South Camden Theatre Company and author, Joseph M. Paprzycki, provide their audience with another unique and thought-provoking journey into the underbelly of society with Paprzycki’s latest production, EXPRESS TRACKS. Even as I wrote “underbelly of society”, I realized that any preconceptions or assumptions that one associates with those words will be exploded with this production. Paprzycki has a vital grasp on the people about whom he writes. They are complex and replete with the attitudes that their lives have afforded to them, but Paprzycki does not stereotype them. He also refuses to allow the audience to stereotype them.
Paprzycki sets this struggle in a commuter-line train moving between Camden and Trenton. As the play begins and the train car fills , one’s personal experiences tend to write the balance of the play. An estranged and angry youth, a newly found religious man, a needy and enabling young woman together with a quiet bookworm and an elderly man of his time blend together even while the differences between them strain the blending. The conflicts that arise seem uncomfortably “usual”, and the audience begins to plan the denouement … the confrontations, the revelations and the realizations. BUT, the audience will be wrong!
Paprzycki does not allow the audience to take the easy way out. These characters are damaged in ways buried beneath each of their bravura. It is only through the writing and situations that the true amount of damage is uncovered. Even when understood, the damage escalates in an unanticipated direction. Paprzycki and director, Lee Kiszonas, make the audience feel the fear in each character. As Kiszonas quotes in her program notes from a directing mentor, the director’s job is to “cast well, then stay the hell out of their way while keeping them from running into the furniture.” Kiszonas does an admirable job of handling the claustrophobic sense of a train car as the emotional and environmental heat builds. She works with her cast to provide a pulsating tension that leaves one gasping when the ultimate damage is finally done.
The cast is exceptional. Eric Carter (J’Ameer) swaggers and paws Michelle Pauls (Willow) with an uncompromising realism. Pauls whines (a little too much at times) and creeps around the train car leaving the smell of fear behind her. Damien J. Wallace (Reverend) transitions smoothly between his loquacious bible-quoting construction to the frustrated, angry person he is trying desperately to bury. Daniel J. Tobin (Jamie) has the most difficult job insofar as his quiet demeanor keeps the audience guessing until Paprzycki’s use of Jamie as “the concept of good” appears. Each actor meaningfully conveys the various emotions that arise and Kiszonas keeps them tightly wound without allowing them to overwhelm. Darryl A Bell, Jr. (Man) nicely serves the production in two small but essential ways by establishing a character that tensely interacts at the start and returns to express the play’s final words in an anguished plea.
Robert Bingaman, Scenic Design, provides a clever set including a tilt and a rake which give the seats and the movements of the characters a twisting quality to convey the required movement. Josh Wallenfels, Sound Design, was adeptly able to convey the train sounds, and Joe Scotese, Lighting Technician, supported the production with key blackouts and varying levels of car lighting.
EXPRESS TRACKS in an uncomfortable journey but one that is wisely taken by audiences to appreciate the creativity and intelligence of the playwright, Joseph M. Paprzycki, the high level of acting commitment and the technical support provided by SCTC.
by Joseph M. Paprzycki
Directed by Lee Kiszonas
January 10 – 26, 2014
South Camden Theatre Company
The Waterfront South Theatre
400 Jasper Street
Camden, NJ 08104