BWW Review: TREASURE ISLAND Sets Sail at Eastline Theatre
Eastline Theatre in Wantagh transforms into the moody world of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic Treasure Island with a stylized stage adaptation. With director Nicole Savin at the helm, this production excites with rousing action and terrific interpretations of beloved characters.
The black box theatre's seating is arranged in the round - offering an immersive experience aboard the Hispaniola and in the tropics of the titular Treasure Island. This set-up is particularly effective during the sporadic musical sequences in which the cast fills the space with the sound of shanties accompanied by acoustic guitar and percussion. It also allows for instances of interaction with the audience by the charismatic pirates.
Shana Gordon leads the cast as Jim Hawkins. They treat the role with a delicate balance of vulnerability and mustered strength in moments of peril. Bryony Lavery's adaptation makes the choice of establishing Jim as female - giving the stereotype of a "boys' adventure story" a breath of fresh air. This change provides the opportunity to challenge the inherent gender politics of such a story. Jim is often at the brunt of comments like "maps are for men, not girls," which she modernly resents. Gordon is feisty, but steers away from cliches of many heroines in the literature canon with firm integrity and an introspective air.
They are well matched against antagonist Long John Silver, excellently portrayed by Anthony Noto. He is properly crooked, yet charming - initially acting as a pseudo mentor of sorts for Jim and later to be revealed as villainous. Mr. Noto's choices accentuate the character's inherent charisma, but he also shines in the play's darker moments.
Both actors are backed by a terrific ensemble of characters who are able to deliver humor and pathos at the right moments. Tom Ciorciari plays both Jim's Grandma and Captain Smollet - key figures who shape the protagonist's morality. Sporting a nightcap and skirt, Mr. Ciorciari's Grandma is a comedic treat. Meanwhile, his Captain Smollet is a man realistically respected by his crew until the very end.
Also aboard are the scatterbrained Squire Trelawney and the level-headed Doctor Livesy, played by Allen Winter and Jess Reed respectively. The duo work excellently off of one another, providing both moments of comic relief and poignancy. Once again, the author chooses to shift tradition and writes Livesy as a female character. However, again, the character doesn't drift into cliche. While this choice could potentially result in the trope of a mother figure, instead the Doctor provides a resilient role model for Jim.
Joe Boccia Jr. also makes an impression in the dual roles of Bill Bones and Ben Gunn. He gives an appropriate dose of eccentricity to both roles - first as an old sea-dog and then as an abandoned ex-crewman succumbed to madness. Sinking his teeth into both men's quirk mannerisms, he is a stand-out.
The band of crewman and pirates round out the cast. Each actor carves out a well-defined character, whether true or villainous. This ensemble piece would not be complete without their expertise in bringing such a wide variety of idiosyncrasies to the overall production. One could speculate the actors were inspired by the terrific costumes on their backs, designed by the talented Lyn Ciorciari. The period garb is eye-catching and expressly individualized for each character.
Both the actors and their attire are all the more impressive from the well-designed lighting by Chris Damp and Daniel Higgins. It ultimately provides much of the setting with the atmospheric glow of the Inn and the primitive, otherworldly essence of the jungle. However, it is just one element of the terrific craftsmanship making this production a reality. From the abstract use of hoops to an exciting surprise from the ceiling in Act II, "Treasure Island" is bursting at the seams with imagination.
Eastline Theatre has garnered a reputation for ingenuity when it comes to their productions and their latest proves to be no exception. Both fans of classic literature and innovative theatre are sure to delight in this summer treat.
"Treasure Island" runs July 13 to July 28 with Friday and Saturday performances at 8 p.m. and Sunday performances at 2:30 p.m. Visit eastlineproductions.com for tickets and more information.
Photos by Rebecca Grace Photography