Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review of Love in Afghanistan
Signature audiences will remember Conner and Barnes' earlier musical collaboration, Nevermore, a fevered and fascinating look at the life of Edgar Allan Poe through his poetry and stories. While Crossing similarly takes chances with the musical form (for example, not allowing for applause after songs), it lacks the magnetism of the earlier work.
The production, directed with a dreamlike feel by Eric Schaeffer, runs less than 90 minutes on a single, simple set (also designed by Schaeffer): the weathered façade of a train station and the platform facing the track. In the authors' conceit, the people can communicate with each other across time, possibly through the help of a mysterious Unknown Woman (galvanic Nova Y. Payton) who is the only one not to share her own story. It's all a little self-conscious, what with a broken clock on the station's tower and a storm approaching.
Whether intentionally or not, the personal stories boil down to the ties between parents and children. A young soldier (Austin Colby), joined by his mother (Peggy Yates), awaits the train that will take him to serve in World War I; conversely, an English war bride (Tracy Lynn Olivera) sits with her young son (John Ray) in 1954, wondering whether she made the right decision to marry an American soldier and go home with him after World War II.
Then there's a contemporary backpacker (Christopher Mueller) preparing to take the trip to Europe his mother didn't live to take; a wealthy man (Chris Sizemore), son of a railroad executive, considering his options following the 1929 stock market crash; a doctor (Florence Lacey) in 1977 awaiting the return of her estranged daughter; and a civil rights activist (Ines Nassara) heading for the 1963 March on Washington, seeing herself as part of a family dating back to Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad.
All that personal and world history sounds inherently theatrical, but not much really happens beyond a few platitudes and words of encouragement shared among individuals and eras. ("When does the train come?" asks one person. "When you're ready," another replies.) Connor's songs are tuneful and effective while not calling too much attention to themselves.