Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Long Joan Silver (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

And kindly forgive my use of the above graphic.  I just like it so much better than the official poster.

Methinks plenty of folks would agree that Los Angeles theatre can generally do with a few more pirates.  Not those who shamelessly steal images or other copyrighted material to make a profit, but the swashbuckling seafarers or old.  Shiver me timbers and the like.  And in Arthur M. Jolly's Long Joan Silver frankly it seems as if we've struck gold matey ay arrrrrrrr.

Quick confession--Mr. Jolly is a friend of mine, as is his wife, the director of this show Danielle Ozymandias as well as the actor who plays the title character Bree Pavey.

In essence the play re-imagines Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island with a modern eye, to the point of becoming quite meta at times and yet also frankly deepening both humor and drama.  After all, what is pirate treasure if not ill-gotten gains?  The coming of age tale of young Jim Hawkins (Ilona Concetta Castro) is played for more than laughs but also for poignancy.  After all, "adventure" in this case includes considerable danger and real violence.  One memorable part of the novel--a part which helps elevate it--remains how one of the most dangerous pirates of all proves a parental figure for the orphaned lad. What Jolly does is dive deeper into that notion--just as he includes the lovely twist (historically supported with many instances) of making many (okay in this case ALL) the pirates women.  This fact disturbs the like of Squire Trelawney (Kristian Maxwell-McGeever) perhaps even more than the fact they plan on killing him.

What we get for the price of a ticket ends up as a rollicking good time on a startling number of levels.  Yes, the show is funny, not only for the humorous bits that dot the show, but also for the fact the characters seem to notice the huge plot holes now and then.  Many traits are exaggerated to delightful degrees, including Mrs. Hawkins (Jennifer DeRosa) preternatural powers of hearing and Captain Smollet's (Mitch Rosander) dour willingness to do whatever it takes.  Yet also, one reason we laugh is as a release for the real danger and disturbing undercurrents. After all, central to the whole plot is people killing each other--and of the ways Jim comes of age, that surely is the worst, if also the most exciting.

The cast is pretty large, and all do a fine job in all sorts of ways, up to and including Marian Gonzalez as both Blind Pugh and Long Joan's parrot.  JoAnn Mendelson, Alex Paige Fream, Marissa Galloway, Michaela Kahan, Alina Maris, Amanda Noriko Newman, Celina Lee Surniak, Jillian Riti, Kailey Bray, Morgan Allyce Smith, Mollie Wilson, Tony Williams, Jefferson Reid, Thomas C. Lebow, Tor Jensen Brown and Sarah Nilsen all likewise contribute their acting, combat (thanks to Mike Mahaffey) and skills to a thoroughly fun--and surprisingly thoughtful--show.

Long Joan Silver plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 5pm at the Loft Ensemble, 13442 Ventura Blvd (across the street from the Psychic Eye Bookstore) Sherman Oaks, CA 91423.

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