What to know about ‘Shipwrecked!’ at Loft Theatre, a show for all ages



Get ready for a high-seas 19th century adventure as the Human Race Theatre Company presents Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies’ 2008 comedy “Shipwrecked!” Feb. 22-March 10 at the Loft Theatre.

Inspired by a true story, “Shipwrecked!” centers on Swiss explorer Louis de Rougemont (born Henri Louis Grin), who was once heralded as “The Greatest Liar on Earth” due to his invented stories that grew in notoriety throughout Victorian England. The one-act play brings a tongue-in-cheek sensibility to the explorer’s unique journey of survival, bravery and fame, which included riding a turtle.

“This family-friendly tall tale explores the ideas of theatrical creativity and imagination and how we can be in a London lecture hall in one moment and riding a sea turtle through the waves in the next,” said Human Race Artistic Director Emily N. Wells. “Margulies shares a whimsical comedy that is magical and delightful, but when you begin to dig deeper, ‘Shipwrecked!’ tests how far we are willing to go for fame and fortune.”

Margulies won his Pulitzer in 2000 for “Dinner with Friends” but he’s also known for his Pulitzer Prize-nominated “Collected Stories” and “Sight Unseen” as well as his Tony Award-nominated “Time Stands Still.” His lesser known “Shipwrecked!” marks a stark contrast from contemporary dramas toward a lighthearted embrace of comedy and history, components Wells found appealing.

“I believe Donald Margulies picked this story intentionally to pick some holes in colonialist literature and mythology,” Wells explains. “Louis de Rougemont wrote a whole series of articles about his adventures, including pearl fishing and being on an island for 30 years. This sparked my intrigue when I read the play. In the end, it’s a fun theatrical romp that serves up a lesson about the importance of science, logic and reason.”



She also views the play as a cure for the winter doldrums while also providing audiences an opportunity to simply see something new.

“I was looking for something this time of year that would entice people to get out of their houses and enjoy the experience of live theater,” Well said. “This season, nothing is older than 2008. My tendency is always to look for world premieres or second productions (of plays) that really speak to the contemporary experience of our audience more so than a look back to the past.”

Under the direction of Greg Hellems, who staged Wright State University’s captivating “Cabaret” last fall, “Shipwrecked!” stars Human Race founding Resident Artist Bruce Cromer in the titular role with Human Race newcomer Shonita Joshi and Human Race Resident Artist Andrew Ian Adams playing multiple roles.

“All three actors are local,” Well says. “Bruce Cromer is returning to our stage for the first time in a very long time which we are excited about. The play also provides another opportunity to showcase Andrew Ian Adams’ improvisational talent. Shonita Joshi is incredibly talented, very funny and very thoughtful. This is a really fun group to work with. Andrew and Shonita play 35 characters between them — it’s insane. It’s so much fun for an audience to see how that happens and how it all comes together.”

‘A rip-roaring tale’

In more than 40 years as an actor with more than 200 professional stage productions to his credit, Bruce Cromer is not only one of the finest actors in our region but particularly one of the finest interpreters of Shakespeare anywhere.

In addition to spending 24 years associated with Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s production of “A Christmas Carol” as Bob Cratchit and Ebenezer Scrooge, Cromer’s past roles include Prior Walter in “Angels in America,” Prospero in “The Tempest,” Frederik in “A Little Night Music,” Charlotte von Mahlsdorf in “I Am My Own Wife,” and The Librarian in “Underneath the Lintel” to name only a mere few. He also taught acting and directed many productions at Wright State University where he became professor emeritus upon retiring in 2021.



Last summer Cromer, 67, starred in Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s production of “Shipwrecked!” He describes Louis as “naïve, guileless and innocent” and looks forward to reprising his role in Dayton with the hope of drawing more families to the experience.

“This is a rip-roaring tale and a great show for kids, (around) 12 years old, like ‘Peter and the Starcatcher,’” Cromer said. “Because of the writing and its comedic approach, it’s also like Monty Python although it doesn’t get that over-the-top silly. Our director, Greg Hellems, is also a choreographer so he’s very detailed in terms of the physical comedy, which is going to be a sparkling element in this production.”

Cromer returns to the Loft for the first time since appearing in “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) (revised)” in 2018. He has recently battled vocal ailments prompting him to consider retirement from the stage sooner than expected. Nonetheless he is grateful for the longevity he has had as a working actor.

“The cool thing about being an American regional actor is that you don’t have all the trappings that come with fame and fortune,” he explains. “You can just do the work and feel fulfilled by the work.”

How to go

What: “Shipwrecked! An Entertainment: The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougement (As Told by Himself)”

Where: Loft Theatre, 126 N. Main St., Dayton

When: Feb. 22-March 10; 8 p.m. Feb. 22, 23, 24, 29, March 1, 2, 7, 8 and 9; 2 p.m. Feb. 25, March 3, 9 and 10; and 7 p.m. Feb. 25, 27, 28, and March 6.

Cost: $10-$53. In addition, there two sections of $20 seats available at any time through the box office, and there are ten $10 rush seats available 90 minutes before any performance.

Running time: The play is performed in roughly 90 minutes without intermission.

Tickets or more info: 937-228-3630 or visit humanracetheatre.org.

FYI: Patrons are advised the show includes haze and strobe effects.

Special Nights at The Loft:

Pay What You Can: Wed. Feb. 21, 8 p.m. Enter with donation for Dayton Rowing Club or non-perishable food item for Dayton Food Bank

Inside Track: Thur. Feb. 22, 7:15 p.m. Preshow conversation led by Emily N. Wells.

Sawbuck Sunday: Sun. Feb. 25, 7 p.m. There are $10 tickets 90 minutes before curtain.

While We’re On the Subject: Sun. March 3, 2 p.m. Post show discussion.

Parent’s Day Out: Sat. March 9, 2 p.m. Kids Separate Activities (ages 5-12)

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