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Theatre Review: CATCO’s Shipwrecked! a Whale of a Story

Lisa Much Lisa Much Theatre Review: CATCO’s Shipwrecked! a Whale of a StoryShipwrecked is now playing at the Riffe Center, starring Robert Behrens (beard), Lisa Thoma and Joe Dallacqua. Photo by Dave Alkire.
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Shipwrecked is now playing at the Riffe Center, starring Robert Behrens (beard), Lisa Thoma and Joe Dallacqua. Photo by Dave Alkire.

Theater is primarily a means with which to tell tales. Complicated, exciting or interesting plots trump theatrical spectacles that contain less substance than a cake crumb. Truly, a good theater-maker serves as a story-teller first and, ideally, understands the scope of the medium to integrate a variety of techniques and tricks into the production. Such seems the case with CATCO’s newest show Shipwrecked! An Entertainment—The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (as Told by Himself).

Written by Donald Marguiles, the man behind Sight Unseen, Shipwrecked! recounts the life of the titular character in eleven compelling chapters. With a dose of some mildly annoying direct address, the audience learns of de Rougemont’s journey searching for pearls with a pirate, enduring desertion on an island and encountering Aboriginals. (For those reading this that allowed Louis de Rougemont’s name to slip into obscurity in their minds, I recommend not researching him or this show before seeing it. Just a thought).

Shipwrecked!

The show features three performers: Louis, of course, (Robert Behrens) as well as as two other players who portray remaining characters (Lisa Thoma and Joe Dallacqua). All three provide excellent performances in this vaudevillian adaptation of a life. Behrens’ energy rides out like the waves de Rougemont sailed upon. In a 115 minute show, he never leaves the stage and rarely ceases speaking as he plays an eccentric but timeless de Rougemont that conjures thoughts of K. Roth Binew. Thoma and Dallacqua add spice and variety in the remaining parts ranging from Louie’s mother to his wife to his canine companion, Bruno.

This show maintains a vaudeville feel, with most sounds stemming from objects used by the actors or an unidentified man on stage. Think thunder sheets, water-filled wine glasses, kazoos, typewriters—the list runs long. Objects integrate into both Jarod Wilson’s lighting and Keya Myers-Alkire’s sound making for a very makeshift feel that matches Louis’s story. Shipwrecked! also endeavors some fine moments of shadow puppetry. The show feels like a technical wonder.

For the many characters, Marcia Hain creates costume pieces that completely transform for countless quick changes. Michael S. Brewer’s set astounds. It encompasses the space with its size and beauty, and the details in the dressings and scattered props give the overwhelming but inspiring feel of a grandparent’s attic. A tip of the hat to Edith Dinger Wadkins for the detailed scenic painting and Ben Sostrom’s wide array of props to create or find, especially for the under-the sea-moments.

Design wise, this show proves quite excellent. This production could have been amazing, albeit a bit long. Director Mark Seamon worked with a great team, but unfortunately many of his blocking choices do not work and oftentimes prove frustrating. Studio Two provides many challenges, but for the unlucky folk not seated in the center section be prepared to spend a sizable amount of time staring at performers’ backs. Hopefully, they can makes some adjustments to this before next weekend because it is not okay in the current condition.

That aside, I found Shipwrecked! rekindled the love of story-telling in me. It seems youthful, yet aged, but fun most of all. It sparks the question: What does a man leave behind but his name and the stories he told? Do some things; make some stories then tell them. Have fun because one day (hopefully not like de Rougemont) we will cease to exist.

Shipwrecked! plays until Feb. 23, in Studio Two of the Vern Riffe Center, 77 S. High Street. Thurs-Sat. at 8 pm; Wed. at 11 am; Sun. at 2 pm. General Admission is $41.00 on Thurs. and Sun.; $45.00 on Fri. and Sat; $11 on Wed. More information can be found online at www.catcoistheatre.org.

PLUS! Thursday, February 13th, Columbus Underground readers may take advantage of a special $25 ticket price. Use code UNDERGROUND to receive $25 tickets. Arrive early (6pm) and enjoy half priced drinks at the bar. More details.

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