Treasure Island

Sep 11 – Nov 1, 2009
EXTENDED through November 15, 2009!!!

“Highly Recommended… Nobody does it better than Lifeline Theatre when it comes to spinning a rip-roaring yarn full of derring-do and adventure.”  –Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times

“This is ‘Treasure Island’ done right”  –Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

“John Hildreth’s adaptation of the age-old novel by Robert Louis Stevenson is nothing short of stunning… This show is as close to perfection as they come”  –Suzy Evans,

A treasure map discovered in a dead pirate’s sea-chest leads young Jim Hawkins on an expedition across the ocean to recover a fortune in plundered gold. Fair winds and favorable seas soon give way to mutiny, greed and the evil machinations of a one-legged scoundrel named Long John Silver. Join Jim on an unforgettable adventure as he fights for his life – and the lives of his friends – in this legendary tale of piracy and heroism. By the award-winning adaptor of Around the World in 80 Days

Recommended for ages 10 and up.

A world premiere based on the classic adventure by Robert Louis Stevenson
Adapted by John Hildreth
Directed by Robert Kauzlaric

  • Patrick Blashill (Dr. Livesey)

    Patrick has been an ensemble member with Lifeline since 1996, and has been performing at Lifeline since 1994’s Miss Bianca, where he played Bernard the mouse. He is absolutely thrilled to be a part of Treasure Islandand working with such a terrific cast and crew. Other favorite Lifeline roles include Ferdinand the bull in The Story of Ferdinand; the Mighty Gorilla in The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death, which was later remounted for Chicago Theatre on the Air with guest star Brent Spiner; Edgar Drake in The Piano Tuner(After Dark Award: Outstanding Performance); Victor in Lizard Music; Hugh Thane in The Talisman Ring (2005); Tom in Pistols for Two (Jeff Nomination: Ensemble); and Bunter in Strong Poison (Jeff Nomination: Ensemble). He is especially proud to have acted in all three productions of Lifeline’s Lord of the Rings trilogy that spanned The Fellowship of the Ring(1997), The Two Towers (2000), and The Return of the King (2002). Patrick has worked with numerous other Chicago theatres including Reverie Theatre (Emma– Mr Knightley), Victory Gardens (The God of Isaac– Isaac), and Stage Left (The Wonder– Don Felix). Patrick is a graduate of the American academy of Dramatic Arts.

  • John Ferrick (Squire Trelawney, Blind Pew, Dirk O'Brien)

    John returns for his 8th appearance on the Lifeline stage where he previously appeared in Flight of the DodoThe Picture of Dorian GrayThe Mark of ZorroTalking It OverThe Two TowersThe Return of the King, and The Killer Angels. An ensemble member of Strawdog Theatre, he was last seen in their production of Red Noses, directed by Matt Hawkins of The House. Some other theatres John has performed with include: Goodman, Court, Eclipse, Famous Door, About Face, National Jewish, and Roadworks.

  • Eduardo Garcia (Black Dog, Dick Johnson, Abraham Gray: Sep. 11 - Oct. 8)

    Eduardo is delighted to be back in Chicago and returning to Lifeline Theatre. He was last seen touring the country in the Educational Theatre Inc.’s production of Rumplestiltskin. He was also seen in The Mark of Zorro at Lifeline. Eddie is a graduate of the U of I in Urbana/Champaign and holds a BFA in Acting.

  • Chris Hainsworth (Captain Flint, Isreal Hands, Nathan)

    Chris is pleased to be returning to the Lifeline stage where he last appeared as Oliver in Talking It Over. Recent credits include Sheriff Raven in Dreams in the Witch House with WildClaw, Robbie in Scenes from the Big Picture with Seanachaí, and Scotty in the After Dark Award-winning Old Town with Strawdog, where he has been an ensemble member since 2000.

