New York City Theater
Access Theater, 380 Broadway, NYC
A young company, Coffee Cup, offers up a promising new piece, but one which does not always deliver the goods. Certainly the potential is there. What better subject than the subway system—so familiar to millions of New York City straphangers? What better opportunity for comic and poignant vignettes?
“Standing Clear” does delve into the subject. Writers Ishah Jansssen-Faith and Jack McGowan have mined this fertile area, occasionally coming up with nuggets. There’s the old busybody who offers every one unwanted advice, the scary vagrant who cozies up to the next rider, the daughter who copes with her Alzheimer-ridden mother, the wrangling married couple.
But such moments are too often interspersed with drab, arid stretches—with tiresome pauses, repetitive statements, and verbal and visual exchanges which just do not work.
Yet the production, under Barbara Karger’s direction, offers an engaging young cast of players—Melinda Ferraraccio, Becca Hackett, and Ben Holbrook, as well as the co-writers Janssen-Faith and McGowan. This ensemble plays a number of subway types—acting out, fantasizing, or just surviving--as the trains roll on. And though there is a tendency to go over the top, portrayals are often strong and affecting.
“Standing Clear” can be good fun—and, more than that, thoughtful and provocative. Though this is not a forward-moving story, its many subway vignettes do offer a theme—namely, how do you protect your privacy in a crowded, public place? And how, given a sense of decency, do you reach out to a fellow-sufferer? In short, how do you balance community with privacy--the need to connect with the need for self-protection?
In all, “Standing Clear” is a piece-in-progress, it would seem. But with strong, ruthless editing, the play could emerge as a worthy statement of our New York underground life.
June 1, 2008