Much of the offbeat humor comes from the antics of Dvornicheck (Jonathan Hardison), a ship steward who repeatedly jumbles nautical jargon, referring to smokestacks as chimneys, for example. He also steals drinks from the passengers and occasionally steps forward to untangle the convolutions in the Turai and Gal's plot.

The play is a loose adaptation of Ferenc Molnar's "The Play at the Castle," and as you might expect from Stoppard's other works, the script has plenty of highflying linguistic acrobatics. But surprisingly, Stoppard never upends our expectations in any significant way as the plot steams towards its satisfying, but utterly predicable, conclusion.

Though the show doesn't gel into something memorable, there's at least an abundance of clever gags. And the blue-trimmed ocean liner set is just plain fun (including the entertaining way the stagehands reconfigure the set during intermission). In many ways, the mark of a theater company is defined not so much by runaway hits as by the professionalism of its less successful productions. — Jerrell Nickerson

"Rough Crossing" continues through Nov. 6 at the Chamberlayne Actors Theatre. Tickets are $13. Call (804) 262-9760.


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