There was a time, stretching into about the middle of the last century, when people didn't get around much. Their adventures rarely took them beyond the county line, and journeys longer than that usually meant some life-altering event rather than entertainment.
For most, the innate wanderlust was satisfied by reading about the adventures of others, or, better, heading out to the community hall, where someone who actually had real, exciting and exotic adventures to talk about would spin their yarns.
The best ones were wildly entertaining, not afraid to stretch the truth as if it were pure rubber. Their tales would captivate and launch a thousand dreams of what excitement must be lurking just beyond the county line.
This seems to be the sort of fellow playwright Donald Margulies had in mind when he wrote about Louis De Rougemont, the adventurer who left home as a boy and spent many decades on the sea, meeting exotic people and fighting larger-than-life creatures, often escaping certain death.
De Rougemont returns to the stage -- in this case Martinez's Campbell Theater -- under the auspices of Onstage Theatre, to once again recount the triumphs and tragedies of life as an adventurer, in Margulies' massively titled "Shipwrecked! An Entertainment -- The Amazing Adventures of Louis De Rougemont (As Told by Himself)."
And I bought it all like I would penny candy at a half-price sale. The performance was sometimes ragged (a health emergency resulted in Mark Cornelius assuming the title role at the eleventh hour) but certainly, as the title promises, entertaining. When I saw it, Cornelius was carrying the script onstage, but cleverly making it an integral part of the performance, as if it were an old book a crusty old adventurer/performer would use to keep his place in the tale.
De Rougemont is the sort of fellow who gets a little wild and carried away when the audience is rolling with him. And Cornelius plays it perfectly, creating a character who is both larger than life and badly bruised by it. And this all contributes to the telling of this wild and wonderful story that veers from being wildly humorous (most of the time) to sad and poignant.
Rounding out the show is a small cast -- including Linda Sciacqua, Anjelica Diaz, Sal Russo and Lewis Smith -- playing dozens of characters, All demonstrate a wonderful flair for both comedy and drama and squeeze the most out of sometimes tiny roles to stir up a bit of laughter or pathos. The players utilize a variety of accents and even dance a step or two when required -- truly an impressive crew.
Director Randall Nott, who also designed the set and lighting, does a great job helping his performers capture a full measure of the show's goofiness. The biggest set piece, about a third of a sailing ship, pokes out from the tiny stage and into the auditorium, setting the understanding that this isn't going to be just another night at the theater.
In a bizarre sort of way, the show makes you yearn to find a place where Louis De Rougemont is accepting volunteers for another one of his adventures.
Contact Pat Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Donald Margulies, presented by Onstage Theatre
Through: June 21
Where: Campbell Theater, 636 Ward St., Martinez
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes, one intermission