New York’s original Pennsylvania Station is a poster child for lost opportunity. The majestic Beaux Arts building was allowed to fall to ruin before being razed in the early 1960s and replaced with a modern monstrosity filled with florescent lighting and fast food joints. Playwright Justin Rivers uses the demolition of this lost landmark to serve as a backdrop for exploring an unlikely relationship that develops between a teacher/activist and a construction worker. The resulting production, The Eternal Space, is nothing short of glorious.
I have talked with Mr. Rivers and he is exactly the sort of person I hoped I’d meet when I became a Drama Desk member. He has a clear vision of what he wants to express while remaining open to the creative ideas of others. This wise and secure approach to the artistic process enabled him to assemble an astonishing team of professionals on stage and behind the scenes. Skillful director Mindy Cooper makes the most of every one of the piece’s 85 minutes. Jason Sherwood cleverly designed a series of architectural surfaces on which Brad Peterson projects stunning photos of the slowly dissolving station. This allows the genuine and moving performances by Clyde Baldo and Matthew Pilieci to be set off by scenery so vibrant it becomes the third character.
While I imagine this production will particularly appeal to city dwellers who dread the thought of a big box store or luxury condo on every corner, The Eternal Space covers more universal subjects of love and loss that anyone can relate to. The story evolves more like a piece of music than a typical play. Themes return in the dialogue but as if performed on a different instrument. On several occasions I was taken by surprise, only to think a moment later, “well, yes, of course.” The experience is (appropriately enough) much like a delightful slowly unfolding journey by train.
The Eternal Space is at The Lion Theater at Theater Row through December 6, 2015. For tickets and information visit http://theeternalspaceplay.com.