Theatre Review: Ship (Azuka Theatre)

I have made no secret of my appreciation for the many smaller theater groups in Philadelphia.  They take artistic chances, they employ diverse actors, and try to make quality theater available to all audiences.  I am so glad that the Azuka Theatre has provided for them a quality home at The Drake.  Additionally, the world premier of Ship by local playwriting treasure Doug Williams, demonstrates their value in creating new and exciting theatrical experiences.

Directed by Kevin Glaccum, a man who has been a leader of the development of smaller theaters, Ship is the story of family’s, friendships, addictions, and the realistic way these things converge on our daily lives.  Having seen many of Glaccum’s productions, I have always admired his ability to get his actors to find the realistic voice of their characters.  This story is about those moments after recovering from an addiction that make it so difficult to stay addiction free.  Sometimes these are simple everyday things that trigger our desire to return to our familiar crutch. Ship is a snapshot into the lives of these people that clearly delineates their struggles and hope for continued recovery.

Ship is a story about Nell (Annie Fang) a recovering drug addict with serious estrangement from her mother.  She is being helped by her sister Caitlin (Alison Ormsby) who is both trying to support Nell’s sobriety and assist her mother who is receiving chemo for cancer.  Our third player is Jeremiah (Michael A Stahler) a young man who sought to be noticed by growing his fingernails to world record lengths.

Ms. Fang is amazing as a recovering addict who must fight for her sobriety every day.  She beautifully captures the mercurial nature of her journey.  Fang is most amazing when showing Nell’s vulnerability.  As the loving sister, Ormsby lives the struggle to reconnect the mother and sister.  She is the “hero” in the family constantly trying to make things right on both sides.  As Jeremiah, Stahler captures the internal struggle ignited by the need to be noticed and trepidation with interacting with peers and society in general.  These three young actors do an outstanding job of demonstrating the fears and the hesitant attempts to find his or her place in a cold, unreceptive world.  All three do justice to Williams’ frank and insightful dialogue.  It is a journey you will be glad that you took.

As I have come to expect from Azuka, the production values are incredibly effective.  Kevin Hoover’s suggestive set allows Glaccum and the actors great spaces in which to tell their story.  Qi’er Luo’s lighting complements the set perfectly while Tom Carman’s sound strikes a true chord that leads us into the scene.  The entire staff has done a wonderful job in shaping this excellent production.

Ship continues at the Drake Proscenium Stage until March 15th.  Azuka has a pay what you decide policy that asks only that you call for reservations at 215.563.1100 or Info@AzukaTheatre.org .

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