Whether you live in the city, or you’re just in town to catch a show, the joys of the MTA are ones we all share and love. Or hate, depending on the day, and how much train traffic is holding up your car. It’s those shared subway moments that In Transit makes its subject, as its many different characters make their way through the stations to get to where they’re really going.
Each character in the show is on their way somewhere, both in the obvious sense, as well as the figurative. Jane (Jane Seibert, understudied in the performance I saw by Mariand Torres), an aspiring actress, shuttles between her day job as an office temp and her auditions in the hopes of getting her big break. Trent (Justin Guarini) and fiancé Steven (Telly Leung, understudied in the performance I saw by Arbender Robinson) want to get married, but Steven still has to pose as Trent’s roommate when they visit his religious mother (Moya Angela) in Texas. Nate (James Snyder) grew accustomed to a cushy life financed by a successful business career, until an unfortunate “reply all” incident left him unemployed, broke, and butting heads with an MTA employee (also played by the excellent Moya Angela) because he can’t afford his swipe. Ali (Erin Mackey) moved across the country to live with her boyfriend, only to find herself dumped, and struggling through single life in the big city.
These storylines are woven together not only through their interactions with each other, but also with Boxman (alternated between Chesney Snow and Steven “HeaveN” Cantor, whom I saw perform), a street artist who performs his impressive beatboxing feats in the subway station all the characters pass through. With a brilliant scenic design by Donyale Werle that cohesively keeps the show moving while capturing the essence of each scene, the show examines the different ways the subway brings New Yorkers together.
The musical relies entirely on acapella, which fits into the interweaving of its characters well, as the strong ensemble voices back up each new solo. This creates a great sound that supports the story’s themes of interconnection. Those themes, however, feel a little light. Each character’s development and story relies on common tropes and stereotypes, making the storylines a tad predictable. Boxman unifies those narratives in clever moments, but his musings on the importance of living in the moment and finding meaning between the stations feel a little too obvious given the show’s premise.
Where it lacks in thematic profundity, the show shines with its humor, delivering a charming and witty love letter to life in the city. Directed (and choreographed) by Kathleen Marshall, the wonderful performances bring out the show’s many brilliant comedic moments with a delightfully successful result. In particular, Moya Angela shines in a comedic song about giving up on your dreams. As the recently dumped Ali, Erin Mackey does a great job bringing out the humor in her character’s struggles, while Trent and Steven deliver some of the show’s best one-liners. The success of the show’s comedic moments turned it into a thoroughly enjoyable, lighthearted look at life in/under New York.