Review: ‘Treasure Island’ by We Happy Few Productions

By Andy Arnold

Ahoy Washington landlubbers! Prepare to set sail on the Hispaniola with Jim Hawkins (Alex Turner), Long John Silver (Wyckham Avery) and the Treasure Island crew: if you dare. Robert Louis Stevenson’s nearly 67,000-word novel is skillfully and entreatingly retold in only 60 minutes after the creative team at We Happy Few Productions hand it to the four-member cast.

L-R: Paige O'Malley, Tosin Olufolabi, and Alex Turner in We Happy Few's production of 'Treasure Island.' Photo by Patrick Landes.
L-R: Paige O’Malley, Tosin Olufolabi, and Alex Turner in We Happy Few’s production of ‘Treasure Island.’ Photo by Patrick Landes.

Treasure Island is the story of young Jim Hawkins who finds a map to the coveted treasure of the notorious pirate Captain Flint. Hawkins enlists local gentleman Dr. Livesey (Paige O’Malley) to prepare for a voyage to the infamous island where treasure is buried. Along the way, a pirate with one leg, Long John Silver, and other wicked buccaneers join the crew, and the expedition begins. The pirates collude to overtake Jim and his friends and claim the treasure for themselves at any cost.

Recognized for “Devising” in the program, Sam Reilly (stage management, design), Jenna Murphy (design), Jon Reynolds, Avery, Director Kerry McGee (visual design, script, cocktails), O’Malley (costumes) and Alex Turner create a performance in which a script, action, and imagination allow the audience to board a vessel. Kiernan McGowan also worked on the script. Keith Hock contributed as dramaturg.

Tosin Olufolabi (Captain Smollett) completes the cast. I’ve only highlighted a lead role each played. Every actor played multiple roles showing extraordinary versatility. Olufolabi’s Ben Gunn and a whiny pirate who “steps outside for counsel” before they vote to overthrow Silver were both marvelous. As is O’Malley’s Israel Hands, who is finally done in by Hawkins in a duel aboard the Hispaniola.

L-R: Alex Turner, Wyckham Avery, and Paige O'Malley in We Happy Few's production of 'Treasure Island.' Photo by Patrick Landes.
L-R: Alex Turner, Wyckham Avery, and Paige O’Malley in We Happy Few’s production of ‘Treasure Island.’ Photo by Patrick Landes.

I saw the play at Otis Street Arts Project, an intimate space between art studios in a loft in Mt. Rainier. Most companies would avoid an action-packed show in such a small space, but not We Happy Few. Murphy and Reilly designed the stage and island fort – deck – so it can easily be moved aside to allow for action center stage. Most props also have more than one purpose, including the treasure and ukuleles. Captain Flint has but one purpose, but he does it well. Did I mention the free cocktail?

Running Time: One hour, with no intermission.

Treasure Island plays May 6 at 7:30 pm at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, 545 7th St SE; May 10, 11, 30, and 31 at 8 pm at Republic Restoratives, 1369 New York Ave, NE; and June 8 at 8 pm at Dwell DC (Alley behind the 1200 block of Florida Ave NE, between Montello and Trinidad) at 8 pm. Purchase tickets online.

Note: Tickets to the June 8 show will be available at the door for a suggested donation.