To date, I've had very moving experiences with the work of Anna Ziegler. The Geffen Playhouse world premiere production of Actually last May was one of the best plays I saw in 2017 and I'm on my knees praying for Jerry MacKinnon to rightfully collect the Ovation Award for Best Actor in a Play next week. It's clear why a lot of actors (particularly actors my age) are drawn to her work; she gives many of her characters the freedom to express their outlook on the situation at hand directly. Plenty of "allow me to explain this, from my perspective" breaking the 4th wall kind of moments.
Just one night after opening, I ventured over the hill to The Road's Magnolia space at the NoHo Senior Arts Colony for the West Coast premiere of Anna Ziegler's A Delicate Ship, directed by Andre Barron. There I was reunited with my acting homegirl Candace and her darling husband Pat, as well as my friend and champion of the Urban Theatre Movement, Spencer. Candace had also seen and loved Actually and Spencer was unfamiliar with Ziegler's work. And then there's me, the theatre nerd, who knows probably way too much about everything...
"Everyone we pretend to be was some version of our parents."
The Road Theatre loves their West Coast premieres. And why not? With the right resources, I'd like to claim a few of those titles myself. And again, I can see why this play would be attractive to audiences ranging from about 25-55 (with some wiggle room). In this play we watch three thirty-somethings on the cusp of confirming their life partners with some flashback memories to simpler times as well as some flash forwards into a more "stable" future. "It brings up a lot," Road company member Janet expressed to me as we processed the show's messages in the lobby. It certainly did for me at this stage of my life, as someone running as fast as I can on a treadmill outside a doorway leading into my thirties. I notice men in my life that fit the roles of Sam and Nate... and there's drawbacks to both. It can be terrifying. Do I choose passion and spontaneity or safety and commitment? And I'm sure the same characters would raise evolved emotions for someone that has already been through marriage, children and possibly divorce.
"I can't have kids. I am a child. But you have them anyway. And then you grow up."
I'm adding a SPOILER ALERT here in case you are unfamiliar with the story***
This play confirmed how much I love Anna Ziegler and how much I want to work with her. However, after wrestling with the content for the past few days, I'm still left unsatisfied with the female character Sarah. Which is fascinating, because again, even though I LOVE Actually, so much that I want to be in it someday (soon), I felt similarly after that show. After being so incredibly moved by MacKinnon's performance (even though Samantha Ressler was also awesome) I had to go back to the text to figure out whether or not he in fact been written the better role.
Outside the theatre after I made Spencer take forty million pictures of me, we had a chance to talk about the play. "So, why didn't she get with Nate after she had such mind-blowing sex with him back in February?" I asked him. "What was her reason for not being with him?"
"Yeah...I don't know."
"I mean, I started to think, after he like, cussed her out, was he manipulating her the whole time and pressuring her into something she didn't want to be in?"
"That doesn't make total sense though. Because she doesn't deny any of the things he claims to be true. He is so convinced of their love and she says nothing. And she says a lot of good about him too, mostly privately to the audience, you know? I'm trying to figure out what the subtext is here for her."
I could totally be missing something here. But until a particular moment, Nate is definitely the character you want to be in this play. I'm not entirely convinced of this yet, and Ziegler is an extremely talented, dynamic playwright who is on the up and up for completely valid reasons, but I am starting to wonder maybe she writes better for men...
END SPOILER ALERT***
"I sometimes wonder why we can't just choose to be happy."
For a weird, fleeting moment I asked myself if maybe the play was about a woman who needs more than one man, because they each provided for her in different ways, awakening different aspects of her emotions and charisma. Maybe this wasn't a character flaw after all, but honoring that we can't have it all, no matter how "good" we are. I also wrote down that I thought the play could be commenting on men claiming women. Word up.
A Delicate Ship runs a the Road Theatre Company's Magnolia space at the NoHo Senior Arts Colony through Sunday March 11th. This finely polished production give you a lot to think about, but I would encourage you to think about it, and how it relates to your relationships, both past and present.