Support Local Journalism. Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club.

Washed Up 

A shipwreck deposits a waterlogged musical on the Kalliope Stage.

It is sad but inevitable that bad plays will happen to good theater companies. In their search for new and stimulating works, virtually every group of performers takes a chance on a pile of words, whether set to music or not, that even talent and glowing intentions cannot overcome.

So it is with Opal, now playing at Kalliope Stage. This enormously gifted ensemble, which often features the best singers this side of Manhattan, has tasked itself with breathing life into a collection of songs and a script that is mundane when not wincingly saccharine or gratuitously savage. The sweet and sour package offers fleeting glimmers of theatricality awash in a sea of stock characters and aggressively unmemorable tunes.

The sea, in fact, is what starts the whole business, as a preteen girl is washed ashore in 1900ish Oregon after her ship sinks in a storm, taking with it the girl's parents. Claiming to be of royal lineage from some undefined country (an 11-year-old doesn't know what nation she's from?), the girl is taken in by a woman at a lumber camp and taught to slop pigs, scrub floors, and sing unnecessary songs. Told in episodic sequences by a handful of anonymous storytellers, the newly named Opal tries to reunite with her drowned parents by "finding a way to make Earth glad."

Perhaps in other hands, such an arch conceit could work. But Robert Lindsey Nassif, who wrote every jot and tittle of this 100-minute excursion into banality, has such a tight grip on his characters, he chokes the life out of them. There's the mean surrogate mother, the sweet Irish scrubwoman, the shy guy and gal who really love each other, and the blind woman -- all of whom Opal messes with in her attempt to do good. Along the way, Opal befriends a pig she names Peter Paul Rubens -- she went to museums in her previous life -- but Porky is butchered, and Opal has to help grind her curly-tailed pal into link sausage. Welcome to the backwoods, princess.

Swerving from the morbid to the treacly in the blink of an eye, it's all the actors and inventive director Paul F. Gurgol can do to keep this creaky enterprise moving forward. In the central role of Opal, young Dani Apple sings well enough and has a refreshingly matter-of-fact manner, so at least she doesn't become cloying. The 12-person cast is quite capable, even though Marla Berg as Sadie McKibben chews her Irish accent to dust. On the plus side, there are a couple songs, the rousing working anthem "To Conquer the Land" and an uptempo "Everybody's Looking for Love," that manage to rise above the ordinary.

But between cutesy-poo character IDs (the program identifies the blind woman as "The Girl That Has No Seeing") and Opal's infantile expressions (when happy, she has "joy feels," when sad, "crying feels"), this play generates nausea feels. In short, it is The Play That Shouldn't Have Been Produced When There Are So Many Better Pieces Available.

Tags: , ,

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

November 17, 2021

View more issues

Most Popular

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.


© 2021 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 505-8199
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.

Website powered by Foundation