Batten Down the Hatches! Colin Hamell Brings One-Man Jimmy Titanic to CYT
CONCORD, MA: On any given day, you could see dozens of young people in a Concord Youth Theatre (CYT) production… but how often can you see one actor portray over twenty different people? Not often! Pretty much just on May 17th, 2014, when Colin Hamell, actor and Producing/Artistic Director of the award-winning Tir Na Theatre, brings Bernard McMullan’s darkly funny Jimmy Titanic to 358 Baker Avenue for a fundraiser for CYT’s youth programming! Tickets for this event are $25 and seats are limited! For information, visit CYT online at www.concordyouththeatre.org, or call (978) 371-1482.
“Sometimes at night, I’m back on the Titanic…1498 people lost…their pride and joy; the wonder ship,” muses Jimmy Boylan in Jimmy Titanic, a mélange of character depictions including Boylan, Tommy Mackey, Angel Gabriel, Titanic passengers and crew, Malcolm Goodbody, St. Peter, John Jacob Astor, Jacques Futrelle, Mayor R. J. McMordie, Barry John, Denis Murphy, Bruce Ismay, Senator William Smith, God and others. These characters’ take captivated audiences back and forth between the hereafter and that chaotic night in 1912 – all of whom Hamell brings to life without benefit of scenery or costume changes. Hamell, who like Jimmy is a native of County Meath, spends the entire 80-minute show alone on an empty stage, in a collarless white shirt and a gray vest. He does have a pair of invisible wings, about which Angel Gabriel encourages, “You have to get the rhythm of the flappin’.”
Described BroadwayWorld’s Nancy Grossman, "Although a couple of the upper crust passengers are included, the script mostly plays to the strengths of Hamell as an affable Irish bloke who gives an indelible authenticity to Boylan, Mackey and their fellow crewmates. However, he is no less effective as Archangel Gabriel, who shakes down new arrivals at the pearly gates, or the Supreme Being who doles out tough love to victims of man-made events.” The title ‘Jimmy Titanic’ is a reminder that most of the nearly 1,500 passengers who went down with the ship were not Astors and Guggenheims but ‘unknown’ crew members and poor emigrants looking for a better life in America. Though the Titanic was a luxury liner, its sole purpose was not to carry wealthy people from Europe to America and back. “It was built as an emigrant ship,” said McMullan, a former TV news reporter who read and studied Titanic’s history, visited Titanic exhibits all over the world, and even attended lectures by the ship’s discoverer, Robert Ballard of Woods Hole Oceanagraphic Institute. Jimmy Titanic raises more than the ship and reveals a different kind of iceberg that’s long been invisible underwater — the truth.
The play, which Hamell initially suggested to McMullan, is a well researched, wholly persuasive piece that starts out in heaven but flashes back to Belfast, where R.M.S. Titanic was built [and where McMullan was a journalist before becoming a playwright]. The story explores many ruined dreams, from the immigrants to the officials, and people of Belfast who were so proud of “their ship” (and fearful of what the sinking will do to the future of shipbuilding in Belfast). “I’ve really concentrated on the Irish side of things,” said playwright McMullan. “Being from Belfast, it’s really part of the culture there and I grew up hearing stories from people who worked on the shop. In Belfast, people will ask, ‘Why do you celebrate this ship that sank?’ and the people of Belfast will tell you, ‘It was all right when it left here.’ That’s their way of shifting the blame elsewhere.”
Without ever succumbing to the exaggerated tugging of Hallmark heartstrings, the story takes us to the ship itself on the fateful night it struck an iceberg and went down. Scenes that might make one shudder are balanced by those with wicked humor. Of Hamell’s performance specifically, Boston Metro wrote, “Hamell’s characters are all consistently masterful storytellers. Be prepared to laugh out loud one minute, while choking back tears the next.” Added Boston Globe’s Jeffrey Gantz, “Hamell is a real entertainer.” The show has had productions in New York, California and Philadelphia, at Wellfleet (MA) Harbor Actors Theater, Arsenal Center for the Arts (Watertown) and Somerville Theater. Described Alix Cohen of Woman Around Town, "Colin Hamell has the energy and passion of a holy roller evangelist… Hamell occupies the stage with dynamism and focus." Boston Edge added, “Colin Hamell switches effortlessly from comedy to drama… This is the work of a virtuoso.”
It’s not really a spoiler to admit that the
sinking of the Titanic and the deaths and losses of so many people was tragic,
but Bernard McMullan’s Jimmy Titanic
is more about sharing their lives through stories, albeit some fictional though based on history. Belfast Telegraph rated the show best in saying, "Four
stars... Jimmy Titanic is a
triumphant addition to the ships legacy."
Over 100 years since that terrible night, but thanks to McMullan and Hamell,
we can all experience a completely original point of view, appreciate it, be
informed and moved from it…and even be entertained by the stories this one-man
tour-de-force will share. Jimmy Titanic will play on the Concord
Youth Theatre stage on May 17th at 7:00pm in 358 Baker Avenue’s Black Box. Limited tickets are $25, available online at www.concordyouththeatre.org, or by calling (978) 371-1482.