Writer: Christopher Leidenfrost
Director: Rick Leidenfrost-Wilson
Reviewer: Jamie Rosler
A purely entertaining show, with improvised songs, pirates, and an evil sea witch’s curse, is exactly what one should expect from The Greatest Pirate Story Never Told. A great way to spend an hour just outside Times Square, and a unique experience for each performance, the only drawback is that this show doesn’t live up to its own potential.
Upon first walking into the theatre, one is greeted by an usher dressed in full pirate regalia. Or perhaps she’s a damsel in distress. In costume but with no discernible character, the usher sets the tone of Almost, But Not Quite There! A theme, which sadly hinders this production more than once. The set, designed by Katy Roberts, is simple and effective, clearly creating a pirate ship on stage with the use of little more than fabric, rope, the helm at center stage, and a couple of well-placed treasure chests/prop storage bins.
The crew of the Good Shippe Dinglehop enters with energy and charm, immediately interacting with the audience. Captain Henry Martin, played by Christopher Leidenfrost, shakes the hand of every person sitting in the front row, and the relationship, different than at a “normal” night at the theatre, is established. The crew speaks directly to the audience, introducing themselves as both pirates and players. In order to break the curse of the sea witch, played beautifully by Rebecca Diaz and aided in no small part by the costume design of Scott McNeal, the crew of the Dinglehop must complete the sea witch’s story, of which they are only given the prologue. When it turns out that the prologue has been ruined by one of the more inept crew members, and half covered in ink, the Captain turns to the audience for help in filling in the blanks. With the game of Mad Libs complete, we now have the version of the story that will be told that night, for that audience, never seen before and never to be repeated again.
An ingenious mixture of narrative storytelling, musical improv, and short form improv (the format best known from Whose Line Is It Anyway?), with a fair amount of scripted scenes that help move the story through its beats regardless of the audience suggestions, and a handful of scenes that are strictly improvised and based very much on those suggestions, the entire cast works together, and works hard, to meet the demands of the show’s narrative design. At no point was any actor giving less than 100% of his or her energy and focus to the character and scene at hand, but Rebecca Diaz and David Anthony deserve special mention as the not-so-secret lovebirds Lucy and Percy, among their varied rôles.
Puns run amok, and there are enough pirate jokes, New York City jokes, and self-referential actor as waiter jokes to keep a wide swath of audience gleefully entertained, and feeling part of the action. Some jokes, like a seemingly outdated jab at Keanu Reeves, don’t fit the pirate story or the improvised additions but are easily forgiven amid the quick costume changes, funny improvisations, and well-choreographed fight scenes (of which there may be one too many when all is said and done). The closing number is inspired, and almost puts the rest of the show in a slightly dimmer light, unfortunately.
When you walk out of the theatre smiling, though, because you watched a small troupe of actors remain on their toes and on the ball for an hour or so of energetic, completely original, funny theatre, you’ll be happy you had the experience, and might even want to go back for round two.
Reviewed on 6 December 2013