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New Jersey by Bob Rendell

Amazingly Deceptive Night Train
Speeds into Long Branch

Also see Bob's reviews of The African Company Presents Richard III and I Hate Hamlet

Night Train
Michael Irvin Pollard, Philip Lynch and Maria Silverman
The less that you know about Night Train before you board the better that you will enjoy it. Even telling you how or why it works, or even the genres which it encompasses, will reduce your pleasure. It is extremely intelligent fun. The fun is of the variety which derives from watching the sleight of hand and brilliant quirkiness of a master magician. You certainly don't want to know in advance how it is done, and I'm not going to give a lot away. However, if you are in a position to get to NJ Rep this month, I suggest that you just go without reading further because anything said about Night Train has the potential to remove some of the edge from the proceedings. This world premiere play by New Orleans playwright John Biguenet was developed on a Studio Attachment at the National Theatre of Great Britain, which you may want to take as a further endorsement.

This is the story of three people in a first class compartment on a European style train in the middle of the night. Nothing happens that you haven't seen before, and you have a reasonable chance of figuring out what is going on here. However, if or when you do, you will have to be very steely to keep your compass. It is more likely that your compass will move in the right direction from time to time, only to veer wildly off course again.

The well dressed and well heeled Alex Hampton is joined in his first class compartment by a dodgy Max who is seeking refuge from the overly crowded and uncomfortable second class. Max is a smuggler, and is carrying bags filled with contraband from which he attempts to make some sales to Alex. It develops that Alex is a high finance banker with the National Bank. Max brings in his niece (she call him "Uncle Max"). She is ....

Under SuzAnne Barabas' astute direction, Michael Irvin Pollard (Hampton), Philip Lynch (Max) and Maria Silverman (Marta) each give necessarily tricky, complex performances. Most impressive is their intricate interaction which amuses us with its improbabilities as their identities and characters shift along with the ground under them without ever tempting us to throw up our hands and mentally disengage from the ride. Night Train likely would play best without an intermission.

As she does with uncanny regularity, resident set designer Jessica Parks has designed a crackerjack set which hurtles Night Train right into our laps. Parks has created a plush, anamorphic compartment with an effectively enormous width and narrow depth, and a sense of real presence to the corridor and train window and outside night. The result is that the auditorium feels as if it is an extension of the compartment. The illusion is completed with what appears to be digital projections simulating the area outside the train being passed in the night. The excellent work of Lighting Designer Jill Nagle is an integral part of the outstanding design. The costumes of Patricia E. Doherty are central to the delineation of the characters. In the case of costuming Maria Silverman (Marta), the costume designer combines with her canvas to define character.

Night Train is a Harold Pinter-esque nightmare with more than a soupçon of pulp fiction.

Night Train continues performances (Eves: Thurs., Fri.. Sat. 8 pm/ Mats. Sat. 3 pm, Sun. 2 pm) through May 29, 2011 at the New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway, Long Branch, New Jersey 07740; box office: 732-229-3166; online: www.njrep.org.

Night Train by John Biguenet; directed by SuzAnne Barabas

Cast
Alex Hampton.........Michael Irvin Pollard
Max.....................................Philip Lynch
Marta.............................Maria Silverman


Photo: SuzAnne Barabas


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- Bob Rendell



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