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Photos courtesy of Theater for the New City
Photos courtesy of Theater for the New City
Natalie Marie Martino (left) and Jeremy Lardieri (right) star in the upcoming show "Subway Story (A Shooting)"

From gang violence and mass shootings to suicide and self-defense, guns have become an epidemic in America — and an upcoming play featuring two Middle Village actors takes aim at explaining why.

In “Subway Story (A Shooting),” writer/director William Electric Black attempts to show the pressures faced by young people that cause them to resort to violence. Presented by the Theater for the New City, the show is the fifth and final chapter of Black’s “GUNPLAYS,” a series of plays about urban gun violence. By setting the story in a subway car, Black also found a way to incorporate gender identity, homelessness, sexual abuse, Dreamers and Islamophobia into the subject matter.

We’re in this culture where people are mad and angry, and when you feel this then you squeeze this all into the train, we let it out on each other,” Black said. “We’re constantly feeling the pressures of surviving.”

The main character of the play is an African-American teenage girl named Chevonn who is working on a nonfiction essay for her junior English class. Chevonn is physically abused by her mother and sexually abused by her father at home, and the character in her story is trying to find a gun to take home and shoot her mother. As she rides the subway, Chevonn tries to find a gun by talking to other people on the train, and she ends up recording many of their stories in her notebook.

One of the characters Chevonn meets along the way is Emmett, a transgender boy played by Middle Village resident Natalie Marie Martino. Emmett is bullied in school and has a gun that he plans to use to commit suicide, but he offers it to Chevonn if she will agree to shoot him first.

Martino, 16, is a junior at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts and the youngest member of the cast. She said that being able to learn from her elder cast members and receiving feedback from them has helped her grow as an actress. More importantly, Martino researched the history of being transgender, spoke to a transgender friend about how they’re treated, and came to understand the struggles they go through.

“I enjoy getting inside the mind of people struggling,” Martino said. “Just seeing the way I’m viewed by other characters and thinking about the audience view of him, I think about how we’re viewing each other in society.”

With plenty of serious and thought-provoking material, “Subway Story (A Shooting)” also needs some comedic relief. That’s where fellow Middle Village resident Jeremy Lardieri comes in. His character is an MTA employee who appears periodically in the train, carrying a boombox with his shiny white gloved hand and ready to do his best Michael Jackson dancing impression.

Black is good friends with Lardieri’s parents and has known him since he was a toddler. Black recruited Lardieri to be a choreographer and actor in some of his past productions, and after Lardieri took some time away from his hobby to care for his newborn son, he was eager to reunite with Black. Lardieri said that “Subway Story (A Shooting)” is an eye-opening show, but at the same time very relatable.

“It’s very interesting to be part of something that’s more in-your-face relevant,” Lardieri said. “That night when people leave and go on the subway, they’ll say, ‘Oh, there’s this character’ and ‘There’s that character’ and ‘I see that character every day.”

For Black (born Ian Ellis James), creating works for a greater purpose is a passion for him now. The former Sesame Street and Nickelodeon writer has seven Emmy awards and is a faculty member at NYU’s Tisch School. His hope is that “Subway Story (A Shooting)” sells out the small 60-seat theater its shown in and ends up helping save some young people’s lives, he said.

“Subway Story (A Shooting)” will be shown at Theater for the New City’s Community Theater at First Avenue and E. 10th Street from Feb. 22 to March 18. More information and tickets can be found at the Theater for the New City Website or by calling the box office at 212-254-1109.

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Pedro Valdez Rivera Jr. March 05, 2018 / 05:39PM
The mentioning of the MTA have make my day.
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