September 14, 2012
TT: One-way ticket
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Athol Fugard long ago chose to walk the shakiest of tightropes by writing artistically serious plays that directly reflected the stormy political life of South Africa, his native land. Now that apartheid is a thing of the past, it stands to reason that some of Mr. Fugard's earlier work should be looking a bit creaky, if for the best of reasons. But whenever he opts for dramatic poetry instead of tub-thumping, he shows how a gifted artist can write about politics without being devoured by them--and in "The Train Driver," his newest play, Mr. Fugard's poetic gifts prove to be as potently suggestive as ever.
Like "Blood Knot," the 1961 play that first brought Mr. Fugard to the world's attention, "The Train Driver," which was inspired by a true story, is a two-man show whose characters meet in the middle of the racial gulf that continues to cleave the land in which they live. The setting is a squatter-camp graveyard where the unclaimed bodies of unidentified blacks are brought for burial. Simon (Leon Addison Brown), the resident gravedigger, is accosted one morning by Roelf (Ritchie Coster), a bedraggled, desperate-looking white railroad engineer. His presence in a place where "there is no white people sleeping" makes no sense to Simon. Soon, though, it emerges that Roelf has come there to search for the bodies of a black woman and her baby--and that he killed them, albeit accidentally, when the woman deliberately stepped in front of his train for reasons unknown....
First performed in the U.S. two years ago at Hollywood's Fountain Theatre, one of this country's best small regional houses, "The Train Driver" is now being presented in New York as the final panel in the Signature Theatre Company's three-installment Fugard series. Mr. Fugard, who is also a first-rate director, has staged it with the unadorned clarity that he brought to the Signature's February revival of "Blood Knot," and Messrs. Brown and Coster are both extraordinarily fine....
Rob McClure is arrestingly charismatic and vital in the title role of "Chaplin," the new Broadway musical about the life of the legendary silent-movie clown. If only the show were silent, too! Warren Carlyle, who choreographed last season's Broadway revival of "Follies," has staged "Chaplin" skillfully, while the black-and-white décor--sets by Beowulf Boritt, costumes by Amy Clark and Martin Pakledinaz--is as pleasing as the performances of Mr. McClure and his colleagues. No sooner do the characters open their mouths, though, than "Chaplin" becomes a bathetic, flashback-laden weeper about a misunderstood genius...
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Read the whole thing here.
Athol Fugard talks about The Train Driver:
Posted September 14, 2012 12:00 AM