Villanova Student Theatre’s Treasure Island


Villanova put on a production of “Treasure Island”

Sofia Krzewicki, Staff Writer

Last week, the Villanova Student Theatre presented Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island at the Court Theatre in the John and Joan Mullen Performing Arts Center. The production was directed by Kylie Horan, a junior English major. 

“I don’t think anything had ever elated, terrified and completely drawn me in like Jim’s story did,” Horan said, speaking about Jim Hawkins, the novel’s protagonist. In VST’s production, she reimagined Hawkins as a girl, played by freshman Jane Brenninkmeyer. 

The story follows an orphaned Hawkins in her quest to recovered buried treasure with the crew of the Hispaniola, which includes the bombastic Squire Trelawney (Derek Lattmann), the outspoken Doctor Livesey (Cammie Norman), and, of course, Long John Silver (Justin Badoyen), the famed cunning and complex marauder that remains Stevenson’s focus in his novel, among other mutinous pirates and marooned castaways. 

“This is Jim’s story, not just a tale about Silver told by Jim,” Horan wrote in her director’s note. 

And it is Hawkins’ story—a story about a girl attempting to make something of herself, cultivate a sense of purpose and do so in a male-dominated sphere. 

Brenninkmeyer captured her energy well onstage. She captured her ambition, her determination, her selflessness and her great capacity to see the best in people, even in Silver.

“It has been an absolute dream to be a part of this show,” Brenninkmeyer said, speaking fondly of her fellow cast members. “Treasure Island has definitely been the highlight of my Villanova experience so far.” 

She and Badoyen do well to bring life to Hawkins’ and Silver’s friendship. They had great chemistry onstage. The scene in which Silver teaches Jim how to utilize the constellations as a navigation tool was heartwarming and wholesome. In Silver, Hawkins has found not only companionship, but mentorship. The true tragedy of VST’s Treasure Island is the deceit, greed and mutiny that led to the downfall of their relationship, culminating in Silver’s death at the end of the play. 

However, certain plot points were left out from the original story that could have enhanced the relationship between Hawkins and Silver in this show. For example, Silver, too, was an orphan, and both his and Hawkins’ fathers were first mates on ships. This was something that bonded the two together and established their relationship as one akin to a father and son.

Nevertheless, the audience is left to wonder if Silver is the true antagonist, or if Captain Flint’s treasure brought out the worst in each of the characters. 

To combat the seriousness of this high-stakes adventure, Lattmann’s performance as Trelawney kept audience members on the edge of their seats, anticipating the next brutal death or betrayal. Lattmann understood the importance of physical comedy, as his gestures in conversation with his plummy Queen’s English made him the comic relief of Treasure Island. Although the Trelawney’s incessant blundering was often the cause of multiple mishaps for the crew of the Hispaniola, Doctor Livesey helped to get him out of a pickle. 

Horan’s vision of Treasure Island was reflected through Cammie Norman, as well, who made the character of Livesey an almost grown-up version of Hawkins and another example of a strong female attempting to make her own way amidst the constraints of the patriarchy. She served as a protector to Hawkins, countlessly reiterating the promise that she made to Hawkin’s grandmother (Liam “Red” Woods) to keep her safe. When Silver is crushed in the underground caverns, it is Livesey that comforts Jim. Norman and Brenninkmeyer share a tender moment, leaning on each other for support before moving along together, united as one. 

Throughout the show and during the intermission, there was plenty of audience interaction. Owen Dorlac, who played the Shanty Band Man, was responsible for the musical interludes and for teaching audience members “Drunken Sailor,” a popular pirate ditty, so that they could join in during the finale. Brenninkmeyer, too, spoke to the audience as she narrated her own story, getting face-to-face with the audience, enchanting them with her tale. 

“It was a Goliath of a show—a massive cast, multiple sets, lots of complicated tech elements, music, stage combat—and it would not have been possible to pull it off without the endlessly talented and hardworking team behind it,” Horan said.

It was truly an exciting production. It certainly captured the spirit of adventure, bringing together all the best elements of stories such as Hawkins’. 

Horan’s goal to make Treasure Island for the modern age was achieved. And, for that reason, it was a success.