Denizens of the Hummingbird Hotel on the outskirts of New Orleans gather for the living funeral of Miss Ruby, its most notable resident, in Steppenwolf Theatre’s production of “Airline Highway.” Photo by Michael Brosilow

The Hummingbird is a run-down, beat-up motel on the Airline Highway, which used to be the straight route between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Those who live there or congregate in its parking lot are “very, very poor,” says Tim Edward Rhoze, who plays the handyman Terry in Lisa D’Amour’s “Airline Highway,” now playing at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. Mr. Rhoze is artistic director of Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre, 927 Noyes St.

“Society would probably look at them as a cast of misfits,” said Mr. Rhoze. “What they have found in this motel is a dirty utopia,” where they both use and support each other. Terry does not live at the Hummingbird but goes there often for community because “that’s his family,” says Mr. Rhoze.

The event that showcases the denizens of the Hummingbird – the stripper Krista, the poet Francis, the hooker Tanya, the trans bartender and Karaoke wrangler Sissy Na Na (anchor of the community), the hotel manager Wayne and the returning prodigal Bait Boy – is the living funeral requested by Miss Ruby, the oldest and most famous resident of the Hummingbird.

Miss Ruby rallies for the party and expounds on her view of the world: “In the beginning there was sex.” She addresses most of the main characters directly, filling some gaps in the stories the characters told about themselves.

Director Joe Mantello adroitly allows the characters, whose stories are interwoven by playwright Ms. D’Amour, to talk over each other and to have concurrent dialogues without disrupting the flow of the play.

The play runs through Feb. 8 then moves to Broadway in the spring. Tickets and other information are available at

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...