Highly recommended **** The “Treasure Island” that I remember reading, and admittedly it was a long time ago, had long boring prosy passages between the tiny bits of adventure. Mary Zimmerman has omitted all of the prosy, boring bits in her epic adaptation of “Treasure Island” for Lookingglass Theatre. Although adults will definitely enjoy this swashbuckling classic, it’s way too scary for the smaller set. I give “Treasure Island” 4 Spotlights.
As I’ve said many times, I love going to Lookingglass, the most flexible theater space in the city! You never know what to expect; as everything from stage location to seating, changes for every production. I can remember sitting in baseball bleachers for one play, and rough, wooden Chautauqua pews for another. For “Treasure Island”, a huge curving ship’s deck, complete with rigging, occupies the center of the space with seating on either side. To add to the ship’s ambiance, that entire deck actually swings back and forth to simulate the rocking of the sea.
If I were a director (God, forbid!), I’d have nightmares about finding a child actor to play a part like Jim Hawkins. For all practical purposes, the success (or failure) of the play will rest squarely on his shoulders. I’m happy to say John Babbo meets the challenge. He made it look easy!
Mrs. Hawkins (Kasey Foster) has been struggling to run the family inn since her husband’s death. Although her son, Jim (John Babbo), works hard, she worries about every penny. One day, a scary looking seaman who called himself Captain (Christopher Donahue) took a room in the inn. He seems to be waiting for something, warning Jim to watch for a man with a wooden leg. Meanwhile, he quarrels and/or threatens the Hawkins’ other patrons while owing them a lot of money.
Two sinister looking seamen, one of them blind, demand to see Billy Bones – the Captain. Pirates in disguise, they hand him the dreaded Black Spot. The Captain tells Jim a tale of buried treasure, then tells him to keep the contents of his sea chest safe, especially the papers inside it. When the Captain suddenly dies, Jim and his mother clean out the chest and flee, running to the home of Squire Trelawney (Matt Decaro).
After Jim tells the Squire and Dr. Livesey the story of the pirate treasure, he shows them the map. The Squire decides to hire a ship to find the treasure. He unknowingly hires most of the pirates as his crew, including Long John Silver (Lawrence E. Distasi) as ship’s cook. During the voyage, Jim overhears them planning a mutiny as soon as they reach the island where the treasure is buried.
If you’re planning on taking your family to see “Treasure Island”, remember, this is a scary story! I wouldn’t take a child younger than 10. On opening night, I saw at least three little ones scared to death and crying.
“Treasure Island” runs through January 31st at Lookingglass Theatre, located inside Chicago’s historic Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan at Pearson, Chicago. Running time is 2 hours, 45 minutes, with an intermission. Performances are Tuesdays through Sundays at 7:30 pm. Matinees are scheduled at various times many days during the run. Check with the Box Office for specific dates. Tickets range from $55-$85. Discounted parking is now available at 4 venues: John Hancock Center Self Park; Olympia Centre Self Park; Asbury Plaza; Water Tower Place. FYI (312) 337-0656 or www.lookingglasstheatre.org.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Treasure Island”