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Theater review: Yo, ho, ho! ‘Treasure’ Island’ is a swashbuckling delight

AARRRR, me hearties! There's gold in Wise Fool Theater's production of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale, "Treasure Island."Opening night, I saw one pint-sized audience member enter the theater door dressed in full regalia, including a skelet...

Kids get a free copy of the book at Wise Fool Theater's family-friendly production of "Treasure Island," which opens Friday. Submitted photo
Wise Fool Theater photo

AARRRR, me hearties! There’s gold in Wise Fool Theater’s production of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale, “Treasure Island.”
Opening night, I saw one pint-sized audience member enter the theater door dressed in full regalia, including a skeleton-emblazoned head scarf and a striped shirt under a pirate t-shirt. When he turned and saw the pirate ship set, he stood, jaw dropped, silent at first, and then said in a loud voice, “Awesome!”
Jeff Brown’s magnificent set is indeed awesome and provides the perfect pirate playground for the story to unfold. Brown also designed the atmospheric and colorful lighting.
Kristen Biles creates impressive period costumes and wild pirate regalia to help transport us to another time and place. Her sense of detail from wigs to footwear is always impeccable.
Since Stevenson penned this originally in serialized format in 1881-82, it has reappeared in many films, including live action, animation and even a Muppet version, capturing minds, hearts and imaginations around the world.
Wise Fool’s strong character work all around made it easy to become immersed in the high seas adventure. Jim Hawkins (KT Magnolia) is the story’s narrator and the innocent lad who gets swept up in a world he never knew existed. When a man dies at his mother’s inn, Jim finds a treasure map in the belongings the dead man leaves behind.
Magnolia, playing a boy, has plenty of pluck to spare, holding the story together as we go on the wild adventure with her in search of the elusive treasure.
With a scurvy lot of bilge-sucking buccaneers surrounding him, it is when Long John Silver (Dave Orman) enters the scene and gets involved in the dash to the treasure, that things kick into high gear. Orman makes Long John Silver his own. No Johnny Depp caricature here, Orman is funny, scary and charming, showing that even a morally ambiguous villain can have a heart.
The most hysterical performance of the night is Rob Hadaway’s as the crazed, confused and cackling Ben Gunn. He enters like a whirling dervish and never stops spinning from there to the end. The poor marooned soul ends up helping to save the day and the treasure.
Onstage music on a concertina played by Beth Brophy (in the guise of a pirate) and the robust ensemble singing of sea and pirate chanteys also help to create the lively ambiance.
Chani Ninneman, the wise woman behind Wise Fool, adapted the script herself and directed. She even stepped in at the last minute to replace an actor who was unable to perform. One of her crusades is to give every child who attends a free copy of the novel through Wise Fool’s stage to page program.
Providing a delightful escape from the winter doldrums, Wise Fool’s production is a fun evening for the youngest cabin boy or girl right up to the oldest salty sea-dogs in the audience.
Shiver me timbers! You are guaranteed to walk out with your best pirate swagger, singing “Yo-ho-ho! A pirate’s life for me!”

If You Go
What: Wise Fool Theater’s production of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure island”
Where: Lincoln Park Middle School, 3215 W 3rd St.
When: Today-March 18, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. are pay what you can. Sensory-friendly performance at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 11.
Tickets: www.wisefooltheater.com or (218) 269-4953

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