  • John Luzar (Black Dog, Dick Johnson, Abraham Gray: Oct. 9 - Nov. 1)

    John is glad to be back with Lifeline, having appeared as Sergeant Gonzalez in the remount of The Mark of Zorro at Theatre Building Chicago. Favorites include Ren Faire! A Fistful of Ducats (Factory Theater), Fatboy(A Red Orchid), Men of Steel (Theatre Wit), The Lion in Winter (TimeLine), and Marathon ’33 (Strawdog), as well as work with The New York International Fringe Festival, Steep, Metropolis, Blindfaith, Boxer Rebellion, Seanachaí, Adventure Stage Chicago, Chicago Jewish Theatre, The Bailiwick and Disposable Theatre.

  • Robert McLean (Captain Smollett, Harry)

    Robert is happy to be back on the Lifeline stage, having previously appeared in The Killer Angels (Gen. George Pickett), Around the World in 80 Days (Det. Fix), Pistols for Two (Stavely/Bernard) and The Two Towers and The Return of the King (Aragorn). Rob is a company member with The Hypocrites where he has been seen in The Hairy Ape (Long), The Three Penny Opera (Tiger Brown), Mud (Henry), Death of a Salesman (Biff Loman), The Glass Menagerie (Tom Wingfield), Balm in Gilead (Fick) and Rhinoceros(Berenger), to name some favorites. Elsewhere around town Rob has worked with Strawdog Theatre (Red Noses), Eclipse Theatre (Spinning Into Butter), City Lit (Twelfth NightThe Importance of Being Earnest), Theatre Wit (Men of SteelFeydeau Si Deau), as well as understudy stints with Writers Theatre and Steppenwolf.

  • C. Sean Piereman (Job Anderson, Tom Morgan, Captain Jacobs)

    C. Sean is making his first appearance in a Lifeline production. His Chicago credits include Doubt and Les Liaisons Dangereuses at RedTwist Theatre; Anna is Saved for StageLeft’s Leapfest; The Ruling Class for Backstage Theatre; Dinner with Friends for Oil Lamp Theatre; Death & the King’s Horsemen for Fehinty African Theatre Ensemble; and Abelard & Heloise for Lincoln Square Theatre. C.Sean has a BFA in Performance from Virginia Commonwealth University, has studied at BADA in Oxford, and has trained locally with The Artistic Home, Second City, and Actor’s Gymnasium.

  • Sean Sinitski (Long John Silver, Mr. Hawkins)

    Sean is pleased to be returning to Lifeline after last year’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. He was a member of Defiant and performed such roles as Hamlet, Macduff, and a guy that got his thumb stolen in Action Movie: the Play! Other Chicago credits include: Another Day in the Empire (Black Sheep); Back of the Throat (Silk Road); The Cherry OrchardThe Merchant of VeniceDetective Story (Strawdog); Winters Tale (Chicago Shakespeare); The Doctor’s Dilemma (Writers Theatre); Accidental Death of an AnarchistThe Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Next Theater); Henry VBalm in Gilead(Hypocrites); Fellow Travelers (Stage Left); The Living (Famous Door).

  • Ezekiel Sulkes (Lord High Commissioner, John Hunter, Ben Gunn)

    Zeke is thrilled to return to Lifeline where his previous credits include The Dirty Cowboy and Snowflake Tim’s Big Holiday Adventure. Other Chicago credits include Rose and the Rime (House), Scenes from the Big Picture(SeanachaÍ), and Hunchback (Redmoon Theatre). Zeke is a Barrel of Monkeys ensemble member and plays rock guitar for children in his spare time.

  • Christopher M. Walsh (Billy Bones, Tom Redruth, George Merry)

    Chris is thrilled to be in his third show with Lifeline Theatre after previously appearing in Busman’s Honeymoon and The Mark of Zorro at the Theatre Building. Other recent credits include Camp Freedom! with Black Sheep Productions, Bloody Bess with BackStage Theatre, Journey’s End with Griffin Theatre, and The Hound of the Baskervilles with City Lit. Christopher has also provided stage combat choreography for several Jeff Recommended shows including In Arabia We’d All Be Kings for Steep Theatre, Faster for Side Project, and Emma for Trap Door.

