D.C. has fully embraced Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, August Wilson’s, masterpiece drama, Two Trains Running. So much so, its performance has been extended for one more week at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater. The play will run through May 26th, adding an additional five performances to its schedule.
Two Trains Running is a story at the axis of the 1969 civil rights movement. The demolition of Memphis Lee’s diner, as a part of the city’s renovation project, is the narrative’s tipping point and a hornet’s nest of personal and communal anxiety.
Under the direction of Juliette Carrillo, cast members bring brilliant performances to the stage and authenticity transporting the audience back to that moment — drinking coffee and eating pie, at the diner counter. The embodiment of each character is unfurled as they walk across the diner floor sharing their perspective and wisdom on the condition of the world as they knew it. The energy is palpable.
Lee’s reality is too hard to confront, and when emotions are high, humor and good banter diffuse the harshness of the situation. Love scenes between Risa, the diner waitress, and Sterling, newly released from prison, are truthful and heartfelt. Hambone, the emotionally-challenged character keeps everyone off-kilter creating tension in most scenes. The performance and pacing are fluid, leaving characters room for improvisation.
Two Trains Running is spectacular, and now that they’ve extended the dates, more of DC will have the opportunity to experience it.
The cast includes Eugene Lee (Broadway’s Gem of the Ocean and Arena Stage’s every tongue confess) as Memphis Lee, Carlton Byrd (Woolly Mammoth’s Antebellum) as Sterling, William Hall Jr. (Seattle Shakespeare Company’s Othello) as West, Reginald Andre Jackson (Seattle Repertory’s Well) as Wolf, Nicole Lewis (Broadway’s Hair) as Risa, Frank Riley III (Arena Stage’s A Raisin in the Sun) as Hambone and David Emerson Toney (Broadway’s Juan Darién and Arena Stage’s The Piano Lesson) as Holloway.
Running Time: Two hours and 35 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.