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A Man Among Ye

A swashbuckling time with a game crew of misfits trying to make sense of history mixed with fantasy.

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The cast of Sara Fellini’s “A Man Among Ye” at The Players Theatre (Photo credit: Giancarlo Osaben)

If ye are up for a swashbuckling time with a game crew of misfits trying to make sense of history mixed with fantasy, then A Man Among Ye may be a show for you. ‘Tis a story about Anne Bonny, a wench, and pyrate of the Caribbean in the early 18th century as written by Sara Fellini and co-directed by her and Nicholas Thomas.

It is not smooth sailing as it navigates the rough seas of dramatic license on a stage that is too small and a cast that is too large. Ms. Fellini takes on too many roles as playwright, co-director, lead actor, and scenic, costume, prop, and sound designer. The structure and execution of the production suffer from the lack of focus that happens when one person takes on too much.

There isn’t very much accurate information about Anne Bonny and her career. What is known to be true is that she was a pirate out of Nassau in the Bahamas whose career as a pirate lasted from August until October 1720, when she was arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. She and another woman in her crew, Mary Read, were spared death when they claimed to be pregnant. Read died in April 1721, and nothing is known of Anne Bonny after that time.

A Man Among Ye is episodic, with flashbacks and confusing dialogue. It is filled with sword fights, sea shanties, revenge plots, mermaids, witches, and mythical creatures. As a highly stylized dark comedy, it misses more than it hits. Despite the claims that it is based on a true story, it is mostly fiction and fantasy and lacks consistent explication. It needs a more straightforward, consistent storyline, and, in several cases, there is superficial character definition and development. The cast does a respectable job of trying to make sense of a show that doesn’t know what it wants to be.

Sara Fellini as Anne Bonny and Andre Silva as James Bonny in a scene from Fellini’s “A Man Among Ye” at The Players Theatre (Photo credit: Giancarlo Osaben)

The opening two scenes introduce the main characters but do little to clarify where the show is headed. They also introduce inconsistencies in characterization that will be repeated throughout, such as the gender questions about two of the main characters, Anne Bonny (Sara Fellini) and Mary Read (Liv Vordenberg), who are both presented as women posing as men. Anne is known to the crew as Bonn and Mary as Mark. Supposedly, Anne is known only to the captain, John “Calico Jack” Rackham (Adam Belvo), but in later scenes, it appears that both Bonn and Mark are known as women by everyone in the various crews.

In an encounter between Bonn/Anne and Mark/Mary, Anne exposes her left breast to Mary, identifying herself as a woman, and shortly after, Mary exposes her left breast to Anne, exposing herself as a woman. Since the audience is a party to this revelation, it isn’t necessary for an aside to the audience at the beginning of scene three when Mary says, “Allo. Mark Read, at your service. But  really  I’m  Mary  –  see.” At which point she again exposes her left breast.

A fisherwoman, Dorothy Thomas (Azumi Tsutsui), is in both of the first scenes and becomes a catalyst for later events. In the second scene, she meets James Bonny (Andre Silva) and Zain Lee (Jesse Metz) when they rescue her from the sea after she is thrown off the pirate ship in the first scene.

Jesse Metz as Zain Lee, Azumi Tsutsui as Dorothy Thomas and Randy Abujo as Benicio in a scene from Sara Fellini’s “A Man Among Ye” at The Players Theatre (Photo credit: Giancarlo Osaben)

In addition to Anne, Mary and Jack, the various crews on The Asmodea, formerly known as The Artemis and finally known as the Tits Akimbo, are Benicio (Randy Arbujo), Tom (Andrea Woodbridge), Toro (Silvana Carranza), and Julian (Z. Quinn Reynolds). All the performers do an excellent job inhabiting their characters, with several playing some fantastical and mythical characters such as mermaids and Will O’ the Wisp.

Scene three is a flashback and could almost be considered Act 1. It is narrated by Mary, and provides Anne Bonny’s history, introduces her father, Hennrick Cormac (Nicholas Thomas), as the captain of The Artemis, and explains how he raised Anne disguised as a boy. Cormac is not as sharp as he once was, becoming forgetful and distracted and needing someone to take over running his ship. In this flashback, Rackham is hired as the new captain of The Artemis.

At this time, James Bonny enters Anne’s life when she visits his blacksmith shop to inquire about an anchor that her father had ordered. There are two workers in James Bonny’s shop: a not-too-bright worker named Nubs (George Walsh) and Zain Lee, who was introduced in the second scene. James figures out that Bonn/Anne is a woman and is smitten by her. He turns his shop over to Zain and leaves with Anne for the high seas.

The backstory continues with the epic adventure of finding Hennrick’s wife and Anne’s mother. At this point, Hennrick is physically and mentally in bad shape, so there is a sense of urgency in finding Anne’s mother. This sequence of events introduces, fantastical creatures, a mythical monster, and the green witch, all leading up to the reconnection of Hennrick with Anne’s mother, Nellie Bóin Dé, played by Carranza, who also plays the crew member Toro.

Nicholas Thomas as Hennrick Cormac in a scene from Sara Fellini’s “A Man Among Ye” at The Players Theatre (Photo credit: Giancarlo Osaben)

The special effects used for the various fantastical creatures are inconsistent, in some cases bordering on amateurish. This is somewhat understandable given the limitations of the venue; however, when critical elements in the story cannot be adequately staged, the story should be adjusted, or it may introduce elements that border on farcical.

After the reunion is accomplished, both Nellie and Hennrick die, Mary takes over the ship, James is left on an island, and the stage is set for James’ revenge, which was established in the opening scenes.

There are a few remaining scenes that attempt to resolve the original storyline and connect with the few factual elements of the history of Anne Bonny: her arrest, trial, conviction, and sentence. While Anne and James reconnect and set off on new adventures in the renamed ship TITS AKIMBO, Mary and Dorothy are left behind to plot their revenge.

As mentioned earlier, Sara Fellini wears too many hats in this production, and as a result, her work as a scenic, costume, prop, and sound designer is uneven. Although many scenic elements are cleverly constructed and allow for the space limitations of the venue stage, some do not fully support aspects of the story as defined by the script, particularly the sets used to represent the ships. While it is a reasonable effort, they leave more to the imagination than what is needed. These limitations are also evident in depicting the interior space of the ship’s cabin or tavern. The costumes define the various human characters well, but not so the fantastical creatures. The sound design supports the action, as do many of the props. The lighting design by Robin A. Ediger-Seto is effective overall, especially in some of the fantasy scenes.

A Man Among Ye (through July 14, 2024)

spit&vigor theatre co.

The Players Theatre, 115 MacDougal Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, visit https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/1188319

Running time: 90 minutes without an intermission

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About Scotty Bennett (85 Articles)
Scotty Bennett is a retired businessman who has worn many hats in his life, the latest of which is theater critic. For the last twelve years he has been a theater critic and is currently the treasurer of the American Theatre Critics Association and a member of the International Association of Theatre Critics. He has been in and around the entertainment business for most of his life. He has been an actor, director, and stage hand. He has done lighting, sound design, and set building. He was a radio disk jockey and, while in college ran a television studio and he even knows how to run a 35mm arc lamp projector.

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