The play is a contemporary-language adaptation of Herman Melville's classic novella.
Billy in a young innocent sailor, forcibly impressed onto the crew of the HMS Indomitable
during the Napoleonic wars. His only flaw is that he stutters when he is agitated.
The captain, William Vere, notices Billy and is satisfied with his work. However, the Master at Arms, a man named Claggart, instantly hates Billy and works to destroy him.
He accuses Billy of trying to organize a mutiny against the captain. When Vere has Claggart accuse Billy to his face, Billy is unable to answer because of his stutter. In frustration, he strikes Claggart, accidentally killing him.
According to the articles of war, Billy must hang for striking an officer. Although Vere knows he is innocent, he must obey the letter of the law and is forced to hang him.
The play uses a greek-like chorus to set up and comment on the action, and calls for a variety of sea chanteys sung now and then for mood and comment.
Thus, the play is a parable about good vs evil, law vs morality, and similar matters.
CAST: 6 men, plus a male chorus of indeterminate size, out of which come various shorter roles.
SET: Stylized playing space: places aboard a man of war.