GROUP: Philadelphia Artists' Collective
ATTENDED: Friday, Sept. 13, 9:30 pm, Tall Ship Gazela
CLOSES: Mon., Sept. 23
BRIEF SELF-DESCRIPTION: "Join the crew of the S.S. Glencairn as tensions erupt and every move betrays a thirst for survival."
WE THINK: PAC is building a fine record of revealing an impressive range of seldom-seen classics. Last year's Fringe hit, the drawing-room drama Creditors, for example, is about as opposite as one can get from these two early one-acts by Eugene O'Neill, presented on the well-preserved Tall Ship Gazela at Penn's Landing. The ship is a show in itself, well worth arriving early to see — and taste the Poor Yorick's Brewery special brew while you're looking around.
Belowdeck is another world, the international crew's claustrophobic quarters circa 1914 where we witness "Bound East for Cardiff" and "In the Zone." Both feature extraordinarily gritty and grim performances, particularly by John Lopes as a mortally wounded sailor tended by his best pal (Brian McCann). "I've traveled all over the world," the dying man realizes, "and never seen none of it." The same characters return for "In the Zone," this time suspecting an oddball shipmate (Brian Ratcliffe) is a German spy. With subs and mines in their merchant lanes, tensions are high.
The ten-man ensemble — also featuring Adam Altman, Keith Conallen, Mort Paterson, Adam Rzepka, David Blatt, Lke Moyer, and Eric Scolati — plus director Damon Bonetti and designer Katherine Fritz create ship society convincingly, breathing life into scripts that might seem melodramatic and predictable with lesser talents. It's a fascinating, harrowing hour, and makes a powerful case for more site-specific theater.