The Spinning Tree Theatre has proven that elaborate sets and costumes aren’t necessary for a hit show. Such a show can be performed in a charming puppet theater, with the barest minimum of scenery and costumes when you have a fabulous cast, as they do in “Shipwrecked! An Entertainment, The Amazing Adventures Of Louis De Rougemont (As Told By Himself). The play written by Pulitzer Prize winning writer Donald Margulies is the tale of a young man who goes to sea and in a storm ends up on a deserted isle. In the end it is up to the audience to decide for themselves if it is a heroic adventure or a massive hoax.
Charles Fugate who plays Louis De Rougemont brought the play to the attention of the Spinning Tree Theatre, according to Andy Parkhurst the Managing Director. Fugate has appeared in numerous other productions in Kansas City; A Christmas Carol at the Kansas City Repertory Theater, Next Fall and Music Man at the Starlight. Fugate is superb in the role of the title character telling his tale. He does such a grand job of opening the imagination of the audience that at times they feel as though they are on the ship, or alone with him on the island.
Only two other characters appear on stage with Fugate and both give an extremely strong performance. Jennie Greenberry is making her debut with the Spinning Tree Theatre in her multi-character role. She has appeared previously at the American Heartland Theatre, the Coterie and the New Theatre Restaurant. Whether she is the mother of a young Louis or the aborigine wife of an older Louis, her performance is magnificent. To make all the character changes, voice and meager costume changes is extraordinary to watch.
Bob Linebarger is Player 2 in the storytelling which is reflective of a vaudeville romp. Linebarger has appeared at the Unicorn Theatre, the Living Room Theatre and the Coterie. Like Greenberry, Linebarger plays several roles during the show. He is the loving dog of Louis and stranded on the island with him. His dog costume is produced with only a hat with long ears attached, yet with his body language and his actions (biting of fleas, raising a leg) transforms him into man’s best friend. He later appears as the Queen of England and causes a loud roar of laughter as he walks upon the stage.
Lineberger and Greenberry under the direction of Michael Grayman not only appear as numerous characters on stage but also handle on the set sound effects, properties and costuming. It can only be imagined how difficult it would be to handle all their duties so expertly.
There are many shows being produced in Kansas City, but this is one that is suitable for the entire family and deserves to be seen by everyone. This is one show that could be seen two or more times, with the same or more enjoyment as the first. “Shipwrecked” continues through Feb. 17 at the Paul Mesner Puppet Studio.