Tom Hewitt and Noah E. Galvin in Treasure Island
(© Ken Howard)
Tom Hewitt and Noah E. Galvin in Treasure Island
(© Ken Howard)
Despite some clever minimalist staging -- in which rolling platforms, constantly reconfigured, serve as boats, docks, decks, and fortifications -- and a number of stellar performances, a certain monotony in the pacing creates a drag on the new version of Treasure Island, now unfurling in the grand space of Brooklyn's Irondale Center.

As adapted by director B.H. Barry and playwright Vernon Morris from Robert Louis Stevenson's classic novel, the script could use some further shaping. Time and again, voices mount, weapons are brandished, and soon yet another pirate is dispatched, victim to his own monomaniacal greed or that of his mates. Every scene begins and ends with a sea chantey (hauntingly intoned by Ken Schatz, often perched atop a makeshift mast), and while each segment has its own arc, the whole starts to feel more like an aggregate of similar episodes than an epic saga.

Young Noah E. Galvin is perfect as the plucky lad Jim Hawkins, who embarks on the adventure of a lifetime after discovering a treasure map upon the death of a rum-addled ex-buccaneer residing in his mother's seaside boardinghouse (John Ahlin plays the reprobate; Schatz Jim's timid mother, who's not above rifling a dead man's chest when the rent is in arrears). With pirates in hot in pursuit, Jim takes his find to a local squire (Kenneth Tigar, a font of garrulous indiscretion), who -- with the help of fine, upstanding Dr. Livesey (Rocco Sisto) -- gamely commandeers a ship and commissions a crew to search for the loot.

Unfortunately, their choice of cook is inauspicious: Even those of us who haven't tackled the novel since grade school will quickly recognize Tom Hewitt's wondrously smooth, if one-legged, Long John Silver as a lubricious villain hiding in plain sight. Jim is on to Silver's tricks soon enough (after happening to overhear him urging his cronies to mutiny), so it's never really quite clear why his fondness for the schemer persists -- even after being kidnapped, threatened with torture, and nearly eviscerated!

Other standouts among the cast are Steve Blanchard as a principled captain straight off the cover of a romance novel; Tom Beckett as a treasure seeker marooned for three years, and Schatz (again) as a faithful retainer whose quiet, unassuming death lingers as the most moving scene in the entire play.