By David Walters
It’s difficult for me to write a review of a play that I feel is superb in every way. I ask myself what more could I possibly add beyond the five stars and the 100% recommendation that you already see on this page. You really don’t need any more from me than those ratings to know how I felt about this production. I’m also hesitant to ice-bucket-challenge these couple of paragraphs with a dousing of superlatives that would weaken the only sentence worth saying about The Coast Starlight playing at The Mitzi Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center:
The writing, directing, set design, costumes, and acting all come together and meld in a magic evening that completely defines why we go to the theater.
I really don’t need to say more than that and you don’t really need to read any further. Get your ticket here.
But if read you must …
We generally take the train when we want to contemplate, to ruminate, when we want to think about things, hoping that when we get to the end of the line, we will arrive different, with something close to clarity. Jetting or driving does not give us the time for reflection that the constant sound of clickety-clack and sitting can give. On such a ride we have time to go deeply into our what-ifs. What if I had said that. If they would have said that, then I would have said this. It’s a time for the mind.
Theater is magic in that there are many elements that have to come together to lift it into the realm of art. It’s impossible to predict, even if the deck is stacked in your favor is not a guarantee that the sparkle will adhere, and theater will become lighter than air.
Director Tyne Rafaeli, with the help of set designer Arnulfo Maldonado, and lighting designer Lap Chi Chu, take apart one passenger train car and blow it out to accommodate six stories that imaginatively intertwine into a journey of connection. Each of these design elements and the cohesive ensemble, play their part in making this production the best theater I’ve seen so far this year.
For those of you that haven’t taken it, The Coast Starlight is the train that goes from Los Angeles to Seattle with stops at San Luis Obispo, Salinas, San Jose, and Oakland to pick up passengers. Playwright Keith Bunin takes those stops on that thousand-mile journey and with great imagination gives us six lives that travel it together mentally and physically. What’s wonderful about the construct of this play is that the audience is as much part of this journey as the characters.
Because this happened. This kind of thing doesn’t happen very often in the theater, in a drama, at a place like Lincoln Center, audible gasps. There were audible gasps throughout the audience as each character revealed their personal truths and interacted with each other’s revelations. Hearing that audience reaction let me know that I wasn’t the only one invested in what was happening in front of me. It’s another reason I love the theater.
Do go see it, closing date April 16, enjoy the ride.
THE COAST STARLIGHT was written by Keith Bunin, directed by Tyne Rafaeli, sets by Arnulfo Maldonado, costumes by Ásta Bennie Hostetter, lighting by Lap Chi Chu, original music and sound by Daniel Kluger, and projections by 59 Productions. Melissa Chacón is the Stage Manager.
Starring: Mia Barron, Camila Canó-Flaviá, Rhys Coiro, Will Harrison, Jon Norman Schneider, and Michelle Wilson.
Running Time: Approximately 95 minutes with no intermission
As always, this is just one person’s opinion in a world filled with them.