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“The A-Train Plays” would seem to be an unlikely cure for winter-storm induced cabin fever.
The setting is a single, confined subway car. The production takes place in the small, stark Black Box space. There is nothing outwardly comforting about the physical aspects of the play, yet ultimately the stories and characters provide emotional warmth and optimism for the world outside.
The production is an assemblage of seven short plays superficially connected by the setting, the A-Train in New York City. The real connection between the pieces, however, is much deeper than the setting.
At turns humorous, biting or melancholic, each piece features an element of desperation, either emotional, social or financial. The common theme is that the cure for desperation is to make a human connection, whether deep or fleeting.
The most heart-wrenching expression of desperation comes from Anna Szabo in “Foreign Exchange.” As unemployed Susan she begs, bullies and cajoles a more fortunate friend (Anasti Her) for money. Szabo manipulates the audience through a spectrum of feelings toward Susan, from indifference to dislike to empathy.
Long-time actor and first-time director Doak Bloss has assembled an outstanding cast that quickly switches between characters and digs into the depth of emotions required to tell these tales. Ndegwa McCloud and Jesse Frawley are equally matched as strangers who both suffer from an inability to make small talk. Their awkwardness is equally painful and charming, as they alternate between rejecting and giving trust.
Cassie Little is effervescent as a naïve tourist who grates on a dime-a-dozen New York actor, played by Heath Sartorius. Sartorius later owns the stage as a Jesus who may have jumped off the cross and jumped right onto the A-Train, or may be an escaped mental patient. His Jesus is divinely philosophical with a wry sense of human humor, comfortable in his loincloth and nonchalant about his stigmata. His roles are particularly fitting, as Sartorius closes out his Lansing area theater career to move to New York City.
“The A-Train Plays” Feb. 21 – 24 p.m. Sundays 2 p.m.
Tickets start at $12, discounts available for seniors, military and students
Thursdays, 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 8
Riverwalk Theatre 228 Museum Drive, Lansing
(517) 482-5700 www.riverwalktheatre.com