If there is one imperative that any play must accomplish, it is this: to tell a story. Shipwrecked! An Entertainment: The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (As Told By Himself), a family-friendly comedy appearing at Players By The Sea this week and next, not only tells a story, but it offers insight into the storytelling process and how the stories we share often have a larger impact on us than we could ever imagine. Continue after the jump and prepare to set sail.
Shipwrecked! An Entertainment, written by the prolific Donald Margulies , is a series of performances-within-in-a performance. The play concerns the titular hero, who, along with two actors dubbed Player #1 and Player #2, presents a most wondrous adventure that begins with a teenage Rougemont leaving home to explore the open seas. The journey takes him to the coast of Australia, to the inevitable shipwreck on an exotic island, and then beyond. If the elongated title of the play or the playbill’s extensive profiles of both the playwright and the real Louis de Rougemont, written by Kaiti Barta, don’t clue you in, this is Rougemont’s story and Rougemont’s storytelling.
This requires not only an actor who can support a larger-than-life role, but also one who can uphold the weight of a verbose, self-reflecting narrator simultaneously. Matt Tompkins’s enthusiasm and commitment pull the audience in from the very first scene. His endurance and timing is consistent throughout. If you’re going on a wild, unpredictable journey, you need a guide. And Tompkins is that guide, steering the audience through slapstick humor, physical gags, and ironic commentary alike. He is forced to both take himself seriously and be self-deprecating at the same time; not easy for any veteran actor, playing opposing levels.
photo by Bradley Akers
Tompkins’s magical pull is made possible by the hardworking, multifaceted efforts of Kasi Walters and Tamara Arapovic, who wheel through their roles (13 or 14 each) so efficiently that we never steal a glimpse of the actors themselves outside the first scene. In terms of voice work and mannerisms, these two find enough nuances to keep every character distinct. Whether it’s Walters’s manic gusto (especially as Captain Jennings) or Arapovic’s fluid physicality (especially as Bruno, the dog), these actors reciprocate the energy and intimacy that Tompkins wields around the stage.
The studio stage’s intimate space is brought to a most imaginative life through director and scenic designer Jason Collins’s vision. This is evident early on with the shadow play performed by Walters and Arapovic, as well as by stage manager Kristen Walsh and assistant stage manager Jonathan Washington, behind a lit scrim in an upstage corner, which gives the audience necessary backstory in a concise, creative way. Walsh and Washington do much of the behind-the-scenes (and sometimes front-of-stage) work that keeps the play moving along at a solid pace.
photo by Bradley Akers
Assistant director/sound designer Erik Anderson and lighting designer Nicole Anderson make the fast-paced, topsy-turvy story accessible and engaging by way of a truly inspiring atmosphere that complements the intricacies of the story Rougemont tells on stage. Allen Morton’s props, Jane LaRoque’s costumes, and Katie Dawson as scenic charge artist spin the tale on its creative axis, enabling the actors to keep the world-building cohesive, even as used and discard props and costumes fill up the stage considerably. It’s a wonderful touch for the physical representation of a man’s outlandish story that must certainly involve a bit of mad exaggeration. The fact that all this craziness on stage never becomes hard to follow or redundantly zany is a testament to Collins’s work, as well as to production manager Jereme Raickett’s ability to blend practicality, resourcefulness, and whimsy into a production that never once threatens to burst at the seams, even as it propels itself into the creative stratosphere.
Shipwrecked! An Entertainment continues June 9th through 12th and 16th through 18th, with local artist Amanda Faye's work, Pages, inspired by the play, featured in the Grune Family Gallery. Storytelling is the heartbeat of theatre, and the depiction of the act itself is sure to be a fascinating reflection on the ways we make sense of life and experiences. With a narrative this entertaining, you don’t want to miss the boat when it comes time to be a part of this adventure.
Review written by Cameron Pfahler
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Shipwrecked! An entertainment
the amazing adventures of louis de rougemont as told by himself
Written by Donald Marguiles
directed by Jason Collins
On our studio stage
June 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 12*, 16, 17, 18
Thursday - Saturday curtain: 8:00pm
Sunday* curtain: 2:00pm
general admission: $23.00
children under 12: $10.00
Thursday night is student night: 1/2 price tickets at the door with a valid student id!
FAMILY-FRIENDLY COMEDY | Louis de Rougemont was an actual person who turned up in Victorian London telling fantastic tales of a pearl-fishing expedition to the South Pacific, shipwreck, a battle with a giant octopus and life on a deserted island where he rode giant sea turtles and married an Aborigine princess. Colorful stories spring to life like a theatrical pop-up book. Who cares, when it’s this much fun? This exciting adventure is enjoyable for adults and children alike!