The Coast Starlight, named after the train route leading from Los Angeles to Seattle, deposits you into an extremely compressed 34 hours of the life of our protagonist, a man on the run from his life, and we see as his brief meeting with five other people in his train car helps him on the biggest decision of his life.
The Coast Starlight Review
In a world filled with big-budget musicals, The Coast Starlight stands out as an intimate exploration of the human psyche. While many of the currently running productions on Broadway rely on the standard fare of a musical swell to generate emotions in the audience, The Coast Starlight forgoes the music and the spectacle altogether and just focuses on getting you invested in the characters. The play takes just six actors, six chairs, and a stage in a 299-seat theater, allowing for an intimate experience, which lends itself perfectly to its setting of a single train car. This minimalism is utilized to its fullest, with every step meticulously planned out and constant shuffling of chairs to reorganize perspective every few minutes.
The production design and writing of The Coast Starlight create a story of “what ifs”, where the story uniquely mainly takes place within the heads of our characters, creating an interconnected narrative created solely with what the characters are thinking about each other, as very little of the play is spent in the “real world”. In fact, much emphasis was placed on us not getting invested in the reality of the characters, but rather the daydreams and desires of the characters.
The play is careful to treat The Coast Starlight, considered to be one of the most beautiful train routes ever, as a simple commuter train, with every character being there not as a tourist, but rather as someone going through their daily life. To that end, we never see even a second of the route itself, and very little attention is paid to it by the characters, with their minds wandering away from the scenic route instead to wonder about the lives of those near stuck within the confines of the train car with them.
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The play bills itself as an exploration of our central character, but in reality it is a story about the importance of connecting with others and the natural human instinct to wonder about the lives of passing strangers on the street. The scenes we see play out in our protagonist’s head are both a psychological manifestation of his own needs, but also as a record of the way his life could have changed had he just worked up the nerve to start talking. The Coast Starlight is one of the great few stories that not only brings you great enjoyment but also makes you rethink your own life in order to be better. In a world of isolation, it defiantly argues for a world of togetherness, even when the characters never actually said more than a few words to each other.
The Coast Starlight runs through April 16th at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater.
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