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Scotland Road

By Brennen Jensen | Posted 11/6/2002

Scotland Road

Jeffrey Hatcher

Stories have it that playwright Jeffrey Hatcher went into a 7-Eleven for a Coke and came out with the idea for his 1993 psychological thriller Scotland Road. Blame it on the tabloid rack. Seems amid the headlines going on about Elvis, Bigfoot, and UFOs was one that read, "Titanic Survivor Found on Iceberg." And this just happens to be what Scotland is all about. Specifically, Hatcher's engaging tale concerns a twentysomething woman clad in 1912 attire discovered by some Norwegian fishermen on a North Atlantic ice floe. It's the mid-1990s, but she only utters one word: "Titanic."

The woman (Michelle Pinkham) is brought to a special white-walled sanitarium/interrogation center to be cared for by Dr. Halbrech (Katherine Lyons), while grilled by John Astor (Neal Freeman). (Set designer Roy Steinman cleverly surrounds this antiseptic space with mounds of undulating white cloth simulating an iceberg). Freeman plays Astor with seamless intensity boarding on hysteria. He's determined to ferret out the "fraud" behind the mute woman, to stop her from "perverting sacred memories." He has an icy chip on his shoulder alright--his great-grandfather was John Jacob Astor, the high-society dandy who rode the Titanic into the briny deep with stiff-upper-lip resolve. While becoming half-unhinged himself, Astor plays all manner of mind games with the stoic woman--everything from having her sit in an authentic Titanic deck chair, to presenting her with the last known, uh, real survivor of the maritime disaster, a blustery crone named Frances Kittle (given a gusto rendering by Margery Germain).

The play is talky and is set entirely in a stark white room. And yet, and yet, the mystery at its core pulls you in. Director Steve Goldklang tweaks the tension by chopping up the action into taught vignettes. (Well, if the spotlights cooperate; errant lighting marred our performance somewhat.)

Then there comes a great unraveling, of course. Scotland Road is named after a servant's passageway that penetrated all levels of the ill-fated Titanic. The play, too, penetrates veneers to flush out truths from surprising corners. Plot twists emerge like shadowy icebergs, and after the plot hits a few, it becomes clear that this isn't just a Gothic high-seas ghost story. Bonus points: No Celine Dion.

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