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'A Delicate Ship' - A Dark Christmas Memory

Nick Westrate, Miriam Silverman, and Matt Dellapina in A Delicate Ship
(©Jenny Anderson)

Anna Ziegler offers up a dark and fractured Christmas memory in A Delicate Ship, which the Playwrights Realm opened last night at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater on 42nd Street.

Narrated by its three characters, Ziegler’s poetic and time-shifting drama takes audiences to a Christmas Eve being shared by a Sam and Sarah. The couple’s quiet night is disrupted, though, by the unexpected arrival of Sarah’s childhood friend, Nate, bearing champagne and marijuana.

The fact that Nate comes with an agenda is no surprise. Neither are many of the secrets that are revealed and the fireworks that erupt during the course of this brisk, pungent drama. What sets the piece apart, ultimately, is the searching and timeless question that lies underneath the play’s primary action. When can a child consider himself or herself genuinely adult?

Tautly directed by Margot Bordelon, the production boasts a trio of beautifully etched performances. Nick Westrate’s turn as the intruder Nate proves most memorable. The actor deftly shifts between the character’s aggressively volatile and manipulative moments and the ones in which his neediness and confusion about what his life has become surface. Nate is, ultimately, a lost boy hopelessly at war with himself and the world.

As Sarah, Miriam Silverman turns in a performance that embraces character’s cipher-like qualities. Silverman's Sarah may seem infinitely more controlled than Nate, but, as the play progresses, she slowly reveals that she, too, suffers from some of the same arrested development issues as with whom she guy she grew up.

Matt Dellapina, similarly, brings nuance to his turn as the philosophy-spewing, guitar-playing Sam. The actor marvelously brings the character’s insecurities about himself and his relationship into focus, making this seeming nonchalant milquetoast fascinatingly complex.

Scenic designer Reid Thompson indicates Sarah’s apartment with a few pieces of furniture and a door placed on a platform that seems to float above a moat of small rocks. It’s an apt environment for the characters' memories of the evening to unfold in, and Nicole Pearce’s lighting design subtly indicates temporal shifts as the characters move from their presents into the past and into their own thoughts about where they have been, where they might be going, and what happened on that one momentous night.

----- Andy Propst

A Delicate Ship plays at Peter Jay Sharp Theater (416 West 42nd Street). For more information and tickets, visit: www.playwrightsrealm.org.