On Stage: Signature Theatre: Crossing

crossing signature theatre
A quiet train station becomes a place of little miracles in Crossing, now playing at Virginia’s Signature Theatre through November 24, 2013. Photo by Teresa Wood.
A quiet train station becomes a place of little miracles in Crossing, now playing at
Virginia’s Signature Theatre through November 24, 2013. Photo by Teresa Wood.

She Said: 

Life’s a journey not a destination is a popular saying. Unfortunately Crossing, now playing at Signature theatre, is not even a pleasant journey. The show is hampered by bad storytelling, clichéd music and is frankly too slow to not have an intermission.

Crossing, a world premiere musical (with book by Grace Barnes, Music &Lyrics by Matt Conner and Additional Lyrics by Grace Barnes) tells of 9 people waiting to board a train. These 9 characters actually represent 6 eras of time (5 clearly obvious, 1 ambiguous) and they all freely interact with each other. The script is hollow.  Even when the characters share provocative information, because of the poor writing, the audience still has trouble identifying with them. I felt the most connection to the character of the Civil Rights Marcher, but trite journey quotes and inferior musical numbers soon dimmed my connection. There was also a good bit of swearing that seemed to come out of nowhere and continued to bewilder and bore me. I didn’t understand so many things that the entire show was just unpleasant work to sit through. I never fall asleep during a show and staying focused on this was WORK! The story had so many inconsistencies.  (How did these people interact with each over a space-time continuum?) Yet there were also several nagging ambiguities about some of the characters. It’s a very frustrating piece to view.

 

I love musical theatre, I truly do. But, this show contains a mélange of songs that range from stereotypical musical theatre songs (the power ballad of  “Fly”) to a song that was truly irritating (“Someone, Something, Somewhere”). I can’t get that song out of my head in a bad way.

 

The set designed by director Eric Schaeffer was beautiful. It was truly evocative of little train station that would have been comfortable in any of the eras mentioned in the show. Kathleen Geldard’s costumes were appropriate and the pink coat worn by the Woman in Pink was lovely! The Lighting design by Chris Lee and Lane Elms sound design enhanced the train station experience further.

 

Overall the performances in this show are solid. This talented group of actors does their best and are responsible for the investment that the audience makes in the production. Christopher Mueller is funny and sweet as the Backpacker. Nova Y. Payton (an absolute local treasure) is softly radiant and always in good voice. However, the standout performance is that of Ines Nassara as the Civil Rights Marcher. She gives a spirited and thoughtful performance that manages to best transport the audience to another era.

The Civil Rights Marcher (Ines Nassara, left) finds solace in the words of the Unknown Woman (Nova Y. Payton) in Crossing, now playing at Virginia’s Signature Theatre through November 24, 2013. Photo by Teresa Wood
The Civil Rights Marcher (Ines Nassara, left) finds solace in the words of the Unknown Woman (Nova Y. Payton) in Crossing, now playing at Virginia’s Signature Theatre through November 24, 2013. Photo by Teresa Wood

I really wanted to like this show because I thought it had a great concept. Maybe with some changes to the script it could be improved. This cast succeeds in doing their best and the show is visually lovely, but Crossing can’t cease being hampered by words and music.

Kari’s Rating- 4

A quiet train station becomes a place of little miracles in Crossing, now playing at Virginia’s Signature Theatre through November 24, 2013. Photo by Teresa Wood.
A quiet train station becomes a place of little miracles in Crossing, now playing at Virginia’s Signature Theatre through November 24, 2013. Photo by Teresa Wood.

He Said:

Signature Theatre consistently has been one of our favorite venues for us to review.  The quality of the shows has always been top notch.  The acting and singing has always been superb, and the live music has always added certain magic to the shows. Unfortunately, the streak comes to a grinding halt with Crossing.

 

Kari and I previously have raved about almost every performer in this show, but the script of this show seriously limits them.  That’s the biggest problem here.  The book is very inconsistent.  The rules of this parallel universe are never clearly defined, and it really muddies the waters and makes it hard to really care for these characters.  There’s profanity that’s entirely unnecessary. I have raved before about the direction of Eric Shaeffer, but he fell far short here.  Worst of all is that most of these characters storylines aren’t resolved at all, at least as far as I can tell.  I really hate to say this, but I didn’t get this play.  I kept asking myself why.  Why these characters?  Why this place?  Why this time?  Why should I care about them? 

 

The standout performances here are Nova Y. Paton and Chris Sizemore.  Nova’s singing was amazing as always, and she was truly a joy to listen to especially on her song “After the Rain.”  Chris Sizemore actually succeeds in making you care about his Wealthy Man, not for long, not much, but you do care, and in this show, that is an amazing achievement.

 

 The Wealthy Man (Chris Sizemore, foreground) ponders a life-or-death choice under the eye of the Unknown Woman (Nova Y. Payton) in Crossing, now playing at Virginia’s Signature Theatre through November 24, 2013. Photo by Teresa Wood.

The Wealthy Man (Chris Sizemore, foreground) ponders a life-or-death choice under the eye of the Unknown Woman (Nova Y. Payton) in Crossing, now playing at Virginia’s Signature Theatre through November 24, 2013. Photo by Teresa Wood.

Not everyone can knock every pitch out of the park and that is apparently what happened with Crossing.  I’m just going to try and forget this show ever happened, and look forward to the next fantastic show that Signature Theatre hits out of the park.

RJ’s Rating- 0

Crossing is playing at the Signature Theatre

from October 29th- November 24th 2013

Signature Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets for this review.

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