Shipwrecked! An Entertainment. The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (As Told By Himself)
Margulies, known for Brooklyn Boy, Dinner With Friends, Sight Unseen and Collected Stories, benefits from three state-of-the-art performances. Michael Countryman, storyteller par excellence, plays De Rougemont. Angela Lin and Jeff Biehl adopt and adapt to various personas. The constant switching requires split-second skill as, within a moment, the characters change. Evan Cabnet, directing the non-stop proceedings with flair, pizzazz and necessary imaginative devices, is splendid.
Lee Savage, surely collaborating with the director, creates a most thoughtful set. It appears to consist of a square wooden platform and a large rectangular fabric serving as a backdrop. Witness the transformation to believe it! Everything changes. Toss in clever yet effective sound devices, which include a metal sheet, thoughtful use of a hand-held microphones, stagehands who are quite visible as the scenery moves, and Jessica Wegener's delectable outfits, and you have something quite special.
That includes a man (De Rougemont) who left nineteenth century London during his middle teens, bid his loving mother (Lin) good-bye, and took off to explore life. His most faithful companion is his dog, Bruno (Biehl). Off he goes to the Coral Sea in Australia where he hunts for pearls and marries a woman who is an aborigine. Later on, he meets Queen Victoria (Biehl).
De Rougemont, having experienced transformative circumstances as a younger man and having sought each upcoming challenge, returns home years later and finds his mother still alive but fittingly elderly. The protagonist continues to narrate and evidently concludes the production when, suddenly, there's an important interruption and his credibility is questioned. What if De Rougemont is deluded, if he has made up one whopper after another?
He claims to have ridden a sea turtle but how could this be so? The final fifteen minutes of Margulies' story attempt to provide a visual answer. In some ways, however, whether or not De Rougemont is a fraud is moot. The play and this particular production survive either way.
Countryman assumes his role as a master storyteller, one who is fully at home as he spins factual or fictional tales of his time at sea. He either tells the somewhat unbelievable truth or he creates one enticing scenario after another. The actor fully inhabits De Rougemont's character.
Lin and Biehl, adapting one accent or vocal tone after another, fully triumph. Each is versatile, animated, and ever-active. While Countryman is oftentimes standing, his two colleagues spin, cavort and adjust their postures accordingly as their roles demand malleability. One miniature scene follows another. This requires actors who are not only fast on their feet but also instantaneous in their reactions to the moment. Pliability carries the day. While longer stories contain beginnings, middles and endings, Margulies has written carefully crafted shorts. He maintains coherence from one vignette to the free-flowing follow-up. Evan Cabnet's direction pinpoints each vital segment.
Shipwrecked! An Entertainment. The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (As Told By Himself) unveils one possibility after another; the actors deliver the show with gusto and vigor. Margulies' play runs at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven through March 16th. For ticket information, visit www.longwharf.org or call (203) 787-4282.
- Fred Sokol