On the surface, Anna Ziegler’s “A Delicate Ship” has more than a passing resemblance to a soap opera scenario. Thirty-something couple Sam and Sarah are interrupted on Christmas Eve by Sarah’s childhood friend, Nate, who clearly harbors feelings for Sarah beyond simple friendship. Drama and angst ensue.
However, Ziegler’s deft writing explores this scenario in a much deeper and darker way than any soap opera ever would. With its disturbing games and shifting alliances of two-against-one, “A Delicate Ship” comes to bear more in common with “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” than “The Young and the Restless.”
In the second production of the company’s premiere season, Filigree Theatre’s Austin premiere of “A Delicate Ship” takes this nuanced script and gives it a thoughtful, heartbreaking production. Director Elizabeth V. Newman keeps the production relatively free of bells and whistles,and instead (along with lighting/set designer Chris Conard) simply follows the text’s ebbs and flows. Narrative asides and monologues directly to the audience, cast in shadows and spotlights, reveal secrets of the characters’ past, present and future.
The three performers at the heart of “A Delicate Ship” each take different approaches to their characters, which makes for a complex love triangle that is dynamically engaging. Nicholas Weindel, as Nate, is on edge and high-strung from the very start of the play, providing an air of both menace and self-pity that permeates the entire story. David Moxham’s Sam, on the other hand, takes awhile to reveal his true nature, moving from cool and collected — if a bit jealous — to more openly disturbed and off-kilter as the bizarre evening continues.
Of special note is Laura Ray as Sarah. In many ways, “A Delicate Ship” is Sarah’s story, and Ray’s performance anchors the production with a thoroughly believable, likable female lead. Even as we question some of Sarah’s decisions (or lack thereof), her motivation is always crystal clear, to a heartbreaking degree.
“A Delicate Ship” is a darkly funny tragedy about contemporary relationships, and about how we are all the culmination of our own parents’ love stories. The Filigree Theatre’s production of this moody, moving work is a subtle, emotional exploration of the complicated nature of modern love and adulthood, and it’s well worth seeing.
“A Delicate Ship”
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 5 p.m. Sunday through Feb. 25
Where: Santa Cruz Theater, 1807 E. Seventh St.