By ERIC MCCREA
Salem Community Theatre opened its 37th season Friday night with “Treasure Island.” This adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson novel was penned by Ken Ludwig, and directed locally by Dan Haueter.
The play begins with a rowdy band of pirates searching for a lost treasure map. The map thief is hiding out at the local inn, where he meets his demise just after passing the map along to young Jim Hawkins, played by Jacob Nash.
Hawkins shares the map with trusted family friends, and together they find a ship and crew to set sail for the island with the buried treasure. Long John Silver, the pirate with a heart of gold, schemes with his fellow pirates to mutiny and take the booty for themselves if they’re able to get the map. Once on the island, Hawkins finds himself much alone to defeat the greedy pirates, but he is oddly aided by the nature of betrayal, as the pirates squabble among themselves.
Half of the pirates in this show were played by women, which is not much of a stretch if you’re familiar with Johnny Depp’s flamboyant portrayal of Jack Sparrow.
Although you never fully believe that the gender- reversed cast members are really male pirates, Melanie Coulter, Abby Cull, Bethany Kholos and Ally Oyster deserve a lot of credit for their enthusiasm and talent.
Several of the other actors were cast in multiple roles. Ed Butch was quite convincing as the nuanced Blind Pew and the straightlaced, debonair Captain Smollet. Dave Wack was easy to forget as Jemmy Rathbone, but extremely memorable as the loony Ben Gunn. Karen E. Hauck-Losito defined duality playing the vulnerable Mrs. Hawkins and the hard-as-nails Anne Bonny. Tyler Stouffer was brief as Captain Flint, but lively and lovable as Squire Trelawney, the perfect partner for the impressive Mark Kholos’ Dr. Livesey.
The strongest member of the cast was Brian K.W.B. Moore as the peg-legged Long John Silver, who gave a performance so believable you eventually forget about his unconvincing and trunklike peg leg. Some actors were difficult to hear, and several members of the audience could be heard discussing this during intermission.
At times, the show felt like a slow-moving drama, although a great vehicle for pirate-character acting. At other times, especially during the sword-fighting scenes, it felt more like a slapstick comedy. The prop weapons were not always realistic, but the show uses minor pyrotechnics to simulate gunfire, which was a sure-fire enhancement.
The set was efficiently designed with every nook and cranny serving more than one purpose.
The show runs Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and next Sunday 2 p.m. For reservations, call 330-332-9688.