Jeffrey Hatcher’s one-act play "Scotland Road" takes its title from the nickname of the longest passageway onboard the ill-fated ocean liner, RMS Titanic.
The play was inspired by one of those tabloid headlines that entertain you when you are waiting in line at the supermarket. The headline alleged that there was a survivor of the Titanic discovered alive and un-aged on an iceberg three quarters of a century after the unsinkable ship sank.
Hatcher tries to build a play out of such a strange story by envisioning the investigation that would follow such a discovery. The plot he came up with follows a mysterious investigator and an assistant, who seems to be a doctor, who seclude the woman in a sterile isolation room — in what might be a hospital or a sanitarium or a prison — as they try to figure out just what her story might be.
Complicating their task is the fact that the woman appears youthful despite the fact that the time is some eighty years after the Titanic disaster of 1912, and that she is dressed in clothing from the time of the sinking.
Hatcher’s script flounders in the complications, but it is still fun to speculate on how the authorities would investigate such a case if this tabloid headline were true.
AT FIRST, Karen Jadlos Shotts plays the mystery woman with an eerie sense of detachment. Later she shows some feelings of alarm and trepidation as the efforts of her examiners become stranger and stranger. Her escalating anxiety gives some momentum to the progress of the play.
Bill Fleming and Lorraine Magee portray the examiners. Fleming fails to imbue the role of the investigator with much depth or complexity and Magee is fairly bland and matter-of-fact even when some of the stranger plot complications are revealed.
Delivering the most interesting performance in this four-character play is Bonnie Jourdan as the wheelchair bound woman who is the lone remaining known survivor of the sinking. Jourdan makes the role more colorful than any of the others even though she is only on stage for one scene.
FEW SHOWS benefit from a better pre-show design than this one. The audience enters the theater to see vintage silent movies of the Titanic as it prepares for its maiden voyage. There are also movies of the Carpathia, the ocean liner that sped through the icy waters at top speed to try to give aid only to find a mere 705 survivors floating in life boats when it arrived on that fateful night.
The multi-media magic returns at the end of the play with an effect that attempts to resolve some of the un-resolvable issues raised during the preceding hour and a half. Particularly effective in that final sequence is the sound designed by Anna Hawkins to match the visuals assembled by Ken and Patti Crowley, Michael and Stephen Kharfen and Mike Schlabach. The combined impact of the work of this large and talented team is impressive, but doesn’t quite rescue the material that comes in between.
Brad Hathaway reviews theater in Virginia, Washington and Maryland as well as Broadway, and edits Potomac Stages, a Web site covering theater in the region (www.PotomacStages.com). He can be reached at Brad@PotomacStages.com.