.‘Shipwrecked!’ at Cinnabar

Cinnabar Theater’s final, regular season show to be staged in the “little red schoolhouse on the hill” is Shipwrecked! An Entertainment; The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (as told by himself) by Donald Margulies.

Directed by Cinnabar education associate Trevor Hoffman, it’s a story in the spirit of Gulliver’s Travels or Baron Munchausen. The show runs in Petaluma through April 28.

Set during the height of the British Empire and based on the real-life autobiography written by Louis de Rougemont, the play is a meditation on truth and the nature of storytelling, told as a larger-than-life frolicking adventure.

music in the park san jose
music in the park san jose

We follow a fourth-wall breaking de Rougemont (Nathan Cummings) as he transitions from small, sickly boy to shipwrecked sailor trying to survive with only his dog Bruno (an enjoyably committed Trevor Braskamp) for company. Suddenly his life is changed again when another castaway and her family wash up on his beach.

The small family manages to return to her home island, where the “natives” are so impressed by de Rougemont’s acrobatic skills that they make him chief. Eventually de Rougemont makes it back to London, where his story makes him a celebrity…until it doesn’t when journalists start examining and questioning the unbelievable details of it.

An ensemble piece, the show’s myriad of characters other than de Rougemont are played by only four actors. In addition to Braskamp, the play also features Andrew Patton, Amelia Bridgers and a highly committed but hard to hear Kellie Donnelly. The cast works well together providing great Foley (sound), fun effects and inventive solutions to the demands of such a spectacle show, including some very amusing shadow puppetry.

The cast is helped by the chameleon-like stage design by Trevor Braskamp and the utilitarian nature of Reynalda Cruz’s costumes.

I need to insert a content warning for Indigenous communities here. Harmful words are used below. I’m sorry.

This production is a faithfully well-produced representation of the script. However, the script’s extolling of de Rougemont’s bravery in tricking the “savages” (used multiple times), and braving the aboriginal “cannibals,” is colonialist.

Yes, the argument can be made that since the narrator is shown to be unreliable and since it faithfully represents the Victorian view of Indigenous peoples, that this language is appropriate. But the whole premise of this play is to question the nature of how we tell stories.

So why does the script never ask the question of why it is a white male fantasy which we are still discussing?

‘Shipwrecked!’ runs through April 28 at Cinnabar Theater, 3333 Petaluma Blvd. N.,Petaluma. Fri–Sat, 7:30pm; Sun, 2pm. $15–$45. 707.763.8920. cinnabartheater.org.


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