‘Power of Sail’ presents battle for power, opens controversial dialogue

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Actors Sean Michael and Christopher Paul Smith are featured in thriller "Power of Sail." Photo by Will Crooks.

“It’s funny. It’s shocking. It’s chilling. It’s thrilling. It’ll be a roller coaster,” leading actor Rob Kahn says of the new thriller “Power of Sail.” 

Written by Paul Grellong, co-executive producer of CBS’ “Hawaii Five-O,” “Power of Sail” is making its world premiere at The Warehouse Theatre in Greenville. 

Kahn plays the role of Harvard professor Charles Nichols, who stirs controversy upon inviting a young white nationalist to speak at an annual lecture series. After the list of speakers leaks to the student body and the public, chaos ensues.

“The students go into full protest,” Kahn says. His dean, former and current students, and others try changing Nichols’ mind.

A self-proclaimed free-speech absolutist, Nichols strongly believes all people should have the right to speak their mind, including hate speech.

“There are a lot of surprising discoveries and realizations that make you suddenly look at a character in a completely different way once you discover what they have done, or what they have fallen into,” Kahn says.

The play draws lines and aims to force people to evaluate their own stances on issues. “I love the fact that I don’t think you can see this play and not be affected,” he says.

“Power of sail” is a nautical term referring to motorboats yielding to sailboats that are dependent on the wind. “The more powerful boat must give way to the less powerful,” Kahn says.

The name, in many ways, serves as a metaphor for the opposing groups represented in the play, such as a rich white male establishment versus a minority establishment, Kahn explains.

“This big part of the play has to do with white nationalists and the power they are trying to push forward,” Kahn says.

Director Jackson Gay, who was asked by Grellong to direct, says “Power of Sail” is about the downfall of a man through his own actions due to hubris and ambition.

“It also deals with a lot of issues in our world today: sexism, anti-Semitic behavior, racism, and class,” Gay says. “It exposes all of that.”

Despite covering heavy issues, “Power of Sail” offers an edge-of-your-seat experience. “It’s the perfect combination of meaningful and important topics of everyone’s day-to-day life and pure entertainment,” she says.

The structure of the play takes the audience on a journey moving forward to a certain point and then back. “It’s like taking a day trip on a sailboat,” Gay says. “You spend the whole time getting out there, it’s unfamiliar and all that, but then on your way back you have a completely different perspective.”

‘Power of Sail’

When: March 15-31
Where: The Warehouse Theatre, 37 Augusta St., Greenville
Tickets: $35-$40
Info: warehousetheatre.com

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