I traveled extensively last week, and I didn’t have to pack a bag, juggle reservations or wait at customs. I journeyed with my imagination, which was fueled by the enthusiasm and talent of the seven cast members of Traveling Papers, a charming evening of storytelling that recently ended a run at the Lion Theatre.
Like most people, I have enjoyed being told stories since I was a child, which is why it was so delightful to sit in the theatre and listen as the cast, under the direction of Barbara Bosch, presented writings that have explored our connections to travel through selections from novels, poetry, short stories, personal letters and other literary works by Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, Anthony Bourdain, W. Somerset Maugham, Michael Clinton, Paul Theroux, Edna Ferber, Robert Frost, Rosemary Mahoney, Walt Whitman, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, Alice Steinbach and Peter Mayle, among many others.
Using little more in the way of props than an occasional exaggerated mustache to transform women into men, Gwen Arment, John Camera, Kyle Doherty, Gwen Eyster, Peter Husovsky (in photo), Macy Idzakovich (in photo) and Jillian Stevens are the audience’s passport to the joys and frustrations of traveling.
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” This thought from St. Augustine was one of the many short quotes woven throughout the longer, acted out passages. Others quoted in this way are as diverse as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Yogi Berra.
The longest selection was Somerset Maugham’s Winter Cruise, in which a spinster tea shop owner (Arment) drives her fellow passengers and crew crazy with her boring, endless talking until they fix upon the notion that what she needs is a lover, and they set about to get her one. This is presented in three segments interspersed throughout the show, a nice way to build the suspense.
In another offering, Arment’s presentation of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s A Letter from Venice is atmospheric and descriptive, as is the whole company’s recitation of Walt Whitman’s Song of the Open Road.
Traveling Papers was conceived and adapted by Bosch and Martin Tackel, with lighting by Edward R.F. Matthews, sound by Brian Hurley, costumes by Lui Konno and graphic design by Maria T. Card.
The show’s 90 minutes with no intermission are just right for transporting an audience of 21st century New Yorkers to worlds far away in time and distance. As another of the show’s authors, Lao Tzu, said: “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” Traveling Papers is just such a journey, and perfect for an early summer evening.