Men on Boats

The cast of Palo Alto Players’ “Men on Boats” includes Mary Melnick as John Wesley Powell, clockwise from left, Maria Mikheyenko as Old Shady and Melissa Jones as William Dunn.

Palo Alto Players kicks off the new year with “Men on Boats,” a tale of 10 men, four boats and two great rivers that is staged without boats, rivers or men. In-person performances are scheduled Jan. 14-30 in the Lucie Stern Theatre.

The production is a 21st-century version of a play about 19th-century American explorer and one-armed Civil War veteran John Wesley Powell, who assembles a brawny band of soldiers, trappers and adventurers to explore the waterways of the American West. Inspired by Powell’s actual travel log from 1869, Jaclyn Backhaus’ comedic script is performed by a cast of women who infuse America’s legends of male conquest with some sly subtext.

Lee Ann Payne directs a cast that includes Mary Melnick (as John Wesley Powell), Melissa Jones (William Dunn), Maria Mikheyenko (Old Shady), Jenni Chapman (Bradley), Katie O’Bryon (Hawkins), Patty Reinhart (John Colton Sumner), Jaime Wolf (Hall), Jennifer C. Maggio (O.G. Howland/Just Jim), April Culver (Frank Goodman/Mr. Asa) and Naomi Evans (Seneca Howland/Johnson).

Shows are slated 7:30 p.m. Thursdays (after this week), 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays. It is recommended for ages 13 and up.

The play also will be available for streaming Jan. 27-30 via BroadwayOnDemand for $20 (free account required) at

A pick-your-price preview night is scheduled Jan. 14, with tickets offered from $10 to $40. Opening night is set for Jan. 15; tickets are $42-$57 and include a post-show toast in the outdoor courtyard. Tickets to future shows are $39-$54.

For tickets and more information, call (650) 329-0891 or visit