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BWW Reviews: Poetry Rules in Flying V's Hilarious PIRATE LAUREATE OF PORT TOWN


Do you have a restless kid in the next room, looking for a little adventure? Forget the kid-do you still have some of that restless spirit yourself? Flying V's production of Zachary Fernebok's swash-buckling romantic comedy, "The Pirate Laureate of Port Town," could be just what you're looking for.

Nestled cozily for the next two weekends at Bethesda, Maryland's Writer's Center (located on Walsh St., just 2 blocks north of Bradley Blvd. along Wisconsin Avenue), "Pirate Laureate" is a family-friendly play that combines wit and romance in equal measure, featuring a small but spirited cast.

The show is anchored (pun intended) in true piratical fashion by Matthew Pauli as its blustery, half-witted Captain Greyscale, whose good ship Chartreuse skims the waves with an improbable crew that is one part Gilbert & Sullivan and two parts Princess Bride. His secret weapon? The poet Finn, of course, played here by an engagingly earnest Alex Vaughan. Orphaned from an early age, Finn bonds with Greyscale in true father-son fashion; but for all his love of the sea Finn has kept a secret from Greyscale and the crew for years-a romantic correspondence via message-bottle with his childhood sweetheart Sandy (played by the whip-smart, passionate Megan Graves).

When disaster strikes the Chartreuse is forced to dock at Port Town, Finn's home, where strangely enough his poetic gifts prove no match for actual weaponry. Finn and Greyscale soon find themselves at the mercy of the eccentrically diabolical LeReif, who is plotting to marry the local governess (herself once a notch in Greyscale's scabbard). Finn finds he has his hands full between his lady love Sandy and Aurora, LeReif's own house poet. There is only one way out of a tight fix like this, and Finn and Aurora square off in a hilarious, climactic poetic duel. After a clever reversal and a crossed blade or two, all ends happily with some serious smooching (just tell the kids to look away, if they haven't already). Gamers of a certain age will also find echoes of George Lucas's famous Monkey Island, a newly re-released series in which players succeed by their wits, not their weaponry.

The cast is rounded out with spirited performances by Maggie Erwin, Megan Reichelt and Doug Wilder, each of whom have the delicious fun of doubling roles on ship and shore; Erwin switches from a gruff First Mate to a ditsy governess with ease, while Wilder manages the transition from dim-witted Lookout to pimped-up evil genius, and Megan Reichelt steals the show by turns as a lovelorn navigator and LeReif's leggy, femme-fatale poet. Meanwhile if you like a sea shanty or two, Neil McFadden obliges with a fun selection of pub classics.

Flying V is part of a new generation of artists as much at home in the Social Network as the stage; Fernebok's script was workshopped in traditional fashion at the Kennedy Center, but with a presence in both Facebook and Twitter ( , ), the company has demonstrated the savvy to reach new and emerging audiences on their home turf. They are also part of the new wave of artists who use for fundraising, a welcome and truly liberating innovation in theatre financing.

For all the fun, this production does have its quirks; with his turntable-set, Joseph Musumeci makes ingenious use of the Writing Center's cramped performance space; but the placement of the Chartreuse's crow's nest leaves Wilder to deliver the bulk of his lines as the ship's Lookout from behind a sizeable (and, it turns out, portable) mast. The compressed production schedule led inevitably to temporary glitches in sound levels as well. But this spirited production of a very clever play is well worth the effort, and certainly worth the money-what makes Flying V's show even sweeter is its insistence on tickets cheaper than most movie houses. So if you're tired of so-called 3D film with those silly sunglasses, it's high time you checked out the original, inimitable, ultimate 3D of a hilarious live show.

The Pirate Laureate of Port Town runs February 1-February 17, 2013; Thursdays through Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm. Performances to take place at The Writer's Center, 4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD.

Tickets for The Pirate Laureate of Port Town are $10 and can be purchased through Brown Paper Tickets online at, or at the door starting one hour before the performance.

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From This Author Andrew White