Review: Cardinal Stage Company Treasure Island

The Cardinal Stage Company’s family holiday offering is a grippingly staged production of “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson. In past years they’ve offered “A Year with Frog and Toad” and “Oliver.” Suffice to say that “Treasure Island” more than lives up to the high marks that those productions set. “Treasure Island” is a tale of a mysterious map, of buried treasure, wicked pirates, and adventure all seen through the eyes and memory of a young boy. On the stage at the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre it’s full of drama with colorful characters, tense situations, and plenty of action.

Director Randy White has assembled a very strong cast. Dylan Marks was very effective as the young hero Jim Hawkins. He begins as a kitchen boy, but ends as the master of his own ship. Ken Farrell was a real roarer as the guiltily drunken pirate who stole the map, Billy Bones. Mike Price, totally robed in black and tapping his way about, was eerily frightening as the avenging pirate Blind Pew. Price later appeared on the island in a delightfully balmy portrayal of the castaway Ben Gunn. Robert Hay-Smith and Jack O’Hara were the redoubtable doctor and the silly squire who lead the treasure voyage. Michael Cary was the doubting Captain Smollet of the ship.

At the center of any production of “Treasure Island” is the wonderfully attractive, wicked, and curiously sympathetic Long John Silver. It’s a role that many of the younger audience members may remember from the Muppet movie with Tim Curry. Those of us a bit older may still have vivid memories of Robert Newton. Singer, song writer and actor Tim Grimm was the Cardinal’s Long John Silver. He was by turns coldly menacing, warmly friendly and always boldly mercurial. It was a fine performance and one to remember.

Robert Ludwig’s adaptation of the classic is faithful to the book, but ever conscious of the advantages of the theatre. I thought it was a neat beginning that in his version, the treasure map with its value and the dangers that surround it is right out on stage in the first scene as the pirates literally kill for it. Throughout the Cardinal Stage Company’s production there’s always lots going on. They’ve even brought in the Flying Haggerties and some of the pirates literally flew onto the stage from the theatre balconies. Gordon Strain’s design nicely worked as an intimate inn, the deck and poop of a ship at sea and even a bit of sandy beach. Alexandra Morphet’s costumes were varied, interesting and told stories all by themselves.

Listen to George’s interview with Tim Grimm.

George Walker

George Walker was born in Winchester, Virginia, and raised in Owl’s Head, Maine, and Valhalla, New York. After graduating from the University of Michigan, he came to Bloomington in 1966 and completed an M.A.T. degree in English at Indiana University. George began announcing for WFIU in 1967. Currently, along with regularly hosting classical music shows, he interviews artists in a wide variety of areas and reviews plays and operas. He’s the proud father of grown sons Ben Walker (and his wife Elise Katzif Walker) and Aaron Walker. In his time away from WFIU, George enjoys an active life with wife Carolyn Lipson-Walker, singing, reading, exercising and playing guitar.

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