The tale of our castaways

Island Fever

By Mark Dunn
Directed by Ken Terrell
Curan Repertory Company
Sanford Meisner Theatre
Non-union production (closed)
Review by David Mackler

If ever a production could have used gratuitous nudity, Mark Dunn's Island Fever was it. It's a shame there wasn't any -- the play's premise would have supported it. Seven men, all survivors of a cruise ship that sank, are stranded together on a South Seas island. Since the script only occasionally flirts with real emotion, some full-frontal might have made the sitcom dialog more interesting, and kept thoughts away from the realization that the play was a bastard child of a threesome among Cast Away, Gilligan's Island, and Lord of the Flies.

But if Flies wasn't referred to, the allusion to Cast Away couldn't be missed when one character called a found basketball by its brand name (Spalding -- and it was thankfully relegated to beach detritus after that). Repeated references to Gilligan characters didn't help. If it was the playwright's intention to create a gay romp, or at least a turgid melodrama (there was as much sex and angst about sex as in a soap opera), then it got lost between the word processor and the stage. Survival never seemed to be an issue with this bunch -- no, sexual satisfaction was Subject A.

The topic of what, in fact, a straight man would do for sexual gratification with only other men around (some straight, some gay, some conflicted -- all present and accounted for!) was touched on, but it pretty much got lost in the play's real agenda -- a representation of men being with men. Fair enough, but Island Fever kept insisting it was a play, so male kisses, sexual afterglow, attempted rape -- each had its hour on the stage (not really, but sometimes...). One scene, which involved two men not otherwise inclined negotiating how they would assuage their needs, came within shooting range of realness, but was sunk by the combination of a surprisingly sincere performance (Ben Trimm) with one on the level of the lines' being read.

The setting (uncredited) was mostly beach-appropriate items scattered about (starfish, shells), some of those large plastic buckets that double as drums for Times Square musicians (presumably washed on shore from the wreckage), a lean-to hut that got constructed in record time, and some Ikea-ready chairs constructed by one of the guys, a carpenter by trade. The lighting (uncredited) kept everyone illuminated, with some night scenes correctly gauged. Sound (uncredited) included mostly obvious songs to illustrate obvious points, but was it really necessary to play "Tainted Love" more than once?

Director Ken Terrell was as much at sea as anyone, but at least he kept the traffic moving. Of the actors, only Trimm created any interest or sympathy. Brett Nelson gave more life than interest to his character; Chris Cordone, Robert Edward Jonas, and David J. Sporer struggled, somewhat gamely but essentially unsuccessfully; Randy Larsen and Francesco Cura were pleasant to look at, particularly stripped to the waist. Yes, full nudity was definitely called for.

Box Score:

Writing: 0
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Sets: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2002 David Mackler