March 26 2009 12:00 AM

Icarus pirate play falls short of potential


Old school pirates and their comical misadventures have never gone out of style, but they have been re-colored by Disney and Hollywood. Icarus Falling attempts to harness the current hunger for me-hearty stories with their production of Charles S. Brooks’ “Wappin’ Wharf.” Unfortunately, the script’s non-contemporary language and some very bland performances sink the show’s chances of sailing the high seas.

Director Jeff Croff, in his effort to make the show widely accessible for all audiences, neglects to ground the production in a more specific genre. Neither Croff nor his cast of well-dressed pirates have decided whether they are performing a light tale for children, a comedy with serious plot points or a thriller with comedic elements. To complicate matters, the narrator/Old Salt, played by Tim Beam, makes it very clear from the beginning that the “players” are just that: actors who would often acknowledge the presence of the outside narrator but not the audience itself, except for key characters who would wink and talk to the audience. The inconsistencies of some actors breaking the fourth wall are accented by the accents themselves, thick with growls and pirate dialects that often obscure rather than enhance the dialogue. As a result, most of the back-story and offstage characters feel inconsequential to the plot and the characters themselves.

The basic story revolves around Duke (Allan Ross), Patch-Eye (Robin Harris), Red Joe (A.S. Freeman) and a pretty lass named Betsy (Sarah Klepinger). Duke is a peg-legged, growling pirate assisted by the single sighted Patch-Eye and in love with Betsy, the young dishwasher at the Wappin’ Wharf bar. He is suspicious of fellow pirate Red Joe, a better looking, better talking young man who shares similar affections for Betsy. All are repulsed by the hideous bar wench Darlin’ (Rebecca Tremble), who actually fancies Duke. When the hookhanded Captain (Larry Neuhardt) arrives and spills plans of running a ship aground, drama ensues and true identities are revealed.

Overall, every actor gives at least an adequate performance. No one, however, comes close to making the show worth watching past the first hour-long act. From poorly memorized lines to genuinely uncharismatic pirates (how is this possible?), “Whappin’ Wharf” trudges on for too long with too little action or humor. Even the promise of audience interaction is ruined, when the rehearsed moment arrives and the on-stage cast virtually ignores the audience members asked to participate.

In many ways, Icarus Falling may have met their intended goals by acting out a short, cheesy script with bad pirate jokes performed in a local dingy bar. Instead, we are left with a mostly serious and boring tale lacking the campy, corny fun many would expect.

‘Wappin’ Wharf’

p.m. Thursday-Saturday 2 p.m. Sunday Icarus Falling Theatre Ensemble
R.E. Olds Anderson Rotary Barn, Woldumar Nature Center, 5739 Old
Lansing Road, Lansing $10/$5 (517) 898-1679 www.icarusfalling.com