American Players Theatre THE UNEXPECTED MAN Review – Two Strangers Meet on a Train

Can you imagine meeting a person simply by chance but having an instant connection with them? It could be someone walking through the park, a stranger sitting alone at the bar, or perhaps in a train compartment. In THE UNEXPECTED MAN two people choosing particular seats together on the train means they’re in for an unexpected journey.

American Players Theatre Tells an Unlikely Love Story

On a train from France to Germany, a woman recognizes the man sitting across from her as her favorite author. We are treated to their inner thoughts throughout this train ride and see how they build connections without saying a word to each other. She worries what he would think of her if she begins to read his own book, The Unexpected Man, in front of him. On the other hand, he barely spares her a glance as he muses over whether he should continue writing or not.

As they travel this journey together, we switch back and forth between their thoughts and wonder if they will ever actually speak to each other. We feel their interest in each other grow. Will this be a missed chance for them to find a perfect connection with another person? Or will they seize the opportunity that’s right in front of them?

American Players Theatre THE UNEXPECTED MAN
Sarah Day and Brian Mani as The Woman and The Man in The Unexpected Man Photo: Courtesy of American Players Theatre
American Players Theatre THE UNEXPECTED MAN
Sarah Day and Brian Mani Photo: Courtesy of American Players Theatre

Unspoken Possibilities

THE UNEXPECTED MAN is about expectations and how people meet the idea we make of them in our heads. The woman wonders if the author’s writing reflects who is he as a person. By that extent, does she really know him? And when the author finally glances at the woman, he creates a story for her in his head. Is she as interesting a woman as he thinks she is?

Our tension grows as we realize they are reaching their final destination and they have barely spoken a word to each other. We know they’re both searching for something in their lives that the other could provide. Him - someone who understands his writing. Her - another long lasting friendship.

Set against the backdrop of a simple set with only two benches, our focus is solely on Sarah Day and Brian Mani as they create the illusion they are speaking their minds aloud. As one takes center stage to share their thoughts with us, the other sits in the background looking pensively out into the distance. They use the space surrounding them to their advantage. They leave their benches and walk around each side of the audience as if they are wandering in their own vast space of their minds.

Complex Meaning Through Thoughts

The meat of THE UNEXPECTED MAN comes from the characters’ thoughts. It’s a word-heavy play where most of the action is done through inner monologues. Their dialogue spoken feels like it is genuinely coming from their minds as it twists and turns and follows new directions.

They bounce from topic to topic just as regular thoughts might. Sometimes they begin thinking about music and a sonata plays in the background. Other times they paint pictures of their friends and family members for us. Through these inner musings we can discern parts of their backstory and understand their characters more and more.

For those who favor action packed plays or a fiery, passionate love story this show would not really be their style. THE UNEXPECTED MAN is good for audience members looking for a slow climactic build and are fans of an untraditional love story. It's a random happenstance that is exactly what these two needed to explore their thoughts in each other's company.


American Players Theatre THE UNEXPECTED MAN
Brian Mani in The Unexpected Man Photo: Courtesy of American Players Theatre


Now through September 30
Various dates, please check website


American Players Theatre
Touchstone Theatre
5950 Golf Course Rd.
Spring Green, WI 53588


Tickets can be purchased at the American Players website 


Courtesy of American Players Theatre

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