by Chuck Graham,
Feel like a kid again, sitting cross-legged on the floor listening to a colorful storyteller take you away with animated accounts of 19th century sailing ships on stormy seas full of giant sea monsters, alluring native islanders and oysters full of pearls.
That’s the promise of the Rogue Theatre in its newest production “Shipwrecked! An Entertainment – The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (As Told By Himself).”
And tell them he does. David Morden, tall and broad shouldered, is completely believable as Rougemont the self-seduced describer who so vividly believes in his own fantastic fables.
The play does have a contemporary playwright, Pulitzer Prize-winning Donald Margulies (“Dinner with Friends”), who must have been delighted to be capturing such old-fashioned joy stimulating one’s most playful imagination.
Cynthia Meier directs this production with fun and flair. It is impossible not to be drawn into the make-believe of sound effects created by wind machines and thunder sheets, along with all manner of clacking, cracking, bonging and banging provided by Angela Dawnielle Horchem, Dawn C. Sellers and Matt Walley while actors Patty Gallagher and Joseph McGrath play a variety of costumed roles to complement Rougemont’s autobiographical adventures.
We are told Louis de Rougemont was a real person of rock star proportions in Victorian England, receiving a medal of honor from Queen Victoria herself. But when cynical scientists began questioning the veracity of Rougemont’s fanciful rambling, his fame collapsed.
We in the audience are left to decide among ourselves whether this daring explorer of such dashing mien was a man of winning ambition pulled down by the jealousy of his peers, or just another blowhard willing to lie a lot to keep the public’s attention.
Well, the play is called “An Entertainment” after all and that is exactly what we get – truth be damned. Morden delivers an amazing performance. His role is practically a 90-minute monologue enhanced by occasional commentary and those wonderful sound effects.
On opening night everyone was talking about McGrath’s impersonation of Rougemont’s faithful dog Bruno. Clearly, McGrath spent considerable time observing large canines at the dog park. He’s also effective in a brief appearance as Queen Victoria.
Gallagher powers through all of her roles, including that of a hard-drinking sea captain, with boundless energy and a twinkling eye. Watching her is like following that bouncing ball.
At the Rogue Theatre it is traditional to precede each performance with 15 minutes of music connected in some way to the play being staged. For “Shipwrecked” the full cast presents vocal renditions of Lewis Carroll’s poem “Jabberwocky,” the tale of “The Owl and the Pussycat” and a dramatic presentation of “On the Road to Mandalay.” This is not to be missed.
“Shipwrecked! An Entertainment – The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (As Told by Himself)” continues through Jan.22 in performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, at the Rogue Theatre, 300 E. University Blvd. Tickets are $30, with several discounts; half-price nights Jan. 12 and 19. For details and reservations, 520-551-2053, or visitwww.theroguetheatre.org