“Dauphin Island” is a formulaic romantic drama

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Scene from the new show at Passage Theatre_-
Scene from the new show at Passage Theatre -"Dauphin Island." Photo by Jeff Stuart.

Passage Theatre Company presents “Dauphin Island”

The Passage Theatre Company in Trenton opens its new season with Dauphin Island by Jeffrey Chastang. This two-character one-act play rushes through the developing relationship between two strangers battered by life but looking for better futures.

Scene from the new show at Passage Theatre - "Dauphin Island."
Scene from the new show at Passage Theatre -“Dauphin Island.”

The story is set in an old house in the piney woods of Wilcox County, Alabama. Selwyn Tate (SJ Hannah) is on his way to a job on Dauphin Island when he loses his way and his car breaks down. He desperately makes his way to the isolated home of Kendra Evans (Shadana Patterson) to find help. Initially suspicious, when she is convinced of his harmlessness she sets him to work for his dinner. Kendra’s fierce independence contrasts with Selwyn’s deep desire to provide a better life for his daughter. As days pass, the two form a working relationship, sharing stories of how they arrived at their present states. The imminent repair of Selwyn’s car forces the pair to examine where their bond will proceed.

Director Amina Robinson moves her cast through the underwritten Dauphin Island. Actors SJ Hannah and Shadana Patterson seem defeated by the script. This is one of the few one-act plays I’ve seen which is more abbreviated than compact. I would like to see it expand into two acts, to help the narrative and provide more room for a better explanation of why these two people bond so quickly.

Dustin Pettegrew has created a revolving set that reveals a surprising secret held by Kendra, finely lit by lighting designer Daniel Schreckengost. The sound design of Anthony Martinez-Briggs encompasses the night sounds of the Alabama pines and appropriate musical selections. Tiffany Baker’s costumes suit the characters’ personalities and positions in life.

The story of how two diametrically-opposed people can form a close personal bond is a promising one. However, Dauphin Island is too truncated to give life to that promise. It seems to sacrifice character and plot development for speed, and its power is diminished by it. I am sorry that I cannot recommend seeing Dauphin Island. However, Passage Theatre Company has produced powerful and moving plays in the past, and I look forward to seeing its other offerings this season.

Dauphin Island is presented by the Passage Theatre Company at the Mill Hill Playhouse in Trenton through October 27, 2019. For more information, go to PassageTheatre.org.