This review of Round House Theatre's Two Trains Running is courtesy of Alexis Harden, a high school junior, from Silver Spring, Maryland.
August Wilson’s, Two Trains Running, tells the realistic and emotional story of African Americans in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania during the 1960’s. Despite the play’s foundation of heavy topics such as success, regret, death, and redemption, it manages to be lighthearted, with quick wit from each character. Recently, the Round House Theater production company performed the play, and exemplified each and every aspect that makes it a classic.
Set in Pittsburg in 1969, Two Trains Running follows Memphis Lee, a restaurant owner, and his diverse circle of friends and newcomers, each with complicated and intriguing lives of their own. Each character exudes charisma and immense passion, making their stories and lives embraceable to each audience member. Despite the absence of a climax, the play focuses on the profound transcendence of the seven major characters as they overcome their own personal plights, ranging from success to self-beauty. Wilson eloquently manages to overlap these different themes and connect them, creating an environment comprised of acquaintances that are forced to learn and support one other as they grow.
The production of the play has much strength as well, as it incorporates a strong physical presence with a set that showcases the seemingly tangible diner. The actual scenery of the play that was artfully constructed by the Round House Theater forms an inviting setting that truly includes the audience in the story. Each detail in creating an emotional and lively set is perfectly executed by the production company. The set’s lighting and sudden blackouts followed by powerful musical selections, add intensity and emotion to the end of each moving monologue. When referring to the enigmatic “Aunt Esther”, a light is cast upon the red door hanging in the backdrop signifying a higher power. It’s refreshing to know that the set not only serves as a physical entity, but also as a source of allusion, adding to the complexity and development of the play itself.
From budding romance and friendship to anecdotes filled with contrasting feelings of regret and hope, Two Trains Running highlights the various aspects of life that are experienced by all and brings them into fruition. Not only is it a play that makes you empathize with the characters, it also makes you think about their lives and the society that they lived in. Despite the play’s distinct setting and time period, the story and the themes expressed are relevant to any society, making it a thought provoking and easily relatable piece.
Two Trains Running is playing through May 4 at Round House Theater.