In Actors’ Playhouse’s stunning production of West Side Story, one moving and chilling moment sticks with you.
After the fatal rumble, Tony and Maria clasp each other as the only sane harbor in a bitterly divided madhouse of hatred and violence. They sing, “There’s a place for us, somewhere a place for us, peace and quiet and open air….”
Their dream takes physical form: The young men and women who have been irreconcilably warring for the past scenes appear in pastel clothing and dance slowly, gently to the musical prayer. Couples start out in their own ethnic groups, but effortlessly mix together.
In a brilliant coup de theatre, the company comes to the edge of the stage in a single line blended as fellow members of humanity. For the first time, the hostility, the cynicism, the wariness that dominated their faces is banished, replaced by a beatific expression of peace and harmony. And then it disintegrates as the hatred and hardness reestablish themselves, and the dream evaporates.