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'Neville's Island' puts a different spin on office

BY KATHY L. GREENBERG
Tribune correspondent

Published:   |   Updated: June 12, 2013 at 05:58 AM

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In a few hours, actors Stephen Fisher, Jack Holloway, Jonathan Cho and Paul McColgan will be stranded on a tiny British island. It will be an inland island, a chunk of earth surrounded by just enough water and nibbling creatures to keep them there. Yes, this hapless foursome will find themselves on "Neville's Island," a Hat Trick Theatre production directed by Gi Young Sung.

Tim Firth's 1992 play is subtitled "a comedy in thick fog." Typically British, the farce weathers the ridiculous with a drizzle of despair. The result is a crossbred variety of "The Office," "Gilligan's Island," "Lord of the Flies," "Survivor" and "Teletubbies."

"The play is a comedy, but at its heart all of the characters are at a point in their lives where they're lost, too," Sung said. "It does remind me so much of [the TV show] 'Lost.' They're stuck, stranded together, and each character has a moment when they discover why they are the way they are."

Four business associates-Neville, Gordon, Angus and Roy-embark on a team-building excursion. Paddling a small boat, they crash into the rocks of an island and are unable to escape: "The first people ever to be shipwrecked inland."

"They have no survivor skills whatsoever," Sung said.

Neville is elected leader. Sweet and anxious to please, the father of two overanalyzes everything. Angus is the young upstart who has quickly moved into management, which riles Gordon. Gordon has been with the company for 13 years and only just got promoted. He's bitter, sarcastic and lives alone (as he probably should). Roy has just returned from a lengthy hiatus, and both Gordon and Neville try to accommodate the man's delicate mental state.

The best and worst emerge in their attempts to endure this metaphorical workplace.

Hat Trick set up shop for a while in Hudson and before that Ybor City. The company returned to Tampa last year, producing Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None" and Paul Rudnick's "Jeffrey" at the Shimberg Playhouse. As the 2012-2013 season finale, "Neville's Island" is technically complex with the addition of water and a fog machine.

"It's going to feel like a scary movie. Everything is dark and dingy. Nothing is very pretty. There will be a lot of ambient noises during the show. It adds to the fact that they are so stranded," Sung said.

Some theatergoers may actually squirm during the show, recognizing the personalities and politics of cubicle life. The line is mighty fine between office space and wilderness.

"It's a matter of teamwork and what happens when that doesn't come into place. I teach young children and the majority of what we work on is teamwork. It's really about them not taking responsibility for themselves, and when they're not doing that, they're not bringing anything to the team. That's what culminates-the fact that they couldn't come together. This is why they're stuck," said Sung.

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