Playwright and Magnetic Theatre staple Lucia Del Vecchio has achieved a new high with her latest offering, Off The Rails. She has always shown great promise as a writer, with many successful shows, but none more accomplished and refined than her latest. Rails is a delightful romp that takes the stage farce form through its madcap paces. There are multiple doors for characters to weave in and out of, broadly drawn personalities designed to compliment and/or counter each other and mistaken identities and impressions. All of the elements are there, and they are executed with brisk precision. The play runs through Saturday, Sept. 24.
Casting is key in such a show, and director Steven Samuels brought together many players who are familiar to the Magnetic stage, along with a few fresh faces. Tracey Johnston-Crum is the charming center of the tale as a glamorous film star, known for slightly over-the-top spy capers. Her fiance — played with nerdish perfection by Scott Bean — is tech billionaire Aidan, who bought an antique train to please her. On board, they make their way across the French countryside en route to their wedding.
Other outrageous characters flesh out the storyline as guests along for the train ride. Cody Magouirk and Christine Eide are a sexually charged duo. Magouirk gives a twitchy, predatory performance that is as creepy as it is hilarious. Eide alternates a burqa with a tight black shorts and tank top outfit that look like a Laura Croft Tomb Raider costume, complete with daggers tucked in garters and a bullwhip. Scott Fisher’s French conductor is something straight out of a Peter Sellers comedy (perhaps Murder By Death, with its mystery and tight ensemble). Meg Hale Brunton is great as a seductive French maid who may be more than she seems.
Along the way, misunderstandings and mistaken identities serve to accelerate the plot like a speeding train. Appropriate, since the actors are on a train, and we hear the sounds of it rumbling along the track throughout. They are all trapped in confined spaces as the action bounces rapidly from compartment to compartment. Jealousy rears its head more than once. The wedding is threatened by a revelation from Aidan’s past and secrets about the future of his company keep everyone in motion, each with their own agendas. Act one concludes with everyone clumped in the corridor at the peak of confusion when the train is stranded in a tunnel without lights. A full cast scream of comedic terror ends the act. The show picks back up mid-scream, after the 15-minute intermission.
The scenery is among the finest The Magnetic has ever put on its stage. It looks and feels like the inside of a train, with a corridor down the middle and two lavish sleeper cars on either side. The colors are cartoonishly bright and the trimmings are ornate.
It is a credit to Del Vechio and Samuels that this tightly written and directed show moves along at a steady pace, and doesn’t overstay its welcome. They know just when to let the ramped-up action deflate into a satisfyingly comical conclusion.
WHAT: Off The Rails by Lucia Del Vecchio
WHERE: The Magnetic Theatre, 375 Depot Street, themagentictheatre.org
WHEN: Through Saturday, Sept. 24. Thursdays through Saturdays, at 7:30 p.m. $21-$24