TRAIN OF THOUGHT, American Blues Theatre. Company member Andrew Micheli's first produced play contains many dramatic problems common to playwrights' first attempts. His longish one-act, set on a train platform, not only lacks dramatic crescendo and climax but, more important, is overwhelmed by the playwright's self-conscious attempts at intellectuality. When two strangers meet on a platform that overlooks a raging fire from a recent explosion, they begin a verbal joust in which each tries to throw responsibility onto the other. But somehow the dialogue never feels authentic; even if Micheli's aim was to heighten the language, it needs to ring true at least to the world of the play. Train of Thought seems to be looking for a voice, at times trying to imitate Beckett's sparseness. But by trying too hard to be deep, Micheli comes across as rather heartless and shallow.
Brian Russell's staging reinforces the script's weaknesses. One especially inauthentic moment occurs when the two men finally challenge each other to a physical fight, but after a strange lighting cue that indicates the passing of time, they seem to emerge from it unscathed. Jim Ortlieb's subtle, sensitive portrayal of Francis, the more hesitant and seemingly stable of the men, is the production's only redeeming value: in the spaces between the dialogue, he makes Francis into more than a sketch. Unfortunately, for the better part of an hour, we don't get to see Ortlieb sink his teeth into anything more meaty than banal dialogue. --Gabrielle S. Kaplan