I've been reading a lot of plays recently and I've decided to write about the ones that have really stuck in my mind as something special.
One of them is a play that I briefly mentioned on here a few months ago, but I feel it deserves further discussion. It's a fabulous one act play called Tracks by Peter Tarsi.
Here is the synopsis from Dramatic Publishing's website: A group of strangers meet in a dirty subway station. They have arrived with limited personal belongings, their watches have stopped, and they all claim to be in different cities. Soon they learn there is no way out of the station, and the unfortunate truth is told to them: they are all dead. Since subway stations have two sides, they reason the train leaving from one platform must be bound for Heaven, while the train leaving from the other platform must be bound for Hell. But which platform are they on? They reflect upon their lives, recalling and confessing past deeds of which they are not proud, hoping to figure out which platform is which. The arrival of someone from the other platform only complicates matters, and the answer remains unclear. As the subway train finally approaches, they must decide whether to stay and ponder their actions further, or to have faith and climb aboard to their final destination.
I had the great pleasure of seeing a terrific production of the play earlier this year, but I have to say that reading the play is nearly as powerful as seeing it live on stage. Plays are meant to be performed and not read, but once in while the words in a script come to life in the same way a good piece of literature does. This is one of those scripts.
The play is an allegory on death and dying, good and evil, Heaven and Hell. What's most amazing about it is that despite the weighty observations, there is a lot of humor and heart in the storytelling. Each of the ten characters are finely drawn and a great challenge for actors of all ages. I've read a great many "characters trapped together" plays where the characters involved are stereotypical "types" that behave exactly as expected. Many of these types are included in Tracks, yet Tarsi manages to avoid the pitfalls of such a stage convention by imbuing his characters with far more depth than is typical. They repeatedly contradict themselves throughout, which is exactly how I feel people in a situation like this (however outlandish it may be) would behave.
For instance, my favorite character in the play is "The Old Man." One would expect from his name alone that he would be a crusty old coot that is set in his ways. And so he is, yet in this play we are shown that his behavior is a result of all the fears and setbacks he has experienced in his life. What could have been a two dimensional cardboard cutout is given an extra dimension, which is true of all the characters. I think that is why this play speaks to me so strongly.
For any high schools looking for a rewarding challenge, I highly suggest you order a copy and consider this play.