Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Playwright Ken Ludwig, who adapted Robert Louis Stevenson's story for the stage, finds echoes of the language and ideas of William Shakespeare in the interaction between young Jim Hawkins (played with admirable poise and spirit by an adult actress, Marybeth Fritzky) and the raffish, one-legged pirate Long John Silver (the endearing Mark Mineart) who becomes his surrogate father. The lessons Jim learns from Long John subtly suggest the ones Shakespeare's Prince Hal learned from Falstaff: fighting for one's beliefs, learning what's important, then moving past the mentor to become an adult in one's own right.
Robison's staging fills the broad Round House stage along with infinitely malleable set pieces designed by Jeff Modereger; a spin of the two concentric turntables can portray pirates fighting for control of their ship, or the raucous crowd at the inn where Jim lives with his mother (Tuyet Thi Pham). The use of actors in double and triple roles adds some interesting overtones: Pham also plays Anne Bonny, a pirate as bloodthirsty as any of the men, and Michael Tolaydo appears both as Jim's gentle father and the implacable, vicious Blind Pew.
Michael Anthony Williams impresses in his two roles: the Jamaican pirate Black Dog and Ben Gunn, a castaway overcome with emotion when he finally finds another living person. Ethan T. Bowen convinces as Billy Bones, the craven pirate who brings the treasure map to Jim, but is less successful in his overly foppish portrayal of Squire Trelawney.
Rosemary Pardee has designed costumes that not only delineate character but also allow for the necessary quick changes. Kenton Yeager's lighting design and, especially, Matthew M. Nielson's all-enveloping music and sound design draw the audience deeply into the theatrical illusion. Richard R. Ryan deserves special mention for his exhausting and exhilarating fight choreography.
Round House Theatre