By Mehr Gunawardena
“Gate 64” starts with an airline announcement. We are soon introduced to Winnie, a self‑described vagrant who spends her time in airport departure lounges, “entertaining” people. Winnie, played by Jane Watt, is loud and rambunctious as she stumbles around the stage.
She begins to stereotype and impersonate travelers based on how they collect their luggage from the carousel, and their nationality. She spots a sniffer dog and pretends to be a passenger who has drugs in her luggage. The dog looked back and forth between the passenger and her luggage; the “dog don’t give a fuck” and discovered the drugs.
While we “hang out with Winnie,” she changes into a different character—a young girl speaking to her class about her weekend. Ms. Watt fully embodies her characters and has an impressive gift for altering her voice, but the connection between the characters and the bigger story was unclear. This little girl tells a gruesome tale about killing mice. She says, “And boy, oh boy, we had a lot of mice, both dead and alive.” When she clubbed the living mice to death, “it was like hairy water.” She played this dark moment with innocence.
Ms. Watt becomes Winnie again, and further demonstrates her talent for voices. She pretends to hold a crying baby in her arms, and makes an authentic‑sounding baby wail into her shoulder. She hands this baby to an audience member and reminds them that it is not an actual baby. She is just so talented that she made us believe it was.
She tells us about Larry, another vagrant who occupies another gate in the departure lounge. Larry cannot “read the room” and, in her opinion, isn’t very entertaining. He puts tweezers in his pants when he goes through security, so the security agent can “cop a feel.” Winnie accuses an audience member—a man named Adam, whom she picks on all night—of having had genitals in his mouth. She tells him that “if you can put genitals in your mouth, you can do anything.” In an existential spiral for a moment, Winnie says that “when you die the universe ends, but it keeps spinning.”
She sings a song thanking indigenous people for their land, and addresses white privilege in a comical and insightful manner. Ms. Watt moves on to more improvised scenarios, making Adam improvise with her. It was slightly chaotic, but true to Winnie’s nature, and entertaining. She gets annoyed at Adam, yells at him, and makes him act like he is deaf and blind. She is not impressed by his skills and calls him a “hack,” adding that he “will never work in this industry.”
She frantically moves on to a different scene, and becomes a possibly French or Spanish cokehead named Gloria. This scene was, in fact, very powerful and addressed the way we bring up children. Gloria tells us that “you can always steal from somebody else’s basket, ‘cause everyone has different fruit.” Her mother told her that her mature body, at 11 years old, was a triumph and how she was going to survive in the world. As an adult, Gloria has relied on her beauty her whole life, but her looks are fading. She is in a crisis, and doesn’t know what to do. She sees a child sitting in the mud—“she had mud in her pants and nothing else matters”—and joins the child in the mud. This scene, though bizarre, was moving, if disconnected from the rest of the performance.
Ms. Watt is Winnie again, and she tells us about her friend, Blessing. She concludes that “sometimes life can be a real cunt,” and, in an emotional moment, tells us how Blessing got her nickname. She runs offstage, tripping on her way out. I do not find this kind of humor funny, but rather annoying. There were moments during “Gate 64” that I found compelling and intriguing, but I wish there were more purpose and coherence to them. “Gate 64” is a loud, chaotic production that will provoke a strong reaction.
Performed by Jane Watt
Nov. 11 at 6pm
Photo: courtesy of the production
United Solo 2018
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
MEHR GUNAWARDENA is a writer from Sri Lanka who pursued her education and ambition in the United States. During her time at Clark University, she began experimenting with form and structure to make her writing as accessible as possible to all readers, while keeping true to her voice. She enjoys writing poetry and other fictional pieces with political and societal nuances, and is therefore drawn towards art with similar intentions.