Aboard a whaling ship in 1896, two powerful forces cross paths that could cause a disaster of their own doing. Christina Anderson’s pen/man/ship is a rich, quietly tense production that deepens within the intriguing script’s discourse and reflections and flows into the production’s dark setting. Self-righteousness, dominance, and trust carry heavy weight as Anderson’s multi-faceted characters become more complex as the plot thickens.
Skillfully directed by Lucie Tiberghien in English with French subtitles, Moliere in the Park’s theatrical film, pen/man/ship continues live streaming for free through April 24. RSVP is required and the show is two hours with a five-minute intermission. Click here for more information and how to stream the show.
Capturing the illusion of being on a ship without the cast actually being on one is no easy feat, but attractive visual illustrations by Rocco DeSanti and effective sound effects by Daniel Williams depict large groups and cast members sitting side-by-side do not look out of place or jarring to the flow of the story. Subtle technical details such as the gentle sway of the ship seem natural with the cast aboard. One particularly innovative moment shows Jacob reflected in a mirror next to Ruby to make it appear as if he is standing in front of her. The film flows so well from scene to scene without the quirks that zoom can sometimes cause.
Widow Charles Boyd (Kevin Mambo) and his son Jacob (Jared McNeill) embark on their first maritime voyage to Liberia when Jacob meets seasick Ruby Heard (Crystal Lucas-Perry) and is immediately attracted to her mysterious ways. Mambo as Charles pens reflections on his voyage by candlelight but his real motivations are unwritten.
Pen/man/ship boasts an impressive cast including Kevin Mambo as obstinate, domineering, and manipulative Charles and Crystal Lucas-Perry as mysterious, headstrong, blunt, and stubborn Ruby sterling in their portrayals. Both of these strong characters are more alike than they care to admit. Mambo and Lucas-Perry are eloquent in their discourse and both have a commanding presence in their own unique way. Their slights and verbal exchanges become riveting as the show progresses. One is persuaded by faith and the other by facts, but both seem too emotionally invested for that to be entirely true.
Jared McNeill delivers an amiable performance as modest, shrewd, loyal, and sympathetic Jacob who struggles with his heart and his head. McNeil and Lucas-Perry’s chemistry is earnest, yet complex and McNeill and Mambo have a warm and wary father and son camaraderie. McNeill is particularly shrewd at seamlessly evoking his inner conflict with Mambo, evident right across McNeill’s face.
Bearded and dressed as a crew member faithful to the period, Postell Pringle portrays humble, fair-minded, and altruistic crew member Cecil. Pringle has a welcoming presence as Cecil who often defuses tension as the show progresses. Forthright, experienced, and respectful, he is well-spoken and has the discernment to navigate each character just as well as any ship.
Pen/man/ship is a thought-provoking exploration of what motivates people who have the best intentions and how stubbornness, isolation, and fear can wield an ugly course and a stunning revelation.
Moliere in the Park’s theatrical film, pen/man/ship continues live streaming for free through April 24. Click here for more information and how to stream this free show.