BWW Review: Be Prepared for the Ride of Your Life with Solnik's THE FARE
When you think about what a fare is, what usually comes to mind is the payment given for a commuting person to get from one place to the next. It is a predetermined amount of money which two people agree to before the journey begins - money that is willingly paid so that a final destination can be reached. It just about becomes fact. Although, what is so wonderful about the human race is that there are very few instances in which people see facts for what they are. Life is so full of grey matter, subjectivity and little variables that what can we even acknowledge as "truth" anymore?
When a man gets into a taxi, inebriated and tired, and is convinced that the driver kidnapped him because he refused to pay an exorbitant fare, is his truth greater than the driver's testimony of racial slurs and attempted murder? When there is no other witness except one's memory, these two men must step up and make the decision of which one is right - a decision not clouded by race or ego, but what the "facts" of that eventful night were. The Fare is a play that has characters trying to convince both the audience and themselves what is right against what our educated "instinct" deems to be right - and how unique a way this production makes it so.
In association with Textile Co. and Executive Director Crystal Field, The Fare is an original work written by Claude Solnik and is now directed by Scott David Reeves. Celebrating its premiere at the East Village's Theater for a New City, The Fare uses its black box setting to allow the audience to feel that it is in the cab with these two men, while also giving ample physical and emotional distance to stand strong as a sound and moral jury. A play that does not have some divine presence plotting two people against each other but more so through their own thoughts and actions, a play which so demonstrates how people, when faced with the power of their own will, behave and what excuses they resort to giving, is the phenomenon happening now.
It combines the diversity of New York life with the fundamentals of being human and how any one of us could wind up in this situation next. How would we react - how would we view ourselves in the backseat of a cab with a driver who isn't listening, or perhaps in the driver's seat with yet another customer who refuses to pay the fare - the reason more absurd this time than the last?
The Fare begins when Rich, an affluent and successful banker sixteen years in the making, rushes into his Connecticut home out of breath and scared for his life. He tells his wife Claire of the horrific experience he's just had: during his ride home in a taxi after his bank's charity ball, he was not only overcharged for the fare, but was also kidnapped and not allowed to leave the cab because of his refusal to pay. Omar, the cab driver, is of a different mindset altogether and tells of Rich's refusal to pay the amount agreed upon and then threatening him with a knife and yelling racial slurs. In what becomes a legal battle that slowly takes away Rich's life as he knows it, The Fare is a dramatic wonder that takes the every day and calls it into question, begging audiences to reconsider how the "truth" is hardly ever a matter of black and white.
The Fare is a very practical play, realistic in how it calls upon people to use not their suspension of belief when watching this show, but their rationale; it asks us to rewire our own thoughts if they are not in accordance with the "truth" we are shown on stage. This truth is something both the prosecutors on stage and audience members off will never actually know, but everything that a person is becomes one piece of a giant puzzle that is haphazardly glued together and not necessarily.
What I love so much about this show is how simple is the concept of the plot, but how much cognitive thought goes into the simplicity of who is right, who is wrong - how much philosophic detail there is in asking not what the truth is, but why it is so in this given situation. And it is truly anything but simple. Think of the cognitive strength of this show as compared to someone who only recently broke up with a boyfriend and can't for the life of her figure out who is to blame or how it all went wrong. It's that powerful a show.
There are so many little nuances that make this show what it is, and I'll name a few that I enjoyed. For example, I love how Rich and Omar are always seen on different sides of the stage, but as their lives become a bit more intertwined, they physically come closer and closer to each other. Or how so many questions come about by just observing what's going on: if Rich had enough money, would he have paid just to get out of the cab? Is his pride a bit too large a presence for him to see that there is so much more to life than losing a job? Did he even learn a lesson? There is a lot of masterful stuff going on in this show, and I really do appreciate shows that give the mental gears a good turn.
Everyone involved in this show was wonderful, each character bringing a different feel to the overall calamity that is the decline of Richard's life. Scott David Reeves as Rich, Hemang Sharma as Omar, Sarah Grace Sanders as Claire, Scott Zimmerman as attorney and close confidant Larry, Michael Catlege as ex- coworker Craig and Brett Solimine as the cop all bring so much talent to the stage. They really do paint a perfect artistic picture of one man's crumbling world - a world that is less than ideal but manages to stay in tact, forcing everyone in it to scramble like lost sheep; strength is more of an illusion. Kudos as well to Holly Jian as Stage Manager, Ashley Lear as Stage Manager and Light Operator and Alexander Vartanian as Technical Director for their contributions to this show.
I would highly recommend Claude Solnik's new work The Fare to whomever is looking for an engaging, thought provoking piece of theater that is sure not to disappoint.
The Fare began performances at Theater for the New City (located at 155 First Avenue) on March 16th and will run thru March 26th. Performances take place at 8 pm Thursday thru Saturday and 3 pm on Sunday. Tickets are $18 for general seating and may be purchased in person at the box office, by calling (212) 254. 1109 or by visiting www.theaterforthenewcity.net.
Enjoy the show!
Photo Credit: Noorah Bawazir