Adrift at Polarity Ensemble Theatre and Azusa Productions | Theater review
Despite a pair of compelling performances, David Alex’s parallel portrait of fathers and sons drowns in pedantry.
Four men work out their father-son business in this new play by David Alex. The title is nautical and philosophical; one father, Jack (James Eldrenkamp), is a naval officer and, in moments of crisis triggered by PTSD, resorts to constructing tiny ships in bottles. His son, Isaac (Colin Henry Fewell), loves the poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and recites it to his high-school math students, including Tom (Eric Ryan Swanson), who develops radical new ideas. That rankles Tom’s father and Isaac’s principal, Judd (Gary Murphy), who’s tragically confined to his conventional role and ambivalent about any form of change.
It’s too bad it’s all so didactic. Director Maggie Speer propels the actors around the set (a grade-school-style “waves and protractors” theme to remind us of the ocean and math) in some clever combinations; she stages a hospital scene with particular ingenuity. Yet Eldrenkamp and Fewell (who’s talented but overdoes it) are awkwardly matched as the military father and math-minded son at the center of the play’s action; neither is convincingly cast. The pair with the less grandiose back story turns out to be the more compelling. A bureaucratic principal and a sarcastic teenager? Commonplace—except that Murphy and Swanson burn up the stage, radiating frustration and hurt with subtle mastery. Alas, the show as a whole is lost at sea.