If Robert Louis Stevenson never imagined his novel, about an innkeeper’s son who happens upon a map of buried treasure, as a stage play, he certainly should have. Because this production mounted by the Oberlin Summer Theater Festival earns a rating of “ARRR” for maximum pirate-y swashbuckling.
Treasure Island, as adapted by Ken Ludwig (Lend Me a Tenor, Moon Over Buffalo) is family fare. That is, if your family can handle some cartoonish violence (including a suspiciously bouncy decapitated head) and multiple stabbing homicides. Hey, these pirates mean business as Jim Hawkins (played by Colin Wulff with a resonant voice that sounds a lot more mature than that of a barely post-pubertal lad) learns early on.
Undaunted by the carnage surrounding him, Jim sets sail with a crew led in secret by Long John Silver, the very paragon of the stereotype pirate. Bedecked with a pegleg and a parrot (who seems as dead as the famous bird in the Monty Python sketch), Neil Thackaberry displays his professional acting talents while inserting curiously languorous pauses between beats. Still, one manages to get the whiff that some skullduggery is in the works, as he sidles up to Jim while plotting to nab the treasure.
Presented on a lumber-intensive set designed by director Paul Moser, the component pieces of a huge wooden ramp are frequently split apart to form the basic elements of other scenes, including a hut on Treasure Island itself.
Among the very capable cast are David Bugher as the impulsive Squire Trelawney, David Munnell as the amusing (and almost overplayed) marooned island inhabitant Ben Gunn, and Shane Lonergan in the dual role of Billy Bones and Calico Jack. Director Moser wisely keeps the adventure racing forward, so that you can almost feel a youngster avidly turning the pages of Stevenson’s iconic coming-of-age book.
This is the first of three offerings at the OSTF this summer, with the other two shows—Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well and Crumbs From the Table of Joy by Lynn Nottage—playing in rep through August 8th. And best of all, it’s free of charge.
Through August 8 at the Oberlin Summer Theater Festival, Hall Auditorium, 67 N. Main St., Oberlin, 440-775-8169, oberlinsummertheaterfestival.com (tickets are free, but reservations are suggested).