  • Warren Weber (Jim Hawkins)

    Warren is making his first Lifeline appearance. He has previously appeared as an Orphan in Oliver! at Marriot Lincolnshire, and as Oliver in Oliver! at The Devonshire Playhouse, where he also played Colin in The Secret Garden. He has studied for several years at Piven Theatre Workshop, which he loves. He is now a freshman at Evanston Township High School.

  • Mike Ooi (Understudy)

    Mike returns to Lifeline after last appearing in The Mark of Zorro. Recent roles include Turner (Mop Top Festival, Factory Theatre), Warden Smith (The Three Penny Opera, The Hypocrites at Steppenwolf Garage), Mel Dank (Old Town, Strawdog Theatre), and Batinda (Curse of the Crying Heart, House Theatre of Chicago). Mike has also worked as a stage manager and in other aspects for The House Theatre of Chicago, The Hypocrites, and Lifeline Theatre. Mike can also be seen in the upcoming KidSeries production of The Last of the Dragons here at Lifeline.

  • Paul S. Holmquist (Understudy)

    Paul has appeared on the Lifeline stage in The Picture of Dorian GrayStrong Poison and The Talisman Ring (2005); and directed The Island of Dr. Moreau and Busman’s Honeymoon. He is a Lifeline Ensemble member and also an artistic associate of the Griffin Theatre where he last acted in Journey’s End and directed The Constant Wife and The Robber Bridegroom. Around town, he’s worked with Timeline, Shattered Globe, and Caffeine Theatre, where he recently directed Under Milk Wood. He will direct Neverwherefor Lifeline’s MainStage this Spring.

  • John Hildreth (Adaptor)

    John has been an artistic ensemble member at Lifeline since 1999. His previous adaptations have been Cat’s CradleAround the World in 80 Days(Non-Equity Joseph Jefferson Award: New Adaptation), The ShadowThe Sirens of Titan, and Johnny Tremain (Non-Equity Joseph Jefferson Award: New Adaptation). He also directed Scary Home CompanionThe Shadow, and Crossing California for the MainStage, and Rumpelstiltskin Revisitedand Mrs. Piggle Wiggle (2009) for the KidSeries, and performed in the KidSeries productions of Bunnicula (2004) and Snowflake Tim’s Big Holiday Adventure (2004).

  • Robert Kauzlaric (Director)

    Robert is a member of Lifeline’s artistic ensemble and is thrilled to direct his first production on this stage. At Lifeline, Robert has adaptated The Island of Dr. Moreau (Non-Equity Jeff Awards: Best Production-Play and New Adaptation) and The Picture of Dorian Gray (Jeff Nomination: New Adaptation) for the MainStage; The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! and Flight of the Dodo for the KidSeries; and is currently at work on his upcoming adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. As an actor, Robert has appeared in eleven productions at Lifeline, including The Return of the KingAround the World in 80 Days (Non-Equity Jeff Awards: Supporting Actor-Play and Ensemble), The Killer AngelsStrong Poison (Jeff Nomination: Ensemble), The Talisman Ring (2005), A Room with a View, and The Mark of Zorro (After Dark Award: Outstanding Production).

  • Erica Foster (Stage Manager)

    Erica has stage managed numerous productions at Lifeline including The Mark of ZorroCat’s CradleThe Killer AngelsAround the World in 80 DaysJohnny TremainThe Talisman Ring (2005) and Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type. Erica has also been Lifeline’s Operations Manager for the past four seasons.

  • Geoff Coates (Fight Director)

    Geoff Coates is thrilled to return to the Lifeline stage. As a freelance Fight Director with over 40 productions and 19 years of experience designing for Chicago theatre, he is the recipient of three Joeseph Jefferson Awards and two After Dark Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Fight Choreography, most recently for Lifeline’s 2008 smash hit The Mark of Zorro. Geoff strives to explore the causality of conflict, and express it through dynamic and realistic physical action, cunning and inventive spectacle, and a desire to entertain and educate.

