Jeffrey Sweet’s drama Flyovers, which had a hit world premiere run here a decade ago, is receiving its first New York production starting January 29 at the 78th Street Theater Lab. Second City veteran Richard Kind stars as a celebrity who returns to his economically depressed Ohio hometown for a high school reunion, and Michele Pawk plays the woman for whom he pined all through high school.

The play debuted in May 1998 at Victory Gardens Theater, where the Evanston-bred Sweet is a member of the playwrights ensemble. Directed by Dennis Zacek, that original production marked William Petersen’s last stage appearance here for ten years–until he returned this month to star in Conor McPherson’s Dublin Carol at Steppenwolf. It also featured Amy Morton (director of Dublin Carol), Linda Reiter (soon to star in Shattered Globe’s revival of The Little Foxes), and Marc Vann, who’s been a regular on the CBS series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation with Petersen. 

Kind and Pawk both appeared here in the 2003 Goodman Theatre production of Stephen Sondheim’s Bounce. Though the show was dismal, they were excellent. And Pawk performed at the Goodman in the pre-Broadway tryout of Hollywood Arms, by Carol Burnett and Burnett’s daughter Carrie Hamilton. Also in the New York cast of Flyovers: Broadway stalwarts Kevin Geer (Side Man, Twelve Angry Men) in the role–created by Petersen–of a small-town bully, and Donna Bullock (Ragtime). Victory Gardens’ associate artistic director Sandy Shinner directs.

Sweet believes today’s audiences will identify with the economic struggles of the Rust Belt town. “When [Flyovers] was first written, one critic said that my portrait of bleak times in an industrial town in Ohio suggested my being unaware of the Clinton economic boom,” says Sweet. “His comment suggested that he was unaware of Ohio being hit at the time by the phenomenon described by the then-new term ‘down-sizing.’ I trust nobody will quibble with this portrait today.”