On Stage

Taking Flight

Grief and acceptance in Women of Lockerbie

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Although the powers that be at the Bellingham Theatre Guild couldn’t possibly have known that their spring production, The Women of Lockerbie, would coincide with a remarkably related major news story, that’s exactly what happened.

The recent event I’m referring to is the ongoing search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which seemingly disappeared off the face of the Earth more than a month ago on what was supposed to be a routine flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

The Women of Lockerbie, on the other hand, deals with the aftereffects of Pan Am Flight 103, which crashed in Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 after a bomb set by Libyan terrorists killed all 243 passengers, 16 crew members and 11 more people on the ground.

The major differences in the two airplane-related tragedies is that one deals with a crash that left tangible, often horrifying, evidence of a disaster, while the other is an ongoing mystery that may never be solved.

After viewing the opening-night performance of Deborah Brevoort’s The Women of Lockerbie, the eerie similarities between Pan Am Flight 103 and Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 became crystal clear: both events left behind family members and friends who will never know how their loved ones spent their final moments. Similarly, those dealing with aftereffects of both tragedies must eventually learn to grieve for what they’ve lost—even if there’s no body to put to rest.

The play takes place seven years after Pan Am 103 was blown out of the sky. A still grief-stricken woman named Madeline Livingston (Nicole Winkler) returns to Scotland with her husband, Bill (Alan Peet). Their 20-year-old son died during the bombing, but his body was never found and Madeline has been unable to recover from the trauma. Even worse, she blames herself.

At the same time, a group of women in Lockerbie—many of whom also lost those they loved as a result of the crash—are attempting to retrieve clothing and other personal belongings of the victims from the United States government, who are set to demolish the remainder of what remains.

What happens when the Livingstons connect with the locals is at the heart of the production, which ultimately focuses on forgiveness, acceptance and learning to move on after a tragedy parts the skies and tears your world apart.

It must be said, though, that there’s no moment in the play when life is perfect once again and the tragedies are forgotten. Audiences will cringe when they hear details of the crash, and may tear up when the Livingstons find a modicum of relief from their pain, but trust me when I tell you that The Women of Lockerbie will stick with you—especially when you hear yet another news report about the families that are still waiting to hear what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

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