In this musical by renowned playwright Norm Foster, five strangers come to Jasper Station on one random night to buy a ticket to their future. It’s the 2nd play of Ottawa Little Theatre’s Summer season. Should you see it?
All aboard the train to nowhere.
Norm Foster’s Jasper Station is the story of six folk, that’s five would-be passengers and a ticket agent, who meet in a train station one night. They chat, they sing, they scratch the surface (barely) on getting to know one another, then they move on, making a pledge to reunite five year later to the day.
This is a weird play. It starts us off at the five year reunion date, with Rebecca –the small time reporter whose desire to write a human interest piece started the whole thing– returning to the train station to see if her fellows will indeed show up. There’s great implication that something important happened to these people those five years ago, and then we jump back those five years where we spend most of the play.
The problem is that –and sorry that this is a bit of a spoiler– nothing actually happened five year ago. These six characters met, talked occasionally, sang us their backstories, barely even connected with each other, certainly gave the audience no reason to care about the lives, goals, or dreams of any of them, and then got on the train or didn’t. It felt all manner of pointless.
It reminded me a little bit of Circle Mirror Transformation but where CMT gave us enough heart and fun to carry a play light on plot, Jasper’s Station went down another track.
The comedy of the play was actually quite funny and there were a lot of laughs. What didn’t work is when the play tried to be so many other things. The drama was flat, there was a ghost subplot, the music was all disconnected and random. Like when all the characters suddenly agree that there’s no such thing as coincidence and sing about it. (There’s a reason this was never a Broadway show.)
There were also a couple moments that felt like directorial mis-steps including the first scene where both actors felt false and wooden and made me worry that the play would be a train wreck.
Which it wasn’t. As noted, the comedy was good times. I laughed plenty. Also:
Nicole Tishler does a good job capturing the essence of super-keen, super-green reporter Rebecca. She has a lot of energy and sings well enough to be engaging. Brian Cano was fun to watch as each of several supporting characters who pop up to help along three passenger’s backstories and he’s a highlight in his main role as Bert the snarky and sarcastic ticket agent. There’s a great little scene where after snarking the first three passengers to show up, Bert is thoroughly outsnarked and smacked down by Mary Armstrong’s pregnant-and-ready-to-go-hang-with-aliens-no-really Nikki. Mary Armstrong is also the musical star of the show with a strong and powerful voice that makes each of her songs stand out compared to the average caliber of her castmates.
And average is a good way to describe the play. For light summer laughs, sure, but really: meh.
What did you think? What did you enjoy most about Jasper Station? Am I totally off base with my review here? I’d like to know what you think and the comments are open.
(Feature photo by: jaquian [Flickr])