BWW Review: TREASURE ISLAND at Des Moines Young Artist Theatre: No Longer Just an Adventure for Boys
One of the things I love about theatre is how it asks us to look at societal norms and challenge them. One of the ways theatre does that is by the people we see onstage. What we don't see is the people behind the stage. When you look behind the scenes, it is sad to see how few women there are designing for shows. Des Moines Young Artist is tackling that with their current production of "Treasure Island." They are doing the show with a full female production team. The result was a theatrical experience that those in attendance will remember for a long time.
Treasure Island, based off of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale, is the story of Jim Hawkins, who in this production is a young girl, whose life is turned upside down when Billy Bones visits her grandmother's inn. When Billy Bones dies at the end, he left behind a map to "Treasure Island." This leads to the adventure of a lifetime for Jim. While setting out on this adventure she meets Long John Silver who is searching for the treasure as well. Who ends up with the treasure in the end? That you will have to go to the show to see.
One element that added to making this a memorable theatre experience was the scenic design by Amanda Pichler. From the moment you walk into the theatre, you see the main part of the set. What took us on the adventure was the pieces that were added throughout the show. With just a few changes we are transported from the inn, to the pirate ship, to treasure island. It was a thrill to see each location come to life on stage.
For me, the most memorable moment of the show for me was thanks to the light design by Rachel Trimble. There is a moment in the show where two of the characters are looking at the stars and talking about using them to show where you are at. The lights used as the stars surrounded the stage, above the audience. The beauty of this moment becomes even more impactful later in the play when Jim is using the stars on her own to find where she was at.
Tying all the elements together was director Susanna Douthit. It was easy to see how much time she put into the show. She did a great job working with the actors and helping them develop their characters. No matter how large the role was, each cast member had something unique that set them apart from the rest of the characters in the show. She also did an amazing job of using the set and other technical parts of the show to their fullest potential. This is most evident in the storm scene. She had the cast members on the ship swaying from side to side as though the ship was rocking in the water, the cast members who weren't on the ship were making waves with fabric while staying in rhythm with the cast members who were swaying on stage. The addition of using lighting as lightning and sound brought the entire scene together.
Leading the cast as Jim Hawkins was Ollie Smith. She has the daunting task of carrying the show, while also playing against other cast members her age and adults. Throughout the show, she did a great job portraying a character coming of age, trying to be strong and independent, but still wanting to be a kid. It brought a heart the show that showed in how she treated each of the different characters she interacted with. This led to understanding how characters like Billy Bones and Ben Gun could put so much trust in her.
While it would be easy to just focus on the women in this show, there were some amazing performances by the young men in the show that I would be remiss if I didn't give them credit. The first of those young men is Aiden Farrell who was making his Des Moines Young Artist Theatre Debut in this production as Billy Bones. His character was on stage for such a short time, but he made sure that time was impactful. You could hear how much work he had put into building his dialect with dialect coach Susan Irish. Each line was delivered with the clarity you'd expect to see from an adult doing Shakespeare. When his characters time in the story was done, I found myself wanting more of his performance.
The other I feel I need to give a shout out to is Brady Meyers as Ben Gunn. I had the pleasure of working with him in his stage debut as Chip in "Beauty and the Beast" two years ago. It was a joy to see how much he has grown as a director. That's not what stood out about him though. He brought a crazy to Ben Gunn which made me feel that he had been stuck on an island for years. The speed and clarity of his line delivery played well into the idea that he had been stuck on the island for years. He was able to quickly pop in and out of different parts of the set as if he knew all the different ways to get around the island. It was fun to watch his journey with Jim as they quickly built trust and helped each other throughout their time on the Island.
Treasure Island is another amazing production from Des Moines Young Artist Theatre that you won't want to miss. If you missed their opening weekend performances, you have one more weekend to see this show. Performances are April 25-27 at 7:30 PM and April 27-28 at 2:30 PM. Tickets can be purchased by visiting https://desmoinesperformingarts.org/events/dmyat-treasure-island/
Coming up next for Des Moines Young Artist Theatre is Jason Brown's "13: The Musical." Performances will be July 26-August 4. Des Moines Young Artist Theatre has also announced their 2019-2020 season. It can be seen below. To find out more of Des Moines Young Artist Theatre visit https://www.dmyat.org/
September 20-29, 2019
Franklin Jr. High School
The Boy at the Edge of Everything
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe