New York City Theater
"Tales from the Tunnel"
Theatres at 45 Bleecker Street
Every passenger of the New York City subway system has a tale to tell—comic or tragic or poignant or gross. But writer/directors Troy Diana and James Valletti were smart enough to see the dramatic possibilities of this underground world, turning such material into an off-Broadway piece. This Diana/Valletti effort, titled “Tales from the Tunnel,” is now playing at 45 Bleecker Street and features a young exuberant company.
What is admirable about the piece is its history. “Tales” is based on hundreds of true-life accounts. Valletti and Diana literally stood at the Union Square station, asking for subway stories. Vignettes from strangers, as well as families and friends, poured in. The result is a 90 minute hodge-podge of material.
The difficulty here is the lack of editing. Everything---good, bad, or indifferent—has been thrown into the mix. It’s all undoubtedly true, but too often lacking in wit, comedy or any kind of interest. For example: a woman sits on the platform. “I’ve been waiting three hours for the B train,” she whines to a nearby man. “But the B train doesn’t stop here!” he replies. End of scene. And at worst, vignettes are gross, disgusting, scatalogical, but hardly fascinating. Why bother, one wonders.
Yet the six performers—Geri Brown, Farah Bala, Carla Corvo, Brandon Jones, Vayu O’Donnell, and Wilson Jermaine Heredia—turn their material into performance art. They sing, play instruments, and offer varied accents and quick, believable character sketches. There is talent here. Moreover, the directors keep the show moving at a lively pace, as they skip from scene to scene.
Indeed there are strong moments. In one skit the entire company becomes an ensemble. They are old high school buddies who decide to ride the subway system, covering every stop--and in record time. And in another appealing moment, a girl describes her parents’ life-long romance, which evolved from the D train to Coney Island to Coney Island itself, an experience she herself later repeats. Another poignant moment involves a girl from India, who faces the daunting task of dealing with a new culture.
All told, “Tales from the Tunnel” deals with a world worth sharing, but must be seen as a play-in-progress. Back to the drawing board—Valetti, Diana and company!
Sept. 21, 2010