by Rebecca M. Alvin
Top Image: Rodney Witherspoon II as Louis de Rougemont. Photo: Michael and Suz Karchmer
After the 2020 season that wasn’t, Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater (WHAT) returns with its 2021 season opener Shipwrecked, performed outside the main theater, due to an abundance of caution. This particular production is well-suited to the smaller stage and outdoor ambience, with its cast of three actors, two of whom perform multiple roles, and a single set.
The full name of the play is Shipwrecked! An Entertainment—The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (as Told by Himself), which basically sums up the plot, although a later twist points to a deeper meaning. We begin with Louis de Rougemont (Rodney Witherspoon II) as a sickly young boy in London growing up with his overprotective mother (Jackie Davis) who reads him adventure stories each night. When Louis turns 16 he decides he wants to get on a ship and have his own adventures, much to his mother’s dismay. And adventures he has! After being shipwrecked on a deserted island alone save for the ship’s dog Bruno (Jackson Goldberg), his life takes on many twists and turns that later make for an extraordinary story to tell.
Playwright Donald Margulies makes an attempt at added depth in the second half of the story, however it comes a bit too late and is never developed to its potential as an investigation of truth, reality, and fiction in storytelling. This is unfortunate, however, as an entertainment, it is an engaging tale of adventures and Witherspoon is so thoroughly absorbed in his role as Louis that one can’t help but hang on his every word. In fact, the performances in Shipwrecked, under the direction of Daisy Walker, were all outstanding and kept a Thursday night audience of people in all age ranges (from 10 to 90 probably) entertained throughout the 90-minute show. Davis and Goldberg marvelously support Witherspoon with their various roles. Goldberg has wonderful comic instincts that bring a fantastic absurdity to the script and Davis demonstrates great range playing everyone from the doting mother of a sick child to a drunken sea captain with total commitment.
Whatever other aspirations Margulies may have had for revealing deeper truths about humanity, Shipwrecked is first and foremost an engaging story. Sometimes that’s all a play needs to be, and there is a delightful simplicity in this one. That combined with the stellar cast and direction makes Shipwrecked an excellent return for WHAT in these uncertain times.
Shipwrecked! An Entertainment—The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (as Told by Himself) is performed Wednesdays – Sundays at 7 p.m. through July 25 at WHAT, 2357 Rte. 6, Wellfleet. For tickets ($35/$15 students) and information call 508.349.9428 or visit what.org.