It’s one thing to see a lost building rise again in front of your eyes. It’s another to feel emotion for a building many have only seen in photographs. The new off-Broadway play The Eternal Space, which premiered this past weekend at The Lion Theatre on 42nd Street, does both. A long labor of love by Justin Rivers, who wrote and produced the show, The Eternal Space, is a story of two unlikely souls who meet as the demolition of the original Pennsylvania Station begins in October 1963.
There’s Joseph Lanzarone, played by Clyde Baldo, who is a die-hard activist for the original Penn Station whose signs to save it irk the young Paul Abbot, performed by Matthew Pileci, a construction worker on the site tasked with taking the 50 year old station down. Their long debates, philosophical jousts, even fist fights eventually yield to both an understanding of each other, as well as a new appreciation for Penn Station which serves as an equal third character in the story.
The merits of history versus modernity, form versus function, emotion versus intellect are pitted out on this stage. As Rivers writes in the program, “the friendship that developed between them morphed into a testament to the universal solvent that compassion is the light that shines through the cracks of destruction.” On Friday night, managing producer John Cunningham sent this afterward to the Untapped Cities team as events in Paris unfolded.
Reality meets fiction in this story as Norman McGrath, an Irish-born engineer holds the largest known photographic collection of the destruction – and many of his images are projected onto the set of The Eternal Space. McGrath’s collection is supplemented by images by Aaron Rose, Peter Moore, Ron Ziel, and Alexander Hatos. As Rivers told us, “Penn Station has been so well documented but most of the public doesn’t know it.”
Join us for our next tour of the Remnants of Penn Station, led by Justin Rivers: