feat) and back again. Yet this was a common occurrence during the stage show. In fact the one person who gave the most consistent and believable air guitar performance was Trey Gilpin as The Announcer. Score 5.9 to Trey and 5.6 to the rest.

As for the Sound Design by Richard Ingraham it is loud but not at ear bleed levels that it could have been. The audience members appreciated the restraint. Costumes by Tesia Dugan Benson work well with each of the actors, especially the quick change outfits of Golden Thunder, the Hippy look for Face Bender and the leather outfit for Cannibal Queen. T. Paul Lowry’s projections help add to the excitement. The show was directed by Nathan Motto. Score 5.8.

The show began fifteen minutes late and although advertised at 105 minutes it was closer to two hours which is a bit long a sit without an intermission. Score 5.5.

Adding up the scores and dropping the two lowest point values I give the show a 17.1 which is good but not good enough to carry the finals for a win.

This is a show for those with eclectic tastes. Some attendees will scream and shout throughout the performance while others will sit quietly and nod their heads and still others will walk out scratching their heads. It is simply where your head is at the time.

“Airness” at Dobama Theatre (located at 2340 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights, Ohio) will be on stage through November 21, 2021. For more information and tickets you can go to https://www.dobama.org/airness or call (216) 932-3396.


For those familiar with the former Dobama stage set-up you are in for a surprise. For this show the seats have been placed in a semi-circle affording everyone a really great view of the stage. Also, with this performance adult language, adult situations, lighting, strobe and fog effects are prevalent and those with sensitivity to such should avoid attending.

For further and up to date information concerning Dobama Theatre’s Covid policies go to https://www.dobama.org/covid.

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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.