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The Wreck of the Unfathomable

Writer-director Christopher Kelley's "The Wreck of the Unfathomable," a loose adaptation of Shakespeare's "Tempest," doesn't compare favorably to its source in its dramatic elements but nevertheless works as a generally witty riff on the tale of Prospero and his long-delayed vengeance.

With:
Avram - Darrett Sanders Bellman - Scott McKinley Bursar - Spencer I. Robinson Prior - Carl J. Johnson Arla - Rebecca Rhae Larsen Butler - Dean Lemont Governor - Stewart Skelton Marin - Kathleen Mary Carthy Tula - Erin Fleming Hormon - David Wilcox

Writer-director Christopher Kelley’s “The Wreck of the Unfathomable,” a loose adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Tempest,” doesn’t compare favorably to its source in its dramatic elements but nevertheless works as a generally witty riff on the tale of Prospero and his long-delayed vengeance. This disparity in tone keeps the show from being entirely cohesive yet also reflects an ambition in the writing; there’s potential here if the character’s motivations and the thematic points are made more clearly. Theater of Note’s production benefits from a couple of amusingly blustery lead perfs and a game cast attuned to the goofy rhythms of the play.

Captain Avram (Darrett Sanders) and his crew are beset by a mysterious storm and shipwrecked upon an island. What they don’t know is that the storm was the work of Prior (Carl J. Johnson) via the magic of his servant, Arla (Rebecca Rhae Larsen). Prior was trying to drown Arla’s lover, unbeknownst to Arla, who made the spell possible. Prior didn’t know about the other ship in the vicinity, however, and is gratified to find his half-brother the Governor (Stewart Skelton) among the survivors, if only to have the opportunity to kill him.

Sanders exhibits a sozzled charm as the dipsomaniacal Avram, although the character as written is a bit similar to a certain Captain Sparrow of some renown. Johnson is equally good as Prior, bringing the bloodthirsty selfishness of his role to the surface. Skelton makes for an admirably avaricious Governor, and Dean Lemont is casually excellent as his right-hand man Butler.

Larsen livens the show with angry humor but is perhaps best in a scene in which Prior informs her that her new lover is abandoning her and she merely stands there, lost in sad bewilderment at the world. Kathleen Mary Carthy is quietly fine as the Governor’s current wife and Prior’s ex-wife Marin, a repository of curdled love and sour wit.

Kelley’s direction is crisply efficient, although the play itself could use some tightening. Incidental music is felicitously and energizingly provided by the propulsive sounds of Australian jazz trio the Necks. Manriki Guzzari’s minimalist set — a sand-colored ramp and a blank background wall — is proof that sometimes less is less.

The Wreck of the Unfathomable

Theater of Note; 41 seats; $18 top

Production: A Theater of Note presentation of a play in two acts written and directed by Christopher Kelley.

Crew: Sets, Manriki Guzzari; costumes, Valerie Rothenberg; lighting, Jennifer Dallas; sound, Mark McClain Wilson; production stage manager, Jenna Banko. Opened Oct. 12, 2007. Reviewed Oct. 13. Runs through Nov. 17. Running time: 2 HOURS.

Cast: Avram - Darrett Sanders Bellman - Scott McKinley Bursar - Spencer I. Robinson Prior - Carl J. Johnson Arla - Rebecca Rhae Larsen Butler - Dean Lemont Governor - Stewart Skelton Marin - Kathleen Mary Carthy Tula - Erin Fleming Hormon - David Wilcox

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