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Think your morning subway commute is unpredictable? Try staging a full theatrical production on those same trains - complete with props, set dressing and a cast and crew of 35 people.
Yet that's just what "IRT: A Tragedy in Three Stations" will attempt this weekend.
"The length of the show depends on whether the trains are running express or local," said the writer and director, Brooklynite Jeff Stark. "Our biggest problem has been where to do costume changes, and where to stash our costumes during scenes when they are not needed."
PHOTOS: Subway Theater
At a dress rehearsal on Saturday night, the production faced obstacles familiar to every straphanger - stalled trains, delays due to track work, and all the other uncertainties of public transit in New York City.
Add to that the need to carry a full-size desk and film projector onto trains, and you have one of the most technically difficult theater productions ever staged in the city.
The play tells the story of August Belmont Jr., who at the turn of the last century organized the financing to build the city's subway system.
"It's a whole different experience than traditional theater," said Jim Ford, the actor who plays a melodramatic Belmont, complete with fake mustache and white face makeup.
"But we never break the fourth wall or acknowledge that we are anything but our theater characters. We just let people react."
Those reactions on Saturday night were mostly stunned confusion and amusement.
In one scene, the crew sets up a saloon in the back of an uptown train, complete with bottles of fake booze and ladies of ill repute.
Tickets to the play are sold for $10 at http://www.subwaytheater.com
. Buyers receive an e-mail telling them where to pick up their tickets on the night of the show and from there are directed to the start of the play.
Of course, there is nothing to stop random straphangers who chance upon the play from joining the audience and following the actors as they move from train to train, station to station. That element of bringing theater to people where they aren't expecting it is one of Stark's goals with the show.
Yet for every straphanger who engaged the play on Saturday night, another completely ignored it.
"It's the New York City subway," said set designer Robin Frohardt as she folded up a massive set dressing strung across the width of the train. "People aren't really surprised by anything down here."
"...you can choose the rain....but I choose the sun..." - N. Costa