The Outer Banks Voice Gives an Opening Night Review of the 86th Season:
The opening night review is in! Kip Tabb, writer for The Outer Banks Voice, gave a candid and delightful review of this year’s performance. Read the full article below.
Curtain rose for 86th season on June 2
The 2023 version of The Lost Colony offers a great night of theater under the stars. The special effects are compelling; the pacing of the play is brisk but keeps the story line intact; and there is not a weak link among the actors.
There is something for everyone in this year’s play. The choreography is superb. Imani Joseph, reprising her role from last year as the Troubadour Dancer, is a highlight of the play and is mesmerizing in her performance.
The fight scenes are very well done. The sword fight between Simon Fernando (Benedetto Robinson) and John Borden (Luke Stage) in particular stood out. It was during the sword fight that Anais Dare’s pledge to always have Borden’s back is confirmed as he comes to the aid of his friend and, unknown to him, a rival for the affections of his wife, Eleanor (Mckenzie Troyer).
The musical performances overall were excellent. Our Song, performed by Olyvia Gregg, Katie Smith and Simone Gutierrez truly stood out. Their voices blended perfectly and the song itself helped to explain their hopes and dreams in the New World.
Perhaps most importantly, Paul Green’s 1937 play has been updated. While Green was a master at blending character development and plot to create the storyline, the play desperately needed updating in the pacing of that plot and in how a number of the characters were depicted.
Not all of the updating worked. Eleanor Dare was presented as too much of a 21st Century woman. She has been a strong character in the play, but she now seems so outspoken about the role women should have in the colony, and about their place in society, that it seems inconsistent with 16th Century mores. That is not a criticism of Troyer’s performance, which was wonderful, rather noting a characterization that seems inconsistent.
Significantly though, the racist depictions of the Native American peoples in the original script have been revised. The principal parts of the Roanoke and Croatan tribes are played by indigenous peoples, primarily from the Lumbee Tribe.
No longer do they speak in simplified English, and from the outset, it is clear from the interaction with the English when they first arrive on Roanoke Island that the native peoples are a sovereign nation and that they have a king—King Wingina (Cam Bryant).
The interaction between John White, played by local actor Stuart Parks, establishes that the two leaders share a vision of peaceful coexistence, and perhaps even a friendship. It is Wingina’s decision to send Manteo (Nakya Leviner) and Wanchese (Ethan Oxendine) to England, hoping that by learning the language and customs of the English, his people would be better able to coexist.
It is there that Manteo and Wanchese meet Queen Elizabeth I ((Libby Otos) in all her opulent glory.
While Wanchese and Manteo are in England, Elizabeth sends 100 men under the command of Captain Ralph Lane (Aaron Coleman) to establish a foothold in the New World.
The depiction of Lane in the 2023 play is an improvement over the ineffectual court fop presented last year. In this portrayal, Lane is seen as a social climber who will do anything to advance himself. If he has to kill Wingina to make himself seem strong and willful, he will not hesitate.
Historically it is known that Lane was a violent military leader who ordered the death of Wingina—a death that contributed to Sir Walter Raleigh’s failed attempt to colonize the New World.
How Wingina’s death is presented is another notable improvement. For the past two years, that was depicted by a large puppet owl, the owl being the symbol of death for a number of Native American people.
Symbolically that may work; realistically it was hard to recognize what happened. This year, the owl was there, but the death of Wingina is called out. And it sets up one of the most powerful scenes of the play.
When Manteo and Wanchese return from England, they learn of the death of Wingina, and they argue different, yet equally valid, points of view.
Manteo sees the path forward as cooperation, arguing that there are so many of the English, with technologies that the Native Americans could use, that working with them was the best way to insure their survival. Wanchese sees the English as filthy, (in the 16th Century, they were) untrustworthy invaders who will steal the land if they are not stopped.
As performed by Leviner and Oxendine, the clash of ideas made for compelling theater.
That clash of ideas comes to a head when the colonists arrive and Wanchese tells White the only way to appease the Roanoke tribe is for the colonists to leave. The colonists decide to stay, but short on provisions and without the help of the indigenous peoples, who themselves were struggling through an extended drought, the colony must have more supplies.
It is for that reason John White returns to England, seeking resupply for the colony. But the Spanish have declared war upon the England and the Queen will allow no English ships to leave port. White pleads with the Queen to allow just two ships to sail for the colony. Falling on his knees, he cries out that it is his daughter and granddaughter that are there and will die without the supplies.
But to no avail, as word comes that a Spanish Armada is approaching England.
Left on their own, the colonists face a desperate situation. Without the help of the Native Americans, there is not enough food to survive. Anais Dare is killed in a raid by the Roanoke tribe, and the village is under constant threat of attack.
It is at this time that perhaps the seminal speech of the play is delivered by Old Tom (Chris Rothbauer).
In England, Tom was the town drunk, a man ridiculed and reviled by the people who knew him. But in the new world, he is remade, finding strength he did not know he had and a wife, Agona, who now speaks.
It is at this desperate moment that Tom stands guard upon the palisade protecting the homes, that he marvels at the change that has come over him.
“Roanoke, o’ Roanoke, thou hast made a man out of me,” he cries out. And the words are as powerful now as they were when Green first wrote them.
When Green wrote The Lost Colony, the nation was engulfed in the Great Depression, and Tom’s message of hope and resilience was a call to believe in the potential of a troubled nation. It is perhaps for that reason that his words have as much impact today as they did when they were first spoken 86 years ago.
“There is something for everyone in this year’s play. The choreography is superb. Imani Joseph, reprising her role from last year as the Troubadour Dancer, is a highlight of the play and is mesmerizing in her performance.”-Tabb. Read the full opening night review article here.