ALBANY, N.Y. >> The moon landing in 1969 was perhaps the greatest technological accomplishments of the 20th century. It was a tribute to America determination, know-how and scientific superiority.
"The Blue-Sky Boys," which begins previews on Friday for a Tuesday opening at Capital Repertory Theatre, traces the path of the Apollo space program. It starts in 1961 in a bunker in Langley Field, Va. and concludes in 1969 with the United States successfully landing a man on the moon.
Considering the historical importance of the Apollo program, you would think the play would be a fact-filled drama about earnest scientists attempting to make science fiction a reality.
Think again. Not only is "The Blue-Sky Boys" a comedy, it is a zany comedy that contains many farcical elements in it. The press material for the show calls it "Monty Python-esque." Supporting that description is the appearance of legendary, fictional and mythological characters like Buck Rogers, The Red Baron, Icarus and Galileo in the play.
Director Gordon Greenberg agrees that the material does have a lot of silly moments. However, he quickly adds that the broad comic style has a purpose beyond its value to entertain. "It's typical of most work I am drawn to," he said in an interview. "It takes place in a silly world with a big heart. Think the Marx Brothers marry Steve Jobs."
He says underneath the playfulness, the work makes the point that an important element — arguably the most important element — of creativity is imagination. "You can't have progress without creative thinking and you cannot have creative thinking without imagination."
Greenberg is dedicated to the concept of arts in education and feels this play supports that philosophy. "The people who brought the Apollo program to fruition had to invent something from nothing," he said. "There was no clear chart outlining the process. They had to be creative to solve their problems. They had to keep returning to their inspirations."
Greenberg says those inspirations could be a comic book character, a myth, or a genius from another century. Sometimes, he says, "it is looking at the ordinary, adding imagination and innovating to solve a new problem." He offers and instance where the solution to reducing the heat to a spaceship during reentry was solved when one scientist noticed how at a barbeque the heat was redistributed through rotation.
Throughout the play, breakthroughs are made by what might seem silly or even absurd recollections or associations. Greenberg described it as "having Buck Rogers or Galileo come to visit and dance with them — metaphorically and in reality."
Greenberg first appeared on the Capital Rep stage in 1991 as an actor in the play "Peacetime." He's returned as a director for numerous plays including, "Jacques Brel is Alive and Living in Paris," "Breaking Up is Hard to Do," "Edges," "33 Variations" and "How Water Behaves."
The actor-turned-director is now an internationally hot commodity. He is balancing "The Blue-Sky Boys" with reworking his London success with "Guys and Dolls" as it moves to a bigger theater in the West End shortly after "Blue-Sky Boys" opens. He is also juggling a new work, "Holiday Inn," a compilation of Irving Berlin songs, which is scheduled for a Broadway run in the immediate future.
Despite his hectic, high-powered schedule, Greenberg says he is devoted to working with Capital Rep and its artistic director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill. "I find Capital Rep a place where I can do work that isn't driven solely by commercial considerations," he said.
"I believe in 'The Blue-Sky Boys.' Deborah Brevoort has written a smart, funny, entertaining play that speaks to something important. It will have a life after Capital Rep.
"But that is not what appeals to me about working here. It's about the joy and freedom to be creative. It is why I come here every time Maggie invites me."
What: "The Blue-Sky Boys" by Deborah Brevoort. Directed by Gordon Greenberg
Where: Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 N. Pearl St., Albany, N.Y.
When: Friday-April 3 (press opening, Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.). Evenings — Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30; Friday and Saturday at 8. Matinees — Saturday at 3; Sunday at 2; March 23 at 2
How: 518-445-7469; capitalrep.org