In Freight: The Five Incarnations of Abel Green, by Raleigh-based playwright Howard L. Craft, a series of trains running through the last century inexorably carry the title character to his fate. Next month, they'll take him somewhere he's never been before: off-Broadway.
The New Federal Theatre announced last week that its production of the existential drama will open October 19 at the Castillo Theatre in New York City, where familiar faces will appear on stage and off. (Freight premiered in Chapel Hill in 2015, receiving a five-star review from the INDY.) J. Alphonse Nicholson, a local actor who has worked in major regional theaters across the country as well as on network and cable television, will reprise the role he created. Joseph Megel, artistic director of StreetSigns Center for Literature and Performance, who directed the first production, also helms the off-Broadway run.
The booking marks Freight's second appearance in New York, following a July 2015 showcase production at HERE Arts Center, an off-off-Broadway presenting house. That run garnered favorable reviews from the Village Voice and The New York Times.
The New Federal Theatre has been a major producer of new works by playwrights of color since artistic director Woodie King Jr. founded the company in 1970. In an interview last week, King said that Craft has "a really new and interesting voice. As far as I know, characters like these have never been seen onstage before."
An off-Broadway run signals growing interest in a show's commercial potential—"a step ahead for the longevity of a theater piece," as Megel says.
Though he had offers before the New Federal production, Craft insisted that the original director and actor stay with the show. "It feels like we willed this thing to happen," he says. "Joseph and Alphonse never gave up on the piece. They made it come to life; they put their sweat and blood into it."