The Raft is one of those stories that is kind of a strange thing to try to put on stage, which makes it kind of perfect to put on stage.
Two characters, Davey and Duck, spend the entire play in and around an inflated lifeboat adrift at sea. Their chartered fishing yacht went down before the play starts. They have enough food and water to last a number of days.
What do they do with themselves? What do to they do to each other?
TV series will occasionally have what they call a “bottle episode,” where circumstances trap the characters in one location for the whole show. Breaking Bad did this in season 3, when Walt and Jesse spent the whole episode chasing a fly in their meth lab. These episodes are a way to save money on cast and sets, so you can afford more lavish episodes elsewhere in the season. And constraining the scope can sometimes inspire interesting or even brilliant stories.
The Raft is a bottle episode for a live audience. It is indeed a way to save money on actors and sets—the author, Portland-based writer Ben Eisner, has written most of his scripts as part of a scrappy DIY theater scene. More importantly, it’s an inspired treatment and test of a friendship, in which the friends have nowhere to go and almost nothing to do but wait.
How do they pass the time? How does the author translate the characters’ primary desires (“Someone rescue us!”) into forward-moving action?
The answer, for the author and the characters: imagination.
Mike Mathieu and Ryan Sanders performed The Raft for Seattle audiences in the summer of 2013. Lighting by Tess Malone.