“THE TRAIN DRIVER” TAKES A DIFFICULT JOURNEY OVER TIME


        BONNIE GOLDBERG

   The fact that a moment in time, a split second, can change your life irrevocably goes without question.  Think of a medical mistake in surgery, a car accident on an icy road or a slip on the stairs in the dark of night to realize the enormity of that particle of time.  For Roelf Visagie, his moment of destiny, when as a locomotive conductor his train hit a young black suicidal woman and her child, lost him his wife , his family, his home, his career, and possibly his sanity.

To follow in Visagie’s footsteps on his agonizing journey of self-discovery, blame and forgiveness, attend an emotional performance of Athol Fugard’s newest work “The Train Driver” at New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre until Sunday, November 21.

Harry Groener is powerful as the devastatingly wounded man responsible for inadvertently taking the life of a woman identified only by the red doek (scarf) on her head.  The moment of impact shatters his life as surely as it claims hers.  Roelf Visagie, in his personal torment, sets off to discover who she was, her name, her home, her circumstances.

Going from hovel to hovel through the South African bush country, he can find no one who knows her, no family, no friends.  At the funeral home, he is directed to the barren ground where the nameless people are buried and sleep for eternity, land tended by

Simon (Anthony Chisholm), a gentle black man who takes care of the dead in his own simple and respectful way.

The meeting of these two souls above ground changes each one in unanticipated ways as first Roelf curses his fate and the woman who caused him to lose all that he held dear.  If she wanted to end her life, he queries, why could she not drown and not take his life along with her own?  The mounds of sand graves and Simon’s shack, created by set designer Eugene Lee, create the eerie scene where the pair philosophically argue their destinies under the taut direction of Gordon Edelstein, Long Wharf’s artistic director.

For tickets ($35-70), call the Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at www.longwharf.org.  Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Walk in the footsteps of two men, strangers in a strange land, one black and one white, and experience hatred and love and, ultimately, a spark of humanity.


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