Log in Subscribe
Shadowland Stages

Shadowland Stages takes audiences ‘Off Peak’

In Review

Margaret Bruetsch
Posted 9/19/23

My mother’s favorite singer-songwriter is Dan Fogelberg and one of the earliest songs I remember knowing every word to is his hit song “Same Auld Lang Syne.” It tells the story of …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in
Shadowland Stages

Shadowland Stages takes audiences ‘Off Peak’

In Review


My mother’s favorite singer-songwriter is Dan Fogelberg and one of the earliest songs I remember knowing every word to is his hit song “Same Auld Lang Syne.” It tells the story of the singer running into a past love at his hometown grocery store over the holidays. It’s a moment most people can relate to, and I found myself thinking of it repeatedly when I got the chance to see “Off Peak” at The Studio at Shadowland Stages over the weekend.

“Off Peak” tells the story of Sarita and Martin cleverly played by Mary McCann and Steve Brady respectively. The two characters were once in a relationship but haven’t seen each other in almost twenty years when the play begins. Sarita used to be a musician but is now a high school Italian teacher. Martin used to be a bit of a louse but is now working in an office. The seemingly ‘chance encounter’ hits off with the right amount of awkward and bittersweet, but when their train upstate stops and the two are trapped alone together in the train car the story morphs into a discussion of how people recollect the past differently and how often the past maintains its hold on our futures.

Brady and McCann masterfully handle this dialogue-heavy play. Both actors have a lot of story to tell by themselves and they balance the big explosive moments with the tender ones well. They artfully share the stage as their characters navigate the awkward reconnection, flare-ups of old issues, tension of different memories, and a stressful period of time trapped on a Metro North train. Brady shows how Martin is trying to be a better person but falling short, sometimes to the extreme when he is mansplaining women’s rights to a woman. McCann plays Sarita as a continually caring person, who despite having not seen her ex in almost two decades, is willing to give him a bottle of water to take his pills. The two play with their characters’ expired chemistry well, and there are some wonderful moments that make you laugh out loud, but more likely ponder how you’d react in a similar situation.

In my opinion, the writing of the play leaves a bit to be desired – I felt like there was some revelation that I missed. Some moment that said: “this is what you need to take away from this story.” As a member of the audience, I wanted either more of a reason or a clearer impetus behind Martin needing to reconnect with Sarita (I wasn’t sure if it was based in his guilt over the failed relationship, his grief over the passing of his late mother, or an unknown sickness). And the story was heavily focused on revealing Martin’s present and his guilt over the past, but we’re left with questions about Sarita in the present. 

The set is a wonderful half of a train car and you feel as if you’re in the car with Martin and Sarita as they argue over whether their past relationship was good or bad or maybe something in-between. Kudos to Jeff Knapp for the brilliant sound design – the sound of the trains going and coming, the almost unintelligible train conductor announcements – I felt like I was on a train from Grand Central upstate. And an additional shout out to Jeremy Johnson’s light design which helps add to the realistic staging.

In the end the line that stayed with me the most from the show was one delivered by Mary McCann as Sarita. In short she reminded Martin that ‘you don’t decide when to love someone and you don’t decide when to stop.’ Life is full of unexpected moments and as my mother likes to say “some people come into your life to stay, and others are just passing through.” But every person who enters your life changes it in a way – they introduce you to your favorite coffee creamer, they share a song you’ll always enjoy singing along to, they bring you joy, they break your heart. And sometimes you see them again and maybe, as Dan Fogelberg once said, you can drink a toast and relive the past in your eloquence. You drink to time long past. To auld lang syne. And then you go your separate ways.

“Off Peak” runs at The Studio at Shadowland Stages until October 1st, from Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm, and Sundays at 2 pm. Tickets can be purchased at the Box Office, (845) 647-5511 or online at shadowlandstages.org. 


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here