The End of the Line
nytheatre.com review by Stan Richardson
August 15, 2004
Dread is the feeling evoked by The End of the Line—an overly-earnest, but genuinely eerie look at the cost of human connection, conceived and produced by Isaac Everett and written by Jessica Hammer. Set in Manhattan (a “city of strangers” that prides itself on the, at times begrudging, camaraderie of its citizens) on a subway train (specifically the “E” train) not coincidentally bound for the World Trade Center, Hammer’s play seems to be interested in the risks of contact in a time where intimacy can so easily lead to infection, attention to attack.
On this particular evening, the gawky and gregarious Amy, an out-of-towner who is here to clean out the apartment of her late, estranged grandmother, meets the cynical and cautious Rebecca, an out-of-work(er) who has recently been fired from her low-level TV executive job because of her “inappropriate” interest in the subjects of one of their documentaries (those suddenly plucked from life by SARS, a disease that now seems almost a phantasm). The two women have a series of improbably familiar exchanges with one another and with other passengers on the train (the rest of the characters are represented only by voices), interspersed with monologues to the audience about their pasts, their reactions to each other, etc.
The sincerity of much of the dialogue as well as the knowledge that a late evening train ride from West 4th Street to WTC does not (in theory) take 30 minutes (this is an approximation, subtracting all soliloquies) requires a suspension of disbelief, but the sense of impending doom is palpable and what happens at the end of the line is as creepy as the characters promise.
Hammer, her director Brian J. Soliwoda, their two actresses, Mim Granahan (Amy) and Melissa D. Shaw (Rebecca), and their designers (in particular sound designer Isaac Everett and illustrator Abigail Estes), have each played (and played well) a critical role in creating a portrait of modern urban terror—a visceral fright that transcends our understanding of all the prominent threats.