  • Alan Donahue (Scenic & Properties Designer)

    Alan is a Lifeline ensemble member and has designed numerous productions for MainStage and KidSeries. His scenic design for last season’s Mariette in Ecstasy received a Non-Equity Jeff Award. Recent work includes Little Brother for Griffin Theatre and The Grapes of Wrathfor Infamous Commonwealth Theatre. This fall he will design Dooby Dooby Moo for Lifeline’s KidSeries before going to City Lit Theatre to design The Wind in the Willows. And after another outside design for Remy Bumppo’s Dangerous Liaisons, Alan returns to Lifeline this spring to design Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere.

  • Kevin D. Gawley (Lighting Designer)

    Kevin’s work has appeared on many Chicago stages, including Lifeline Theatre, where he won the Non-Equity Jeff Awards for his designs of The Island of Doctor Moreau and Jane Eyre, the After Dark Award for his design of Strong Poison, and where he has been an ensemble member and resident lighting designer since 2001. Kevin was the theatrical lighting designer on the feature film, Were the World Mine released last fall. His work has also appeared in numerous productions at the Bailiwick, Organic, Porchlight, OperaModa, Blindfaith, Theatre on the Lake, Metropolis, StoreFront, Loyola University Chicago, Revels Chicago, Midwest Jewish, Taylor University and at the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival theatres. Kevin is the Lighting and Scenic design professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and he has taught Lighting Design and Technology courses previously at Loyola University Chicago and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

  • Andy Hansen (Original Music & Sound Design)

    Andy returns to Lifeline Theatre where he previously composed the score for The Picture of Dorian Gray. Andy is an Associate Artist with TimeLine Theatre where recent credits include The History Boys and Not Enough Air. Upcoming projects include Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead at Writer’s Theatre, A Christmas Carol at The Goodman, and Around the World in 80 Days at Indiana Repertory Theatre.

  • Branimira Ivanova (Costume Designer)

    Branimira is a graduate of the University of Connecticut (MFA in Costume Design) and the International Academy of Design and Technology (BFA in Fashion Design). She is thrilled to be back at Lifeline Theatre and part of Treasure Island after designing costumes for Mariette In EcstasyThe Picture of Dorian GrayThe Mark of Zorro, and Talking it Over. Her recent work includes Little Brother at the Griffin Theatre, Of Mice and Men at Steppenwolf for Young Adults, and Talk Radio at Gift Theatre. Other Chicago companies she has worked with include City Lit, Emerald City, Pegasus Players, Infamous Commonwealth, Bailiwick Repertory, and Black Sheep Productions; as well as dance companies such as Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Gus Giordano Jazz Dance, Breakbone Dance Company and Thodos Dance Company. Out of state, she has worked with Connecticut Repertory Theatre, Berkshire Theatre Festival (MA) and Miniature Theatre of Chester (MA). Internationally, she has worked with the National Portuguese Ballet and Introdans, Nl. Branimira is a recipient of Certificate for Excellence in Theatre Design by USITT in 2007. Her work was part of the United States National Exhibit at the Prague Quadrennial World Stage Expo in Prague 2007.

  • David Rende (Prosthetics & Special Effects Artist)

    David has worked as a special effects makeup artist and prop technician in film, theatre, television and commercial spots, and print. A Chicagoland native, David trained in effects in Orlando and Miami.

  • Amber Bel'cher (Dramaturg)

    Amber is thrilled to be working with Lifeline Theatre. Other recent projects include AristocratsRichard III and R.U.R. with Strawdog Theatre Company, Resort 76 with Infamous Commonwealth, I Do! I Do! (research support and newsletter) at American Theatre Company, and The Adding Machine: A Musical (Assistant Dramaturg) at Next Theatre Company. In addition, Amber contributes to Chicago-area theatre as an administrator. She works at Writers’ Theatre as their Development Manager and previously at Next Theatre Company as the Audience and Donor Services Manager. A native of Texas, she holds a BA in Theatre from Texas A&M University and an MFA in Performance from Roosevelt University in Chicago.

