BWW Reviews: Bo Wilson's THE BOATWRIGHT Premieres at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre

BWW Reviews: Bo Wilson's THE BOATWRIGHT Premieres at Grand Rapids Civic TheatreBWW Reviews: Bo Wilson's THE BOATWRIGHT Premieres at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre

Grand Rapids Civic Theatre opened its 2014-2015 season with The Boatwright, a new play by Bo Wilson, which premiered on Friday, September 12th. One of six winning plays of the American Association of Community Theatre's New Play Fest in 2014, the competition guaranteed both publication and production in a leading community theatre.

The Boatwright tells the story of Ben Calloway (Patrick A. Hendren), a retired state trooper, struggling to come to terms with the changes brought to his life by his wife's death and his resulting emptiness, and of Jaime Watson (David J. Cobb), the next-door-neighbor's son, who is coping with mental illness and a loneliness of his own.

Both actors are wonderful. Hendren's Calloway is multifaceted and believable, played with a gruffness and vulnerability that makes him both a cop with iron nerves as well as a man in pain, grieving for a life and a love lost. He is sympathetic without being overbearing, and expresses his ideals in a way that is humorous or heart-breaking, sometimes both at once, and always meaningful. A monologue using the boat as a metaphor for life is particularly touching, and more than once, I marveled at the excellence of Wilson's writing.

New to Civic is David J. Cobb, whose performance of Jaime is nothing short of extraordinary. This role places an enormous responsibility on the part of the actor, who must be drunk, charming, furious, desperate, manic, and loving, each in turn, and Cobb proved himself up to the task, bringing to life a character that is profound in his honesty, wearing his heart on his sleeve for the world to see.

I have nothing but the highest praise for the Design Team in this show. Though the story takes place entirely in a garage, the set and prop design and execution were fantastic. Set changes are accomplished by turntable, as time passes and the boat slowly is constructed before our eyes. The boat itself is more than the sum of its parts, and appears like a third character in the show, as it's progression from a plan and a pile of boards to a seaworthy vessel also documents the growth of the relationship between Ben and Jamie. Even a moment of doubt and despair, when the boat (and seemingly their bond) has been damaged, serves to increase the strength of the connection between these two very different men.

The Boatwright isn't flashy. It doesn't make a spectacle, and yet, you will find yourself riveted. It is a masterpiece of emotional storytelling which everyone can relate to, and you will leave the theatre feeling as though you made a friend.

Original play by Bo Wilson; Directed by Bruce Tinker, Assistant Director Kylie Piette, Stage Manager Laurie Hamilton, Set Design David Len, Costume Design Robert A. Fowle, Light Design Catherine Marlett Dreher, Sound Design Sam Johnson, Technical Director Steven Schwall, Property Design Michael Wilson and Sharon Hayes. Presented by Grand Rapids Civic Theatre; (616) 222-6650. Playing Wed. - Fri. at 7:30pm, Sun. matinee at 2pm, through September 28th.


Patrick A. Hendren (Ben Calloway) and David J. Cobb (Jaime Watson)

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