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David Emerson Toney (Holloway) and Carlton Byrd (Sterling) in Seattle Repertory Theatre’s production of August Wilson’s Two Trains Running. Photo by Nate Watters.

New Seattle Rep play has a special connection to the local theater

The chemistry is palpable between Nicole Lewis and Carlton Byrd, the stars of the Seattle Repertory Theatre's production of "Two Trains Running".

"I feel safe with this person," said Byrd of Lewis. "We're having a lot of fun playing. So it's like, lets play and lets dance every single night."

It's clear Lewis feels the same.

"That's so sweet and seriously likewise," she said. "But, it's so funny. Like - you're so articulate about it. I was just going to say, 'Oh yeah, we have great chemistry!"

Lewis plays 'Risa' and Byrd plays 'Sterling' in the August Wilson classic, playing at the Rep through February 11, 2018.

It finds the staff and patrons of a diner grappling with social and political issues during a critical moment in the Civil Rights Movement. The story is set in Pittsburgh in 1969, but its themes feel just as relevant today.

"It is such an American story. It's part of the fabric of our history," said Lewis. "Every single American. This is our history. This is our legacy, and it's so important to see."

"Speaking as a person of color, I love to see when people are telling stories I can identify with," adds Byrd. "But [Wilson's] writing, he makes it - the themes are universal, even though they're so specific to a certain way of life."

Wilson lived in Seattle from 1990 until his death in 2005, and throughout that time he shared a special relationship with The Rep.

In fact, it's one of the only theaters in the country to have produced his entire body of work.

One of Wilson's greatest gifts was his ability to create fully-developed characters who resonate, both with actors and the audience.

"You can't help but look at them like, 'Oh that's a human. That's a person,'" said Byrd. "And because they're willing to show their flaws, it's probably going to cause somebody else [in the audience] to look at there's as well."

Actors are often focused on what's going on around them, but Lewis is drawn to her character Risa's independence.

"Risa is doing her. She's doing her to the fullest," she said. "It's great to get to play a woman with that kind of vulnerability and strength. She's got both going on in spades. The story is one of hope and pain, but it's hilarious too, even if sometimes the humor is unintentional.

"As soon as we get in front of an audience, people are laughing at the most depressing things. It's like, what? Is that the moment? But it's the truth," said Byrd with a laugh.

Truthful, funny and timeless. The bottom line? It's a play you'll want to see.

More more info and tickets on on Two Trains Running, visit Seattle Rep's website.

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