Theatreworks NM earns a white star with SCOTLAND ROAD
review by Kristi Petersen Schoonover
Robert Ballard’s 1985 discovery of the Titanic wreck promised answers to many questions about that horrific night in April of 1912. What it failed to remind us is that sometimes, when we get those answers, they may not be the ones we want.
This is the crux of Jeffrey Hatcher’s 1992 play Scotland Road—originally produced in Cincinnati and New York City—running now through mid-October in a solid production at Connecticut’s Theatreworks New Milford.
Set nearly a century after Titanic’s sinking, Scotland Road embarks when a woman in Edwardian-era clothing is discovered clinging on a North Atlantic iceberg—and the only word she can utter is Titanic. A wealthy skeptic and a doctor descend to determine her true origin, skirting their ethics in an attempt to gain their answers. To disclose more than that would be spoiling it.
The “ship of dreams” is the big draw here—she’s captivated the world since she sank—but Scotland Road isn’t exclusively for Titanic buffs. Part psychological drama, part mystery, part ghostly tale, this gripping piece dives deeply into what it means to be human. While the most prevalent emerging theme is perception, it also examines the nature of obsession, trust, time, persistence, memory, nostalgia, hubris, and romanticism, among others.
According to the program notes, Theatreworks’ director Jocelyn Beard has been passionate to put up Scotland Road for quite some time—and in this production, it shows. She successfully molds the abstract direction of this existential play into a coherence in which the audience feels that it’s one of the cameras viewing the observation room on stage. She engages and includes us.
Beard has assembled a robust cast. Adam Battelstein renders the driven and obsessed John with suppressed anxiety and disappointment so effective that although we suspect something’s off, we helplessly find ourselves on board with his mission while questioning his motives. Erin Shaughnessy makes a relatable choice in her portrayal of Halbrech, shading this character’s otherwise one-note ambition with hints of desperation and self-reproach. Heather Haneman etches her Woman in grace and dignity, yet uses her expressions and silences to convey a much darker truth, echoing an iceberg’s beauty and hidden danger. Noel Desiato breaks this trio’s silence in a brusque Miss Kittle, enchanting the characters and the audience with a humor that only the survivor of a grim experience can express; the turn is endearing and fresh.
Like the Titanic itself, the ending leaves us haunted—and it’s provocative, in that it relies on the viewer to settle on an interpretation; this is best seen with a companion or two so that discussion can ensue (wine, tea, tapas or dessert, anyone?). While Scotland Road may not be a perfect script—I think some of the scenes are too short, leaving the audience feeling as though they’ve been left in the dark until they realize that they are watching a slideshow of both past and future events—the actors overcome what could be perceived as a plot-driven narrative. It’s well worth seeing this production.
Scotland Road asks its audience: what would you do?, and plumbs our deepest fears of dying alone. It impresses upon us—Titanic buffs or not—that we will all hit icebergs in life, and the real question, in the aftermath, is whether we will choose to sink or swim.
Scotland Road is 85 minutes and is presented without an intermission on Saturdays September 30, October 7 and 14 at 8 p.m; Fridays October 6 and 13 at 8 p.m.; and Sunday October 1 at 2 p.m. at Theatreworks New Milford at 3 Brookside Avenue in New Milford, Connecticut. Advance tickets are $25 and can be purchased at www.theatreworks.us or call 860-350-6963 for more information.
I’m not a professional theatre critic. I saw this play on its opening night, September 29, 2023, and paid for my own ticket.
Posted on September 30, 2023, in Deep Thoughts & Fun Stuff, Reviews and tagged Adam Battelstein, discovery of the Titanic, Erin Shaughnessy, Heather Haneman, Jocelyn Beard, Noel Desiato, plays about Titanic, plays to go see in New Milford, Scotland Road by Jeffrey Hatcher, TheatreWorks New Milford, theatreworks.us, Titanic. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.