  • Elizabeth A. Klein (Makeup & Hair Artist)

    After receiving her BA in Theater from the University of Northern Colorado (where she studied Costume Design), Elizabeth relocated to Chicago to attend beauty school at Pivot Point International Academy. Now after working for a few years in the salon world, she is very excited to make her return to the theater community with Treasure Island!

  • Nathan Rohrer (Costume Assistant)

    Nathan is very happy to be working with his new friends at Lifeline Theatre and assisting his old friend Branimira on the costume design for Treasure Island. Nathan has designed numerous works for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s second company, as well as River North Chicago Dance, Deeply Rooted Dance Chicago, and Thodos Dance Chicago. He has also designed for Emerald City Theatre, Mythic Proportions Theatre, and Lincoln Square Theatre. Most recently, his critically reviewed costume designs for The New Colony’s Tupperware: An American Musical Fable received praise from some of Chicago’s most renowned critics. Concurrent productions include City Lit Theatre’s adaptation of The Thin Man, and Emerald City Theatre’s If You Take A Mouse to School. Nathan received his B.A. in Drama from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 2006.

  • Phil Timberlake (Dialect/Vocal Coach)

    Phil appeared on the Lifeline stage in Busman’s HoneymoonThe Island of Dr. MoreauQueen Lucia (Jeff Nomination: Best Supporting Actor – Musical) and The Two Towers. He also coached dialects for Strong PoisonGaudy NightA Room With a View and Talking It Over. Phil has also coached dialects at the Goodman, Stage Left, Signal Ensemble, and New World Repertory. Phil vocal coached Cabaret of Desire for Blair Thomas & Co., as well as many productions at First Folio Theatre. He is an Assistant Professor of Voice and Speech at the Theatre School, DePaul University.

  • Jessica Wright (Co-Properties Designer & Sound Board Operator)

    Jessica is delighted to return to Lifeline, where she previously stage managed Flight of the Dodo, and was the sound board operator for The Picture of Dorian GrayMariette in Ecstacy, and Busman’s Honeymoon. Locally, she has been an actor (Curious Theatre Branch’s Madelyn Dangles the Noose), a dramaturg (Lookingglass Theatre’s Our Future Metropolis), a playwright (Point of Contention’s Chaos 2009 Festival), and a director (Owl Theater’s A New Nation). She graduated from the University of Chicago in 2008, where she received the Olga and Paul Menn Foundation Prize for her full-length play Under Ground.

  • Ian Zywica (Technical Director)

    Ian works throughout Chicago as a freelance Scenic Designer and Technical Director. While being the staff Technical Director at Lifeline Theatre, he has also recently designed and built, The Robber Bridegroom (Griffin Theatre), Once On This Island (Porchlight Music Theatre), and The Last Barbecue (16th Street Theatre). He is currently in the midst of designing The Fantasticks (Porchlight Music Theatre), The Taming Of The Shrew (Provision Theater), and Bleacher Bums (Triton College).

  • Cortney Hurley (Production Manager)

    Cortney is excited to be kicking off her fourth season with Lifeline after working on such productions as The Island of Dr. Moreau and The Mark of Zorro. Previous production management positions include the last three seasons at Strawdog Theatre, Ellen Under Glasswith the House Theatre of Chicago, and One False Note with Plasticene. She currently serves as the Production Manager and General Manager at Strawdog Theatre, as well as the Assistant Production Manager at Theater on the Lake since 2004.

From the Chicago Sun-Times

Dig up ‘Treasure’ at Lifeline show
September 22, 2009
By Hedy Weiss


Nobody does it better than Lifeline Theatre when it comes to spinning a rip-roaring yarn full of derring-do and adventure. And now, from the company that brought us such high-spirited productions as “The Mark of Zorro” and “Johnny Tremain” comes John Hildreth’s smart, funny, often savage stage adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic Treasure Island.

