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Performing Arts

July 29, 2017
 

An Amazing Entertainment

Brooke Morrison & Adam Brown in Shipwrecked! Photo courtesy Walden Theatre Alumni Company.

Shipwrecked! An Entertainment. The Amazing Adventures of Louis De Rougemont (as told by himself)

By Donald Margulies
Directed by Ben Park

Review by Keith Waits

Entire contents are copyright © 2017 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

The Walden Theatre Alumni Company productions, facilitated by Ben Park, have arguably been edgier, less commercial fare than the rest of the programming at Commonwealth Theatre Center (ex: last weekend’s production of Dry Land), yet Shipwrecked! Is a particularly accessible and engaging entertainment.

Clocking in at a tidy 75 minutes with no intermission, the play connects to a long tradition of tall tales told in a first-person narration, so that this is storytelling in the most classic sense. Louis De Rougemont relates to the audience his autobiography, skipping lightly through his childhood to quickly get to the “amazing adventures” which include fortune hunting in a remote part of the world, being shipwrecked, riding sea turtles, and becoming the leader of an aboriginal community. There is also a wife and children during his almost thirty years of remove from English civilization. It seems as full a life as any other.

But De Rougemont undertakes the arduous journey back to England, where he is at first celebrated, earning a fortune in the telling of his life, before his story comes under question by the scientific community. The role is a star turn, and is beautifully realized by Adam Brown.

I saw this at Actors Theatre of Louisville several years ago, and was excited at the opportunity to revisit the experience. Director Ben Park, lacking the budget and resources of that production, relies on an ensemble to manage the action surrounding his star, and, except for one moment, they fill the bill with delightful ingenuity, manufacturing tempests, landscapes, and all the creatures that occupy them. Mitchell Martin gives De Rougemont’s loyal canine companion, Bruno, true character, while Becca Willenbrink give comic snap to his wife, Yamba. I also liked Brooke Morrison as Captain Jensen, who sweeps the young Louis into his search for pearls and the beginning of adventure. The remaining ensemble members are Sabrina Spalding, Elliot Cornett, and director Park, and all contribute effectively to the offbeat, whimsical tone of the piece.

As De Rougemont, Adam Brown stalks the performance space with such energy that the audience cannot help but be enraptured by the telling of the tale, never doubting any of the implausible detail but wanting, as we inevitably must, to believe in the possibility of such adventure. Even if it eludes us in our own lives, we are desperate to receive it vicariously, and this idea seems to lie at the foundation of Brown’s work. The twinkle in his eye dares us to believe, even while the enthusiasm in his voice demands that we do. The play requires a star turn, and Brown delivers one; long on skill and heart, largely devoid of actor’s vanity.

At times there does seem some disparity between Brown’s aggressiveness and the fey, if charming, quality of the ensemble work, and the final moments miss the deliriousness that seem to be called for. Playwright David Margulies wants us to accept that reality is not always the preferred choice, and the very end of the play brings that point home. This conflict between illusion and reality is a powerful theme that has dominated mainstream culture for more than 100 years, and it is what makes Shipwrecked! such an edifying entertainment.

Shipwrecked! An Entertainment. The Amazing Adventures of Louis De Rougemont (as told by himself)

July 27 & August 3 @ 7:30
July 28, 29, & August 4 @ 9:30

Walden Theatre Alumni Company
Commonwealth Theatre Center
1125 Payne Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40206
502- 589-0084
Waldentheatre.org

 

Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of PUBLIC on WXOX-FM 97.1/ ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.





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