Let's not blame it on "The Lion King," but merely attribute
it as a causal factor -- it's becoming difficult to find a
parking space near the Tulsa Performing Arts center. But don't
let that deter you from seeing another PAC show, "Mister
Roberts," in the PAC's downstairs gem-of-a-play-space, the
John H. Williams Theatre.
Although the two shows appear to have little in common -- a
high-budget, contemporary spectacle-musical froth with
animals, and a comedy-drama about a lieutenant stuck between a
wily crew and their zealot captain on a floating naval rust
trap in the Pacific -- together they yield a double shot of
duty and of individuals rising to the occasion.
"Mister Roberts" may not bring in the throngs of crowds
Disney's musical monarch will, but it plainly speaks to a
sense of honor as defined by the era of the "greatest
generation." It also happens to be darn funny.
Set at the end of World War II, Doug Roberts (Ed Burguiere)
is a lieutenant aboard a U.S. Navy cargo ship whose crew is
permanently on suspension, or may as well be. They never get
leave from their vessel or any slack from their detestable imp
of a captain (Don Miller, who also directs). Roberts is less a
liaison between the
captain and the
men as he is sympathizer for the crews' muted grievances
against the tyrant.
The captain forces the crew to stay in full uniforms as
they load and unload cargo under the sweltering tropical sun,
and is unreasonable in many other ways. Roberts tries to make
life more bearable by allowing the men small privileges, while
he personally bears the brunt of the captain's fury.
Roberts is a peaceful man. Burguiere calms the waters that
set Roberts apart from the crew and captain most clearly in an
opening scene in which he quietly, casually strolls the deck
at sunrise, no doubt wishing for a transfer off the cargo boat
onto something sailing straight into the battle zone. Mister
Roberts sincerely wants to fight for his country and prove his
worth in combat.
The good lieutenant, however, is reminded where his present
duties lie when he successfully arranges an opportunity for
the men to have a much-needed ship leave. The captain, out of
his own insecurities, thwarts the plan and only agrees to
allow the crew some time off if Roberts will stop his own
plans to transfer to a destroyer.
Roberts agrees to the captain's demands, and the decision
begins to put distance between himself and the men he stood up
"Mister Roberts," as stated earlier, is not all drama
(although it is central). Roberts isn't a saint, and Burguiere
does a fine job showing that. There's also a great scene,
about how to concoct (unadvisably) an emergency half-bottle of
red-label "scotch" from alcohol, cola and some other
surprising ingredients. Ed Dill as the fool Pulver and Steve
Tommey as the wise Doc, along with Burguiere, pull that scene
together extremely well.
Theatre Tulsa struggled to find enough actors to cast
"Mister Roberts." But Miller and Theatre Tulsa have done a
nice job of reassigning a few lines and editing the piece to
make it manageable for the cast of 11.
The cast, which includes Christopher Bowels, Casey Fanning,
Daniel Fugatt, Todd Hanlin, Bill Kaiser, Sarah Spence and Lee
Studerus, provides some good support, but Friday occasionally
seemed hesitant in the space. By this weekend's second-half
run, the cast should be over most of that. Also, watch for a
little scene-stealer to make a quick guest appearance.
Regardless of which PAC theater you end up in next weekend,
you'll get a nice lesson in the honor of performing your roles
in life with perseverance and tenacity. But if you go to the
Williams Theater, you'll also get a slappy little faux whiskey
recipe and a lot of laughs out of it.
Karen Shade 581-8334
“MISTER ROBERTS” When
John H. Williams Theatre of the Tulsa
Performing Arts Center, Second Street and Cincinnati Avenue