Addison — People walking, a couple kissing, a busker playing the drums. Express from 59th opens to a driving beat; the jazz/house mash-up "Rose Rouge" by St. Germain. Under a skittering trumpet solo, words repeat: “I want you to get together, I want you…” In a piece teeming with fighting, dancing, kissing and conversation we meet a drag queen, a drum playing preacher and a nursing mother who seems to have left her baby at home. It’s an eccentric snapshot of a Saturday night on a stalled New York subway.
The brief but captivating piece, written by Out of the Loop regular David Parr (it's his fourth play to be produced here), plays with time, repeatedly rewinding the evening’s events to uncover the events that brought each of the subway’s riders together.
The central twosome is a couple who are engaged and living together. At first blush, the two are fighting because the man is drunk. But as Wally (Will Manning) and Christina J. Prescott (Julie McKay) begin confronting each other, they demonstrate how infidelity and insecurity can keep people in relationships that aren’t working for either one.
The relationships are believable, as Manning makes the decision to leave his fiancé and starts getting to know his seatmate, the “sometimes unreasonably nice” Koryn (Joleen Wilkinson). Both actors are fresh faced, hanging on to an innocent belief in the possibility of love in the midst of a night in New York.
There’s another couple, a “hook up” in point of fact. The Second Best Man (Travis Stuebing) and former girlfriend of the groom met over some shared cocaine in the ladies room at a rehearsal dinner. Second Best Man is very nervous and collapses in a cocaine induced anxiety attack. Prior to his fortunately non-fatal collapse, the two discuss movie genres and even learn each other’s name. The actors don’t overplay their drunk or drug induced states. Their characters’ emotions appear heightened but only to the point where they’re free to expose their feelings.
Other standout characters in the show include Fire Proof Zack (Zane Harris). Wandering up and down the center of the car, he looks dully at the other passengers as he recites the list of the items he lost (or imagines he lost) in a fire in his apartment.
The cast members play beautifully off each other. That’s especially notable as director Eric Amburg shared that the piece was rehearsed in two parts: the actors from New York joined the Dallas contingent just a few days before the show opened.
Express from 59th is a strong showing with interesting characters and some stand out lines, like Koryn’s description of meeting a man who smelled like, “fear and cigarettes.” For anyone who’s spent an eternity waiting to get from point A to B, the play does a fine job of recreating that frustrating journey.
» Express from 59th repeats at 5 p.m. Saturday, March 15 and 5 p.m. Sunday, March 16 on the Main Stage at Addison Theatre Centre
» WaterTower Theatre's 2014 Out of the Loop Fringe Festival is 10 days of live theater, dance, music and visual art. To see the full schedule, go here.