Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

A Delicate Ship

Aux Dog Theatre Nob Hill
Review by Dean Yannias

Also see Rob's reviews of The Moors and The Effect and Dean's review of The Call of the Wild

Quinn Mander, Colin A. Borden, and Merritt C. Glover
Photo by Russell Maynor
This is a play about what happens when somebody knocks on your door and you open it instead of pretending that you're not home. And you're with your new boyfriend. And the person knocking is a childhood friend who is still in love with you and is at the end of his rope. And it's Christmas Eve. And you all keep drinking.

A Delicate Ship could have been a straightforward relationship play, and it probably would not have interested me all that much. But playwright Anna Ziegler saved it for me by disrupting the narrative here and there. Characters break the fourth wall and talk to the audience, about the other characters and whether what they are saying is true or not, or about what happened in the past or what will happen in the future. Some might call this technique gimmicky, but I found it bracing.

I like being thrown off a little, and although this play is not at all hard to follow, it does get you slightly disoriented at times. It seems to take place in real time, 90 minutes, but is some of it in the past? Is it a memory play? If so, of which character? This is the type of play where the less you know about the plot, the better. You can guess that there will be conflicts between the old "boyfriend" Nate (if he ever really was a boyfriend instead of a boy friend) and the new one, Sam. You can guess that Sarah will be torn up and forced to make some sort of decision. But if you're like me, you won't guess the outcome.

There are some clues in a few references to Icarus, as an answer on "Jeopardy" and in W.H. Auden's poem "Musée des Beaux Arts," in which an "expensive delicate ship" calmly sails by as Icarus plunges into the sea. (This poem must be popular among millennials. It was also used in a play by Michael Hollinger that I saw a couple years ago called Hope and Gravity—lousy title but a good play.) I like plays that use foreshadowing that's subtle enough that I don't pick up on it, and only afterward realize how well the play has been constructed.

The dialogue is mostly realistic, the way normal people talk, but there are a few moments where the words sound more like a playwright sitting in a room writing than coming spontaneously from Nate's mouth, even though he's obviously a well-educated guy. Speaking of Nate, it's kind of a thankless role because he's so irritating. You should feel sorry for him, but you just want to get him out of there, or at least get him to shut up. Quinn Mander does a fine job with the part, not afraid to be obnoxious and super-needy and depressed and manic all at the same time.

Equally good are Merritt C. Glover and Colin A. Borden as Sarah and Sam. With Merritt, as in the play The Father recently, you can sense her real anguish. What do you do when the situation is untenable but unsolvable? Colin is a terrific comic actor, and here he shows that he is much more than that, equally adept in a more serious role.

Don't be misled by the ad campaign for this show. The photos used make it look like a lighthearted romp. To be sure, there are a few laughs in it, but you can only call it a comedy if Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a comedy.

Sheridan Johnson deserves a lot of credit for, first of all, finding this play, then for attracting an excellent cast and crew, and finally for directing it so fluidly. The set design by Archibald Ernest Laird VI (along with set painters Susan Roden and Dean Squibb) is superb, an apartment that really looks lived in, and it is complemented by good lighting designed by Cody Kelien.

This play has a lovely little denouement, and it ends with the best closing line I have heard in a long time. I would like to tell you what it is, but I would rather that you find out for yourself, in this fine production at the Aux Dog Theatre.

A Delicate Ship, through April 1, 2018, at the Aux Dog Theatre Nob Hill, on Monte Vista just north of Central, in Albuquerque NM. Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00, Sundays at 2:00. Tickets online $18 or less. Info at or at 505-596-0607.