T Plays IV: Rush Hour
Mill 6 Collaborative is back with another in their series of theater projects centered around Boston’s public transit system, the "T." Titled "T Plays IV: Rush Hour," this collection of seven short plays takes its conceit literally: The plays are super-short, briskly energetic, and set aboard various trains and buses during high-volume commute times. The show outperforms its subject: whole program takes less than two hours, and leaves you feeling like you got someplace.
The plays range in genre and style across a broad spectrum, from a meeting of two super-heroes, to an existential comedy, to a quirky take on the (thankfully waning) phenomenon of flash mobs. We begin with "The Ashmont/Braintree Fortress of Solitude," written by Kristin Baker & Dan Milstein (on the Red Line, no less!). This is the superhero segment: A young man with a mechanical arm (he got it during a session of massage therapy, evidently) bumps into a telepathic crusader. The young man’s name is James (Tim Hoover) and he’s thrilled at the encounter; he’s looking to "break in" to the business. The heroine, Delilah (Shelley Brown), goes by the moniker "The Golden Stinger." The two make for an irresistible couple, he the young and wide-eyed neophyte and she the mentor who is in reality less reluctant than she pretends to be. James Barton directs the segment with flair.
In "Brazil," two men, co-workers, meet up on the Blue Line. Gabriel (Rafael Marinho) is disheveled and jumpy; clutching a seashell, he looks ready to leap out of his own skin. Richard (Jason Myatt) is cool as a cucumber, having just spent the night with a girl the two men were partying with the night before, and now participating in a conference call as he rolls in late to the office. But the problem is not the female company they’ve been keeping--rather, it’s the fate of a third man upon which the play turns. Writer Matt Chapuran structures this episode inventively, and Melanie Garber directs just as deftly.
The #66 Bus, the "destroyer of relationships and loser of jobs," is the setting for Ginger Lazarus’ "Sixty-Sixed," in which Glen (Greer Rooney), a stressed-out student, frets over her miserable stint at Harvard. "You know you only take this bus if you don’t want to get to where you’re going," advises Lorelei (Lindsay Eagle), the free-spirited woman whom Glen sits next to. Indeed, Lorelei may be a spirit, full stop, given her ethereally blissful presence; in any event, this short play is an amusing and incisive portrait of motivations and choices, and practically an honors course in psychology. Antoine A. Gagnon brings razor-sharp direction to the piece.
For "Mob Mentality," written by Rick Park, the action shifts to the Green Line. Three passengers with three very different outlooks collide... all too literally, as the swaying train jolts them into one another. Ariel, a loud twenty-something on her cell phone, flings word-fragments into the ether while chatting to her (equally vapid, we suppose) friend on the other end. The well-spoken Englishman, Tarquin (George Saulnier III) standing next to her comes in for her snot-nosed abuse, but he bears it with unflappable calm’ meantime, Olivia (Kelley Estas), a pregnant, supersize beverage-clutching woman from Southie crowds both of them, setting the stage for hilarity and, stunningly, a dreadful pop song from the 1980s. (I won’t spoil here which one it is except to note that it’s so horrible it’s something of a gem--surely, the only explanation for how it managed to crack the charts in the first place--and it’s so incongruous that it’s perfect for this play.)
The T boasts America’s first subway system, and despite recent effort at renovation it certainly runs, at times, like a relic. But "Masqueraders in the City of the Great ONE" takes an optimistic view of the T, envisioning a future in which the system is still chugging along... at least, some version of the Silver Live is. That’s the only bit of optimism here: The year is 2117, the world has endured an apocalypse and all the attendant post-apocalyptic horrors, including the rise of a savior who has turned out to be a tyrant. A fledgling resistance has formed, but can they stand against him? Writer Kevin Mullins hands us a dystopia, and either he or director Paula Ramsdell dresses it up in 19th century finery: This is a juicier morsel of steampunk than the Civil War sci-fi musical offered by the A.R.T. a few months back.
The cleverly titled "Rushamon" tells the story of a romantic meeting on the Commuter Rail from three different perspectives: The beautiful woman, Celeste (Sasha Castroverde); the lonely, hopeful man who falls in love with her at first sight, Matthew (Jason Lambert); and the staggering, drunken oaf (Kevin LaVelle) who shoves himself between them even as a spark struggles to ignite between them. One man’s dream, we learn in this hilarious romp written by William Donnelly and directed by John J. King,, is another man’s rude awakening.
In the Patrick Gabridge-written "will/did/is," many of the players we’ve glimpsed earlier board this train once more, this time on the Orange Line, and take on the roles of bystanders and onlookers as two odd characters wearing tin foil hats have a close encounter. One is Fitch (Brett Milanowski), a time traveler from centuries hence who took a wrong turn at the tesseract or something, and ended up missing a gathering at MIT in 2005 specifically convened to welcome any time travelers who might wish to drop on by. The other is Mindy (Dakota Shepard), one of the organizers of the MIT event, who has never given up hope that a time traveler would appear some day. She has a point, after all; Boston’s not the easiest town to navigate. The two are either visionaries or barking mad, but clearly they belong together. Chris Anton directs with sparkling aplomb.
If your destination is an evening of entertainment, this is your ticket!
"T Plays IV: Rush Hour" continues at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, 949 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, through June 30. Tickets cost $18 and can be obtained online at www.Mill6.org or via phone at 866-811-4111. Performance schedule: Sunday, June 24, at 3:00 p.m.; Thursday - Saturday, June 27-30, at 8:00 p.m.