‘The Fourth Rail’ a knockout comedy

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I attended every performance of “The Fourth Rail” this past Friday, yet I wish I could see it again! Mal Cherifi and Shaquille Stewart did a fantastic job taking their concept of “who am I looking at” and turning it into production that had me laughing, crying, and anxious for more.

The play began with lights flickering as we go through a tunnel, the barreling sounds of a train car, and the jerk and sway of the passengers. The lights, sound, and acting came together perfectly to immediately put us on a metro car with strangers. Jonathan Miot is late for work and no one holds the door for him, despite his screams as the train rolls away.

Though the cast has a mere nine members, we meet well over 30 strangers throughout the show. Certainly the most enjoyable aspect of the show was watching each actor make lightening quick transitions from one character to the next. Christian Herrera made the first of those transitions as he went from being a confused, Spanish-speaking old man directly into a foolish co-worker on his way to an important meeting. His stark contrast between characters reinforced the play’s theme, “who am I looking at.”

Conor Scanlan gives a heart-felt performance as he rescues his daughter’s friend from a terrible fate. He stumbles upon her and she divulges that she has been sleeping on metros here and there for the past several weeks because she was kicked out of her house for getting pregnant. Scanlan is not acting the adult in this emotional scene, but rather, he becomes the character. Audience members rave, “Conor was phenomenal, accomplished, sophisticated, tender, and sweet.” The costuming here was also brilliantly done. The tan jacket with the suede elbow patches immediately informed the audience who Scanlan was and what he was all about.

Cherifi and Stewart made an excellent decision placing the shows funniest scene of all directly after the most emotional one. And again, the audience gets to see the actors make amazing transitions. Scanlan sits with his fire engine red turn-dial cord phone, attempting to get service. Humorous enough, but then the stranger beside him informs him that she is equally frustrated with her phone and, from her backpack, pulls out a two-piece, gold phone from the 1920’s. Kelsey Jenkins is to be commended as props master.

Rory Beckett and Taylor Payne steal the show in “4 Inches.” Two drunk teenage BFFLs discuss alcohol, boys, parties, sex, shopping, and more. Their comedic timing is flawless. They feed off one another’s energy, building up to Beckett’s tirade about a kissing betrayal and storming away, ending their status as “BFFLs.” The scene is stolen with James Nelson’s perfectly timed question to break the silence following Beckett’s dramatic exit, “What the fuck’s a BFFL?”

Awa Secka then joins Nelson as they head off for a typical date. However, we quickly learn Nelson is actually Paulina, the drag queen. Nelson is hilarious as he attempts to remain incognito from his very insistent fan, Christina Shields, and hide his secret from his ill-informed date. Cherifi and Stewart needed to step in and give the scene a bit more push. The concept was good but was lacking energy and purpose of the two female characters.

“Awa Unshaved” examines personal bubbles. What is appropriate for the public eye and what is not. It was funny and well done, however I would have liked to see it go more in-depth.

Rory Beckett and James Nelson are perfect in “Safe Sex,” as the old lady and teenage partygoer, respectively. They both embody their characters fully. Their spontaneous connection on the metro, with Beckett’s surprise ending, left the audience roaring.

Jonathan Miot is brilliant in “Forever Alone.” His misery and outrage is something the entire audience can connect with. He spies couple after couple being happy and in love until he eventually can’t take it and screams out, “What the fuck!?”

The play is brilliant, hilarious, emotional, and thought-provoking. I cannot wait to see what comes of it when it is work-shopped towards the end of April. Congratulations to this fantastic cast and crew!