Thrusting strangers together in adversity is one theatrical trick that never goes out of style. Playwright Emily Comisar does a pretty nifty job of it in her agile and amusing Track Twelve.
During a long, weather-related delay at New York City’s Penn Station – but it could be in any major American city – a brother and sister on their way to their mother’s wedding meet an estranged couple on a business trip. Conversations, flirtations, and revelations later, family and career turning points arrive.
Holding together this artificially constructed but not entirely implausible situation are two fibers of reality: naturalistic dialogue, and a cast adept at the phrasing and pacing such writing demands. The downside of this style is that the actors can get a little naturalistically mumbly. The upside, when it’s done well, is rapid-fire amusement.
Most amusing of all – and, not coincidentally, least mumbly – is the delightful Keelie A. Sheridan as Jenny, a voluble free spirit with a sad backstory but a percolating lust for life. Jenny’s older brother Simon (a sharp Leo Goodman) is a wealthy, nerdy banker with great comic timing. With neat symmetry, while Jenny flirts with straight-laced efficiency expert Mike (Charlie Gorrilla), Simon collaborates with Mike’s ex, uptight Lindsay (Sarah Sanders), on the play’s least believable development: Simon’s becoming an instant business advisor to the fighting pair.
Fortunately, the action moves quickly, and the appealing characters made me mostly willing to suspend my disbelief. However, for me there was an asymmetry in the story’s impact: I couldn’t help caring a good deal more about Jenny and Simon’s family situation – the siblings’ severely contrasting personalities, the supposedly nutty mother on the phone, the absent father, the brother-sister jealousy – than about Mike and Lindsay and what would become of their company.
Comisar’s flawed but nimble and funny ride proves that even in the 21st century strangers can still meet cute (or quirky) on a train – or waiting for one. Track Twelve has one more performance as part of this year’s New York International Fringe Festival.