POST: 'In Transit' - the city can feel lonely

What's it about?

In Transit is Broadway's first ever a cappella musical, meaning that there is no use of a live orchestra or prerecorded backing tracks. Each of the show's songs (and in fact, all of the show's SOUND) is created by nothing other than the human voice and body. The musical tells the story of eleven different New Yorkers as they try to navigate their way through New York City life.

What'd I experience?

I had such high hopes for this show. I mean, Broadway's first a cappella musical? That's HUGE. No orchestra to keep everybody in check - just their own highly trained ears and trust in one another. I knew how hard it was first-hand. My freshman year at Hunter College, I joined an a cappella group that met weekly, and I remember being shocked at the level of skill it required, the degree of focus. And since we were such a small group, nobody could afford to make any mistakes. The stakes were high, although nowhere near as high as they are on a Broadway stage. 

The space for In Transit was intimate in nature, but the entire set was a replica of a New York City subway station, complete with train tracks, turnstiles, and a sassy MTA agent parked in a booth. The lights dimmed, and we were serenaded by the cast in a live, pre-show message that featured killer harmonies and a standard request to turn off electronic devices, in addition to a hilarious reminder that the show had no intermission and that if we hadn't already peed, it was too late. 

The other day, somebody not originally from New York City mentioned to me that he found the city to be lonely. What he said gave me pause, because I had never before thought of my city as an isolating place. It's living that's isolating, and where you are doesn't make much of a difference. But the people do. And nearly all of the people in the world of In Transit were a bit lonely, on a journey somewhere, hopefully, but unsure of where their ending destination was supposed to be or when they would arrive there. They were... stuck, stuck between two points, all the while still needing to survive the day-to-day as a New York City resident. 

Jane was a 33 year old woman who dreamed of performing on Broadway for a living. Unfortunately, she had not had much luck over the past decade and was forced to work unfulfilling desk jobs in order to keep herself afloat. I admired her passion and related to her devotion to the arts, although I could not imagine sacrificing as much as she had for the possibility of achieving her dream. She was a believer in the words, "Do what you love, and the money will follow." If only it were so simple... 

Trent and Steven were engaged and living in a happy, relatively progressive New York City bubble. However, Trent's family was far from progressive and therefore was oblivious to the fact that Trent and Steven were in a same-sex relationship and planned to marry. As much as Trent wanted to be upfront with his mother, he couldn't bear the thought of losing her as a fixture in his life. And as a person whose mother is the most important person in her life, I could understand Trent's unconditional love for the woman who gave birth to him, even despite some vastly differing viewpoints.

Nate was a former Wall Street employee who lost his job and extravagant lifestyle thanks to an impulsive and foolish mistake. Broke for the first time in his life, he couldn't even afford a metro-card, much less make sense of his next steps. I couldn't help but feel for Nate, because even though he thoroughly enjoyed the perks of his high-profile job, he didn't agree with the ethics behind what he was doing, and in a fit of frustration typed up all of his feelings in an email that was never meant to go out, but did.

Ali was a woman who gave up everything for Dave, the man she loved, the man who would eventually dump her because he couldn't envision a future that had her in it. I recognized that Ali's heartbreak was real, and it was something that would not vanish overnight. She was smart, though, and practical. She kept herself busy and got new hobbies, but ultimately she struggled to get over the longing of wanting to be with someone who at one time had told her he loved her, someone she still loved, in part. Ali's Saturday nights were spent drunkenly stalking Dave, the man of her past, and while that might sound crazy, her actions were beyond her control since they were guided so strongly by emotions. 

Althea was an MTA agent who was usually in a bad mood because she felt that she was viewed as nothing more than an obstacle in the daily commutes of New Yorkers. People rarely even asked her name, or how she was doing. I was reminded of how little attention I paid to MTA workers, and I felt a pang of guilt, because they were people too, and without them, we wouldn't be able to get anywhere. A simple "Good morning," or "What's your name?" would not kill us, and yet such a thing doesn't even occur to most people when they are getting from point A to point B, myself included. 

Mrs. Williams was a business woman and supervisor to Jane at her desk job. She appreciated Jane for her intelligence and work ethic, but warned her not to waste her time achieving unreachable dreams. I wondered what dreams she was not able to reach...

Boxman was In Transit's resident MC. He controlled the entire flow of the show. You know those guys you see in the subway who sit on plastic crates and can produce amazing sound effects with their voices and a microphone? That was Boxman, only he had a story, too. He left behind a life of routine and a "suitable" day job for a life of performing in the subway and selling his CDs for ten bucks a piece. He was always listening and observing, quick to lend a hand or a supportive ear. I liked Boxman right away. Within a minute of being introduced to him, he cracked through my hardened, skeptical, New Yorker exterior. 

If a city exists, but there are no people to live in it, then one might say it's a lonely place. But how could a place as populated and stimulating as New York City produce so many lonely people? Who or what was to blame?


While in transit from the theatre to my apartment (Hah, see what I did there?), I thought about how there were times in my life when I viewed everyone on the streets as an annoyance, an inconvenience. But then, just like that, a light would turn on, and even Times Square would have a magical glow to it. And that's life. My default setting has never been pure happiness, but in a city like New York, there's a lot of room for wonder to seep in. New places, even cities bustling with excitement, can feel like lonely places to live. The people you see on the streets every day are carrying their own uniquely messed up baggage. "Everyone gets a little stuck along the way," but if we take a cue from Boxman and open our eyes and ears to the rhythm of the city around us, it brings new meaning to the word ALIVE. A city occupied with people cannot be lonely in itself, but the people in one can be, and if so many of us New Yorkers are lonely every now and then, how alone are we after all?

Want to see it?

Sorry, this show is not currently showing :(

What'd you experience?

Let PXP know in the comments below...