SANDY — Treasure Island is a timeless tale of pirates and treachery, told first by Robert Louis Stevenson in his critically acclaimed book and revised for stage and film many times in the years since its debut. Hale Centre Theatre mounted a version of Treasure Island adapted for the stage by Ken Ludwig. The story follows young Jim Hawkins as he has encounters with pirates and finds himself the unwitting recipient of a lost treasure map. He takes up with Squire Trelawney and Dr. Livesy, who help him get together a ship and a crew and they set sail in search of the most sought-after treasure there ever was.
Hale Centre Theatre is well known in the Salt Lake Valley and beyond for its high-quality production value and interesting use of space, and this show was no exception. From the moment I walked into the theatre, I was drawn into the atmosphere of a far-off adventure. There is smoke filling the stage, and set designer Kacey Udy set the mood with canvas sail drape crates and boxes, mimicking well a shipyard or the deck of a schooner. This all does well to prepare the audience for what promises to be a grand adventure on the high seas. As the show began, there was a rousing chorus of voices singing along to a song of sailing and treasure, but the diction of the singers was lacking, making it hard to discern the details of the song itself.
The production as a whole was an entertaining rendition of a classic tale, but there seemed to be more development and time given to the leading actors, while the ensemble was neglected. There were notable differences in costume, dialect coaching, and stage combat competence when comparing the leads to the ensemble actors. Any of these elements on their own may have been a fluke or a missed note in a symphony of performance, but together it gave the impression that the production staff of Treasure Island did not give the entire cast the attention they needed.
Among the ensemble were several actors who seemed to excel independent of any preferential treatment. Abrin Tinney as Billy Bones and Calico Jack was lively and dedicated to his characters. Watching him suffer as he dragged himself around the stage was convincing and heart-wrenching. Kaden Caldwell portrayed Israel Hands in such a way that made me almost like him, even knowing of his evil nature and intentions from the start. The entire ensemble group brought fun and laughter to the stage during the staged musical numbers, shining through the fog, as it were.
Josh Richardson as Long John Silver was a smooth, underhanded charlatan through and through. From the moment the play introduces his character, Richardson gives off an air of trust and welcome, drawing the audience into his deceptions. His one-on-one scenes with Jim were delightful as the bond grew between them, showing a side to the character of Silver that audiences rarely get to witness. While his soft spot for Hawkins is well known and mentioned several times, Richardson’s performance was an opportunity to see it firsthand.
Jim Hawkins was brought to life by the young and vibrant Benjamin Raymant. As narrator of the tale, he is a self-proclaimed 14-year-old at the start of this adventure, and the mannerisms and tendencies displayed by Raymant were truly that of a young adolescent. He told the story with such ease as to make it believable it all happened to him, and he clearly relived each gasping moment for the audience. Raymant is dedicated to giving a fully energetic performance, which included notable moments, such as pushing the body of Israel over the deck after their deadly altercation. Raymant took the care to drag the body as a 14-year-old may do, tripping and grunting with exertion to move the adult-sized body across the large deck. That 60 seconds or so made for a sobering moment as a seemingly young man mimic what he had seen the heartless pirates do with their own kills, and then stop to sob over the impossible situation he had found himself in.
As always with this production company, the effects and stage work were fantastic, including a fully removable ship on the fly system that immersed the audience in the experience of an advanture at sea. The choices made by director Dave Tinney made for an enjoyable night at the theatre. Unfortunately, the reported 39,000 gallons of water surrounding the stage were deeper than the ensemble’s acting, which marred an otherwise delightful evening.