Home

American Theater Company's  (ATC) regional premiere of Men on Boats, written by Jaclyn Backhaus and directed by artistic director Will Davis, took on the story of the one-arm captain, William Wesley Powell, who was commissioned by the U.S. government in 1869 to map the Green and Colorado rivers of the Grand Canyon.

 

Davis was recently appointed as ATC artistic director and Men on Boats is his first production for the company. He was also responsible for staging the Off Broadway version of the play in 2015.

 

The expedition, the first sanctioned in the American West, consisted of 10 grizzled explorers who set out on four boats, courageously riding through the rivers of the Grand Canyon. However, their varied personalities were almost as difficult to navigate as the terrain.

 

Backhaus' Men on Boats, performed by a genderfluid cast of women and folks otherwise defined, provides an entertaining look this historic journey as well as perhaps providing a statement on just how much American society and the role of women have changed since the 1800's. 

 

The ATC cast includes ATC ensemble member Kelly O'Sullivan (William Dunn) and ATC youth ensemble alumna Lawren Carter (Hall), with Erin Barlow (Frank Goodman), Arti Ishak (John Colton Sumner), Brittney Love Smith (Bradley), Sarai Rodriguez (Seneca Howland), Avi Roque (O.G. Howland), Stephanie Shum (Hawkins), Kelli Simpkins (John Wesley Powell) and Lauren Sivak (Old Shady).

 

A simple yet effective set and props, as well as carefully choreographed movements, provide a heightened sense of action, especially when the explorers tackle the imagined vertical drops in the rivers.

 

Although the cast is really good at selling the quirkiness and reticence of some of the explorers and how those differences lead to small skirmishes among the crews, at times it is not enough to sustain it through the 100-minute performance.

 

Overall Backhaus provides is an interesting and sobering look at how a group of people can risk everything in the name of adventure and discovery. It speaks to the heroism we often bestow on our early American West explorers, their faith and commitment in their own visions yet it also highlights the vulnerabilities, conflicts and contradictions of blind loyalty. For it is only one person, John Wesley Powell, who reaps the actual benefits of their bravery as a team.

 

Recommended

 

Men on Boats is playing at ATC now through February 12, 2017. Tickets are available at the ATC box office or by visiting atcweb.org.

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Seth Walker and Edward David Anderson at City Winery Make for Helluva Double Bill

21 April 2017 in In Concert

It was an interesting pairing of solo singer/guitar players last night at City Winery. I often check out artists I…

Review: "Marry Me A Little" at Stage 773

20 April 2017 in Theatre in Review

How nice that even songs Stephen Sondheim cut from his own musicals can still find a home. “Marry Me a…

Scapegoat, a Wild Story, Is Overloaded With Action and Characters

20 April 2017 in Theatre in Review

Scapegoat; Or (Why the Devil Always Loved Us) a satirical political drama now playing at the Den Theatre, takes the…

Becca Stevens at City Winery - Unfair Comparisons… Assume Nothing!

19 April 2017 in In Concert

It’s so easy to make comparisons with artists these days. He/she sounds like so and so, etc. My expectation before…

The Mystery of Love and Sex Today's Modern Family

18 April 2017 in Theatre in Review

Following the lives of Charlotte and Jonny, The Mystery of Love and Sex cleverly explores a variety of subjects including…

Strangest Things! The Musical A Good Idea, But...

15 April 2017 in Theatre in Review

If you’ve followed Netflix’s big 2016 hit Stranger Things, this play will make all kinds of sense. You’ll get the…

Haven Theatre Company Presents "We're Gonna Die" at the Den Theatre

14 April 2017 in Upcoming Shows

Haven Theatre Company announces We’re Gonna Die, the final production in its fourth season, written by Young Jean Lee and…

After Six Months of Wedded Bliss, Tony N’ Tina's Wedding Chicago Announces New Cast Members Joining the “Family”

14 April 2017 in Upcoming Theatre

After hosting over 10,000 wedding crashers since opening in September 2016, one of Chicago’s longest-running smash-hit shows, Tony n’ Tina’s…

Ravinia 2017 Chronological Listing of Events

14 April 2017 in In Concert

For ticket information, visit Ravinia.org or call 847-266-5100. The complete 2017 season schedule follows. Note that artists and programs are…

Bold, Humorous and Honest - Steppenwolf's Linda Vista

13 April 2017 in Theatre in Review

Maybe we can chalk it up to a mid-life crisis…or, maybe, Wheeler is just a self-loathing man who’d just assume…

Review: "King of the Yees" at Goodman Theatre

13 April 2017 in Theatre in Review

King of the Yees, now playing at the Goodman Theatre through April 30, is full of laughs and wisdom. Both…

Review: Shattered Globe's "For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday"

13 April 2017 in Theatre in Review

Shattered Globe Theatre welcomes back one of Chicago’s own, Sarah Ruhl. “For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday” is a…

 

10 Years! Fave Issue Covers

 
   Tickets Just a Click Away

Register

  BUZZ CENTER STAGE INTERVIEW ARCHIVE

Latest Articles

Guests Online

We have 96 guests and no members online

Buzz Chicago on Facebook Buzz Chicago on Twitter