Directed with enormous zest by Robert Kauzlaric, the production is being performed by an all-male cast of 10 fearless, continually morphing actors who make their way around a perilous ship deck (sensational work by set designer Alan Donahue) as if they’ve spent years at sea. And yes, if at this point you have the impulse to let out a throaty refrain of “yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum,” feel free to do so. We are, of course, in pirate territory.

Though shot through with deceit, greed, betrayal and matters of hard-core survival, “Treasure Island” is, at its core, a morality tale — one in which a young boy is faced with issues of good and evil, and with the notion of what it means to give one’s word to another man. It is, in short, the education of a proper young Englishman in the ways of the world. And it comes decked out in a great deal more panache than the wretched real-life tales of all those cargo ships recently hijacked off the coast of Somalia. But be warned: While this might have been a favorite childhood novel (remember the map?), this is quite an adult show, with a complicated plot and considerable brutality. (Cheers for Geoff Coates’ spectacular fight direction).

The story unfolds in flashback with an inquiry about the terrible fate of the Hispaniola, a great schooner. The ship sailed for a Caribbean island after a map detailing the location of a vast pile of gold bullion that was hidden years before by pirates fell into the hands of Jim Hawkins (a very adept, sweet-faced Warren Weber), the 12-year-old innocent who signs on as cabin boy and gains great gumption along the way.

The rest of the crew is enough to make veteran Captain Smollett (Robert McLean) queasy from the start — a feeling he shares with both the honorable Dr. Livesey (Patrick Blashill), and the voyage’s underwriter, the wealthy, ever-blabbering Squire Trelawney (John Ferrick). Smollett is especially wary of the peglegged galley chief, Long John Silver (a delicious turn by the wonderfully droll Sean Sinitski), a true pirate. And of course his suspicions turn out to be warranted, though Silver is a complex figure. The truth is, all the men here, whether upper crust fortune-seekers or full-fledged thugs — hunger for riches. (And, as we learn, one man’s gold is another man’s cheese.)

The ensemble is terrific, with Chris Hainsworth, Christopher M. Walsh, Ezekiel Sulkes, C. Sean Piereman and Eduardo Garcia as a fine bunch of battered and battering gold-diggers.



From the Chicago Tribune

Full-blown ‘Treasure Island’ sails into Lifeline: Prepare to be boarded
September 22, 2009
By Chris Jones

The first clue is the way the expansive rigging of the good ship Hispaniola so overwhelms the Lifeline Theatre stage, it threatens to sail out onto the Red Line tracks on the other side of the wall. It would probably move faster than the CTA, too. The second is the serious, bewigged faces of the men describing the mutinous horrors wrought by Long John Silver and his motley crew of scurvy dogs.

And the third is the aura of perpetual adolescent adventure that permeates the salty air of the theater.

Yep, this is “Treasure Island” done right.

Well, almost. Long John’s infamously chatty parrot Captain Flint is AWOL, which is a pity. And Silver’s supposed peg leg looks suspiciously fleshy.

Still, Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1883 novel has suffered all manner of cultural indignities since the Scottish novelist first created Skeleton Island, Billy Bones, Blind Pew and the rest of the boys (and they are all boys). The worst takes places on the Las Vegas Strip, where the scantily clad women of “Sirens of T.I.” vamp at the entrance of the Treasure Island Hotel. Several times a night.

There’s none of that fake nonsense in Robert Kauzlaric’s straight-up Lifeline production, which treats this grand yarn with the upmost dignity, and features some spectacular violence choreographed by Geoff Coates. This is, of course, a coming-of-age story wherein young Jim Hawkins learns that greed can do a man in; that good and evil invariably co-exist in the same chaps; and that a position in the moneyed classes is no guarantee of personal integrity.

On Sunday afternoon, a rapt audience clearly appreciated all of this attention to detail, not to mention the willingness of a big cast of manly men to dig deep into their souls as they contemplated a potential trip to Davy Jones’ locker. Thanks to the inventions of designer Alan Donahue and a slew of deliciously droll performances from the likes of Robert McLean, Christopher M. Walsh and young Warren Weber, this is an engrossing adventure that Kauzlaric unfolds at break-neck pace.

