THEATER REVIEW: “Shipwrecked!” @ Oldcastle Theatre Co. [Berkshire on Stage]
Review by Gail M. Burns
What more does a man have but his name and the story he tells? Everything else is dust.
The character of Louis de Rougemont poses this question late in Shipwrecked! at a time when he is losing both. Louis de Rougemont was a real man, but his name was not Louis de Rougemont. His story was his own because he wrote it, not because he lived it. The real man was a shadowy figure behind the character and the myth he created. He died alone and in poverty.
De Rougemont, born Henri Louis Grin, lived from 1847-1921, at the time when frontiers were vanishing and there were fewer and fewer undiscovered corners of the world. His fable of being shipwrecked in the coral sea, surviving on a desert island like Robinson Crusoe, living amongst the aborigines in the Australian outback where he was considered a god sold thousands of copies of The Wide World Magazine. Donald Margulies’ 2007 play allows de Rougemont to tell “his story” with the help of two additional actors who play all the other parts in his fantastical drama.
At Oldcastle Theatre Company in Bennington, Eric Peterson has assembled a dream cast. John Hadden anchors the play solidly as de Rougement, with a twinkle in his eye and the exuberant wonder of a child as he spins his tale. Carla Woods and David Joseph play all the other roles, and Joseph also subs for Hadden during the acrobatic scenes in which de Rougement entertains and impresses with his non-existent gymnastic skills.