Feb 21, 2022

Theatre Review: ‘Power Of Sail’

Get ready to set sail on a new theatrical adventure thanks to the Geffen Playhouse. Bryan Cranston stars in The Power of Sail.

Image Credit: Amy Brenneman and Bryan Cranston in “Power of Sail” at the Geffen Playhouse.
(Jeff Lorch )

Bryan Cranston is no stranger to controversy, and now he’s pushing the boundaries of free speech in Geffen Playhouse’s Power of Sail. Bryan Cranston deliver’s a nuanced Charles Nichols in Paul Grellong’s “Power of Sail,” which opened Thursday at the Geffen Playhouse. Bryan Cranston embraces the weary petulance of an Ivy League, Harvard (to be exact) history professor whose star is in decline. Grappling with his falling star to younger professors Charles Nichols makes questionable decisions, that Cranston wrangles with absolutism in his resolve. The character’s contempt at anyone who would question his progressive bona fides, he (Cranston) buckles down and takes on the character’s deepest aches and pains. “Power of Sail,” is a debate play on the hot topics of free speech vs. academic freedom. Honestly, it felt like something Fox News and CNN are frothing at the mouth to get ahold of in the “real world” (as if we don’t have enough issues).

The other characters are all pawns in an argument presented from different angles. Complexity is the goal, but the drama is too manipulative. We felt forced to change opinions, and ideas rather than arrive at our own conclusions as good theater should. Characters personalities are flipped on their heads, and the arguments for “gray area” seem to be slammed over your head with a sledge hammer. We would’ve liked more resolution in Charles Nichols, instead of the changing narrative to manipulate the shadow selves of other characters. Perhaps a show where shadow selves existed alongside the narrative, and gave a more complete narrative for Nichols as the main character would’ve felt more satisfying. Maybe? Overall the show has an incomparable cast. You should go see it for the casting alone (no, really). The story felt too forced, and a bit cut short from it’s natural conclusion. We wished instead perhaps a beginning for Power of Sail that actually began at the end, dealing with and showing the effects of what hubris can bring into your life.