Directed by Eric Amburg
Diana Gonzalez – Patty Melt
Zane Harris – Fire Proof Zack
Will Manning – Wally
Julie McKay – Christine C. Prescott
Travis Steubing – Second Best Man
Joleen Wilkinson – Koryn
Reviewed Performance 3/13/2014
Reviewed by Mary L. Clark, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
There’s a video on YouTube of NYC subway’s C Express from 59th to 125th, taken from one of the few remaining front window cars. About a minute into it, the subway train picks up some speed and rumbles through the middle track of the dimly-lit tunnel, fenced in from the stations because this train isn’t stopping until the end. But, if you’re taking the Express late at night, the only one running is the A, and that’s the train the characters in David Parr’s play, Express from 59th, are on.
Except this particular train is hardly express, sitting at the station while announcements explain the numerous reasons for the delay, and to apologize for the inconvenience. And as I sat in the dark, watching these people waiting in the car for something to happen, I started to feel the same, stuck wondering why the delay, and a bit inconvenienced.
David Parr must have ridden this NYC line innumerable times, looking out the window as the stations rushed by, watching the passengers sit or travel through the cars, everyone in their own little worlds. I’m a people watcher too, and when in one place for a period of time, I’ll imagine little scenarios of what the people are talking about. In this play, Parr did essentially the same thing, taking “a kaleidoscopic look at the variety of ways in which strangers express themselves, tracking the same ten minutes from four different perspectives”.
Parr and Director Eric Amburg have collaborated on other theatre projects, both in NYC and at past Out of the Loop festivals, Amburg being a Texas native and now back in the area. Parr has written a repertory of short plays, all with a Twilight Zone flavor, and I thinking Express from 59th is most likely one of those.
The set for this production is entirely of chairs, half with their backs to the audience and placed in twos or threes, across from each other as on a subway car, with space between for the walkway and imaginary doors to the platform or the next car. Characters come in pairs or alone, talking to each other or to no one in particular. Two people run on at the last minute in a never ending lip lock. Their conversation is of trivialities, of snorting cocaine in the bathroom, and of themselves. The other passengers listen to headphones, preach to the “congregation”, wander through with an absurdist list of items found, or speak of all the things she can now eat. And then time rolls back and the actors repeat their steps and words, silently now, while another person or couple is highlighted. I noticed that in some rewinds, the motions were condensed and quickened, as if Parr was thumbing through the time and picking out the best parts. I found it difficult to watch mimed dialogue while other characters were speaking, and wished there had been a low hum of noise to better reflect the sound of people waiting with nothing better to do.
There were ten actors onstage but the program only listed six, and I apologize but, except for one or two who mentioned their name, I did not know which actor played which character. I figured out Patty Melt, played by Diana Gonzalez, dressed in short, sequin dress with fur who kept spouting fast food advertising phrases, or getting up to shake her booty then move to another seat. At the very last, Patty Melt stands up and reiterates all the little phrases everyone said, all the trivialities, the absurdities, the anger, pain and meaninglessness. The highlight of the play, she alone summed up Express from 59th, without getting too esoteric, that we’re all on this little track of life, with snippets of time, and what will we do with it. For me, Parr’s play left me stuck at the station with too much time and nowhere to go.
EXPRESS FROM 59TH
Final performances on Saturday, March 15th at 5:00 pm, and Sunday, March 16th at 5:00 pm