by Terrance Mc Arthur
The waves crash, the seagulls screech, and the music swashes and buckles. The atmosphere is just right for The Enchanted Playhouse’s production of Treasure Island in Visalia.
Robert Louis Stevenson’s tale of piracy and treasure has inspired over 100 adaptations (including movies featuring everyone from Wallace Beery, Orson Welles, and Charlton Heston to the Muppets) since it first appeared in a British children’s magazine in the 1880s. The characters like Jim Hawkins, Ben Gunn, and Long John Silver have inspired generations of youngsters to draw maps and dig for buried treasure in their back yards.
In the time-hallowed story, when Captain Billy Bones dies before an attack by his old buccaneer shipmates, he leaves a map in the hands of young Jim Hawkins (Andrew Rozum). With his aunt (LuAnn Yancey), a local doctor (Elijah Martinez), and a cousin (Faith Ludden), he sets sail for Treasure Island with a crew of secret pirates, led by the one-legged Long John Silver (Kelly Ventura). The pirates revolt, and the fate of the good guys hangs on Jim’s resourcefulness and the tender spot in Silver’s heart.
Rozum is alert and earnest as Jim, more aware than the title character he played in EP’s Pinocchio. He had a crisp and clear voice, as most performers of this production did. Yancey seemed to channel Shelley Duvall’s Olive Oyl character from the Popeye movie, wailing, and moaning, constantly convinced that disaster was just around the corner.
Ventura stayed closer to the Robert Newton (1950 Disney live-action movie) model of Silver than the modern, Johnny Depp pirate pattern. He always appears to enjoy performing, broadly filling the theatre space with voice and movement. The solution to his one-legged acting problem was clever, and it worked very well without contorting his body. He was able to express unashamed villainy and a merciful quality (that may have been motivated by a desire to curry good will in case his plans went awry).
Among Silver’s pirate companions, Allison Enos was swaggering and confident as Morgana (one of several gender-switched roles). Zachary Ludden was snarly and conniving as a map-seeking pirate and a buccaneer with a lot of red hair. Gracie Richardson tromped around as Bonny. Olivia Gonzalez (Rabbit in House at Pooh Corner) was graceful and earthy as Calico Annie (Calico Jack was the actual pirate companion of the famed female pirate Anne Bonny).
On the good-guy side, Martinex gave good support as the doctor, and Bruce Rakich was stern and stuffy as the captain of the Hispaniola, unaware of his corsair crew until it was too late. Ella Niederreiter (Pooh in Pooh Corner) was sunburned, flighty, and cheese-obsessed as Belle Gunn, a long-marooned pirate.
Sean McMichael’s sound design added to the sea-going experience, and Debbie Terry’s costumes were theatrical but not gritty. Donald Williams and Chris Lynn directed from a Joseph George Caruso adaptation.
Treasure Island runs through October 17. See it at the Main Street Theatre, 307 E. Main in Visalia. Tickets for matinees are $5, and evening performances are $7 in advance, and $8 at the box office. For further information, call 559-739-4600 or go to www.enchantedplayhouse.org/main.html.
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