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A CurtainUp Review
Treasure Island

I don't like the first mate. I don't like the crew.— Captain Smollett
Treasure Island
Tom Hewitt as Long John Silver & Noah E Galvin as Jim Hawkins
(Photo: Ken Howard)
Robert Louis Stevenson's seafaring adventure, Treasure Island, has been delighting young and old for over one hundred years. And for good reason. Who can resist Long John Silver, the one-legged pirate; Blind Pew, the sightless sailor; the noble Captain Smollett; and the hero, an innocent young boy named Jim Hawkins - all in search of buried treasure whose whereabouts are revealed by a map called Flint's fist?

B.H. Barry and Vernon Morris certainly knew the novel's virtues when they adapted it for the stage to create a Treasure Island that captures both the world of 18th century piracy and all the drama and humor Stevenson injected into his work. According to Barry, 85 percent of the script is from the book, with most of the made-up material coming at the beginning and end of the play. But despite the play's fidelity to the book, much of this show's feisty spirit comes from Barry's direction and his excellent team of designers: scene and effects designer Tony Straiges, costume designer Luke Brown, lighting designer Stewart Wagner and sound designer Will Pickens.

This Treasure Island is filled with atmospheric lighting and lightening, clashes of thunder, and the crack of cannon and rifle. Sheets become a billowing wave tossing a man overboard. A ship's mast dominates the stage, while rolling flats are schooners moving across the water. Brown's pirate hats and coats and long swords bring out the inner swashbuckler in us all. And music director Ken Schatz has chosen just the right sea shanty's to give the audience the feel of the mist over the water.

But most important of all, Barry, who is also a Tony Award-winning fight director, has staged sword fights that ring with authenticity and stir the heart with dread and delight. There are kicks to the crotch, knives flying through the air, heads slammed into barrels and a sword spinning the ship's steering wheel as a finishing touch. Make sure to bring a child and hold the tyke's hand during the scary parts.

The ultimate adventure story, Treasure Island is a feast for male actors. In this production even Mrs. Hawkins is played by a man, Ken Schatz —- to great effect, one might add. Tom Hewitt as Long John Silver, Kenneth Tigar as Squire Trelawney, Tom Beckett as Ben Gunn and Noah E. Gavin as Jim Hawkins are all outstanding. But the cast, including a live parrot named Maui, is uniformly excellent.

Unfortunately, while the cavernous space of the Irondale Center is perfect for this sea-bound tale, its poor acoustics often renders the actors' speech inaudible, causing some frustration. Nevertheless, the intensity of the staging and the sheer theatricality of the show should keep most people sitting on the edge of their seats throughout.

It's odd to see so many Broadway stars in any Brooklyn venue other than BAM. But Barry freely admitted to New York Times reporter Eric Grode that the Irondale Center is his out-of-town tryout on the way to a possible Broadway run. Given this show's great potential, one can only wish himthe best of luck.

Treasure Island
Based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson
Adapted for stage by Vernon Morris and B. H. Barry
Directed by B.H. Barry
Cast: John Ahlin (Billy Bones, Morgan), Tom Beckett (Blind Pew, Ben Gunn), Steve Blanchard (Captain Smollett), Rod Brogan (Captain Flint, Israel Hands), Josh Clayton (Hoot, Arrow, Tom Hunter, Jake), Noah E. Galvin (Jim Hawkins), Michael Gabriel Goodfriend (Black Dog, George Merry), Tom Hewitt (Long John Silver), Ben Schatz (Chanteyman, Mrs. Hawkins, Redruth, Parrot), Rocco Sisto (Dr. Livesey), Lindsay Smiling (Allerdyce, O'Brien), Kenneth Tigar (Squire Trelawney)
Scenic Design: Tony Straiges
Costume Design: Luke Brown
Lighting Design: Stewart Wagner
Sound Design: Will Pickens
Effects Design: Gregory Meeh
Music Director: Ken Schatz
Stage Manager: Nancy Wernick
Running Time: 2 hours 15 minutes with one intermission
Irondale Center, 85 Oxford Street, Brooklyn,
From 2/15/11; opens 3/5/11; closes 3/26/11
Monday through Friday at 7:30pm, Wednesday matinee at 2pm, Saturday at 3pm and 8pm
Tickets: $20-$45 (866) 811-4111
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons March 2, 2011
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