Men of Tortuga

Four men conspire to defeat a despised opponent by firing a missile into a crowded conference room on the day of an important meeting. Maxwell, a hero of the old guard, volunteers to sacrifice himself for the plan. Then Maxwell meets Fletcher, an idealist with a "Compromise Proposal" designed to resolve all conflicts. Maxwell regards the Compromise as hopeless, but he develops a liking for Fletcher - a distressing fact when Maxwell learns that, if the conspiracy proceeds, young Fletcher will be among the dead.

As the scheme spins wildly into complication, the plotters descend into suspicion, bloodlust, and raucous infighting; while Fletcher is drawn, inexorably, into the lions' den.

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  • Chicago Tribune - Recommended

    "...On one level, Jason Wells' elliptical drama Men of Tortuga is a genre-based thriller a la James Bond or Quentin Tarantino. But Wells is sufficiently skilled to dig deeper than that."

  • Chicago Sun-Times - Highly Recommended
"...hard-driving, blackly comic, relentlessly macho..."

"...[A] 100-minute head game filled with vacuum-packed scenes..."

"It is full-out psychological warfare..."

"Wells has crafted a taut, cleverly orchestrated piece about power, personal psychosis, gameplaying, morality, and the terror of failure."

"...a sharp parable for our time."
  • Chicago Tribune

Tortuga has two colossal strengths. First and foremost, it’s dramatically exciting. Events follow a group of suave, besuited men who have hired an assassin to kill a man of great political import. As things work out, the malefactors (or maybe they are global benefactors) see the initial plot unravel in a tangle of legal compromises, contractual manipulations, post-facto attacks of moral compunction and assorted self-serving attempts to secure beloved places in history while still being diabolic in the present.

“It’s a thriller and it’s thrilling.

“Second, Wells’ plot is sufficiently elusive and elliptical to allow the audience to superimpose their own issue of the day on the play’s skeletal narrative … The piece is so cleverly wrought, it seems to be precisely about none of them, yet entirely about all of them.”

  • Chicago Sun-Times

“Wells’ play happens to be a shrewd piece of gamesmanship that blends a bit of Mamet and his corrosive comedy with a touch of Kafka and Joseph Conrad, plus a splash of high entertainment. It’s tailor-made for the age of terrorism, assassination, and corrupt global organizations.”

“A caper-style story with a dark, cynical, philosophical and blackly comic soul …”

“… With writing and acting this smart and this sharp, it never fails to hit its target.”

  • Variety

“Jason Wells isn’t giving everything away in his captivating new play Men of Tortuga. In addressing some serious contemporary issues, he creates a scenario where the audience has only a rough idea of what’s going on. And that’s just about the way it should be. In a crackling world premiere at the Asolo Repertory Theater, Wells tells a story of corporate greed, power, surveillance and the secrecy that increasingly pervades our daily lives.”

“Wells and the Asolo cast grab the audience from the start…”

“The play pulses with energy …”
  • Bradenton Herald

“… Dark but hilarious comedy, as well as subtle political commentary.”

“… Very, very entertaining.”


“… Grimly comical …”

“Wells delights in language and in the thrust and parry of complex dialogue … It’s very involving theatre …”

  • Time Out Chicago - Highly Recommended
"Calling all corporate conspiracy theorists: Jason Wells has written a play confirming everything you’ve ever wanted to believe about what goes on behind the frosted windows and code-locked doors of America’s executive suites."

"... Ripping, blacker-than-black satire ..."

"... Men Of Tortuga is miles ahead of most of the year's straight plays."

"Wells' work, though almost blank in details, carefully exposes the barbarism encoded in corporate bureaucracy ... Tortuga gives us absurd savages in suits, drinking good bourbon and plotting destruction."
  • Examiner - Highly Recommended

“… The testosterone-rich quintet ripping apart the stage (literally) in Men of Tortuga makes the lads of Glengarry Glen Ross look like delicate hothouse flowers.”

“… Brutally hilarious thriller.”

“… This twisted tale escalates to deliriously wonderful heights of violence and absurdity.”

"Wells parcels out the story sparingly, keeping the audience on a need-to-know basis. It’s a method that works perfectly in creating an environment that’s at once profoundly ominous and patently ridiculous."

"... It seems entirely plausible that men just like this exist somewhere in reality, sweating in their starched shirts and screwing with people’s lives and fuck you if you can’t deal with it. Did I mention it’s a comedy?"
"Men of Tortuga drew considerable attention when it premiered at Steppenwolf Theatre's First Look workshop in 2005, distinguishing itself from its genre [not just] by the author's concise skewering of fundamentally humane civil servants' progress from metaphorical warfare to primitive tribalism, but also through his clever employment of stichomythic dialogue delivered at Mametian warp-speed."

    “If ever a play demonstrated that most men conduct business the way they once plotted schoolyard warfare, it’s Men of Tortuga ... It is hilarious fun. But once the laughter has died away one recognizes with chilling clarity how close our culture has really come to such madness.”

  • EpochTimes - Recommended
  • Edge - Highly Recommended
  • ChicagoCritic - Highly Recommended
"... Certain to draw crowds as word spreads."

  • Steppenwolf Theatre Company, First Look Repertory of New Work (Chicago)
  • Asolo Repertory Theatre (Sarasota, FL)
  • Bloomington Playwrights Project (Bloomington, IN)
  • Appollinaire Theatre Company (Chelsea, MA)
  • Profiles Theatre (Chicago)
  • Furious Theatre (Pasadena)
  • Focus Theatre (Dublin, Ireland)
  • Street Corner Arts (Austin, TX)
  • Elite Theatre Company (Oxnard, CA)
  • Living Room Theatre (Bennington, VT)
  • Living Room Theatre in NYC
  • The Foundry (Cedar Rapids, IA)
  • Paco Mustela (Rome, Italy)

Staged Reading: Manhattan Theatre Club

Finalist, Sundance Theatre Lab

Nominated, ATCA Steinberg/New Play Award.

Published: Samuel French, Inc. 2009

Men of Tortuga
at Steppenwolf:

Thomas Edson McElroy, Darrell W. Cox, Keith Kupferer, Ben Viccellio
Directed by Amy Morton

Men of Tortuga
at the Asolo:

Paul Molnar, Eb Thomas
Directed by Greg Leaming