Shipwrecked

The subtitle of The Accidental Patriot describes its protagonist, Desmond Connelly, as “Irish by birth, English by blood, and American by inclination.” Such a pedigree is sure to leave even the most well-adjusted expat with an identity crisis. Connelly, however, is remarkably stable. The same cannot be said for this play, which swerves all over the dramatic landscape. Presented as a swashbuckling history lesson on the American Revolution mixed with a father quest and a capella songs, it's not surprising that the show comes off a bit disorganized. The Accidental Patriot is essentially a revenge play. After a cocky British admiral sweeps into Boston and kills Connelly’s close friend in a duel, he vows to take the murderer down and hops on a ship to chase after him. After watching Connelly in action for a bit, it’s clear you shouldn’t do the following around him: bring up his family (a dead mom, an anonymous dad who abandoned him), question his patriotism for any one of the countries where he’s lived, or murder his friends. And throughout the play, people just can’t seem to stop doing these things.

With a bland script and an inconsistent tone, the show lacks cohesion. The cast seems absolutely adrift as they work through their scenes. As the production seesaws between hilariously bad and just plain bad, it’s hard to tell whether or not the comic portions are intentional. The ensemble, for one, shifts between acting distractingly overzealous (lots of grunting and side conversations) and bored as they sit in the background or even perform scene changes. As Connelly’s love interest, Liza Wade White has an American Katherine Hepburn accent that just doesn’t make sense coming from her British character.

The two actors that manage to rise slightly above the mess are Cameron J. Oro as Connelly and David Bengali as the pansy adopted son of his nemesis. Even when the play drags, Oro is quite charming with his big smile and smooth, deep voice. He easily fits the image of a leader men would rally around. An excellent comic foil, Bengali is all scrawny limbs and bad comebacks.

Bengali also designed the show’s sweeping playground of a set. The masts, nets, ropes, and barrels provide a nice springboard for the action-packed fight scenes. Cleanly choreographed by Barbara Charlene, these are the best parts of the show. The swordplay is further enhanced by much swinging, jumping, and climbing.

Unfortunately, the dialogue doesn’t pack the same punch as, well, the punches. When the answer to the play’s central mystery becomes painfully obvious (which happens about ten minutes into the show), the scenes drag.

A consistently campy tone and more jokes would add some much needed pep to the production. As Oro and Bengali so smoothly execute their amusing interactions, and the rest of the cast waits in dire need of comic relief, a stronger tone of parody seems like the best course. Until then, this ship is adrift.

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