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Bounty at the New Phoenix

The current production of Bounty: the Mutiny, as recreated by the sailors of Pitcairn’s Island, devised and directed by Robert Waterhouse and developed by the New Phoenix Theatre Company, confirms, as if there were any doubt, that the deep thrust of the New Phoenix performance space is one of the most dynamic and exciting in town. Waterhouse and his crew of mutineers take us on an imaginative and intriguing journey back to the 18th century with Captain Bligh and Fletcher Christian. We get a highly theatrical exploration (with some poetic license) into the known facts of a maritime adventure in which a group of Englishmen went native.

The script moves back and forth in time, and employs plenty of doubling of parts, minimal staging, and even a shadow puppet sequence (courtesy of Michele Costa and theatrefigüren) to spin the tale.

Christian Brandjes and Chris Kelly give strong performances as Bligh and Christian. John F. Kennedy is particularly winning as Tynah, the Tahitian chief. The full company boasts Zoe Green Appler, Richard Lambert, Adam Yellen, Geoff Pictor, Alphonso Walker, Jr., and Geoffrey Devereaux.

A great deal of the pleasure of the production comes from surprising turns in a story that, after multiple screen retellings, seemed so familiar. This is a rare occasion when the director’s program notes, filled with delicious historical details, actually heighten our experience.

The excellent set has been designed by Michael Lodick, with superior sound design by Tom Makar and effective costumes by Jessica Wegrzyn.

The performance is likely to inspire a trip to the internet to continue to explore a historic episode that, in terms of 21st-century sensibilities, is more intriguing than mysterious. I found Bounty to be sheer theatrical delight.