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LETTERS TO EDITOR
The Train Play
Since there isn't much of a story - as you might have guessed from the title - one has to look elsewhere for drama. I found it staring at me from the moment I entered the auditorium at the Ohio Theater. The set, designed by David Morris, immediately establishes the mood (playful) and establishes the setting (everywhere/nowhere), while representing familiar imaginary territory, somewhere in George Jetsonland, circa infinity. Creating a great sweeping crescent, the "train" consists of a raised platform on which sit eight sturdy passenger benches. Above hangs a curved ceiling. The entire affair is painted metallic silver and looks vaguely space aged.
The title - so inadequate, so devoid of meaning, so - perfect. But can you imagine Tennessee Williams calling his masterpiece, The Streetcar Play? Ms Adams, therefore, should be commended for offering a title that promises so little. This play could - and perhaps should? - be a monologue played by one actor as a standup routine. Playwright Adams only has only one voice to offer. Her effort to divide it among several characters works only to a certain extent. It is that voice of learning we hear often and have heard now for some thirty years, consisting of American New Age blather, Marxist disgruntlement, and hetero/homosexual fantasy. It could be called politically correct pornographic musings. Mind you, Adams makes the most of it.
Each passenger enters alone, sits, and begins to speak. None has anything to say, but there is much said. In fact, from the opening words of The Voice (Dan Sturges), who is a kind of hysterical unseen train conductor ("Fuck you all, we'll get there when we get there."), we get the sense that what is said has no grounding in reality. A fleeing Irishman by the name of Gabriel Anglefood (Austin Jones) takes the first bench and begins his equally distressed and distressing rant ("There will only be safety in a transformed universe.") Then comes an erudite Afro-American travel writer (Keith Davis), who is capable of wit ("I'm not a pedophile. If I were, I'd like nice children"). This he says to his young neighbor, Leopard-Girl (Ami Shukla), an energized lunatic who has the power to stop time and to make herself invisible. She also affects a marvelous pout ("I can't find my secret power".). The train is then eventually filled with five more passengers: two women and three Russian tourists ("Wherever we go, there we are.")
The train chugs along. Things begin to pick up, though, when the soloists begin to move about the cabin, finding new configurations in their isolation. Jonathan Silverstein, by the way, directs with flair and confidence. None of the temporary entanglements is entirely obvious. The embittered travel writer mixes it up with the jaded goddess, Gaia (Maria Porter), creating in the process a rather charming befuddlement. Dmitri (Ryan Shogren), the youngest of the three Russians has his eye on the fleeing Irishman, and winds up throwing the audience a curve. Most effective and amusing is the Scientist's flirtation with the remaining Russians, Mikhail (Mark Leydorf) and Sergei (Gibson Frazier). The simulated sex scene that ensues is the most persuasive moment in the play, because here the audience finally gets its face rubbed in a little reality. In fact, the play - if it can ever be called a play - really begins when the passengers couple up. The writing improves, the actors finally have something to do, and the tiresome incantations become opportunities for witty exchange.
The acting is uneven. Austin Jones makes a most compelling little Irishman, while Maria Porter never quite seems as English as she would have us believe. Mark Leydorf and Gibson Frazier play an amusing Russian pair, but their little brother seems much more like an American from Dayton, Ohio. Keith Davis is adequate, but never quite comes into his own. This could be said of Quincy Tyler Bernstine as the Scientist, were it not for her virtuoso orgasm, which brings the house down. Ami Shukla, most compelling of the ensemble, creates a character who, although difficult to get a handle on, nonetheless, consistently grabs one's attention.
Now just where the hell is this train headed? I don't want to give it away. But wherever it is, lighting designer David Zeffren creates something as magical as Oz and as breathtaking as the Grand Canyon. Head for the Ohio Theater to find out. All aboard.
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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