However, Mary’s ordeal has more shades of gray than anyone suspects. While she was being kept, she met James Printer, a Harvard educated native and “praying Indian,” so called because he had supposedly turned away from the beliefs of his people. He and Mary slowly begin to build something like a friendship – and perhaps something more.
Eventually, worlds collide when the time comes to print Mary’s story and she realizes that she is afraid of what some of those who read it might think – both about her and about the Natives.
Mary Rowlandson’s story is a powerful one. Her journey is packed with emotional peaks and valleys and complicated feelings made all the more complex by the tenets of the society in which she lives. As you might guess, that makes portraying her on the stage a daunting task. It is a task that Los Angeles actress Aubrey Saverino proves more than capable of undertaking. Saverino’s performance is a delicate dance, a balancing act of constantly shifting tone and scale; her Mary is the foundation on which the show stands.
Dylan Carusona brings a stony stoicism to his portrayal of James Printer. That aloofness, paired with Saverino’s desperation, creates a fascinating dynamic within the captivity flashbacks. It also makes the ever-so-rare moments when it crumbles that much more effective.
While the work of the two leads is certainly the centerpiece, they are far from alone in creating this world. Bunny Barclay, Marcia Douglas and Jenny Hancock flit across the stage as a sort of Greek chorus (called “Busy Bodies” in the program), their vaguely mean-spirited gossip serving as a sort of barometer, voicing the feelings of the public about Mary and her ordeal. Bernard Hope is all smug self-importance as Increase Mather, while Greg Mihalik strikes a brattily entitled note as Cotton Mather. Steve Gormley, Steve Robbins and John Greenman also each create their own unique piece of the tale being told.
It’s tough being the first to direct any play; there’s no map, no safety net. There’s nothing with which to compare the choices you make. Kappy Kilburn does a marvelous job of navigating that minefield, creating an experience that flows freely throughout. “Ink” covers a lot of ground; Kilburn has found a way to cover that ground smoothly.
Dan Bilodeau’s set and Shon Causer’s lighting are up to each designer’s typically strong standards. The set is wide open and abstract; less literal than most of the sets we’ve seen in recent years. That abstractness allows the performances to paint the picture and creates some wonderful stage pictures and movement patterns. Causer has a wonderful sense of subtlety when lighting the stage, and he shines here. The abstract set means more reliance on light in order to shift tonally or scenically or both; Causer’s design harmonizes with Bilodeau’s.
“Ink” tells the story of a largely forgotten woman whose fascinating story deserves to be remembered. Thanks to Alice van Buren and Penobscot Theatre Company, you have an opportunity to hear that story for yourself. You can learn a little literary history while you take part in a piece of theatrical history – when will you ever have a chance like this again?
Penobscot Theatre Company will be presenting “Ink” through April 15. For tickets or more information, call the box office at 942-3333 or visit their website at penobscottheatre.org.