Trans-Euro Express by Gary Duggan, directed by Chris Henry, is simply a well-structured, well directed, and well acted play. The play, set in Dublin and making its US debut, is so universally appealing it could be set anywhere. I kept saying to myself, sometimes regrettably, “I’ve done that," and “that’s me!” The story revolves around Ballard (Charlie Kevin), a “stuck” Dublin commuter who never pursued his creative film ambitions, and who is now recovering from a failed relationship and regretting the loss of a potential romantic interest. The play starts off with Ballard (Kevin) performing a poetic mouthful to the audience, recounting the mundane routine of his commute and corporate job. Ballard is later joined by the three other actors: Patricia Buckley, Roderick Hill, and Katy Wright- Mead, who all credibly jump in and out of telling the story to the audience and playing the scenes.
The play feels like it’s in two parts. In the first, we meet Gram, (Hill) who has just come into rock music success with a new CD. Both men, recuperating emotionally from ex -girlfriends or ex-potential-girlfriends, decide to go on a journey by train to make a video for Gram’s CD. This journey, filled with partying and promiscuity encompassing Amsterdam, Berlin and Prague, is what gives the play its title. The first stop is at Ballard’s good friend Fleur, (Clarkson) a pregnant woman with whom there has been some unfinished business. One of the most heartbreaking and well-acted moments in the play is this truthful scene in which the two discuss their state of happiness.
Part two begins when attractive Anna (Wright-Mead) meets the duo in Berlin to act in the video. But when Gram and Anna seem to hit it off, Ballard gets ugly. Though you do empathize with Ballard, you are routing for Anna and Gram to get together.
Wright-Meade as Anna is quite convincingly charming. Charlie Kevin deserves special mention for his multi-layered portrayal of the suffering Ballard reaching his breaking point. His decline into drinking and partying is also horrifyingly realistic. Roderick Hill, as rocker Gram, really can sing and play guitar which boosts his rock star credibility up to high notches.
The set and lights by Paul Smithyman and David Bengali work together, combining projections on rotating screens. At times it gives the play a rock concert feel and I could see this play working in a much larger venue. One particularly “cool” projections effect is the moving landscape that really makes it feel as if they are traveling on a train. Costumes by Lena Sands are interesting, though I was a bit startled by the enormous size of the 6 month old pregnant belly on Fleur. Sound by Jeanne Wu and music choices energize the show.
When Ballard finally decides to make a choice and get unstuck, I must admit, I was confused with the ending. I don’t want reveal too much but my friend thought that without a doubt the ending was happy while I was not so sure. Maybe that was our gifted director Chris Henry and talented playwright Gary Duggan’s intention.