‘Lobster Girl’ sets off on an ill-fated voyage

Ceit Zweil*, Brigit Smith, William Gardiner*, Felix Teich*, and Bryan T. Donovan* in Lobster Girl (2016). Photo Credit: Nile Scott Shots/Nile Hawver.

Ceit Zweil*, Brigit Smith, William Gardiner*, Felix Teich*, and Bryan T. Donovan* in Lobster Girl (2016). Photo Credit: Nile Scott Shots/Nile Hawver.

STONEHAM – You can have a bevy of talented people working on a project but when things don’t come together, they don’t come together.

It’s fun to welcome a new work into the theater, and when that work involves talented artists and a strong local flavor, all the better. Unfortunately, the world premiere musical “Lobster Girl” now at the Stoneham Theatre only occasionally rises above the level of uninspired silliness.

Stoneham Theatre Producing Artistic Director Weylin Symes wrote the book for “Lobster Girl” and directs while the talented actor/writer/musician Steven Barkimer adds the music and lyrics, and Ilyse Robbins is on board as assistant director and choreographer. The theatrical triumphs for all makes for an impressive list.

Alas, “Lobster Girl” has the feel of a skit or a half-hour sitcom that had to be ferociously padded to make its current 90 minute-length.

Brigit Smith was excellent in Stoneham’s “The Secret Garden” two years ago, copping an IRNE nomination, and she again shows off a winning stage presence and bright, clear singing voice as Cora, the 13-year-old girl who embarks on a pleasure cruise on Cape Ann with her mother’s lobsterman boyfriend Hank, who — unberknownst to her – is on a fast track to becoming her stepfather.

The early actions of Bryan T. Donovan as Hank qualify him as the worst skipper since The Captain and Gilligan went out on a three-hour tour aboard the S.S. Minnow and ended up stranded on a desert island.

Any play that starts with an experienced seaman telling a young girl not to wear her life jacket – later repeating the instruction in case you missed it – starts off as a no-go. As the brother of a world-class sailor who has taken a sailboat from Englewood, Fla. to Plymouth, Mass. and back, that’s something you don’t even want to suggest to impressionable teens.

Hank’s early missteps in trying to engage Cora set the stage for future events that you can see coming like giant icebergs. Felix Teich is on board as Jake, Hank’s young deckhand who is able to strike a chord with Cora, while Ceit M. Zweil is Nancy, Cora’s mother, who manages some nice moments as she keeps tabs on daughter and boyfriend by phone from shore and later grills them on what actually happened on the water.

When things bog down – and they do – Symes keeps bringing back William Gardiner as Ol’ Joe, an eccentric, crusty old salt who has seen better days. Gardiner is a very talented comedic actor and he wrings every last laugh there is to be had out of the character.

“The Ballad of Ol’ Joe” is probably the best of the songs Barkimer has composed for the musical, while Bethany Aiken and bandmates do a competent job bringing them to life.

Set designer Katy Monthei does a nice job setting up Hank’s lobster boat and ol Joe’s dinghy on the high seas, and her hanging clouds add a nice touch.

Stoneham, which is concluding its 16th season, has a track record of scoring with quirky musicals in the past such as “Guys on Ice” and “Lumberjacks in Love.”

But despite the best efforts of all concerned, ‘Lobster Girl” — in its current form and fashion — is a throw-back.

The Stoneham Theatre production of the world premiere musical “Lobster Girl.” Written and directed by Weylin Symes. Music and lyrics by Steven Barkimer. Assistant direction and choreography by Ilyse Robbins. At the Stoneham Theatre through June 26. stonehamtheatre.org.

 

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