Review of Treasure Island
Adapted from Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel by Ken Ludwig
Directed by David L. Yen
For tickets / schedule :
Spreckels Performing Arts Center
Rohnert Park, CA
Spreckels Theatre Company
RUN: September 18 – October 4, 2015
RATING: 5 of 5 stars
(September 18, 2015)
Treasure Island was originally a adventure story published in serial form from 1881-1882, created by Robert Louis Stevenson on a rainy day doodling a treasure map. The story sparked the pirates we love today, with their “yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!”, “Shiver me timbers”, and talking parrots. At its heart, this story is meant to be fun. Ken Ludwig’s adaptation captures that spirit, focusing on the complex relationship between Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver.
I will admit I have gotten tired of the endless adaptations of this story to the screen. Many attempt to be too serious, and become dull, or are silly and come across as frivolous. I came to this play rather dubious, and was pleasantly surprised. Set in the small Spreckels theatre, it felt close up and interactive, rather like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride in Disneyland. There were flying cups, fight sequences and pirates within feet of the audience. Their projection style sets were used to the best effect I have seen—it felt like being on board a ship thanks to moving waves backdrops, Jessica Johnson’s subtle yet effective sound design, and the actors Star Trek bridge reactions to the ship’s movement. The opening scene was mesmerizing; Matthew Witthaus’ performance as the dreaded Captain Flint drew the audience into the world, eager for more.
Dave Crone as the brief but memorable Billy Bones swashbuckled his way through tankards of rum, Chris Schloemp minced and blustered as Squire Trelawney, particularly amusing during the transition between Black Hill Cove and the Bristol docks. Long John Silver (Jon Rathjen) easily slipped into a believable kindly sailor and ruthless pirate, bringing a sense of compassion and humanity to the role. Jeremy Ivory (Jim Hawkins) portrayed the innocent hero dragged along on a roller coaster adventure with alacrity. He is a student at San Domenico, a performing arts oriented school in Sleepy Hollow, San Anselmo.
Costume Designer Pamela Enz and Fight Choreographer David L. Yen brought a colorful Errol Flynn styling to the play. Director David L. Yen continues to impress with an entertaining rendition of the story that is boisterous and fun for the whole family. Whether bringing children to introduce them to Treasure Island or as an adult looking for an entertaining evening, Spreckels’ production will leave everyone smiling. I am considering going a second time myself, this was truly a lively and enjoyable evening.