By Valerie Dunn
Elm Staff Writer
A single table and chair wait in the middle of a sparsely decorated set. The stage has been painted deep blue, the color of the sea. A slow string piece and the stirring vocals of Enya carry the audience into a bittersweet piece of mind appropriate for the beginning of “Scotland Road.”
The play, written by Jeffery Hatcher, is a mystery unraveled through interrogations and epiphanies. Fishermen in the North Atlantic have recently rescued a woman found dressed in the style of the early 1900s. Upon discovery, the woman utters one word: Titanic. Suspecting that the woman has somehow miraculously survived the infamous shipwreck of 1912, Titanic-enthusiast John Astor attempts to learn the real story. But the traumatized woman, under the watch of Dr. Halbrech, will not speak, driving Astor into a frenzy.
In his determination to discover the identity of this mysterious woman, Astor employs tactics both manipulative and unethical. Though Astor must fight against the protective Dr. Halbrech, he breaks the woman’s silent exterior in a scene that leaves the audience speechless.
But with her reclaimed voice, the woman reveals mysteries greater than herself.
“As you go deeper into the play, you realize nothing is really as it seems,” explains Stephanie Brown, who has directed “Scotland Road” for her senior thesis.
Though the characters never physically leave the room, they take the audience back in time, under the icy sea, and into the secret places of the mind. “Scotland Road” is composed of many short scenes which provide an entertaining pacing to the play. The sparse set isolates the audience’s focus to the characters. These characters are well worth the extra focus as they build with the carefully uncovered plot.
When asked about the play, Brown replied, “I am very pleased; my actors have worked very hard.”
And so she should be pleased.
Sophomore Nick Pace gives a riveting performance as John Astor. Pace’s sharp delivery of insensitivity toward the woman leaves the audience loving to hate Astor. Yet, as the play progresses, Astor’s character develops. Pace reflects these slowly surfacing insecurities with careful precision. At deftly construed moments of vulnerability, Pace allows the audience to feel almost sorry for Astor.
While the audience will love to hate Astor, they will ache for the unnamed woman, played by junior Emily Robart. Though her character does not speak for the first thirty minutes on stage, Robart matches Pace’s intensity. Her eyes reveal the soul of a much-troubled woman, and she evokes the presence of an older woman without making a caricature of her age. When Robart does speak, she further secures the hold she has on the audience’s eager attention.
Also worth noting is the fiery performance of sophomore Sam Bitzelberger as Dr. Halbrech. Bitzelberger moves about the stage with purpose and passion. Though Astor and Halbrech fight throughout the play, Pace and Bitzelberger interact with believable chemistry.
Senior Samantha Simpson appears briefly as Frances Kittle, the supposed last survivor of the shipwreck. Though her stage time is short, Simpson captures the audience’s attention with her snarky deliveries and confident portrayal of a bitter old lady. “You’re nostalgic for disaster you never knew,” remarks Francis to Astor.
So too will the audience feel nostalgic for the glamor surrounding the ill-fated Titanic. Hatcher’s script is a clever one that mixes history with drama into a mystery that keeps the audience guessing. What the audience doesn’t know is as interesting what is known. Touches of humor relieve the play of becoming too melodramatic.
Pace explains the show’s appeal, “It’s a thrilling show that has an entertaining twist and doesn’t get too serious.”
“Scotland Road” will be presented in Tawes Theatre Friday, Oct. 7 and Saturday, Oct. 9 with an open dress rehearsal on Thursday, Oct. 6. The show starts at 8 p.m. and runs 90 minutes without intermission.