With wintry weather upon us and many in-person holiday events canceled, the opportunity to spend a screen-free evening enjoying quality original family-friendly entertainment is something we're all fishing for. Look no farther than Cape Noir Radio Theater's “The Starfish And The Fisherman,” an original and entirely charming fable which weaves magic, wonder and Greek myth into a story of adventure and danger in which friendship, kindness and courage save the day, if not the sinking ship.
Written and directed by Cape Noir Radio Theater's J Hagenbuckle, this radio play features Cape Cod Theatre Company/Harwich Junior Theatre (CCTC/HJT) company members Dianne Wadsworth, Haley Labdon and Edward Donovan in one fish story you'll want to believe.
Donovan is Jupiter Aloysius Smith — Jupe for short — a fisherman who has plenty of charm but not much luck. The only thing his net has scooped out of the ocean is a tiny starfish, which he stows in hopes of selling it to buy a loaf of bread to fill his empty belly. Just as he decides to call it a day and head back to shore, storm clouds rush in, which is no small matter to a fisherman in a tiny vessel who doesn't know how to swim. But where is that tiny friendly voice coming from, encouraging him to have courage and use a combination of ingenuity, friendship and the tools at hand to make safe passage home? Merope, voiced by Labdon, is no ordinary starfish, and this is no ordinary fishing trip.
Those who have frequented Harwich Junior Theatre over the years will recognize the soothing voice of Dianne Wadsworth as the narrator of “The Starfish And The Fisherman.” Wadsworth has trod the CCTC/HJT boards in more productions than can be named here, and her familiar voice lends a gentle, familial tone to the production, which calls to mind bedtime stories read by a loved one or tales recounted between rounds of eggnog during a holiday get-together.
Maybe the holiday spirit is playing tricks, but throughout this production Donovan's portrayal of Jupe, the friendly and befuddled fisherman, occasionally reminded me of Jackie Vernon's turn as Frosty the Snowman in the old Rankin/Bass claymation classic. There's something about his voice, by turns fearful, incredulous and delighted, which perfectly captures the feeling of a holiday children's tale. As Jupe navigates a world which has suddenly expanded from empty fishing nets and long days at sea to talking starfish, friendly dolphins, sea ghosts and constellations which are also sisters, he gives us the feeling that just about anything is possible if it can be faced with a friend at one's side.
Merope the starfish, portrayed by Labdon, brings just the touch of magic that we all needed this holiday season. Unperturbed by the fact that Jupe has scooped her out of her watery home and plans to perhaps dry her out in the sun and trade her for something to eat, she springs to action as storm clouds threaten the tiny vessel. As a dark shape looms beneath the boat, she offers reassurance and a new way of looking at a scary situation. When the boat begins to leak and Jupe admits he can't swim, she calls on an unexpected helper from the deep and a new use for familiar equipment to turn the situation around and save the day. By the end we are sure that there isn't anything Jupe and his new friend can't overcome, and maybe the same is true of us.
Just the right touch of mythology, magical beings and mysterious creatures makes this simple fisherman's tale into something truly unique and unforgettable.
Don't let this delightful radio play be the one that got away. Listen to Cape Noir Radio Theater's “The Starfish And The Fisherman” online on the WOMR podcast page (womr.org/podcast_category/cape-noir-radio-theater/) or tune in to WOMR 92.1 FM and WFMR 91.3 FM to enjoy a special Christmas eve broadcast on the Dec. 24. Stick around for the musical interlude at the end featuring two original compositions by J Hagenbuckle, a Spanish surf noir called “Little Curl of Blue” and a track from an ambient music CD recorded in New York City way back at the turn of the new millennium titled “Trance2K.” You'll be glad you did.