Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
Review by Rebecca Rendell | Season Schedule (updated)
Also see Rebecca's reviews of Renaissance in the Belly of the Killer Whale and Everything Is Wonderful
I absolutely adore the characters in playwright Douglas Williams' irreverent comedy Ship, now making its world premiere at Azuka Theatre. Nell (Annie Fang) is ticket taker at a whaling ship turned tourist attraction, but she dreams of being promoted to tour guide. She is also a Guinness World Records super fan, college drop out, and recovering addict. Nell's sister Caitlin (Alison Ormsby) works at the local library, but much of her time is spent looking after Nell and their sick mother. Both went to high school with Jeremiah (Michael A. Stahler), a local kid who became a minor celebrity for growing out his fingernails to epic length. Jeremiah has recently returned home following a car accident that broke off all his nails and left him feeling decidedly unmoored.
Annie Fang and Alison Ormsby
Photo by Johanna Austin/AustinArt.org
Williams writes his characters with complexity and depth. This worthy ensemble turns in a trio of superb performances. Fang is rivetingaggressively off kilter but endearingly spirited. Ormsby is utterly relatable as her exasperated older sister. They have a sly chemistry, and their risible dialogue is authentic. Stahler is sympathetic and socially awkward, but he carries himself with a quiet hard-won wisdom. Nell, Caitlin, and Jeremiah come together and evolve in ways that are satisfying and unexpected.
Although it is thoroughly enjoyable, director Kevin Glaccum's production is not as tight as it could be. There are distractingly long pauses between scenes that slow the pace and disrupt the rhythm. Also, the music feels like a missed opportunity. Music is a recurring theme in Ship, but the song choices are uninspired. Kevin Hoover's scenic design on the other hand is excellent, conveying a variety of locations with minimal sets. Gina Colacci's top notch costume designs help tell the story.
Ship is modern, edgy, and very funny. For the fourth year running, Azuka Theatre is allowing people to decide what to pay after they see the show, so there is absolutely no reason not to make a reservation right now.
Azuka Theatre's Ship runs through March 15, 2020, at The Drake, Proscenium Theatre, 302 Hicks Street, Philadelphia PA. For reservations, visit azukatheatre.org.
Playwright: Douglas Williams
Director: Kevin Glaccum
Annie Fang: Nell
Alison Ormsby: Caitlin
Michael A. Stahler: Jeremiah
Kevin M. Hoover: Scenic Design
Qi'er Luo: Lighting Design
Gina Colacci: Costume Design
Tom Carman: Sound Design
Michael Kasper: Projection Design
Cass Meehan: Properties
Leslie Ann Boyden: Stage Manager
Michele Volansky: Dramaturg
Lauren Tracy: Production Manager
Joe Daniels: Technical Director
Flannel & Hammer: Scenic Construction
Rudy Schreiber: Assistant Director
Emmie Parker: Assistant Stage Manager
Macie Poskarbiewiecz: Assistant Dramaturg
Dirk Durossette: Scenic Mentor
Robin Stamey: Lighting Mentor
Damien Figueras: Sound Mentor
Avista Custom Theatrical - Amanda Hatch: Properties Mentor