SUMMIT, NJ – You may be in for a high seas adventure if you visit “Shipwrecked! An Entertainment, The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (as Told by Himself).”
This 90-minute play by Donald Margulies has plenty to keep you entranced. Margulies has won just about every theatre award possible for such plays as “Time Stands Still” and “Dinner with Friends.”
Here he takes us on an astounding tale, beginning in 1860 and ending in 1898 or thereabouts. Louis de Rougemont really did exist and he is played with enthusiasm and wit by Harry Patrick Christian. All the other players are performed by Nicole Callender and Scott McGowan. McGowan as Louie’s faithful dog when they are lost at sea is most entertaining. You’d swear he is really a canine as his startled looks detect every new incident and as he curls up against his master. Callender does a quick change job from Louie’s mother, who has entertained her sickly child with the Arabian Nights and other tales, to a magazine editor, an aborigine and more. She’s especially fine as captain of a pirate ship, bound for the Coral Sea to find pearls. Both actors take on clever repartee in fancy hats, sipping tea and commenting on de Rougemont’s adventures, which have been written up in a Wonder World magazine. The action begins in England, on to Australia and deserted islands until our hero returns home and start recounting his adventures.
Director Jack Tamburri has moved the play swiftly along, despite the limitations of the stage and setting. Still, we have the sense of the ship’s sails, the threatening natives in the South Seas and other touches. The fast moving story takes us through the hero’s various adventures, the adoration and skepticism when he returns to London amid numerous twists and turns. There are heartbreaking moments, too, when Louis falls into the depths of despair.
Lily Guerin’s set design is a varied mix of ladders, curtains, trunks, a gramophone and more. Nathan Avakian’s lighting and Jeff Knapp’s sound add to the intensity. According to program notes, the playwright wanted the sound effects to reflect the golden days or radio. We see, at the side of the stage, how thunder and other noises are created. Margulies said he was inspired by the power of storytelling that the theatre can capture so well. He said of the bare bones staging, “Part of the fun of it is seeing how so much can be conjured with so little.”
Shipwrecked!” continues through March 5 at Dreamcatcher Theatre, located in Oakes Center, 120 Morris Avenue in Summit. For tickets, call 800-838-3006 or visit DreamcatherRep.org.