As the Boat Approaches
nytheatre.com review by Debbie Hoodiman Beaudin
August 15, 2011
As the Boat Approaches, written and directed by Justin Kuritzkes, uses the age-old idea, “If you were stranded on a desert island…?” as its starting point. The piece is part survivor tale, part “bromance,” part comedy, and part tragedy. It is about being disconnected from the comforts of the modern world—things like cell phones, iPods, etc., but also food, clothing, family. It is about bonding with someone who—as one of the characters puts it—you have some things in common with but not too much. It is also (and this is my favorite) a play about playing: the human need and ability to take ourselves away from the present situation through acting out scenes from our imagination.
The play is partly scripted and largely improvised by two actors Jonathan Gordon and Justin O’Neill, who perform without a set or props. This format helps keep the play fresh for the actors, and it also gives them license to go many places and be many characters, including dinosaurs, French explorers, and Bono. Gordon and O’Neill have a wonderful rapport and are closely in tune with one another as they jump from place to place and back and forth in time.
I admire the risk this company takes by using this improvisational format, and I imagine it is really fun for the performers to riff off one another’s imaginations. I did find my attention wandering in some parts, and I think some of the scenes went on too long or needed a more immediate objective—but in my experience, that is typical of any long form improv. Overall, I’d recommend this piece to anyone interested in the crafts of improvisation and acting, and those who want to think about the reasons we humans need to play.
[Editor's Note: The playwright notes that while the play is structured like a longform improv, the script is in fact 95% written by him.]