Oldcastle Theatre to open 2017 season with "Shipwrecked!"

Bennington troupe to take on Donald Margulies' popular play

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This article was updated on May 11, 2017, to correct the name of Donald Margulies.

BENNINGTON — Its title alone: "Shipwrecked!" conjures images of Robert Louis Stevenson novels and 19thcentury tales of seafaring heroes.

Some of that imagery will be on display in Oldcastle Theatre Company's first show of the 2017 season, opening May 19. "Shipwrecked! The Amazing Adventures of Louis De Rougemont (As Told By Myself)" is an offering from Pulitzer prize -winning playwright Donald Margulies, and directed by Oldcastle artistic director Eric Peterson.

But the play goes much farther with its nuances and underlying themes. Peterson said that hidden in plain sight of the true story is also the question of how far human beings are willing to blur the line between fact and fiction in order to leave their mark on the world.

He also noted how the play's acting will flesh it all out.

"Theatre is an actor's medium and this play is a perfect example of why," Peterson said. "The play's three actors create a slew of rich, varied characters using their nimble, expressive voices and athletic bodies. They're each inventive and creative and bring a wonderful improvisational quality."

De Rougemont is played by award-winning actor John Hadden, a founding member of Shakespeare and Company in Lenox, Mass, and former artistic director at Hubbard Hall Theatre Company. Hadden recently took on A.R. Gurney's classic "Later Life" at Portland Stage Company, to critical acclaim.

Oldcastle audiences also will see Hadden later this season in his one-man play "Confessions of a Masked Man."

David Joseph plays a variety of roles in "Shipwrecked!" following his portrayal of Charles Chaplin with Oldcastle in last season's "The Consul, the Tramp & America's Sweetheart," for which he earned a Berkshires Theatre Award nomination.

Joseph said that taking on multiple roles is something which allows him to flex his acting muscles.

"Between all the different English pedestrians, experts and tribes-people, I play about 16 characters, including one dog and even The Queen of England," David said. "I've done many quick change, multiple character shows where I switch from one character to the next within a breath of time and only the change of a hat."

The playwright, Joseph continued, often will write the character with a particular rhythm and cadence of speech. From there, he said "it's an exercise in imagination and lingual gymnastics, deploying accents and physical manifestations."

"These roles are meant to support the main character who in this production is played by the amazingly talented John Hadden," Joseph said. "I wish to help the audience take this journey seamlessly, while giving John a wonderful sandbox to build the sand castles and dragons, which are the fodder of imagination."

The cast is rounded out by experienced performer Carla Woods, who joins Oldcastle for the first time playing everything from a society lady to a sea captain. Among others, Woods has acted with the Guthrie Theatre, Cleveland Playhouse and the Virginia Stage Company.

Given the dynamic nature of Joseph's and Woods' multiple roles, the plays aesthetics and logistics mesh in the form of rapid shifts in character - as well as in costume. Ursula McCarty, who has added her eye for detail to Oldcastle the past few seasons, said that the costumes for "Shipwrecked!" will be both historically accurate, and whimsical.

"The playwright suggests the costumes should look, as if they were made by children, and that influenced my approach," McCarty said. "The characters that might seem exotic or elite to the actors are more fantastical and whimsically presented than the characters they might encounter in Victorian London."

McCarty explained that the play depicts layers of narrative reality and that she tried to reflect those in colors, patterns, materials and styles. She used primarily sepia tones with dashes of color to carry the spark of de Rougemont's fantastic adventures throughout the play, and to harken a Victorian atmosphere as Woods and Joseph move from one character to another.

"Carla and David never leave the stage and their transitions from character to character are important [to] the reality [part] of the play," McCarty said. "At times they might have only a small prop or costume piece to reference their character. My job is to help them create in a visually interesting way without giving them too much costume to deal with."

In assessing the reflections of his cast and crew, Peterson emphasized that the play is one for the whole family, where both adult themes and pure fun will be valuable takeaways.

"Margulies is one of the finest American playwrights working today and he has such a varied body of work," Peterson said. "This is a perfect show to introduce kids to the magic of theatre. I urge parents with children from eight up to bring them to this production."

"Shipwrecked!" will play from May 19 - June 4 at Oldcastle Theatre Company, 331 Main St., Bennington. Info and tickets: oldcastletheatre.org or 802-447-0564

Reach award-winning freelance journalist Telly Halkias @TellyHalkias


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