Review: ‘The Sea Voyage’ at Baltimore Shakespeare Factory

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Ask most theater lovers if they have heard of Jacobean-era playwrights such as John Fletcher and Philip Massinger and you would probably receive a confused “no.” Fletcher and Massinger, who wrote The Sea Voyage, were overshadowed by the prodigious talent that was William Shakespeare. As directed by Ann Turiano, Baltimore Shakespeare Factory’s (BSF) The Sea Voyage is pure comedic gold, brimming with love, passion, and intrigue.

Liz Galuardi (Hippolyta), Zipporah Brown (Juletta), and Kerry Brady (Crocale). Photo by Will Kirk.

The play, which dates back to 1622, is similar to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, as it involves a shipwreck on a mysterious island. The Sea Voyage is a convergence of Amazon warriors, French pirates, and castaways on the shores of an unnamed land.

In this show, Turiano wrote in her Director’s Notes: “…we see wonderfully familiar comedic types: the swaggering hero, the bumbling idiot, the firebrand, to name a few.”

As far as swaggering heroes–with a comic touch–go, the French pirate Albert was made to order. Played with an intoxicating panache by Dean Carlson, Albert found himself shipwrecked on an island along with his captured love interest, Aminta, and his partners in crime, Lamure (the fabulous Jim Knost), Morillat (David Martin) and Tibalt (Sian Edwards). Allison Bloechl brought a mirth and a bit of vulnerability to the role of Aminta. Bloechl displayed an adept chemistry with Carlson.

Mark Scharf (Sebastian) and Fred Fletcher-Jackson (Nicusa). Photo by Will Kirk.

Mark Scharf was outstanding as the old castaway Sebastian. With his old-man mannerisms and tree-branch walking stick, Scharf, a playwright making his debut at BSF, dominated all his scenes. Fred Fletcher-Jackson did a fantastic job portraying Nicusa, Sebastian’s nephew and also Albert’s associate Franville.

The always-fun-to-watch Betse Lyons, seen last spring in Fells Point Corner Theatre’s 10x10x10 festival, brought a domineering lovesickness to her role as an Amazon, Clarinda. Kathryn Falcone, recently seen in the BSF productions Othello and Julius Caesar, was splendid as Rosella, Clarinda’s queen-mom.

Zipporah Brown, in her BSF debut, stole a few scenes in her role as the Amazon Juletta. I loved Jim Hart in his role as Master. There were fine performances put in by the balance of the cast, including Kerry Brady as Crocale/Surgeon, Gabe Fremuth as Raymond/Boatswain, Liz Galuardi as Hyppolita, and young actors Kas Schroeder and MJ Smith as Sailor 1 and 2 respectively.

Dean Carlson (Albert) and Allison Bloechl (Aminta). Photo by Will Kirk.

I heartily toe-tapped to the pre-show and intermission sea shanties, including “What do you do with a drunken sailor?” As he did in Trust at Fells Point Corner Theatre, Scharf provided accompaniment to the songs with his guitar. Music Director Kristen Cooley brought forth a series of songs that had the audience engaged and participating. Heather Johnston’s costume design, which had a somewhat Jacobean flavor, featured everything from rich greens, tans and floral prints. Falcone’s magnificent red cape was eye capturing.

Director Turiano made full use of the large three-quarter thrust stage. Her actors ran, slid, dragged one another, and even ate off the floor. Much of the uncredited set design was left to the imagination; to simulate a ship there were simply two long ropes tied diagonally from a balcony area to downstage right and left, and a piece of canvas hanging from a balcony. A minor drawback was the less than ideal acoustics in parts of the show, due to the high-ceilinged hall. The Sea Voyage is a raucous ride full of hilarity and hijinks.

Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.

The Sea Voyage plays through November 19, 2017, at the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory performing at The Great Hall Theater at St. Mary’s Community Center – 3900 Roland Avenue, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call (410) 662-9455 or purchase them online.