There is, frankly, a bit too much plot in the novel for John Hildreth’s adaptation to cover it with ease. Things unfold fast and there’s at least one narrative frame too many. The novel’s signature creepy moments — such as the delivery of the Black Spot to Billy Bones — don’t have enough room to breath. I’d also argue that Sean Sinitski’s earnest but low-key Long John Silver could broaden his theatricality without trafficking in stereotypes. And the famous moment when treasure is dug doesn’t have all the dramatic shape it deserves.

But this is the pirate uber-text, landlubbers. Ship-shape in Rogers Park. Arrr.




Shiver Me Timbers! Lifeline’s Treasure Island Is Explosive
September 21, 2009
By Suzy Evans

Theater critics don’t applaud very often. It’s part of their attempt not to be associated with the theater’s marketing department, and if you happen to be at the same show as a critic, god forbid you should know how they feel about the show before it’s in newsprint. (Err, blog type.) If they really like a play, sometimes they’ll tap their fingers together, or maybe even allow full hand on hand contact, but actual sound never results. However, after Lifeline Theatre’s world premiere stage adaptation of Treasure Island, every pair of press kit holding hands was violently smacking together, and we wouldn’t be exaggerating if we said a few critics, even the recognizable ones, were sitting on the edge of their seats, begging for more.

We were definitely among that group of clapping critics, and if you don’t believe us, we’re confident you can read most any review of this show and they’ll all say the same thing. John Hildreth’s adaptation of the age-old novel by Robert Louis Stevenson is nothing short of stunning, and although Wikipedia claims it is one of the most frequently dramatized of all novels, we’re confident this production could blow the others out of the water. Before the show began, Lifeline Artistic Director Dorothy Milne warned audience members that there was going to be gunfire, but before the first shot was fired, we knew we were in for so much more.

Hildreth’s adaptation tells the iconic tale of Captain Flint’s buried treasure through the eye witness accounts of young Jim Hawkins, Captain Smollet and Doctor Livesey. If you haven’t read the original text like (like us), you probably know the basics of the story – buried treasure, the black spot, and a the questionably moral one-legged seaman Long John Silver, who’s name is arguably more well-known than Captain Jack Sparrow.

From the perfectly constructed three-tiered set to the expertly choreographed fight scenes to the subtleties in sound design – a bar scene has the perfect background of white noise – the success of this production is in the details. Every actor executes a crisp dialect and even the tiny bits of debris in Ben Gunn’s ragged wig lend an expert sense of reality. This show is as close to perfection as they come, and if you have a thing for pirates, it’s just that much better.



From Chicago Theatre Blog

September 22, 2009
By Catey Sullivan

“There are two kinds of men in the world,” the impeccably honest innkeeper Mr. Hawkins impresses upon his impressionable young son Jim early on in Treasure Island. “There are decent, God-fearing men who honor God, King and Country.” And here, the good father stops in a fraught pause worthy of Pinter before darkly concluding: “And pirates.”

The moment loses much of its impact on the page, but on stage it captures the marvelous duality of John Hildreth’s adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s coming-of-age-with-pirates classic. On the one hand, this is a violent and sobering story thick with casual, brutal killing and unbridled greed. On the other hand, it’s rich with wry humor, even if that humor is often as black as Blackbeard’s beard.

Directed by Robert Kauzlaric, Treasure Island is a complex adventure that skimps on neither bloodshed nor labyrinthine plot details. Although older children may well find the production thrilling, this is not children’s theater – the stabbings, shootings, stranglings and other assorted murderous goings-on are staged with nightmarish impact. (An early bloodletting scene that looks wincingly real turns out to be only the amuse bouche of the evening.) Moreover, Stevenson’s story sometimes seems to have as many threads as the massive ship’s rigging that stretches in great, ropey arms from stage floor to flyspace. As Jim Hawkins’ allegiances shift from pirates to decent men and back again, you’ll be forgiven if you start to feel that you’re watching an elaborate sort of ping-pong game between scurvy rapscallions and proper British gentlemen. The primary flaw in Hildreth’s adaptation is that characters sometimes get lost amid the plot’s complexities. Amid flashbacks, cannon blasts, and hordes of seamen both jolly and evil, it’s not hard to lose track of who’s who among treasure seekers.

