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Swashbuckling pirate's tale comes to life on ACT stage

March 11, 2011
By DIANE SPEER/News Lifestyles Editor

Shiver me timbers. Alpena Civic Theatre sure knows how to turn a swashbuckling pirate's tale into great fun.

Between seafaring tunes for background music, richly detailed costumes, an imaginative set that features not just one but two ships on stage, plus a whole passel of colorful characters, ACT's "Pirates of the Great Lakes" proves to be a merrymaking experience.

The show, written by Michigan playwright Tim Kochenderfer, opened Thursday for a two-week run. Directed by Donna Mullen, this spoof about slightly misguided buccaneers (they think they are sailing on the ocean when it's really Lake Huron) offers two and half-hours worth of ship-shape comedy that is heavy on the pirate lingo and corny jokes.

As expected, there are all the usual pirate accoutrements the eye patch, the peg leg, spyglasses, a mutiny, sword fighting and buried treasure. It's all harmless family-oriented entertainment, that's for sure.

Right from the start, the audience learns the Andreas family inn on the shores of Lake Huron is on the verge of closing. When a overthrown pirate captain winds up in town with a map and a scheme for finding buried treasure, young Johann Andreas thinks he might just know a way to help the pirate, save the wasp-infested inn and snag the girl of his dreams.

Dylan Goike does a really nice turn as Johann, who has a bit to prove to everyone since he isn't considered nearly good enough for the town doctor's daughter, Delia. Marie Misel handily provides a little sauciness as this love interest in his life.

Paul Brege and Tom Carney are exceptional as the two pirate foes, Captain Composure and Burgundy Beard. Both display plenty of stage presence while depicting their very pirate-like characters. They also are quite adept at getting the laughs.

A motley assortment of other pirate scalleywags adds to the frivolous mix, including ACT newcomers Bob Coleman as Luscious Charlie, Rex Reynolds as Brussel Sprout Roberts, Dave Melville as Hammer Hand John and Landen Revilla as Table Top Joe. All four give amusing performances. So too, does Jeannie Pines as Legs, the alluring wench of a pirate.

While the pirate crew of the mutinous Sea Monkey has devious designs on the buried treasure, the townspeople led by Johann and Captain Composure set sail in their own vessel in hopes of finding the booty first. Some equally engaging characterizations are provided amongst these town locals, chief among them the always amusing Donna Roussin as Flap Jack Jane and Doug Niergarth as the pompous Doctor Rose.

Also doing a commendable job are Pat Mullen as the Fisherman, Scott Edgar as Captain Fishbulb and Zach Clement as Charlie, the cabin boy. And certainly not to be overlooked are Julie Smith Mandrick, who plays Johann's mother, and David Browski, who does double-duty as a seaman and the infamous field octopus.

Sashes made from fishing nets, a headdress comprised of seashells and a fisherman's vest lined with lures are but a few of the costume details that fit the show perfectly and were designed by Marilyn Kettler.

Jay Kettler came up with the impressive set design that features the family inn that flips around later in the show to become the ship for the townsfolk, as well as the second ship that sails onto the stage, the Sea Monkey. Nancy Mead gets lots of credit too, for her talent and work as set artist. Among her contributions, she painted a beautiful backdrop that shows the shoreline of Lake Huron.

Also providing important touches are the sounds effects, like the wasps that buzz every time the inn is mentioned, designed by Carol Witherbee, and the lighting that illuminates the shoreline backdrop, designed by Jay Kettler.

ACT's production of "Pirates of the Great Lakes" marks the first time the show has actually been performed at a theatre situated along the Great Lakes. The playwright himself is expected to attend this Sunday's matinee performance, and it's hard not to imagine him being completely impressed with what Mullen, the cast and the production crew here have done with his script.

So ahoy mateys. Remaining performances of this pirate spoof are March 11-13 and March 17-20. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday to Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. For reservations, call the box office at 354-3624.



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