“Shipwrecked!” – Actors Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ January 25, 2010


Actors Theatre, Stage West, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

Actors Theatre’s “Shipwrecked! The Amazing Adventures of Louis De Rougemont (As Told by Himself)” has quite a title and the show is a marvelously creative fanciful adventure that is fascinating to watch and is wonderfully entertaining. It’s the first show, other than its annual “A Christmas Carol,” that Actors Theatre has mounted that will prove a richly dazzling entertainment for young audiences as well as adults. Actors Theatre’s usual cutting edge off-Broadway style plays usually don’t work for the kids. The company mounts this brilliant Donald Margulies play in a riotous production crafted eloquently by director Matthew Wiener and played with comic gusto by three inventive actors.

This tale was originally told in the late 19th century by the title character who wrote magazine articles about his 30 year escapade living with Australian Aborigines after the ship he was on sank on a journey from London to find valuable pearls. At the end, we learn that Louis de Rougemont’s exploits are a figment of his wily imagination. But his journey is delightful and watching this three person ensemble tells the story proves great diversion.

“Shipwrecked!” looks at loss and how Louis deals with that as well as how he establishes favorable relationships with the people he encounters. These are all classic themes Margulies deals with in his other plays although none of his works have ever had the carefree abandon or theatricality of “Shipwrecked!”

Kirk Jackson plays Louis throughout narrating his journey and embellishing his exploits that includes marrying an Aborigine woman and fathering two daughters before finding his way to Australia and back to England. Jackson bounds about the stage, displaying devilishly daring antics. He couldn’t be more fun to watch.

Jackson is luminously supported by Oliver Wadsworth and Yetide Badaki who plays all the people Louis comes in contact with on his magical trip. Later, they play the English naysayers who prove him a liar. The pair create a multitude of different characters, making each distinctive. Wadsworth also creates several animals including a lovable dog Louis meets on the ship. Wadsworth is also a tortoise Louis rides on and a giant octopus. Badaki is also a gifted comedienne playing such roles as Louis’s overly protective mother, and Yamba, the Aborigine Louis marries.

The show has no sets and minimal costumes but these actors plus Wiener’s masterful guidance and sharp pacing lets the show stimulate individual creativity to visually create the exotic locations of Louis’ travels.

“Shipwrecked!” is a delightful entertainment full of amazing creativity and blessed with talented performers. It continues through February 7. For tickets, call the Herberger Theater Center box office at 602-252-8497 or order online at www.actorstheatrephx.com.

Grade: A