TREASURE ISLANDBy Ken Ludwig
Plaza Theatre Company
Director – JaceSon P. Barrus
Stage Manager – Lindsay Batt
Costume Design – Tina Barrus
Set Design – JaceSon P. Barrus/Mel Diyer
Sound Design – G. Aaron Siler
Lighting Design – Cameron Barrus
Fight Choreography – Luke Hunt
Original Music – Parker Barrus
Jim Hawkins – Stephen Newton
Long John Silver/Peter Hawkins – Luke Hunt
Capt. Flint/Dr. Livesey – Robert Shores
George Merry – Freddy Martinez Jr
Black Dog/Capt. Smollet – Jesse Bowron
Israel Hands – Toby Burris
Squire Trewlawney – Matthew Wise
Blind Pew/Calico Jack/Bailiff - Jay A. Cornils
Billy Bones – G. Aaron Siler
Job O'Brien – Christopher Coe, Mel Diyer
Rev, Mainwaring/Josaiah Bland – Quentin Scott
Jimmy Rathbone/Cut Purse/Tom Morgan – Saul Sanchez
Ezekial Hazard/Inn Guest/Boy w/ Barrow – Jake Branham
Mrs. Hawkins/Anne Bonny – Katherine Anthony, Madison Heaps
Justice Death – Jay Lewis
Mary Read/Widow Drews – Stacy Blanton, Bentliegh Nesbit
Reviewed Performance: 9/23/2017
Reviewed by Richard P. Buswold, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
EDITOR’S NOTE: The transferring of the review from the critic’s document to the website left part of the original review left off. Here is the full version of the review.
How can a play be comfortable? I've been asking myself that since seeing "Treasure Island" at the Plaza Theatre Company in Cleburne. The show was solid entertainment in every aspect, the acting, the set, the costuming, the lighting, the swordplay. As a critic, I am supposed to pick apart productions and tell you what was good, bad, excellent or pathetic. I must be honest and say that it is very difficult to do with this production. Everything was good, not bad. The melee of swordplay in the second act was excellent and absolutely nothing even approached the pathetic.
So, I will start with Stephen Newton as Jim Hawkins. This actor must carry the show and that is a lot to ask of a pre-teen boy. To find a young actor with that much talent, stage presence and acting chops is rare and a blessing. Newton, a Caleb Midkiff Award winner, is exactly that. He took his position on stage as the storyteller and lead actor and beautifully orchestrated the show. Not once did I notice a flubbed line or missed transition. It was a wonderful thing to watch.
His friend/mentor/nemesis is expertly played by Luke Hunt. As Long John Silver, Hunt is the perfect combination of a devious rat and kind humanist. With his large frame, wide eyes and flowing hair, he LOOKS like he could have been the Long John Silver in Robert Louis Stephenson's imagination. Treasure Island cannot be staged without swashbuckling and the swordplay in this production is the product of his choreography. The melee in the second act ranks as one of the top things I have seen on stage this year. Every actor was fully engaged, lots of swords clanking, lots of yelling, people falling... I wish it would have gone on for a few more minutes. Being an alumnus of Scarborough Faire and knowing and seeing what goes into a good staged swordfight, I was most impressed. Bravo Mr. Hunt and bravo to the company.
G. Aaron Siler and Mathew Wise as the thieving pirate, Billy Bones and the foppish Squire Trewlawney respectively were wholly entertaining if maybe a bit over the top once or twice.
The rest of the cast is as solid as can be. It is not often that I just can't point to one or two actors to say that they were a weak link but, it just isn't there with Treasure Island. JaceSon should be recognized for assembling this top notch cast and bringing out the absolute best in their collective performance.
One of the things that always intrigues me with theatre-in-the-round is how the set designers overcome sightlines. In a proscenium theatre, you have a back drop and set pieces. Here, you have that taken away. Door frames and walls are only half built so the audience's imagination fills in the rest. Growing up in the Fort Worth area, most of my early exposure to theatre was Casa Manana (before they cut it in half) so theatre-in-the-round is very natural and comfortable for me. There's that word again.
As you enter the theater, you quickly realize that you are on the ship. I do mean you are on it. The mast is prominent in the middle of the room and most of the patrons must walk past the ship's wheel to get to their seats. The rigging' is down on both sides of the stage and the rails actually butt up right on the first-row audience members. When the scene switches to land, the rigging' neatly sweeps up into a non-existent fly space. It really is quite ingenious. There is one space used a bit off the main stage behind a projection screen that, unfortunately, gets lost to about a fourth of the audience. From my seat all I ever saw of those scenes was the Squire's hat.
Which brings me to the costumes. A period piece such as this is always very costume heavy; the long coats, the tricorns, the ruffled blouses and the shoes. None of Tina Barrus' pieces looked amateurish at all. The shoes, often overlooked or way overdone, were all perfectly period looking. Except maybe for Long John Silver's peg leg. Most of the time when this show is produced, the actor either bends his leg up and a peg leg is lashed onto the knee in some fashion or the actor spends the entire play with his foot, ballet pointed-toe fashion, stuck in some hollowed-out stump. What they used was a far too modern looking walking cast with pristine leather belts around it. It didn't look at all like a peg leg but Luke Hunt did such a fine job with his character, I can excuse that. Especially when I found out that the last time he performed this roll at Plaza, he did that whole ballet thing... and ended up with a fractured bone in his foot.
The cutlasses, the sabers and even the katana all looked and sounded as if they could be used in real battles. Props to the prop mistress, Soni Barrus, for assembling that collection.
This was my first time ever in the Plaza Theatre. It is a community theatre much like most of the theatres I go to. One major difference it the technical layout. I have been to several theatres this past year where the lighting system is outdated or simply lacking and others where the sound system had more than a few crackles and crinkles. Truthfully, I really don't see the necessity for mic-ing every performer in such a small house. In fact, during some of the screaming and pleading of the first scene it got so loud and overpowering through the speakers that my young daughter and I covered our ears simply because it was so loud! That aside, the sound was fine throughout the show. I took exceptional notice of the lighting system at the Plaza. Top notch, state of the art LED lighting that was not only very flexible but compact enough to not distract in such a small performance space.
I must interject here that the Plaza is moving into a bigger space next year with a bigger stage and 100 more seats for the audience. I am really looking forward to that theatre experience in 2018.
The show is short, 102 minutes without the intermission and it is familiar. It is not a show designed to shock, nor is it intended to make you leave the theatre and have an in-depth introspection on your life. It isn't a laugh-fest or heavy drama. I left the theatre with a sense of calm and relaxation that comes from something comfortable and I couldn't get that word out of my head for two days. Therefore, this is a comfortable show, and I mean that as a very fine compliment.
Half a block south of the courthouse on Main ST
Thursday, Friday and Saturday—7:30 PM
Saturday Matinee—3: PM
For more information or to purchase tickets go to:
www.plaz-theatre.com or call 817-202-0600