HO HUM THERE, MATEYS
by Kestryl Lowrey
published May 2, 2008
The Accidental Patriot: The
Lamentable Tragedy of the Pirate Desmond Connelly, Irish By Birth, English By Blood, and American By
now playing Off Broadway at the Milagro Theater
through May 17
I really wanted to like The Stolen Chair
Theatre Company’s The Accidental Patriot: The Lamentable Tragedy of the Pirate Desmond Connelly, Irish
By Birth, English By Blood, and American By Inclination. I did. The title alone, promising an overdone campiness that could easily overflow into absurd hilarity, was enough
to put me in a favorable mindset. And furthermore, the press release mentioned
pirates! In the wake of Disney's successful Johnny Depp franchise, could there be a better way
for a theatre to ensure box office success?
I settled back in my seat, staring at the
masts and rigging, prepared for entertaining escapism. I waited. And waited. And waited. As the play commenced, I found my hopes
and expectations for the production dashed against its rough and rocky reality. A lackluster ensemble, mumbling to the tunes of sea shanties
and folk songs, opens and closes the production, as well as providing awkward punctuation to scene changes. The cast seemed largely confused, sometimes going about their business with the overpowering passion and
pomp of melodrama, only to sink into a low energy pretense of naturalism that felt out of step with the script.
The Stolen Chair's premise for the show has
potential. Springing from Errol-Flynn era swashbucklers, the production seeks to combine the high
melodrama of early cinema with the passions of Greek tragedy. They fall short of this goal, and
the script (written by Kiran Rikhye), director (Jon Stancato), and actors all share in the blame.
As it's written, the structure and style of the script fail to give the director and actors the energy and velocity that they need to push the
piece over the edge. We're left with bored pirates swinging on rigging, or occasionally trying to
steal laughs with a poor impression of Jack Sparrow (the British midshipmen, for their part, are largely negligible, and can only be
distinguished from the pirates by manner of costume, but not their physicality, actions, or diction.)
For their part, the leads take themselves
too seriously, and they try too hard to convince us. Part of the fun should be the awkward
ridiculousness of their characters and circumstances, but Cameron J. Oro (Desmond) and Liza Wade White (Georgiana) spend half their time
playing their roles with the honesty and devotion of an aspiring Method actor. The resulting mush
leaves us wondering what Stancato intended in his direction. If the audience was not already
floundering, the lengthy scene changes would push us overboard.
Accidental Patriot disappoints because it steals technicolor images from the American imagination and
renders them in broad grayscale. The occasional moments of vibrancy and humor that emerge when
the actors give enough overwrought emotion to really play the melodrama of the intended style only serves to emphasize all the other scenes in
which such color is lacking. This inconsistency hurts the play; it needs to be all or nothing. I
never thought I would tell a potential audience this, but in this case: if you're craving pirates, rent Captain Blood and stay home.
kestryl.lowrey @ stageandcinema.com