PLAYERS BY THE SEA THEATRE REVIEW
DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM [email protected]Players by the Sea opened a three-weekend run of “Shipwrecked” in their Studio Theatre on June 3, which will remain on stage through June 18, 2016. Performances are at 106 6th Street North, in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. Call 904-249-0289 or visit playersbythesea.org for additional information and reservations.
Playwright Donald Margulies (who received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2000 for “Dinner with Friends) was commissioned to write “Shipwrecked” as a children’s play. However, the play which is a comedy, has been a bigger hit with adults than with kids. The full title of the play is “Shipwrecked! An Entertainment – The Amazing Adventures of Louis De Rougemont (as told by himself)” – and remarkably, the script is based on a true story. And while the production is a magical escape for theatre goers, a captivating example of storytelling, and kid-friendly (with no risqué situations or language issues) young children might not be able to appreciate the fast-paced humor. The production requires imaginative participation by the audience, but that’s part of what draws the them into another world altogether.
Actor Matt Tompkins as Louis De Rougemont gives a performance that results in rapt voyeuristic attention and sustained bouts of laughter from the audience throughout. He begins as Louis, an impoverished lad of sixteen in Victorian England, who leaves his home and widowed mother to sign up as crew on a ship bound for a pearl diving expedition and headed for Australia. He winds up shipwrecked and marooned on an island, with only his dog Bruno as a companion. Later, he saves an Aboriginal family, marries their daughter Yamba and raises a family. His many adventures include encountering a man-eating octopus, riding turtles, and leading battles between native tribes. After thirty years away from home, he is rescued by some prospectors and returns to England, where he sells his memoirs to “The World Wide Magazine,” which published them as a series over a period of several months. We don’t usually disclose endings but in this case we will: Louis’s tale is questioned by critics who conclude that while he did live in Australia, his adventures were imagined. Perhaps the books his mother read to him as a child, books that included “Robinson Crusoe” and “Treasure Island” were the source. While De Rougemont lost his fortune, the play ends on an upbeat note.
Tompkins’ remarkable performance is aided by Kasi Walters as Player # 1 and Tamara Arapovic as Player # 2. Ms. Walters plays a wide range of roles, including that of Louis’s mother, his wife, and the ship’s captain. Ms. Arapovic also plays many characters, but the crowd’s favorite was that of the faithful dog Bruno. By golly, her gestures were so realistic, she is clearly a candidate for casting as Annie’s companion Sandy. These two ladies were amazing as they changed disguises and accents with the speed of lightening throughout the evening.
Three unofficial cast members included Kristen Walsh (Stage Manager), Jonathan Washington (Assistant Stage Manager), and Kaiti Barta (Dramaturge). This crew created sound effects, as well as shadow puppetry which depictured ships at sea and all kinds of creatures behind a large backdrop.
Under the direction of Jason Collins, Players was able to create a distinctive piece of theatre. Collins and Production Manager Jereme Raickett designed the clever set, which featured the evocative lighting designs of Nichole Anderson (night, day and storms), matched with excellent sound design by Erik Anderson. Costumer Jane LaRoque was certainly busy with the costumes, which were designed to support rapid changes. Allen Morton is establishing himself as a properties expert for local productions, while also making frequent appearances on stage.
Be sure to arrive early when you see this show so you can view the marvelous art by Amanda Faye, whose work in Players’ Grune Gallery was inspired by this play. Also, be sure to read Kaiti Barta’s interesting notes about the playwright and the real-life Louis de Rougemont.
Don’t miss “Shipwrecked ” —you will experience many moments of real comic bliss, and if laughter is the best medicine, this show should lengthen your life by at least a decade! Read more of the back story as told by Bradley Akres at: https://folioweekly.com/2016/06/05/surviving-a-shipwreck-a-family-friendly-theatrical-romp-at-players-by-the-sea/