The Delaware Theatre Company takes flight with their latest offering in the 2019-2020 season – One November Yankee.
Starring two-time Emmy-winner, Harry Hamlin (Clash of the Titans, LA Law, Mad Men) and Stefanie Powers (Hart to Hart, Annie Get Your Gun) – One November Yankee transports audiences across three interconnected non-linear tales as experienced by a trio of separate sets of siblings—all played by Hamlin and Powers, and all centered around one crashed yellow Piper J-3 Cub airplane center stage with the tail number 1NY (aka One November Yankee).
This piece was originally performed at The Pasadena Playhouse as a workshop production with Robert Forster (Delta Force, Jackie Brown) and M*A*S*H*’s own “Hot Lips” Houlihan, Loretta Switt, before opening at The NoHo Arts Center in 2012 with Hamlin taking over for Forster. The show ended its run there in January 2013. This new production at the Delaware Theatre Company will play Off-Broadway after its run here #inWilm.
Playwright and Director, Josh Ravetch, seamlessly blends the interlocking narratives of each brother and sister pairing with wit, heart and nuance. He is wise in his thematic touchstones within and across each scene—helping to tie the stories, as well as, the shared but separate anguish and heartache of his characters.
This story explores the brother and sister dynamic in a new light. Often we see these relationships played out as just a rivalry between two selfish individuals, but here we get many more layers. Ravetch illustrates a support system of care and love—intentions that aren’t often fully understood between the characters but lend to amazingly tense and tender moments. His characters are rooted in loss, fear of the unknown, love for one another… Ravetch’s exploration of the characters’ lives and the shared experiences that come with being human in a post-9/11 world is thoughtful, emotional and not to be missed.
Stephanie Powers electrifies the stage with each distinct character she plays. Powers perfectly captures the vulnerability, irritability and love within us all as she soars in her roles. We laugh with her as the stern and “punny” Maggie, cry with her as pilot Margot and love with her as Mia.
Harry Hamlin charms the audience in his three roles throughout the evening. From the struggling artist, to a nervous and injured man en route to a wedding, to a forlorn hiker living in the shadow of his deceased brother—Hamlin engages the audience with three separate thoughtful and riveting performances.
Hamlin and Powers’ compelling portrayals of each of their characters keeps the audience clinging to each of Ravetch’s words as they expertly guide the audience through these cunningly intertwined narratives.
It bears mentioning that this piece was inspired by actual events. In August of 1987, Northwest Flight 255 departed from Detroit Metro Airport to Phoenix, Arizona and tragically crashed upon take-off. Cause of the accident: the pilot forgot to set the flaps. This accident killed 156 people, including six crew members, 148 passengers, and two people on the ground. Among the passengers was Dr. Larry Sills—brother of Tony-nominated Broadway actor, Douglas Sills (The Scarlet Pimpernel, Little Shop of Horrors), whom Ravetch worked with on his show Writer’s Cramp.
“It turns out that 100 planes have just disappeared in the last fifty years,” according to Ravetch. “I thought the notion of the mystery, the journey that never made it to the destination, the poetry of a bright yellow plane that disappeared into purple-mountain-majesty, seemed fertile ground to explore. It resulted in the actual building of a full-scale single-engine airplane that is literally crashed dramatically on stage! But all here is not what it would seem as we explore art and beauty, brothers and sisters, life and death, and the struggle to understand this precarious moment in American history.”
The aforementioned yellow Piper J-3 Cub is an impressive piece of scenery that dominates the stage. This monolith is complemented by five hanging panels upstage which serve as cyc and projection screens—helping to transport the audience from the MoMa to the wilderness of the northeastern United States and back again. I hope to see more of set designer Dana Moran Williams’ work at DTC in the near future.
Dana’s set is wonderfully illuminated by lighting designer Scott Cocchiaro. His work perfectly sets the tone and mood of each scene—subtly leading the audience’s emotion along the way.
Expertly found and crafted props by Properties Master, Mark Williams also aide in telling the story. Whether it be a working fire extinguisher or a set of walking poles, Williams’ work helps to shape the characters and the tales that unfold—especially when paired with Kate Bergh’s effective and multifunctional costumes.
While the opening night audience I shared the evening with was comprised of a great cross-section of ages, I would suggest leaving the kids at home for this one as the show contains numerous strings of vulgar language that would make Tarantino blush (or beam with pride).
As mentioned before, One November Yankee will continue on to New York’s 59E59 Theater after it’s run at the Delaware Theatre Company. Audiences can catch their flight at DTC through 10 November Twenty-Nineteen. For tickets and more information, please visit DelawareTheatre.org.