Shipwreck: A History Play About 2017

U.S. Premiere by Anne Washburn, directed by Saheem Ali at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre. (2/10/20-3/8/20)

A group of well-meaning liberals gather at a farmhouse in upstate NY for a relaxing weekend. A son adopted from Kenya struggles to feel connected to his new family and country. And the 45th US President sends a history-altering dinner invitation.

There is plenty of blame to spare as snow piles high, mountains crumble, and the wounds of the 2016 election break open. The mythology of America is re-written in real time as we are forced to grapple with the legend of a frightening New York man made from gold. Anne Washburn (Mr. Burns, a post-electric play) returns to Woolly with a sinister and sensational new play.

As this is a Washburn joint, let me also observe that there are plenty of sharp moments and beautiful passages, some even meriting their own spontaneous spasms of applause. One of these for me is a scene she conjures of a past meeting in some fantasy incarnation of Trump Tower between then-president George W. Bush (played by the superlative Mikéah Ernest Jennings) and a civilian Donald Trump (an intrepid Jeff Biehl). Here we encounter a Trump of dignified bearing and sober insight (the Trump, it’s suggested, of his own imagination) as another Republican leader prepares to lead the nation into an ill-conceived military conflict. The pacifist counsel of Biehl’s Trump is so wise and commanding that an audience laughs — a reaction by turns wistful and uncomfortable and run through with “if only . . .”

Peter Marks, The Washington Post

Cast
Jeff Biehl, Jennifer Dundas, Anna Ishida, Mikéah Ernest Jennings, Alyssa Keegan, Jon Hudson Odom, Tom Story, and James Whalen.

Creative Team
Anne Washburn (writer), Saheem Ali (director), Arnulfo Maldonado (set), Jared Mezzocchi (projections), Colin K. Bills (lights), Dede Ayite (costumes), Palmer Hefferan (sound), and John Hall (prod. stage manager).