Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Treasure Island might be great counter-holiday programming

Geoffrey Simmons and Alex Silva in Treasure Island (John Ulman)
Treasure Island
Book-It Repertory Theatre
Through December 24, 2016

Shiver me timbers and hey ho me hearties, argh! If you haven’t read Treasure Island in longer than you want to remember, you might want to sail on over to Book-It Repertory to catch their new adaptation of Treasure Island, now on stage. This might be a brilliant idea of counter-programming against the regular holiday fare.

This is not a simple book to adapt. Not that they take on simple books! It has all kinds of adventures and a complicated plot involving double-crossing pirates and honor and treasure and doing right by your friends. It has sword fights and mutinies, and cannon fire.

In the middle of it all is an almost-thirteen-year-old boy, Jim Hawkins (a terrifically poised and talented Alex Silva). Jim’s life as a help-meet to his mother at an inn is turned upside down when his father dies and a blustery pirate, Billy Bones (Jim Gall), draws other disreputable types to the inn to find Bones’ treasure map.

After Bones is handed the dreaded Black Spot, signifying his death is near, he dies and Jim’s mother and Jim find the map when they pay their inn fees from Bones’ belongings. Jim brings the map to the local doctor (Arjun Pande) and Squire (Eric Ray Anderson) and they all determine to go to Treasure Island and find where “x” marks the spot!

The Squire gets a crew together, with Long John Silver (Geoffery Simmons) as the cook. He doesn’t realize that Silver and others plan to mutiny and steal the map! When the ship arrives at the island, desperate mutiny commences. Jim, lost on the island, bumps into Ben Gunn (a loopy and fun Marianna de Fazio), stranded by Silver’s crew three years ago. Gunn has learned to live off the land and has dug up the treasure and rehidden it!

Oh, there is so much more plot! It’s fairly dizzying. There is, as usual, a game and adroit cast, including Ian Bond, Tom Dewey, Tim Gouran, Gin Hammond, Benjamin McFadden, Jordan Whidbey and Ray Simon. Most take on several roles as pirates and “regular” crew members and watching them change into multiple sets of costuming (designed by creative Jocelyne Fowler), including shoes, is a dance in itself!

Another dance, if you are one who likes to notice things, is how and where they move the specific set pieces around and around and around. There is lots of rope tying and such. I was given a little back-stage insight that they named the pieces so they could track where Henry and Bertha were to go during each specific scene! Ingenious! The set by Christopher Mumaw is graced with massive stony cliff paintings that set the scene beautifully.

I am not great at noticing sound all that well, but this production has sound design by Kyle Thompson that is really masterful and subtle, with levels in that difficult room perfectly tuned depending on need. Sometimes loud and booming, sometimes just the cawing of the seagulls.

The adapter Bryan Burch has done a solid job turning this into a stage play, though there are some clunky storyline leaps. Also, Silver’s departure at the end does not work quite correctly, and it might have been better to hew to the book, where he slips away unnoticed. But allowances are needed for an effort this complicated.

Director Corey McDaniel continues to impress. He lets the humor show through unexpectedly and while there are a lot of dead people on stage during the evening, even kids as young as six did not seem to be traumatized and recognized the “fairytale” nature of the story.

Most families can consider going, with only those under 6 or 7 being too young to sit through. It runs over two and a half hours. You may even want to go to the library and pick up a copy of the book to read out loud at home!

For more information about this fun show, go to www.book-it.org or call 206-216-0833.