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Osheroff’s ‘Shipwrecked!’ brings ‘brash and brave’ comedy to Riverside Theatre


Ahoy, there! -- photo via Riverside Theatre
Ahoy, there! — photo via Riverside Theatre

SHIPWRECKED! An Entertainment

Riverside Theatre — Through Sunday, Oct. 18 (times vary)

The inaugural show of Riverside Theatre’s current season starts things off with warmth and wonder, in a production of Donald Margulies’ delightful 2007 play SHIPWRECKED! An Entertainment — The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (as Told by Himself). Fans of the classic 1988 Terry Gilliam film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen will be hard-pressed not to draw parallels. Directed by the theatre’s new artistic director Sam Osheroff, the homage to 19th century “platform entertainment” disguises a cleverly crafted meditation on the nature of truth and the beating heart of storytelling. Where Gilliam’s beloved story was a riot of cameo appearances and fantastical vistas, Margulies requires just three incomparable actors and an impeccably set stage, which Riverside indisputably provides.

The delightful scenic design (Kevin Dudley) catches the eye immediately upon entering the theater. Beautiful ocean blues tie the frenetic energy of the stage pieces together. The audience is warned, early on, of a gangplank that will extend into the seating area. Special mention must be given to Properties Master Sarah Fried, who has pulled together a seemingly infinite number of wide-ranging and esoteric items, most of which serve multiple purposes in the show, almost all of which are used for sound as well as visuals.

Most sound effect and creative visual work is done by Player 1 and Player 2, performed by the tireless Katherine Slaven and Joe Osheroff. Within the conceit of the play, they are the assistants to Paul Riopelle’s de Rougemont, as he performs his “Entertainment.” The barriers between fact and fiction, between simple reality and capital-t Truth, are in constant flux throughout this piece. “What does a man leave behind but his name, and the stories he tells?” is the question at the core of de Rougemont’s ruminations. His is a view of storytelling that makes it vital, both to his humanity and to our own.

This show is equal parts head and heart, however. No amount of philosophy can distract from the sheer amount of fun being had on stage. The physical work throughout is hilariously amazing. There are masterful tumbles and pratfalls, the delightfully versatile Slaven morphs her physicality with each new role she plays, and the engaging J. Osheroff spends a large chunk of the show fully committed to the part of a lovable canine companion. At one point in the show, all three actors spend several breathless moments balanced precariously atop three rolling, round-top trunks. Physical comedy is always a challenge to do well and sheer joy to watch when it is; SHIPWRECKED! maintains that sheer joy throughout.

The unflagging energy of Riopelle shoots like an arrow through this production. His de Rougemont is brash and brave; he carries both youth and age with grace and vigor. This piece requires the skills of both of the similar-but-distinct disciplines of acting and storytelling; Riopelle does both exceedingly well. The audience is in the palm of his hand from the second he walks on stage through the curtain call.

SHIPWRECKED! An Entertainment is a production not to be missed. The whole family will fall in love with the vivacity, humor and introspection of this show. It runs through Oct. 18 at Riverside Theatre (times vary). More information here.


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