Venue: Drama Barn
According to the play, we spend one-eighth of our time in a car, taking roads leading everywhere and nowhere, pushing limits of acceptability and toleration, going “too quick to stop and too fast to care”. Although recent studies have shown otherwise, and revealed that, in fact, the average person only spends around thirty-eight thousand hours of his or her life driving a car, this still leaves plenty of time for awkward conversations, prosaic quarrels, and heartfelt apologies. Consisting of seven vignettes, each one involving just two people, the series of seemingly unrelated playlets in “Autobahn” takes as its stage the front seat of a car. Starting with a long, tense drive home from rehab, the play invites the audience on a journey of conflicts covering the full range of human emotions, from frustration and anger to contrite and endearment.
After what was undoubtedly the most humorous scene involving an awkward make-out session and a twisted and unexpected insight into one of the lovers’ past, the play continues on to an apologetic husband and his monologue about the power of words and the treachery of language. Further focusing on convoluted relationships, the theme of language, meanings, and emotions is carried forward by later montages of a pedophilic kidnapper and a student, what one can assume were two friends reflecting upon right and wrong, a difficult conversation following an eventful night, and eventually a trip back from a children’s center. Essentially, the play presents the audience with seven insights into critical moments in the relationships of ordinary people. As a commonality, they are tied together by the issues and problems they face and recurrent emotions and ideas of honesty, trust, and former experiences.
The monotonous structure of the play and unvarying setting evade banality through the exceptional performances delivered by the cast. From evocative facial expressions to convincingly delivered exchanges and monologues, all actors excelled at conveying the dramatic tensions and strained relations of their situations. When, at times, the audience was stultified by sameness in tone and a lack of character development, truly outstanding performances preserved interest until the ensuing revelation towards the end of each vignette. The resounding round of applause at the end was well-deserved.
Likewise, the notable work of the audio, visual, and tech crew must also be praised. The set was visually interesting, detailed enough to capture the wandering eyes of the viewers without being distracting. In addition to the appealing projections of a driving car serving as a backdrop and transition from one vignette to another, good use of technology compensated for the otherwise unchanging and repetitive structure. Overall, “Autobahn” presents compelling insights into the relationships of relatable, ordinary people in an unconventional way and offers interesting perspectives on emotions, interactions, and critical issues.