When PlayMakers Repertory Company chose Donald Margulies’ dazzling but technically daunting 2009 Off-Broadway show, Shipwrecked! An Entertainment — The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (As Told by Himself), as its final Fall 2010 main-stage production, the PRC cast and creative team had magic to do — considerable magic — to bring this picaresque tale of would-be adventurer Louis de Rougemont (nee Henri Louis Grin, 1847-1921) to full, glorious life.
In 1898, de Rougemont claimed in London that he had survived a shipwreck in the South Seas, had hair-raising adventures on various islands including a search for gold and pearls on New Guinea, and had lived from 30 years among the Aborigines in the Australian Outback. Moreover, he claimed the Aborigines had worshipped him as a god. Fleet Street was not so reverential; British journalists were quick to expose the fraudulence of many of de Rougemont’s eyebrow-raising claims.
Under the imaginative and resourceful direction of PlayMakers guest director Tom Quaintance, on a spectacular set that scenic designer Robin Vest has built as an old curiosity cabinet for the players to unpack as needed, Scott Ripley gives an invigorating performance as either (a) one of British colonial history’s most unlikely heroes or (b) one of the Commonwealth’s biggest liars. It is to director Tom Quaintance and star Scott Ripley’s great credit that they sustain a reasonable doubt in the audience’s mind, even as the evidence of de Rougemont’s mendacity mounts.
The young and talented trio of Dee Dee Batteast, Jimmy Kiefer, and Derrick Ledbetter play all the other principals in this tangled tale; and an energetic “ensemble” comprised of Kelsey Didion, Lauren Klingman, and Josh Tobin portray various and sundry denizens of London, de Rougemont’s shipmates on his ill-fated voyage, and members of uncivilized tribes that de Rougemont encounters during his South Seas sojourn. Among her multiple roles, Batteast not only plays de Rougemont’s doting mother, but the hot-blooded Aboriginal princess Yamba whom Louis marries. The tall and heavily bearded Kiefer is terrific as Capt. Jensen and (on his knees, in dowager’s weeds) Queen Victoria; and Ledbetter provides comic relief as Capt. Jensen’s devoted dog Bruno, various skeptical scientists, etc.
To reveal much more of the secrets of Shipwrecked! would be tantamount to exposing the secrets of “Lost” during the first few seasons of the television series. This spectacular PlayMakers presentation — with magnificent costumes by Rachel E. Pollock and music by Mark Lewis — is a nifty early Christmas present from Triangle theatergoers. Seldom has such a ripping yarn been staged so ingeniously. Bravo!
SECOND OPINION: Dec. 8th Durham, NC Independent Weekly review by Byron Woods (who awarded the show 3.5 of 5 stars): http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/playmakers-reps-shipwrecked/Content?oid=1866732; Dec. 7th Raleigh, NC Classical Voice of North Carolina review by Kate Dobbs Ariail: http://cvnc.org/reviews/2010/122010/PRC3.html; Dec. 7th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/2010/12/07/847589/shipwrecked-sails-on-roguish-charm.html; Dec. 6th Triangle Arts & Entertainment review by Susie Potter: http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2010/12/playmakers-shipwrecked-an-entertainment-is-magic/; Dec. 5th Chapel Hill, NC Daily Tar Heel review by Kelsey Tsipis: http://www.dailytarheel.com/index.php/article/2010/12/playmakers_familyfriendly_shipwrecked_an_entertainment_explores_imagination and Dec. 1st preview: http://www.dailytarheel.com/index.php/article/2010/11/playmakers_shipwrecked_explores_celebrity_culture; Dec. 2nd Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/view/full_story/10512078/article-Storytelling-takes-to-the-sea?instance=homesixthleft (Note: You must register first to read this article). (To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the Nov. 27th Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2010/11/shipwrecked-an-entertainment-is-a-swashbuckling-show-by-pulitzer-prize-winner-donald-margulies/.)
PlayMakers Repertory Company presents SHIPWRECKED! AN ENTERTAINMENT — THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF LOUIS DE ROUGEMONT (AS TOLD BY HIMSELF) at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18 and 2 p.m. Dec. 19 in the Paul Green Theatre in the Center for Dramatic Art, 120 Country Club Rd., at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC 27514.
BOX OFFICE: 919/962-PLAY or http://www.playmakersrep.org/tickets/.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/843-2311, firstname.lastname@example.org, or http://www.playmakersrep.org/tickets/groupsales.aspx.
NOTE: The Lucy Daniels Foundation (http://www.ldf.org/home/) and the North Carolina Psychoanalytic Society (http://www.ncpsasoc.org/) will sponsor “Mindplay: A 50-minute Hour,” a FREE psychoanalytic discussion led by Peter Perault, MD, after the 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18th and 2 p.m. Dec. 19th performances.
The Play: http://www.lortel.org/LLA_archive/index.cfm?search_by=show&id=5139 (Internet Off-Broadway Database).
The Script (excerpts): http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
The Playwright: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Margulies (Wikipedia), http://www.lortel.org/LLA_archive/index.cfm?search_by=people&first=Donald&last=Margulies&middle= (Internet Off-Broadway Database), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=5091 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0546869/ (Internet Movie Database).
Louis de Rougemont: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_de_Rougemont (Wikipedia).
The Adventures of Louis de Rougemont: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1194 (Project Gutenberg).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
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To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.