The hit television series Lost tracks the lives of plane crash survivors on a mysterious island, winks Heather Capece in a sly marketing maneuver. The family play she is directing, Pirate Island, premiering this weekend at the Vineyard Playhouse, toys with the same theme, only with shipwreck survivors washed up on a deserted island.
“The raft is completely destroyed,” announces Barbara, played by Teo Azzollini, as the curtain rises. “So’s my hair!” gasps Buffy (Bella Maidoff). “There’s no chance of repairing it,” declares Barbara. Trying to fix her hair, Buffy whimpers, “Oh, I don’t think it’s that bad.”
“I’m talking about the raft.”
From scene one, these castaways careen onto the comic side of those Lost folks from the small screen.
These lost castaways do, like the characters in Lost, meet The Others. But in Pirate Island, the Others are kleptomaniac natives and pirates more luckless even than their celebrated Caribbean counterparts.
Now Barbara and her band have washed up with a trunk, which bears a decent enough resemblance to a treasure chest for these greedy swashbucklers. Cue the chase music, please.
Or perhaps the natives music. “Natives, are you ready?” calls Ms. Capece, standing among the audience seats, her baby daughter peeking out from a carrier at mom’s hip. “Hey, natives!” the director calls, louder, when no one answers her at Sunday’s rehearsal. There is a sudden rustling of grass skirts from the wings. “Can we have some natives music please?” she says, and on come the music and the natives, played with comic flair by Ry Brodsky and Wolfie McCormick-Goodhart.
Scene by scene, Ms. Capece coaxes the actors — middle school students at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School — into character, while her assistant, Treather Gassmann, and the playhouse’s tech guru, Stephen Zablotny, get the sound and lighting details right.
Alayna Hutchinson plays Captain Peach, the wily pirate who rules the band of bounty-hunters with a gun they never realize is unloaded. Perhaps inspired by Sara Lorimer’s new book Booty: Girl Pirates on the High Seas, — or perhaps just a product of who showed up to audition, arrrrr — the pirates in this production all are played (with matey gusto) by girls: besides Miss Hutchinson, the scoundrels are Flo Alexander, Haven Huck, Lily Lubin, Tallula Brodsky, Kristine Hopkins and Alice Greene.
They pace among the potted plants and barrels with hapless mutinous antics that promise to jolt the washashores out of their comfort zone. The castaways are played with energy by Sheila McHugh, Sadie Dix, Zana van Rooyan, Ben Lukowitz and Maya Harcourt, who really comes out of the box in this show.
All looks literally lost for a while, but love — and Barbara’s dad, the Captain (Eli Berlow) — come to the rescue. Of course the moral is that treasure is all around us.
Which may or may not be the moral Mark Twain had in mind when he wrote: “Now and then we had a hope, that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates.” Still, Pirate Island gives us all a chance to dream of finding the best of the bounty, whatever it is we chase.
Pirate Island plays for all ages at the Vineyard Playhouse tonight at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 6 p.m.