Category Archive for: ‘Kedar K. Adour’

PEN/MAN/SHIP given a powerful world premiere at the Magic

Eddie Ray Jackson*, Tangela Large, Adrian Roberts*, and Tyee Tilghman* in Christina Anderson’s world premiere of PEN/MAN/SHIP..

PEN/MAN/SHIP: Drama by Christina Anderson and directed by Ryan Guzzo Purcell. Magic Theatre, Fort Mason Center, 2 Marina Blvd., Building D, 3rd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94123. (Entrance to Fort Mason at the intersection of Marina Blvd and Buchanan St).  415-441-8822 or www.magictheatre.org. May 28 – June 15, 2014

 PEN/MAN/SHIP given a powerful world premiere at the Magic. Rating: ★★★☆☆(3 of 5 Stars)

The Magic Theatre group has a well earned reputation for nurturing new playwrights. Amongst those who honed their skills there are (alphabetically) Luis Alfaro, Nilo Cruz, Rebecca Gilman, Taylor Mac, Michael McClure, Theresa Rebeck, Sam Shepard, Octavio Solis, Lloyd Suh,  Paula Vogel and Sharr White. Each has gone on to successful professional careers and Christina Anderson is well on her way to join that august group. That fact is supported by the powerful production being given its world premiere on Magic’s intimate thrust stage.

 However that power compressed into a one hour and 50 minute play that includes a 15 minute intermission does not translate to a completely satisfying evening. There are deficits in the construction that relies on exposition inserted late in the play to flesh out the background/motivation of the characters. The cast of four are all major to the plot with unseen characters lurking in the background conveying a dire threat of violence. That threat is magnified since all the action takes place aboard a claustrophobic former whaling ship symbolically named Turner with sounds of the sea and wind that erupts into a violent storm to end act one.

The title of the play is descriptive of the construction that requires Charles “the man” to “pen the daily actions aboard the “ship” in his log book. In doing so author Anderson uses him as her narrator speaking the words to the audience and having the others enter and participate in the action.

The time is 1896 and the US Supreme Court has upheld the doctrine of “separate but equal” law for whites and blacks. There is an American Colonization Society of Liberia movement to repatriate Blacks to Africa.  Widower Charles Boyd, a prominent black entrepreneur has organized sailing a ship with an all-black crew to make the voyage to Liberia. The reason for the voyage is hidden from the crew and when discovered creates a contentious void between Charles and his son Jacob. Charles has accepted the oversight of the voyage, including the selecting of a compliant Captain and considers the crew to be inferior to him. He hides his malevolence behind a façade of religious aphorism and insists upon honoring God through always setting aside the Sabbath for bible study and prayer.

Jacob has an ambivalent relationship with his father that is divided between filial love and desire to break free. He has brought along Ruby who is desirous of leaving America to start anew in Africa. Charles does not know what to think of Jacob and Ruby’s relationship since he has spent a fortune hiring lawyers to defend Jacob who was caught in a “brothel for faeres.”  From their first meeting Ruby and Charles are at loggerheads and Charles has a great unknown fear of her since she does not have a bible and in his mind women are inferior to men. She also perverts a passage from the Bible: “Let there be darkness in the light.”  The theme of light and dark and white and black permeates the entire play.

Tyee Tilghman* in Christina Anderson’s PEN/MAN/SHIP

The fourth character is self-deprecating Cecil, a crew member whom Charles befriends and becomes his eyes and ears on the plotting of the crew. He is addicted to his squeeze-box and provides music that is reflective of the stage action and is a bridge between scenes.

Ruby becomes the titular head of the crew when the Captain disappears and she gradually assumes leadership. Charles has an altercation with a young crewman who falls overboard and may or may not have been the instigator in the fight. The entire crew become malevolent and plan to kill Charles. Ruby’s intervention prevents the killing asking Charles to stand trial before the crew. Charles’ refusal leads to dire consequences with a cataclysmic ending to play.

Adrian Roberts is on stage for most of the play perfectly creating the dual nature of Charles moving from narrator to player, to instigator and victim.  Tyee Tilghman is at his best making you feel the insecurity of Cecil who cherishes the friendship of Charles. Eddie Ray Jackson as has the most difficult job of showing the dual personality suggested by the script. Tangela Large is the most dynamic member of the cast and gives a stunning, multifaceted performance as Ruby.

Cast: Jacob – Eddie Ray Jackson;  Ruby – Tangela Large; Charles – Adrian Roberts; Cecil – TyeeTilghman.

Creative Team: Lighting Design by Ray Oppenheimer; Scenic Design by Angrette McCloskey; Costume Design by Antonia Gunnarson; Sound Design by Sara Huddleston.  

Running time of one hour and 50 minutes with an intermission.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldinternetmagazine.com

 

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