‘The Fourth Rail’ preview

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Ever sat on the metro, looked at the stranger seated directly across from you, and wondered to yourself, “who am I looking at?” Co-directors Mal Cherifi and Shaquille Stewart most certainly have and this Friday, February 8 at 12:30 p.m., 6 p.m., and 8 p.m. in the Black Box Theater of the Theater Arts Building (TA 148), they will take you along their journey of discovery.

This nine-person cast will take you on the metro ride of your life. From the first moment of the play, not only do the audience members not know what will happen next, but neither do the actors as there is no script. “There is no script for real life, so there is no script here,” Stewart said. The goal is to capture the “connections people experience in real life.” It is about breaking down the personal bubble and discovering the people you may never know.

The directors chose to turn their concept into an improvised show because the changes that the show took day-to-day reinforced their theme. Actor Taylor Payne explained that “you never know the people around you” and “each run leads to more discoveries.” Each actor and each character changed from one day to the next. “This [show] dives into that.”

The audience and the characters in this original play travel along to discover the complexities of the strangers around them. You never know what will happen next, and everyone in the ensemble “changes who they are all the time,” actor Connor Scanlan said. “It’s a bit bizarre.” Sound technician, Juan Ramirez-Cortes explains, Cherifi and Stewart “made the Play-Doh — the color and the size — but the actors get to mold it and make it what they want.”

The consistent feeling throughout all those involved is the desire for more time. “We are a fucking smoothie of creative juices!” actor Jonathan Mito said. Everyone wants more time with this unique concept to develop it further. However, Scanlan feels pretty good about things now. “It’s our show and I am very pleased with where we are,” he said.

It is all about the “intertwining of people,” says Cherifi. “They have done a great job with such a difficult task and I am glad I had the chance to do this.”

The ensemble will have the chance to delve more into the strangers they will never know when the play is work-shopped towards the end of April, but until then, come take a ride.

“Everyone has a crazy metro story,” lighting designer Lillie Kahkonen jokingly said.

The play is free, “but we appreciate donations,” Stewart said. “I’m looking at about five million. But really, just $5 would be great.” Half the money raised would go to the theater department, and the other half will be donated to a Rockville homeless shelter.

The production team is also accepting items for a canned food drive to benefit the homeless shelter.