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St. Louis by Richard Green

Shipwrecked! An Entertainment
Insight Theatre Company

Shipwrecked
Jared, Jen, and Joneal Joplin
If this production were a racehorse, its bloodlines would certainly make it a thoroughbred. The director is revered as the long-time chairman of theater at Saint Louis University; and the star is the dean of St. Louis professional actors, Joneal Joplin. But for most of the race, this horse seems to canter gracefully, until it explodes in the final go-round: crossing the finish line with a flying colors.

The story itself seems like the pleasantly fabricated offspring of its adventure-minded hero, Louis de Rougemont, who claims he left home as a young man and fell into many colorful adventures. And, fascinatingly, the other two principals on stage are Mr. Joplin's literal offspring, Jen and Jared, in a cavalcade of different roles. The whole production really seems to spring forth delightfully from one commanding presence on the stage on both levels: the biographical and the biological. Jared has more vivid, bold and varied tones in his many performances, but Jen fills the stage with unmistakable love and admiration for her actor father in her more sympathetic roles. Perhaps if there were more actors cast to fill-out Donald Margulies' script, the early segments would seem more significant by sheer force of numbers. But even with the whiff of nepotism, these three Equity performers prove to be a very smart investment for Insight Theatre, often elevating stunt casting into stunning theater. And, how much fun would it be to perform on stage with your own two grown children? A lot, I'm guessing.

The charm and color the leading man brings to the role cannot be denied. It's almost chilling to be scooped up right at the outset with such grace and confidence, and carried along for this long ocean voyage. De Rougemont is whisked off to the Coral Seas and adventures in pearl diving, with a tickling run-in with an octopus, played out in shadow-puppet style behind a scrim, and Joplin's son as a goofy but loyal canine. Adorable.

Wayne Loui directs, in a show that revolves affectionately around the elder Joplin, and which they all hammer into strong significance in that final twenty or thirty minutes, when de Rougemont is called on to prove his story, popularized by 1897-vintage magazines. The sudden rush of disbelieving attacks, and the sudden array of humorous and colorful new characters, pushes us on to a super-highway of heightened drama that makes for a good pay-off, after all.

Shipwrecked! An Entertainment, The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (As Told by Himself) continues through July 31, 2011 at Nerinx High School's Heagney Theatre, 530 E. Lockwood, at Big Bend Blvd. (just south of the Old Orchard Shopping Mall). Parking is available around back, but accessing your vehicle after the show involves a long walk around the Nerinx High buildings, when the school is locked up. For more information, call (314) 556-1293 or visit them online at www.insighttheatrecompany.org

Cast
Louis de Rougemont: Joneal Joplin*
Player #1: Jen Joplin*
(Louis' Mother, Captain Jensen, Yamba, Fitzgerald, A Society Lady, Albert's Mother, An Octopus Expert, A Map Maker, A Reporter, A Librarian)
Player #2: Jared Joplin*
(A Barkeep, Bruno {a Dog}, Gunda, Bobo {Yamba's Brother}, An Australian Prospector, A Society Lady, Albert {a Boy}, Queen Victoria {a Queen}, A Turtle Expert, A Woman Expert, Dr. Leopold {an Alienist}, A Pickpocket)
David Gray & Sakari Ishitiar: Various Pedestrians, Shipmates, Pearl-Fishers, Children, Peddlers, Prospectors, Tribesmen and Women, Spectators, The Royal Geographical Society, and Hecklers

* Denotes Member, Actors Equity

Crew
Director: Wayne Loui
Lighting Design: Joe Clapper
Scenic Design: David Reavis II
Costume Design: Laura Hanson
Sound Design: Tori Meyer
Property Master: James Ryan
Stage Manager: Terry Lee
Technical Director: Mike Heinicke
Assistant Stage Managers: Jacob Winslow and Adam Hunn
Dramaturg: Megan Monaghan

Photo by John Lamb


-- Richard T. Green

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