THEATER REVIEW: San Diego Rep tackles “Walter Cronkite Is Dead."

Grounded by weather and stranded in a D.C. airport for the duration, Margaret (Ellen Crawford) sits sipping wine and trying to talk herself out of her fear of flying. A prim and tastefully dressed eastern liberal, she’s found a quiet corner all to herself.

She doesn’t appreciate it when a bedraggled and brash motormouth from Tennessee named Patty (Melinda Gilb) staggers in, dragging suitcases and looking for a place to sit.

Margaret quickly puts her purse on the seat next to her, pretending it's occupied. But when it's clear there are no other available chairs, Margaret reluctantly invites the straggler (in jeans, T-shirt and a seriously ugly fanny pack) to sit.

This familiar dramatic ploy is the opener for Joe Calarco’s comic duet “Walter Cronkite Is Dead.”

Patty is on her way to London to see “The Lion King;” Margaret is on the way to Moscow for a holiday.

Soon it’s clear that this is a Red state-Blue state pairing: Margaret has named her children after the Kennedys; Patty thinks the Kennedys’ “drinking, drugging and carousing” will land “every single one of them” in Hell.

But they’re stuck together, and sooner or later the shared wine will let them edge toward conversational détente and then personal revelation. United by motherhood, each learns that sometimes people are more divided by preconceptions than by actual differences and that maybe with a little effort we could all get along.

There’s nothing particularly original here, and the sudden warmth these women develop is more than a little unlikely, but much of the dialogue is amusing and Gilb is a knockout as the annoying but endearing Patty.

Crawford is also excellent as the proper Margaret with the racy past, though I’d be willing to bet that in real life this character would have fled rather than stay at that table.

There’s some fine tech work here, starting with Sean Fanning’s industrial-look set. Valerie Henderson has created spot-on costumes; Ross Glanc and Omar Ramos do fine work with lighting and sound, respectively.

The title refers to the late lamented dean of civility in reporting. I think it’s safe to say we’re all sorry that “Walter Cronkite Is Dead.”

The details

“Walter Cronkite Is Dead” plays through Oct. 16 at San Diego Repertory Theatre, 79 Horton Plaza.

Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm; selected Saturdays at 2 pm; selected Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7 pm. Check the website for schedule.

For tickets call (619) 544-1000 or visit HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.

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