Elvis Doesn’t Waltz: DON’T GIVE UP THE SHIP

Photo by Emma Young; a tense moment for Commodore Perry and family.

Presented by Fresh Ink Theatre Company
Written by Laura Neill
Directed by Joshua Glenn-Kayden
Dramatugy by Jessica Foster

February 10-25, 2017
Boston Center for the Arts
539 Tremont St., Boston, MA 02116
Fresh Ink on Facebook

Review by Kitty Drexel

(Boston, MA) Fresh Ink Theatre Company serves its community by developing the works of currently living, local-ish playwrights. They do awesome work. Don’t Give Up the Ship is the first show in their 2016/2017 season. Please vote for the arts with your attendance.   

Diana (Alex Alexander) is in a coma due to a freak boating accident. When she awakens, she has become Commodore Oliver Hazard (is my middle name) Perry.  Attentive daughters Martha (Tonasia Jones) and Olive (Louise Hamill) hire registered nurse Lizzie (Hayley Spivey) to care for Diana. Life flips fully upside down when the Commodore falls in love with Lizzie. Ex-husband Jeff (Robert Cope) exacerbates the situation with his personal issues. Reality is skewed. Hearts are burdened.  

The dramaturgy work for Don’t Give Up the Ship is excellent. It is immediately clear through their stage work that the cast has a deep understanding of the life and times of Commodore Perry. They carry a weighted respect for historical naval practices, as well as the complicated mental health issues expressed in this production. Their work is an exemplary model for theatre companies tackling a difficult, niche subject.

For all of this work, Don’t Give Up the Ship has not yet reached its full potential. Its scenarios are entertaining as concepts, but their implementation needs tweaking. The scripted dialogue is frequently stilted. Glenn-Kayden’s direction is choppy (it’s unclear if this is due to the writing, actor discomfort, or director’s choice). The bedroom trashing scene isn’t effective; the staging lacks fluidity. Cute familial dysfunction moments, such as the tea confusion bit, don’t fully land. These disruptions cause us to disbelieve that the cast is fully present in this reality.  I’ve seen some of these actors do excellent work. This production does not showcase their abilities. It’s so frustrating to watch.

The script has plot holes that cannot be ignored. The characters aren’t fleshed out for us to believe in them for two hours. They take each to task for using the Lord’s name in vain but we aren’t given the chance to understand how or why this is relevant to the family dynamic. The family doesn’t even have a last name. We can’t like our heroes yet because we don’t know who they are. Martha, a potentially rich character, deserves more depth than mere bitterness. I want to know why Diana the person would become Commodore Perry. This show could be uproariously funny but, because of these inconsistencies, it is merely entertaining.

It is obvious from the production currently playing onstage that playwright Laura Neill is capable of writing a truly great script. She has given us some gorgeous moments, some diamonds buried in the rough. Mental health questions asked in this show are sensitive yet humorous. The romance is sweet, and true. Unfortunately, the combining elements of Don’t Give Up the Ship require more workshopping to showcase these qualities.

One day, Don’t Give Up the Ship will be an excellent play. It has so much potential. It’s clever, and passionate, and so dreamy. But, the cast and prod team need to workshop the pointy rough bits into smoother connections and round edges. Interested parties should see this production as an investment into what it will soon become.

Queen’s Note:
we elected a thin skinned bigot to the office of the President dead set on turning our “democracy” into a fascist, totalitarian oligarchy dominated by the 1%. His plan to slash the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for Humanities is HERE. Trump is a monster. His policies, when he names them, are destructive. His narcissistic behavior is more so. Fight him. And, for the love of all that’s sacred, keep creating. If you need help, ask for it. Our existence is our resistance. May the force be with you. – KD

Sign the petition to protect the National Endowment HERE.

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