Ross Compton’s world premiere one-act dramedy ends as a wholly different play than the one it starts as, and that’s for the better. What begins as a perfunctory mash-up of staple theater school writing exercises—The Park Bench Play, The Existential Limbo Play, The Male Playwright’s The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past Personal Spec-Fic—evolves into a pretty sophisticated multisubject character study, even if it doesn’t totally stick the landing.
A postgrad (David Hartley) on a mostly empty suburban Metra train runs into a friend—a Mountain Dew Code Red-chugging townie schlub (Ian Gonzalez-Muentener) whose enthusiasm to reconnect gets a cool reception. Mysterious cosmic forces add new commuters one by one, each with a contentious connection to at least one of the other riders.
Compton seems to have absorbed the note somewhere along the writing process that—despite how it feels when you’re in your youth—the dissolution of weeks and months-long romantic relationships is not the end of the world, and one man hashing it out with his exes is not sustainably compelling drama. About halfway through, the story’s focus expands into richer territory, like the relationship between two sisters (Melanie McNulty, Abby Walburn) and the tribulations of a dancer (Walburn). By the end, director Tony Lawry’s production brings out some pretty compelling performances, including from fifth-grader Izzy Schafer, who has a lot put on her young shoulders and rises to the occasion. v