by Guest Reviewer T.E. Klunzinger
It was nearly 70 years ago that a young boy sat transfixed in the State Theater in East Lansing, watching (by himself) the grand adventure that is Treasure Island, the classic Disney version featuring superb English character actors, with Bobby Driscoll as Jim Hawkins and above all Robert Newton as Long John Silver, the archetypical pirate for the latter 20th Century and beyond.
Director/Fight Choreographer John Lennox has crafted a similarly rousing version for Lansing Community College’s Summer Under the Stars, albeit without benefit of a ship or an island. While there are a few anachronistic details such as women onboard the Hispaniola (I did miss Squire Trelawney) and one pirate wearing glasses, the dialogue and action move things right along, including the frequent and vigorous hand-to-hand combat with swords and knives.
Brett Allen Eckhart makes a wonderful, wily Long John Silver, a true survivor in the dog-eat-dog pirate world. (Alas, we hear but don’t see his parrot.) Edward Heldt is the steadfast Dr. Livesey, providing intelligent counsel and even a little medical advice throughout the adventure. And Daryth Lennox (OK, the director’s son) is perfect as Jim Hawkins, all earnest innocence as the story begins, learning skills he didn’t know he had, ultimately returning as a confident seaman.
The true delight is Connor Kelly, showing up late as the marooned Ben Gunn – in the film, he was the scariest character because he was so spooky. Kelly is equally spooky, maybe crazy but also crafty as he proves to be the treasure hunters’ secret weapon: when he’s onstage, you can’t take your eyes off him.
Since the set is necessarily sparse, the splendid costumes by Chelle Peterson enhance the tale-telling tremendously. Each pirate is colorfully distinct and the patricians are the very model of understated elegance, in particular Madame Trelawney.
A word about acoustics: the cast maintains good English accents throughout, but in the past, otherwise-good accents could cause problems in an outdoor setting. When I saw this particular performance, rain had forced it inside Dart Auditorium and I understood everything just fine.
“Treasure Island” continues Saturday and Sunday at 7:00 pm in LCC’s Outdoor Amphitheatre, behind Dart Auditorium – and it’s free!