By Ellie Levin
The train was traveling high above a huge expanse of water when I looked up from my magazine. I had boarded the ‘B’ train on Good Friday evening, headed, I hoped, to Noho on the eastside of lower Manhattan to see a play called “Easter” by Augustus Strindberg to which I had been invited by Carol Carter, a friend and neighbor, who was in the cast. I had a seat, but the train was very crowded and slow, so I calmly pulled out a magazine, figuring I had plenty of time, as I had two hours before curtain. Then, time got away from me, so that when I looked up, I saw that I was nowhere I had ever been before. I said loudly to no one in particular, “Where is Lafayette stop?” A woman standing at the door answered, “You passed it a while ago. You will soon be in Brooklyn.”
The train was too hot and I was wearing a down coat. I felt weak. I was afraid that I might faint. As the train continued on, I sat still with my head down as my doctor had told me to do. I remembered he said never to jump up. I recovered just in time to hear another passenger say, “Get off here.” We were at DeKalb Avenue stop in Brooklyn.
While wondering what I would do now as I climbed the stairs to the exit – take a taxi back to Manhattan if they have them in Brooklyn, I spotted a sign that said ‘B’ train to Manhattan. I went down the stairs to the platform. There was nobody there. I felt a panic attack coming. I expected a thief or a wild man with a gun any minute to appear. At that moment, my luck changed; a young, handsome, well groomed man in business attire entered the platform. He walked to where I was standing, close to me, but not too close to suggest familiarity. I addressed him with a question. “Will this train take me to Manhattan?” Quite sensibly he asked where I was going, as there were several trains that would soon arrive all going different places. He told me he was waiting for the ‘R’ train. He seemed so nice that I chatted on about the theatre I was trying to get to near Lafayette Street. He remarked that he hoped it wasn’t a seven o’clock curtain. It was now after seven. It was an eight o’clock curtain, I told him, but I thought maybe I would go home instead.
He walked away and disappeared behind a bulletin board with many confusing messages about which trains were temporarily running where and why there was no ‘D’ service. There was a map on the other side and from it he ascertained that I probably could make the curtain in time. Just then the ‘B’ train roared into the station. “Take it,” he shouted, “and get off in two stops. You will be fine.”
To my amazement the train was packed. This time I stood unsteadily for the long stretch across the water and then for one more stop. I couldn’t see the name of the station, but I got off. Yes, it was Lafayette. Now I needed to find Bond Street. I remembered the directions were to walk two blocks north from Lafayette, but which way was north? A couple with two children stopped at the corner. I said the name of the theatre to them and the address. They whipped our cell phones with a map of just the spot and we all headed that way.
At the door of the theatre lobby my troubles ended. I was greeted by a lively woman who was happy to give me my reserved ticket. There was a large crowd drinking tea and eating cookies, like one happy family, welcoming new arrivals into their midst, waiting for the theatre proper to open. I joined them close to the door of the theatre. Luck was now with me all the way. I was one of the first persons to enter and was able to get a front row seat. Soon I was waving to friends and acquaintances.
From the moment the play began, I felt confident I would be able to hear most of it. A note in the lobby said it was updated to Harlem, 1958. The all black cast had strong voices, and they delivered their lines to the audience. Eric Coleman, an accomplished theatre director, remarked to me at the wine and cheese reception after the play, that the script had references not known to Harlem in 1958. I noticed that too, but not being as knowledgeable about theatre I would not have said so. Soon Carol Carter joined us after her strong theatrical performance of mother to two attractive actors playing her grown children. Her daughter, a modern day Cassandra, was believable, as was her brother’s rage at the man he thought had put his father in jail for embezzlement. The story had a happy ending, taking place in the two days prior to Easter morning, running parallel with the traditional Christian story of painful death followed by peace and forgiveness. Talking with the actors clarified a few points for me, and by the time Carol was ready to escort me home, I felt I had not enjoyed myself so much in a long time.