The glorious exception – and lynchpin of this able-bodied adventure – is Sean Sinitski. If there’s a Chicago actor better suited to play the uni-ped antihero Long John Silver, well, we’ll eat a fried parrot stuffed with counterfeit doubloons and basted with rancid rum for Sunday dinner. Young Master Hawkins (Warren Weber, in a solid, if somewhat distant performance) might be the moral center of the story, but Sinitski’s Long John is its moral compass. And a fascinating, conflicted compass he is indeed. Stumping along on prosthetic designer David Rende’s marvelously realized peg leg, Sinitski is a father figure of surprising and unconventional virtue. There is indeed honor among thieves, or pirates as the case may be, as decent men and scalliwags alike enlist Jim’s help in recovering the long lost treasure of the late, unlamented Captain Flint.

The supporting cast is an exemplary ensemble. Kauzlaric accomplishes that signature Lifeline feat of making 10 actors seem like dozens, filling the two hours stage traffic with an epic array of buccaneering rascals and proper Brits. Chief among equals: Christopher Walsh as the rum-and-rickets-infused Billy Bones, a rogue whose “thundering apoplexy” proves the catalyst for the story’s rollicking treasure hunt. Also notable is John Ferrick’s Squire Trelawney, an imperious fusspot who manages to keep his wig perfectly powdered even while under siege in the torrid climes of a tropical isle. Chris Hainsworth’s villainous Israel Hands is a fine, blackhearted reprobate while Patrick Blashill’s Dr. Livesey is a suitably multi-layered good guy foil to Sinitski’s oceanic outlaw. Sea chanteys play a lively part in creating the on-stage community, and for that, Andy Hansen’s original music and sound design should be applauded.

Set designer Alan Donahue (with the atmospheric assistance of Kevin D. Gawley’s lighting design) outdoes himself, creating a wonderfully flexible world of ropes and planks and pulleys that easily shifts from ship to shore. As for all the brawling inherent to any story involving pirates, fight director Geoff Coates creates all-hands-on-deck fisticuffs of skull-thumping veracity.

In all, it’s been a cracking fine year for Robert Louis Stevenson: Lifeline’s Treasure Island is the second world premiere adaptation of the tale this season. (A musical version, penned by former Chicagoans Curt Dale Clark and his husband Marc Robin, debuted at Indianapolis’ Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre in April.) The book can be a tough read –-Stevenson’s speech patterns might not flow so easily to those used to the 21st century vernacular. A trip to Lifeline will make it abundantly clear just why the story is a classic.



From New City

September 22, 2009
By Lisa Buscani


Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1881 classic gets a high-energy adaptation in Lifeline’s season opener. Young Jim Hawkins (Warren Weber, holding his own with the vets) falls in with murderous pirates and sets sail in search of long-buried gold, foiling double- and triple-crosses along the way.

Lifeline’s technical excellence is on board: Geoff Coates’ fight choreography is inventive and well-executed; Alan Donahue’s multi-level set transforms easily from pub to ship to island fort. Branimira Ivanova’s costumes capture the grimy foppishness of the era.

The script’s second act gets bogged down by stand-offs and switched allegiances, but Robert Kauzlaric’s direction doesn’t allow too much downtime. The ensemble occasionally rushes laugh lines in John Hildreth’s frequently funny adaptation; more time in front of big audiences will cure that. Sean Sinitski’s charming, amoral Long John Silver cons and kills without compunction; John Ferrick steals his scenes with bombast and villainy. It’s a fun high-seas adventure for everyone.