Yankee Rep’s END OF THE LINE – a review

END OF THE LINE
an original Yankee Rep production

A piece of advice for those of you who might check out a performance of Yankee Rep’s latest original production, END OF THE LINE: toss away your judgments and expectations about how fiction and scripted theatre should be. Do not expect solely a comedy, a drama, a structured plot, loose monologues, likeable characters, hateable characters, none of that. It is and has all of these things and more. View this highly eclectic work of art with an open mind.

END OF THE LINE’s premise is simple: “The Albany train station is coming down – but inside, there’s a lot of living left to do.” The play’s setting is in the train station, during the last weekend of its existence. Its characters are workers and regulars with attachments to the station and travelers and passersby who do not.

END OF THE LINE features a talented and fitting ensemble cast, actors who shed much light onto the characters you see sometimes for mere minutes. All performances are entertaining and believable, with a depth to them found more in their energy than in their words and actions. The actors truly embody their train station alter egos – for better or for worse.

The content of the show is a series of short scenes tied together, a collaboration of eleven writers, which creates a day-in-the-life theme and an atmosphere of a real train station. Many people live out a portion of their lives in front of you, leaving you to surmise the rest – as opposed to a standard play, where you see more life of fewer characters. The style isn’t for everyone, especially if you are stuck in that “standard play” format. But even if you are, END OF THE LINE is a warm and friendly introduction to a different and not often used style.

The scenes flow gracefully together, with a chronology that is easy to follow and has a certain cadence. Some scenes left me yearning for more insight into the characters and their lives, while others could not end soon enough. The latter not being for a reason of acting or content, but of the intentional unsavoriness of many of the characters. Even those – or perhaps, especially those – were pulled off well enough to keep me engaged; similar to viewing a train wreck, I watched such scenes with what resembled a morbid curiosity.

One viewer, during the production I attended, remarked her dislike of some of the scenes – particularly the opening and closing scenes. Both were “depressing,” she said, and she did not feel they should have sandwiched the play. With a little reflection (and some insight from the director), I came to the conclusion that END OF THE LINE’s goal was to be as much like real life as possible, hence its somewhat unsettling closure, seemingly random connection between scenes, and variety of genres.

In a world of modern Hollywood influence, where everything is perfectly scripted, where characters say all the right things, life isn’t nearly as complicated, and endings are always happy and just that – endings – one is hard pressed to find something new and original, something that goes against the grain of how fiction is “supposed” to be. END OF THE LINE taps its foot on unsteady ground and ends up planting itself firm upon a foundation which it helped to build. A breakthrough production for repertory theatre and particularly for Yankee Rep, END OF THE LINE is a moving and realistic account of real life – of its attachments and inconsistencies, its imperfections and annoyances, its joys and pastimes, and most of all, its reflection and memories.

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