When most people think of Mister Roberts, they picture the 1955 movie starring Henry Fonda, James Cagney, William Powell and Jack Lemmon. However, those who are not schooled in the world of theater may not be aware that the piece originated as a Tony Award winning play. It is a play that is rarely produced but The American Century Theater has taken it on this season.
Now playing in repertory with their World War II musical revue, If Only In My Dreams, Mister Roberts is set on a U.S. cargo ship in the Pacific. The war is close to an end and an ambitious cargo officer, Mister Roberts, is itching for combat duty. All the while he is fighting another kind of war. It is a war of wills with the autocratic captain of the ship. As Roberts goes through his days looking after his men, he longs to make a real impact in the war. What Roberts doesn’t realize is he is making an impact on his crew.
TACT Artistic Director, Jack Marshall takes the helm of this production as director. Some elements do work. Several very nice comic moments are brought to the forefront. However, many of the jokes fall flat and some of the more dramatic scenes seem to stagnate.
John C. Bailey is one of the more effective members of the cast. His Doc is appropriately dry and witty. John Tweel is also quite good and conjures up memories of a young Jack Lemmon as the wishy-washy Ensign Pulver.
Visually, the set by Marc A. Wright works well. However, it has a few small problems. The use of the ship’s door seems difficult for some of the actors. Costumes by Beverley Nicholson Benda are appropriate for the time and setting, and David Meyer provides excellent sound design.
TACT’s production of Mister Roberts is an agreeable show. However, it is not very satisfying. One may be better off renting the movie instead. Mister Roberts runs through January 31st.
The American Century Theater
Lieutenant (JG) Douglas Roberts: Timothy Andrés Pabon