By Diana Saenger
Playwright Donald Margulies may have won a Pulitzer Prize for his 2000 drama "Dinner with Friends," but he also knows how to tickle a funny bone. "Shipwrecked! An Entertainment - The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont" is a hilarious tale based on the life of Rougemont, a would-be explorer who wrote a book about his made-up adventures in Australasia.
Learning about Rougemont, Margulies became fascinated with the idea of how powerful storytelling can be and penned his play, which runs at North Coast Repertory Theatre through March 15.
Ron Campbell brings the imaginative and jovial Rougemont alive. The moment he steps on stage, he has the audience captivated with this tall tale beginning when he was born and kept sheltered by his English mother (Yetide Badaki).
Once he leaves home at age 16 to look for a job, he's elated to find that Capt. Jensen (Yetide Badaki) is about to set sail for the Orient to look for pearls. He (she) offers Louis a job as a deckhand, and so begins his life's journey.
From becoming the sole survivor of a storm at sea, to being shipwrecked, finding a loyal dog (David McBean) as a companion and marrying Yamba (Yetide Badaki), an Aborigine princess, Campbell and his two fellow actors offer snippets of many of Louis' escapades. All three actors are superb.
McBean is ingenious in his roles of everything from Queen Victoria and a wombat expert to
Dr. Leopold, an alienist. As Bruno the dog, he solicits laugh after laugh with a mere sniff, cock of an eye or a genuine howl. It takes a real talent to become so much with what looks like so little effort.
Badaki is equally skilled in her roles that include a magazine editor, a map maker and a librarian. As Louis' mother, she's kind, sensitive and apprehensive about her son taking off on his own. As Capt. Jensen, she shows a tougher side, giving Louis a tough and rugged captain's lashing when he can't hold his own.
Campbell's unwavering movements and excitement of telling this tale is remarkable. He barely takes a breath when he dons a different hat or costume piece, changes his tone or dialogue tempo to reveal a different episode of his life.
"Shipwrecked! An Entertainment" keeps adults thoroughly entertained. And while children might not be able to keep up with the constantly changing stories, they'll get the giggles over Bruno and the silly characters the other actors portray. They'll particularly enjoy the tales about the giant sea turtles and a monstrous man-eating octopus.
'Shipwrecked! An Entertainment'
- Through March 15
- North Coast Repertory Theatre
- 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach
- (858) 481-1055