All aboard for a survivalist virtual voyage of wise theatricality that is full of rich meaning and wonderfully fun wit, encapsulated inside the wealthy elite’s best hedge against a world gone wild, that is, if you’re rich enough to pay those the condo fees. Cape May Stage is inviting you to board their vessel for a smooth sailing journey through the apocalypse with this provocative virtual reading of Richard Alleman’s interesting new short play, Adrift, directed with intent by Anthony Newfield (Broadway’s The Royal Family). It is one smart and timely setup that we can all connect with these days as we attempt to navigate the choppy waters of isolation and separation that this pandemic has thrust upon us.
Two-time Tony nominee Alison Fraser (Theatre Row’s Squeamish, Gingold Theatrical’s Heartbreak House) finds delicious flavorings inside Betsy, the well-off wife of the elitist golf-loving Todd, played strongly by director Newfield. It’s too late for them, they believe, so their idea of life going forward is to ignore the destruction and just simply float along, blissfully cruising by iconic places on a luxurious condo ocean liner with nothing to look forward to except survival and seafood buffets on the Lido Deck. They each have their own form of tonic, to play virtual golf or take Zumba classes, hoping to fill their stagnant dance cards with something that resembles joy. Their kids are fighting a different battle on land hesitant of the next earthquake, or fighting the good fight in what used to be Canada. In between disconnected phone calls, Betsy longs for something more, alongside interactions of the less virtuous kind with the handsome and sweet-talking Flavio, played seductively by the appealing Glauco Araujo (Spielvogel’s Come Back Once More). Karen Archer (Park Theatre’s The Other Place) chimes in every so often, most effectively, with the hated alerts of floating trouble outside their safe paid for bubble, portraying both the Captain of this floating condo development and story narrator with chipper charm. They are all trying to escape the horrors of the dystopian world that they sail by. It is fractured and destroying itself with civil unrest and disease, but on this fateful day, it is floating dangerously close by a makeshift refugee boat off the starboard side asking for help and awaiting the boats all-complicit reply.
It’s a clever look into our hearts and minds of all during this tumultuous time, as the 2020 political conventions are live-streaming out to a world in disarray. Alleman’s luxurious money-fueled insulation from the mad crazy world doesn’t seem so far removed from real world disharmony. His dystopian fiction feels so much closer than we would like. And the play does its job navigating the waters with humor and seductive twists, making this floating virtual vessel an enjoyable 45 minute ride. What would it be like, the playwright seems to ask, to live so close to the memories of that past magical week on Capri, but know that the ship can’t stop for a jump into those crystal clear blue waters ever again. Those romantic ideas are long gone because of greed and the dysfunction of our society. One can only sail by on a floating gated community cruise ship that cater solely to the super-rich, while letting those desperate others flounder and sink into the rough seas around them, knowing those souls were close enough to rescue, but that would be, most decisively, a great inconvenience to the board member elite on deck. The internal conflict floats by, but the S.S. Universe is not equipped to handle the big issue of a hundred illegal aliens. The play tries to find the right tone, and Fraser and crew deliver the goods strongly and with a whole lot of zest, but the play isn’t fully formed quite yet. The framework is solid, but the connective tissue holding this boat together needs a few more layers and some water-proof ideas to keep it from taking on water, especially in the last few moments. Let’s hope this is just the beginning for the S.S. Adrift‘s voyage as it works hard to survive the waves and become a full-formed play, as the itinerary, with some tweeks, could really be a quality cruise. And there’s nothing to feel guilty about that.
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