One doesn't often equate swashbuckling epics with 50-seat theaters, but then, most theaters of that size don't use the name Staged Cinema Productions. Whether this staging of Ken Ludwig's 2007 adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic can be said to succeed hinges on how smoothly Nathan Makaryk's elaborate staging comes off. Although nearly all of the play's many individual scenes are fairly credible, the production's undoing is the amount of momentum that's lost each time a set change is required, which in the Ludwig text is after nearly every scene. It's ironic that this should be the case, for Makaryk's modular scene design is ingenious, allowing its various sections to function as walls, tables, clumps of jungle vines, or a pirate ship's railings. Within each scene, the pacing varies from exciting to just-so; Makaryk's cast is at its best during the action scenes—primarily swordfights that have a kinetic kick and are all the more impressive because of the tight quarters. The director's puppets for Ben Gunn and Blind Pew (the latter three times the size of a man) are a novelty, but considering how awkwardly they move, one has to wonder why these juicy roles weren't simply given to human actors.
A dozen men and one woman portray 22 characters. Jaycob Hunter makes a sturdy, good-hearted Jim Hawkins, showing us how the young man's adventures accelerate his growth from sheltered adolescent to brave sailor of the high seas. Ryan Young's Hands is a scummy blackguard and Nick McGee's Squire Trelawney a jovial fool. Long John Silver is easily the most colorful and complex role and has the most memorable lines in Ludwig's script, and Scott Keister capitalizes on this with his ever-fascinating portrait of a ruthless yet tenderhearted seafaring rascal. He's this staging's heart, and despite the often-chaotic activity around him, he never misses a beat.
Presented by Theatre Out and Maverick Theater at the Maverick Theater, 110 E. Walnut Ave., Suite B, Fullerton. April 24–June 6. Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 and 8 p.m. (714) 526-7070 or www.mavericktheater.com