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Thursday, 28 July 2011 16:59

Can you believe that?

Written by Bob Wilcox
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insighttheatrecompany.com
insighttheatrecompany.com

I don't know if Insight Theatre Company chose Shipwrecked! An Entertainment – The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (as Told by Himself) because they thought it's a good play or because it provided roles for the three Joplins – the dean of St. Louis actors Joneal Joplin, his daughter Jen and his son Jared. But it doesn't really matter, because it is, as its title says, an entertainment – and a very pleasant and amusing one – and because they are all three very good performers.

Based by playwright Donald Margulies on an actual 19th century autobiography, the script has less to it than other Margulies plays like Dinner with Friends, Brooklyn Boy, Collected Stories, and Sight Unseen (which Joneal Joplin was in at the Rep Studio). I'm told that it was first written for young people.

But it is a good yarn.

Much of it is told by Louis de Rougemont himself. So a production needs a personable narrator with the vocal and physical craft to make us want to listen. That we have in Joneal Joplin. And when scenes from Louis' life are played, Joplin plays them with some lovely reactions.

The young Joplins play a range of roles: Jen is Louis' mother, an Australian aborigine princess who becomes Louis' wife, a ship's captain, and various Victorians in England. Jared is especially winning as Bruno the dog who survives the shipwreck and becomes Louis' faithful castaway companion. He also plays a couple of aboriginal men and various Victorians as well, including the queen herself.

Whenever more people are needed to fill out a scene, David Gray and Sakari Ishitiar provide them.

Laura Hanson gives each actor a basic costume plus the accessories needed for their multiple roles. The set by David Reavis II is almost a bare stage – a lectern, an "inner stage" halfway upstage with its own curtain for shadow projections, a few props courtesy of James Ryan, and a sky drop upstage for Joe Clapper's lights to play on. A full and effective sound design by Tori Meyer helps our imaginations complete what we don't see in the minimal, suggestive staging. Director Wayne Louie supplies the smooth integration of narration, acting, mimed and real props, sets, costumes, and people.

And at the end, playwright Margulies, drawing on the meteoric rise and fall of Louis de Rougemont, does add some complexity to the piece as he asks how we remember what we remember, what is true about what we remember and what isn't true, and, indeed, what is truth itself.

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