At the Theater

Charming production of 'Once On This Island'

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Monday, July 29, 2013 - 4:00pm
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The gods of "Once On This Island:" Joel Biron (Papa Ge), Emily Moore (Asaka), Jeremiah Haley (Agwe) and Kristen Robinson (Erzulie). Courtesy of Susan Domeyer
The gods of "Once On This Island:" Joel Biron (Papa Ge), Emily Moore (Asaka), Jeremiah Haley (Agwe) and Kristen Robinson (Erzulie). Courtesy of Susan Domeyer

“Once On This Island” is a bit of a Romeo and Juliet story – Caribbean style – now playing at the Boothbay Playhouse through August 10. The delightful show is one of love and how it can break down the barriers created between people, particularly prejuidice and social class standing.

The peasants on a Caribbean island are ruled by gods that choose to save a young peasant girl, Ti Moune, from drowing. This girl is “adopted” by a couple who find her in a tree. The girl works hard and grows up dreaming of what her life might be. Ti Moune is first on the scene of a motorcycle accident, due to a monsoon caused by the God of Water, Agwe. She rescues the victim who turns out to be a wealthy, handsome young man named Daniel. Moune nurses him back to health, despite protests from her parents, and the village people who fear repercussions from the Gods because the peasants are supposed to stay among their own on their side of the island.

When Papa Ge, the God of Death, comes for Daniel, Ti Moune promises her life and soul to in exchange for Daniel's life. Papa Ge accepts her offer.

Ti Moune's father, Papa Julian, leaves home to find out where the young man lives and discovers he lives in a gated hotel and is wealthy. The guard refuses to listen to him. Papa Julian finally must blurt out that the family's son is in their care.

Once Daniel is back with his family, Ti Moune makes the long journey to him with the help of Asaka, Mother of the Earth. She finds Daniel's room and stays with him. Then the Goddess of Love, Ezrulie pays them a visit and causes them to fall madly in love.

What Daniel does not tell Ti Moune is major: he is engaged to another. They were promised to each other when they were children and he cannot refuse the match. Later, coaxed by the Gods, Ti Moune attempts to kill Daniel, but cannot.

When Ti Moune dies (as she must for Papa Ge always collects), she is reborn as a tree, the roots of which grow under the hotel gate and eventually destroy it removing the physical barrier between the poor and the rich.

Opening nights can be tricky – particularly for actors going from one show to another as is done at the Playhouse. Stand out performers for this reviewer opening night were:

Maura Daly is wonderful as Ti Moune. Daly is a talented dancer and is a joy to watch and her character's love for Daniel is portrayed convincingly.

Jeremiah Haley (if you saw “Dreamgirls” at the Maine State Music Theater, he was Tiny Joe Dixon) as Agwe. Haley has tremendous stage presence and a voice that is both powerful and expressive; Emily Moore brings robust mama-type energy and great vocals to her protrayl of Asaka.

Roger Reed as Daniel didn't quite convince this reviewer of his “mad” love for Ti Moune, but he danced well with Daly. Their dance was beautifully done.

Della Hahn and Sadie Yentsch were adorable as young Ti Moune.

The ensemble is, as always, incredible. These young women and men have as much talent, versatility and passion for their craft as any “professional” company – quite possibly more.

This show was directed by Ginny Bishop, choreographed by Moore.

Take a trip to this island, be moved by the storytelling, music and songs of this charming one-act show. Remaining show dates are August 1-3 and 8-10. Curtain is at 8 p.m. For tickets call the box office at 207-633-3379.