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‘Ship’ explores the high seas of personal possibilities

Bill DeYoung



The cast of Job-side's "Ship," from left: Sydney Reddish as Caitlin, Kayla Witoshynsky as Nell and Evan Fineout as Jeremiah. Photo provided.

Philadelphia playwright Douglas Williams has a ready-made pitch, an elevator speech, when someone asks him to describe his play Ship. “It’s about a guy who tries and fails to grow the longest fingernails in the world,” he’ll say.

Of course, there’s more to the story, Williams told gohomephillyblog.com. “That’s not the most accurate description because he isn’t the main character in the play. But it kind of gives people an idea of the humor and the odd tragedies that I think exist in the play.”

Ship is the second post-pandemic production from Job-side, an offshoot of Tampa’s Jobsite Theater Company (the first was Breadcrumbs, in March). Produced in the Shimberg Playhouse, the Straz Center’s black box, these are smaller, low-key shows produced by members of the company’s poly-talented group of artistic associates.

Ship, which is onstage – on select nights – through May 31, utilizes the standing set for The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, the big Jobsite production using the Shimberg space for weekend shows.

It’s directed by Nicholas Perez-Hoop, most recently onstage as Seymour the nebbish in the Straz Center’s Little Shop of Horrors.

The central character, Nell, has just returned to her hometown of Mystic, Connecticut, after a stint in rehab for opioid addiction.

There she runs into Jeremiah, who’s also back in Mystic after attempting to break the world record for the world’s longest fingernails. “They’re both in a weird, adrift moment of figuring out what to do next,” explains Perez-Hoop.

“It’s a play that explores the in-betweens. Typically it happens when you’re in your 20s. It’s about what happens when you have that first false start, and the way that you assumed something was going to go, doesn’t. And then you have to reconfigure your senses, and you have to put yourself back to the drawing board.”

The third character is Caitlin,  Nell’s slightly older – and decidedly more stable – sister.

“It’s a play about redemption and recovery at its core,” Williams said in that hometown interview. “It just happens to be told through the lens of super-long fingernails, wooden whaling ships and Childish Gambino.”

Nell’s humble goal is to work as a tour guide at Mystic’s ship museum. “And while that goal seems minute to us, your version of small might be someone else’s version of large,” offers Perez-Hoop. “And I want to emphasize that Ship is about not taking for granted the things that you are capable of, and also not taking for granted the giant miracles that you’re able to accomplish – that to other people might seem very small.”

And the show slid quite nicely into the standing set for Jobsite’s ongoing Arturo Ui production. “What ended up working out tremendously is that the set is all just pieces of scaffolding, and planks of wood – so it kind of looks like we’re on the museum ship,” Perez-Hoop says.

“It doesn’t feel too incredibly far-fetched that this could be the set for Ship.”

Ship is onstage tonight (May 23) and Tuesday, and again May 30 and 31. All performances at 8 p.m. Tickets are here.















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