Power of Sail

Critics

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Distinguished Harvard professor Charles Nichols (Emmy & Tony Award winner Bryan Cranston) finds himself in hot water after inviting an incendiary white nationalist to speak at his annual symposium. His colleagues are concerned, his students are in revolt, but Charles is undeterred in his plot to expose and academically thrash his invited guest. This profoundly relevant new play by Paul Grellong (The Boys, Manuscript) examines the insidiousness of hate disguised as free speech and the question of who ultimately pays the price.

Reviews

Nichols has in his office a nearly completed model of an early 19th-century tall ship that he has been working on for years. He obviously is a passionate seaman, although the playwright doesn’t elaborate on the family or personal background to this pursuit, nor to any studies of nautical history that the professor may have written. The title of the play comes from nautical law: “A vessel under power of motor must grant way to a vessel under power of sail.”

The concept is clear that while all vessels have the right to be out on the water, the rule of the sea demands that the weaker one cannot be endangered by the more powerful one: A motorboat cannot so perilously approach a kayak to cause it to tip over. There’s a certain obvious justice to this law, but also a certain noblesse oblige, the sense that those more privileged do have, up to a point, at least, the duty to protect those with less. Nichols carries this sense into his teaching, where he has trained a whole new generation of students, lifting and “cleaning” some of them up. His star pupil Baxter Forrest, who grew up in Boston’s predominantly African-American Roxbury neighborhood, is one of his protégés, now gone on as a Charles Blow-type news commentator on multiple national media platforms with a book out about racial “code-switching.”

sweet - Eric Gordon - People's World - ...read full review


Nichols has in his office a nearly completed model of an early 19th-century tall ship that he has been working on for years. He obviously is a passionate seaman, although the playwright doesn’t elaborate on the family or personal background to this pursuit, nor to any studies of nautical history that the professor may have written. The title of the play comes from nautical law: “A vessel under power of motor must grant way to a vessel under power of sail.”

The concept is clear that while all vessels have the right to be out on the water, the rule of the sea demands that the weaker one cannot be endangered by the more powerful one: A motorboat cannot so perilously approach a kayak to cause it to tip over. There’s a certain obvious justice to this law, but also a certain noblesse oblige, the sense that those more privileged do have, up to a point, at least, the duty to protect those with less. Nichols carries this sense into his teaching, where he has trained a whole new generation of students, lifting and “cleaning” some of them up. His star pupil Baxter Forrest, who grew up in Boston’s predominantly African-American Roxbury neighborhood, is one of his protégés, now gone on as a Charles Blow-type news commentator on multiple national media platforms with a book out about racial “code-switching.”

sweet - Eric Gordon - People's World - ...read full review