A Subway Farce
Northwest Actors Studio, 324-6328.
Through Sept 29.

This peculiarly titled play contains none of the humorous door-slamming you'd expect from a farce. Local performer Anthony Paul Curry's script is set entirely on a Manhattan subway car, with a rather stock sampling of passengers: a sex-obsessed man, a born-again Christian, a crossdresser, a priest, a girl with Multiple Personality Disorder, and a kid with Tourette's. Curry tries to break up the stereotypes with unexpected elements (for example, the crossdresser is a Republican), but this move is broad and transparent. In any case, there's an unusual reason why these characters all find themselves on the same train, which is revealed in the second act.

As the car stalls, then careens out of control, the characters talk and rage at one another, developing bonds and antipathies. Like the classic subway-car-gone-wrong film, The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3, this play creates a sense of claustrophobia, building suspense and making the audience long for release. But in Curry's hands, the play veers as wildly as the runaway car, entering a weird territory of political allegory that kind of works, though it takes some confusing turns along the way. For instance, we discover that a sinister psychotherapist/God figure has arranged to abduct the subway car--a ridiculous scriptwriting move.

This is the final showcase piece for the Northwest Actors Studio 2001 Conservatory Program, and all the actors are recent graduates. Cast members meet the script's demand for high-pitched emotions very nicely, with Carob Lambert and Maryam Steffan breaking up the mania with a quieter acting style that was welcome. Students and folks up for anything may enjoy A Subway Farce, but those with higher standards should stay away.