Review: Boston Events Insider

by Revonda Pokrzywa, Boston Events Insider

4.5 out of 5 stars

When you think about it, the lives of pirates and the lives of the privileged are not so different. That's the premise of the hilarious, world-premiere musical, "Pirate Lives!" with book and lyrics by David Marino, who also directs, and music by Stephen Gilbane. If you're somewhat dubious about this claim, and even if you're not, you should check out the arguments made by this Flat Earth theatre company production. In "Pirate Lives!", the beleaguered pirate captain of the ship "The Coward" seeks to repair his damaged reputation by taking on a new crew and confronting the menace that caused all of his problems in the first place. Unfortunately, the only crew willing to sign on happen to be a set of London socialites. In spite of their abilities to safely navigate dinner parties and their familiarity with private ships, the original crew members are justifiably dubious of the new recruits' sea-faring abilities. What follows is a so-called "comedy of mariners", chock full of plot twists, witticisms, double entendre and of course swash buckling piratey goodness. You can catch all of the high seas adventure, without the inconvenience of sea-sickness, at the Arsenal Center for the Arts in Watertown from now through April 28th.

What impressed me most of the Flat Earth Theatre's production of "Pirate Lives!", was how much fun everyone seemed to be having on stage. It's the sort of fun that is highly infectious. Like most of the audience, I spent most of the performance laughing. The story of "Pirate Lives!" is amusing by itself, with sly allusions to "Private Lives" and "Blithe Spirit", and a dialogue full of one liners. One of my favorite lines occurs early on when pirate captain Jonathan Sherry, played by Eric Rehm asks the pirate Boots, portrayed by Megan Goltermann, to reminisce with him. After he asks her if she remembers happier times before their ship "The Coward" became a laughingstock, she replies with "I remember a time when we weren't so nostalgic". "Pirate Lives!" contains a veritable tidal wave of such one liners, with hardly a break to catch your breath in-between giggles.

Flat Earth Theatre doesn't just rely on an amusing story and catchy live music to make their production of "Pirate Lives!" entertaining. There is, of course, dancing. Sejal Patel's choreography is critical to the humor in many of the scenes. Early on, the socialites begin to sance as Muriel Fenwick, played by Catherine Lee Christie, tells the story of her search for her son. Soon the original crew begins to join in despite the protests of their captain, who is pretty sure pirates shouldn't be performing dance routines. He eventually gives in and joins in somewhat awkwardly. There is also the stage, which was modeled after the whaling ship, the "Charles W. Morgan," by scenic designer Debra Reich. The set adds a certain authenticity to a play that in many respects is a bit far fetched. Flat Earth Theatre's production of "Pirate Lives!" also has something which is often sadly lacking in other musicals, namely puppets. In their climactic battle with the ship "The Retribution", the crew of "Coward" pull out a vaudeville-esque wave set and model ships and proceed to fight for their lives and honor with Popsicle stick versions of themselves. Puppet designers James Hayward and Nathan Kruback are to be commended. The result is utterly charming and adds to the impression that the cast is having a fantastic time playing pirate.

In my opinion, one of the best comic performances of the evening was Goltermann's portrayal of the salty pirate, Boots. Goltermann fully gives in to her inner pirate as she hobbles about the ship and rasps out her lines. With her eye-patch and wooden leg, she is the most stereotypically storybook pirate. This is probably why she's my favorite. There were plenty of other notable performances. Monica Shea gives a delightfully camp rendition of Amanda Darling, a divorcee with very earthy appetites. In addition, I also found Jeffrey Marcus' portrayal of the self-appointed ship phrenologist Dr. Cuthbert particularly amusing.

If, like me, you wait patiently for "Talk Like a Pirate Day", it goes almost without saying that "Pirate Lives!" will be your cup of tea, or bottle of rum, it's that's what you prefer. I recommend that you manage to catch a performance before it sails off at the end of the month. After all, we all need a little escapist adventure from time to time.