By Lucille Rieke
I don’t often find myself choosing to creep down dark alleyways but this Friday evening I ventured down one just off of Harvard Street in Columbia Heights. At the end of this seemingly precarious alley is a window-paned door that marks the entrance into Studio 1469, 4615 Theatre Company’s performance venue. The moment I entered this tiny space that acts as the waiting room, a sense of community and comfort welcomed me. Nearly everyone seemed to know each other as we all stood, packed like sardines, waiting for the “house” to open. I later learned that almost all of them were involved or connected to 4615 — a preliminary illustration of the rich community that has infused 4615 Theatre Company for the last ten years.
Studio 1469 is by no means a conventional theater and yet that only adds to the charm. 4615 Theatre Company’s DC premiere of Anna Ziegler’s A Delicate Ship (and final production as a company) takes place in a remodeled garage. Exposed concrete floors, overhead lights, and bright white walls create an intimate environment. A candy cane shape of 30 chairs establishes the “stage” on which a dining room table and chairs, couch, bench, and adorably squat Christmas tree frame the space. The room is set with sweatshirts strewn over a railing, shoes piled under the bench, and books littered on the bottom tier of a nightstand. All of this comes together to create Sarah’s New York City apartment in A Delicate Ship.
A Delicate Ship tells the story of Sarah (Mary Myers), her relatively new boyfriend Sam (Stephen Russell Murray), and her childhood best friend Nate (4615 Theatre Company founder Jordan Friend). The entire play occurs on one Christmas Eve when Nate arrives at Sarah’s front door to both Sarah and Sam’s surprise. We learn the trio’s backstories through vignettes in which the actors turn to the audience, seated a mere four feet away, and relay moments from their past that shaped the present reality. As the play unfolds, the love triangle between the three characters becomes the star of the show as both Sam and Nate fight for Sarah’s love. Sarah’s choice isn’t made clear until the last five minutes of the play, after a 75-minute tug-of-war between Sam and Nate.
It’s a love triangle like all the others and yet the poeticism that Ziegler brings to her writing, the pace that Director Jenna Place instills throughout, and the imagery that the actors bring to life make it twice as dynamic as your basic rom-com. It’s a circus full of inside jokes and only Sarah understands them all. A battlefield of love and you never quite know which team to root for — Sarah and Sam: passionate, young love or Sarah and Nate: childhood history drenched with undying devotion.
Friend commands the space with his velvety voice and unparalleled presence. He demands the attention of the audience and those onstage in such a truthful manner that despite Nate’s somewhat delusional proclamations about life, death, and love we see the core of his person shine through the illusion of his words.
Myers gives 33-year-old Sarah the subtlest quality of childlike wonder, which makes her a magnet for the audience’s affection. And Murray contrasts the surrealism of Friend’s Nate with a lovable and grounded Sam. His presence, though maybe not who I was rooting for in the battle, offers unwavering stability and comfort.
The production team only enhances Ziegler’s luscious writing. Sound design, by none other than Friend himself, fades smoothly in and out, creating moments of unwavering silence in this echoey garage and beautiful instrumental music framing the introspection that permeates the script. If at times the introspection runs on for too long, and we find ourselves craving to know who wins in the battle of love, it is made up for by the fierce presence of each actor as they so valiantly fight for what they think is the right outcome.
Scenic and lighting designer Andrés Poch makes ingenious use of this garage, turning it into a gorgeously intimate and startingly lifelike playing space. I can’t imagine wanting to see this show anywhere else but the remodeled garage that is Studio 1469. Mixed into this heartfelt play is a testament to theater’s adaptability: a show can take place anywhere with the right intentions, community, and imagination.
On December 23 when this show closes, the actors will not be the only ones taking a final bow as A Delicate Ship is 4615 Theatre Company’s final production. This show undeniably stands on the foundation of community, resilience, and passion that so obviously make up this theater company. A commendable last hurrah for 4615, A Delicate Ship imparts resounding notes of love, connection, passion, and inspiration to all who are lucky enough to see it.
Running Time: Approximately 80 minutes with no intermission.
The program for A Delicate Ship is online here.
COVID Safety: Masks are required at all Wednesday performances.
Lucille Rieke is an actor, musician, singer, and teaching artist based in Washington, DC, and San Francisco. She is currently a sophomore at American University studying Theatre Performance and Public Relations. You may have seen her recently in American University’s production of Daughters of Leda (Alex/Eve) or Once (Ex-Girlfriend). Lucille is honored to have the opportunity to write with DC Theater Arts as part of the DC Theater U program and cannot wait to begin seeing more theater in the future.
A Delicate Ship by Anna Ziegler
Directed by Jenna Place
With: Jordan Friend (Nate), Mary Myers (Sarah), Stephen Russell Murray (Sam)
Assistant Director & Producer: Charlotte La Nasa
Scenic & Lighting Designer: Andrés Poch
Sound Designer: Jordan Friend
Fight & Intimacy Coordinator: Megan Behm
Stage & Production Manager: Paige Washington
4615 Theatre announces surprise final production (news story, November 14, 2023)