by Shirley Lorraine
Hijinks on the High Seas at High Street
Batten down the hatches, the Navy has sailed into Moorpark. Based on the 1955 film starring Henry Fonda, James Cagney and Jack Lemmon, among other greats, the play Mister Roberts by Joshua Logan and Thomas Heggen brings a touch of nostalgia, chagrin, humor and poignancy to the High Street Arts Center stage.
The story centers around Lieutenant Douglas Roberts, a junior grade combat officer in charge of a fleet of bored sailors working a United States Navy cargo ship, the U.S.S. Reluctant, in the last few months of World War II. After months of providing supplies to other ships in remote areas of the Pacific Ocean with no relief, the crew has advanced cabin fever, entreating Roberts to secure some shore leave for them to let off steam.
Roberts tangles with his cantankerous Lieutenant Commander, Captain Morton, in efforts to grant the leave. Roberts is aided in his efforts by roommate Ensign Pulver and his good friend Doc, the ship’s medical officer. Through a series of shenanigans, leave is finally approved which results in total chaos for the entire crew. Throughout all this, Roberts tries repeatedly to gain transfer to see some actual battle.
The crucial role of Lt. Roberts is in the capable hands of R. Shane Bingham, who gives just the right combination of competent leadership and empathy for the crew’s plight. Captain Morton is played beautifully by Dale Alpert who displays a style quite reminiscent of James Cagney in the original role. The up and coming Ensign Frank Pulver is embodied by Patrick Rogers with a range of boyish enthusiasm. Phil Nemy settles into the role of Doc with confidence and control.
Olivia Heulitt carries herself well in the only female role – that of Lt. Ann Girard, who makes a brief appearance. The cast is filled out by a cadre of fit, youthful sailors eager to get off the ship to meet members of the opposite sex. Everyone in the cast is so lively and enthused, I fully expected them to break out into songs from the musical South Pacific any moment.
The well appointed U.S.S. Reluctant collaborated by set designer Scott Armstrong and director John Tedrick adds to the illusion. Sara Glauser pulled together the Navy uniforms to complete the picture.
Although clearly a “period” piece in language and attitude, it was easy to settle in with the primarily older crowd to relive some of the actions of the highly popular film and TV shows. One does have to keep in mind that this was a different time and unique situation which is presented in a light-hearted way. Many sighs of recognition were heard throughout, especially when it was announced that the war was over.
The High Street venue is always comfortable and welcoming. In addition to a full stage season, films are often presented as well as concerts and other special events. There is always something going on at the Arts Center. Settle in with some fresh popcorn and enjoy the show.
Mister Roberts continues through May 6 at the High Street Arts Center45 E. High Street, Moorpark. 805-529-8700 or www.HighStreetArtsCenter.com
Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. $22, seniors, students and military $20. Reservations highly recommended.