Saturday, June 18, 2022

"Pyrates" by Theatre Coup d'Etat at Historic Fire Station 24

Ten years ago, I saw the first part (Millennium Approaches) of Tony Kushner's epic two-part masterpiece Angels in America on stage for the first time, by a new-to-me theater company Theatre Coup d'Etat. I was so impressed with how this small company handled this big play, and "found myself wondering when Theatre Coup d'Etat will present the second part." The bad news is they never did, and now they're leaving town. The good news is I've been fortunate to witness ten years of their work, which is always interesting, thoughtful, and unexpected, most often produced in an intimate non-traditional space; and that they have one more show before they leave #TCTheater. Pyrates, an original play by Artistic Director and frequent actor/director with the company, James Napoleon Stone, follows in this tradition. It's a rousing pirate story about loyalty, legacy, and camaraderie, featuring a talented and diverse cast and live music in an up-close-and-personal in-the-round space. Your final chance to see Theatre Coup d'Etat perform in #TCTheater ends on June 27 (click here for info and tickets).

Taelyn Gore as Tanith (photo by SmouseHouse Photograpy)
Our story follows a young non-binary sailor-turned-pirate Tanith (before we had the right words, so they're often referred to derisively as hermaphrodite). They overthrow a cruel and unfair captain, and are voted into captaincy by the grateful crew. It's the 1680s, and there's some political intrigue involving the English and the Spanish. Tanith and the crew get involved with the Jamaican governor with a shady past, Henry Morgen (who has been immortalized as Captain Morgan). Storms, battles (with some thrilling swordplay), and betrayals come down to the final conflict between Tanith and Morgan, a battle between honor and corruption.

Brian Joyce as Captain Morgan (photo by SmouseHouse Photography)
James Napoleon Stone also directs the play, with a sense of humor and adventure. Taelyn Gore is great as Tanith, exuding confidence and swagger, and also playing the emotional side as Tanith experiences tragedy (all with a Jamaican accent!). The talented cast also includes Meri Golden as Tanith's mother and the ship's doctor, Kaz Fawkes as a good-hearted sailor, John Goodrich as the ousted captain, Alec Bercham as a French sailor who is a rival to Tanith, Joshua McCauley as a nervous and not quite trustworthy employee of Morgan, and last but not least, Brian Joyce as the larger than life legend Captain Morgan, with a presence as large and colorful as his headwear.

the Pyrates (photo by SmouseHouse Photography_
Speaking of, the costumes are fun and piratey, from the headwear to the footwear - lived-in tunics and pants, gorgeous jackets with tails, and a wide array of tricorn and other hats (costume design by Chelsea Wren). The open space of the fire station, with brand new wood floors and whitewashed brick walls, is surrounded by a single row of chairs on all four sides. Large metal hooks hang from the ceilings, from which thick ropes are unspooled and tied to heavy chests on either side of the space, mimicking the ship's sails (similar to their production of Moby Dick in 2017). It takes a minute to unfurl these "sails," but the time is well used in the singing of a sea shanty or two, accompanied by the 4-ish piece band with appropriate instrumentation - guitar, flutes, and bodhran included (with music direction by Ben Larson and Reed Reimer). Lighting can be tricky in a non-traditional space, but it's done well and naturally by lighting designer Mark Kieffer. A note about the space - it's not air-conditioned, so dress appropriately and bring water (there's a bar if you forget).

Bon Voyage to Theatre Coup d'Etat! Thanks for all the great and interesting work, #TCTheater will miss you.

Pyrates plays Thursday through Monday nights at 7:30, this weekend and next.