Anyone outside the Melodrama Theater on Friday night had to wonder at the commotion within. At 8 PM sharp, the audience begins to laugh. This being melodrama, the actors respond with more humor. The audience laughs harder. Finally, their laughter swells to and remains at a volume of hurricane proportions. One might say a hurricane didn’t blast a three-foot hole in the side of the S.S. Anchovy, and thus commence the tale of “Milligan’s Island,” our raised voices did.
Though each Melodrama Theater production contributes with significance to the melodrama canon, you especially have to admire director Ken Parks’ achievement here. He turns Michael Prince’s plot of the otherwise sunny sitcom “Gilligan’s Island” into a rousing confrontation between Good and Evil. Claustrophobia may have made seven stranded castaways a little snarky but whom could we possibly boo as a dastardly villain? Take the one most unlikely to try to rule the world by means of a sacred idol. Shanghai the pleasure cruise with a map that points to another destination, so to fetch the idol. Thwart the scheme with, first, an inconvenient shipwreck and then some derring-do from unexpected quarters. All of a sudden we have characters that we can scorn, applaud, and ogle.
This production had it all. A funny script, magnificent performances and even a moral lesson on the inevitability of Right to triumph over Wrong ensured that the caper would move quickly and rhythmically. Though the story featured a skipper and his Mate, it’s fair to say that the coxswain of this merry band of sailors was Rick Illes (as in “Isles”). His keyboard narration provided the evening’s barometer, sextant, and compass.
Parks not only effectively manages the pace of the story, he melds the interactions between the characters to ensure that one over-the-top performance doesn’t capsize another.
The cruise was meant to assemble a bunch of unlikely characters and this production did just that, with an emphasis on “characters.” Their personalities nicely set the stage for a skirmish between right and wrong, set in a tropical paradise.
Early on the villain makes him- or herself known. Who could it be? Jonathan Horowitz’s Skipper wasn’t just “brave and sure,” he was hapless and innocent, right? What about Matt Riggle’s Milligan, who wasn’t just a “mighty sailing man” but resourceful as well? Surely not him! Could Dawn Stahlak’s Mrs Powell be more than a snooty socialite married to the eloquent and soused Thurston (Ken Parks)? (Together they personified the idle- read: idol – rich). What lurked behind Courtney Moon’s Cinnamon LaFontaine’s cinematic good looks and perfect comic timing? Certainly it couldn’t be corn-fed, Kansas-bred Julie Ann Winters (Amber Hubbard), could it? And, for heaven’s sake, not Kevin Kem’s The Professor, a nerdy but resourceful man of science?
Performances are 7:30 PM, Fri. & Sat, 4:30 PM, Sat., and 7 PM, Sun. The show runs until March 6. Tickets are $14-20. The Theater is located at 429 Shoreline Village Drive, Long Beach, CA 90802. For more information call 562 495 5900 or visit www.allamericanmelodrama.com.