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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

IRT continues their 2016-17 season with The Cay, which is based on the eponymous children’s novel by Theodore Taylor, and is adapted for the stage by Gayle Cornelison. The story is told from the viewpoint of an 11 year old boy named Phillip who gets caught up in events of World War II which lead to his being shipwrecked and marooned on a small island, the cay. Sharing the devastating circumstances with him is an elderly West Indian man named Timothy, and a cat named Stew Cat.

The tale works its way through various themes of race, friendship and transformation, and in the end, leaves the boy with a far more mature view of the world than his peers.

Director Richard Roberts and his designers have done an amazing job crafting the environment for the two actors, Dalyn Stewart as young Phillip and David Alan Anderson as Timothy. Eric Barker has wrought a simple but stylized setting for the play, dominating the scene with two large metal structures which become trees and a perfectly sand colored, freestyle shaped island. We are forced to use our imaginations often, (for instance – there is a “cat” onstage) which plays into the idea that we are, after all, seeing things through a child’s eyes.

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David Alan Anderson (left) portrays Timothy, and Dalyn Stewart plays Phillip, in IRT’s production of “The Cay”.

Another powerful aspect of the piece is the lighting design by Michael Jackson. Exact placements and dynamic coloring for various explosions plus a wholly effective swirl of light during a hurricane sequence are especially noteworthy in a wonderful array of effects.  Matthew Tibbs’ fine sound design goes hand in hand with these lighting efforts to complete the often dangerous environment.

Of course, the actors bring sizable contributions to the storytelling. Young Mr. Stewart is perfect as Phillip. His having to play a major portion of the role with a harsh disability is taken quite in stride. I have seen this young actor on several occasions and I am always impressed with his pleasing command of a youthful theatrical presence, which he again offers in this portrayal. He has natural skills and we can only hope to see these develop over time. Mr. Anderson has always impressed us in his other IRT roles and his work here can only be called precise and compelling. Though thickly-accented at times, his Timothy is a good man to be ship-wrecked with.

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Phillip (Dalyn Stewart) climbs a coconut palm while Timothy (David Alan Anderson) guides the effort in IRT’s production of “The Cay”.

All the action of the play is offered with a kind of remarkable normality – using a natural style of effort to meet the needs of surviving each long day. I guess what I am trying to get at is this was a dramatic story told without the usual flutter of dramatic effect. Certainly there are chaotic events is the storyline, but those are the rare high points which contrast greatly with a normal flow of living on this island. Director Roberts gives a well-paced structure to what I believe is meant to be, above all, a moral lesson.

Bottom line: Once again, the IRT technical staff has added their unique ideas and renderings to the fine acting we see on IRT’s stages. Although it is a child’s story, this is a terrific show for all ages.

The Cay continues on IRT’s UpperStage through February 26. For more specific information on dates and show times visit IRT’s website at http://www.irtlive.com/ or call 317.635.5252.

  • – Photos by Zach Rosing
  • – Artwork by Kyle Ragsdale
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