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Arts and Entertainment

Theater Review: Athol Fugard's The Train Driver Spins Its Wheels

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Adolphus Ward and Morlan Higgins star in "The Train Driver." -- Photo: Ed Krieger
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Athol Fugard's latest play, "The Train Driver," has the requisite materials for a strong drama--a man is tormented by his part in a tragedy, and the kindness of a stranger helps him work through it. Unfortunately, the titular character roars without having much of interest to say, and the other character is so quiet and low-key he might as well not be there. This is an inordinately talky play that repeats itself a lot, and as a result ends up being a tedious, drawn-out affair. The U.S. premiere production at the Fountain Theatre features two strong actors and a talented director, but Fugard's leaden story keeps the show resolutely earthbound.Simon (Adolphus Ward) tends the dusty graveyard of a squatters' camp in South Africa, a place so poverty-stricken that he can't put wooden crosses on the graves because they'll be stolen for cooking fuel. Instead he garlands the burial sites with stones and rusty automobile parts, so he won't dig up an already occupied area of the graveyard by mistake. One day Roelf (Morlan Higgins) blusters into the graveyard, loudly demanding to find the grave of a nameless woman he’s looking for, so he can curse at her. Simon tries to calm him, to little avail, and the man won't leave. It turns out Roelf, a train driver, is having a bit of a breakdown over the fact that a woman carrying a baby committed suicide by stepping in front of his train, and he doesn't know how to handle the chaos of his feelings about the event and its aftermath.