By Manning Harris
7 Stages’ current production of Michael Molina’s “Mass Transit Muse” is a mélange of poetry, dance, song, and visual living art all in homage to the city of New Orleans and its people since Katrina, and it’s running through May 18. You won’t find anything like it on any other Atlanta stage. Director Heidi S. Howard calls it a “melding of mediums,” and it is.
Spoken word artist Molina grew up in “the city that care forgot,” and its easy, sensuous, slow-moving rhythms are in his blood and bones. He couldn’t escape it if he tried.
7 Stages describes “Muse” as “a rhythmic ride through the streets of New Orleans on a bus of the RTA (Regional Transit Authority); or as Molina calls it, “St. Rita, patron saint of lost causes.” That fabled streetcar named Desire is not visible, but its metaphorical presence is never far, trust me.
Molina, called Spirit in the play, is our guide, but he is not alone. Indeed there are ten performers who share the stage with him: They act, sing, play music, dance—and check one another out.
We’re seeing the “transition of humanity through dislocation back to connection and community,” as the theatre notes. And “each tale of the ‘other’ brings us closer to the possibility of…human connection.”
Spirit (Molina) seems quite taken with the comely Air (Dorothy Victoria Bell). Ms. Bell is quite an accomplished actor and singer. Then there are Water (Jed Drummond) and Earth (Keiron Bone). Other performers include Jaden Gustin, Jordan Gustin, Kai “Melody” Lewis, Lorena Morales, Esther Reeves, Vicky Walters, and Geoffrey Solomon.
Ms. Howard notes the the play allows us “to reflect on personal transition, global crisis, and how we relate to ‘the other’ by confronting isms through mass transit.
Mr. Molina’s metaphors and symbology are quite beautiful and inescapable: We’re all on a journey (life), and we have choices. Shall we connect, love, and boost one another, or shall we judge, call ugly names, and intensify strife? Old Man River will keep right on rolling; so will St. Rita; but we are always at choice.
The play takes little more than an hour, but as the great Tennessee Williams said in “Streetcar,” “Don’t you just love these long, rainy afternoons in New Orleans when an hour isn’t just an hour, but a little piece of eternity dropped in our hands…”
No, “Mass Transit Blues” is not an ordinary hour (and about 20 minutes), and some would call the piece more performance art than theatre; yet paradoxically, it’s intensely theatrical, with three large strands of hanging fabric which are used in fascinating, hypnotic ways. And there are lovely uses of video design at key moments (Jessica Caldas). Katherine Neslund’s lighting, though moody and effective, I would like to see intensified a bit so I can more clearly see the faces of the actors. But that’s purely personal and subjective.
It’s clearly Mr. Molina’s evening, and his evocative language does not disappoint. “Mass Transit” may not be your cup of tea; but if you’d like to spend a sensuous, reflective evening “in the land of dreamy dreams” (that’s New Orleans), don’t go to the airport; head to Little Five Points. You won’t regret it.
For more information, visit 7stages.org.