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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Crossing

Also see Susan's review of Love in Afghanistan


Cast
Crossing, the introspective musical receiving its world premiere at Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, has a lot of heart but little propulsive action. Authors Matt Conner (music and lyrics) and Grace Barnes (book and additional lyrics) have brought together people from different eras, at turning points in their lives, on a railroad station platform, but the motivations and resolutions are personal and largely internal—not especially dramatic.

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 fašade 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.

Signature Theatre
Crossing
October 29th - November 24th
Book by Grace Barnes
Music & lyrics by Matt Conner
Additional lyrics by Grace Barnes
Backpacker, 2013: Christopher Mueller
Wealthy Man, 1929: Chris Sizemore
Mother, 1917: Peggy Yates
Soldier, 1917: Austin Colby
Woman with Flowers, 1977: Florence Lacey
Unknown Woman: Nova Y. Payton
Civil Rights Marcher, 1963: Ines Nassara
Woman in Pink, 1954: Tracy Lynn Olivera
Child, 1954: John Ray
Directed by Eric Schaeffer
Music direction by Gabriel Mangiante
MAX Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave.
Arlington, VA 22206
Ticket Information: 703-820-9771 or 1-800-955-5566 or www.signature-theatre.org


Photo: Teresa Wood


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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